Most travelers planning a trip to the Riviera Maya recognize the big names like Cancun and Tulum. So, when you stumbled upon the name “Akumal Beach,” you might be wondering what it’s all about.
Is Akumal Beach worth visiting?
Does it have hotels?
Can you really see sea turtles?
Here’s the quick answer to those questions: Probably, yes, and yes.
I’ve visited Akumal Beach twice and will give you the low-down on the must-knows.
Accessibility Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, scroll to the bottom of this post for details on accessibility.
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Tips for Visiting Akumal Beach
Akumal Beach isn’t the secret area it used to be. But visitors can still enjoy fewer crowds than in many other parts of the Riviera Maya.
Tip #1: Getting There Is a Breeze
Assuming that you’re already basking in the sun around the Riviera Maya, you’ll have easy access to Akumal Beach.
Akumal sits right off Highway 307, the Yucatan’s most popular road that runs along the coastline. There’s no need to fight your friends for an oceanview seat, though—you’ll see nothing but trees and pavement the entire trip.
You can arrive in Akumal by bus or taxi from several places in the Yucatan.
The information below will give you an estimate of driving times from popular tourist spots.
|1 hour, 40 minutes
|Playa del Carmen
|2 hours, 50 minutes
Should you take a bus (or a combi, as the small vans in Mexico are called), ask the driver to let you off at the Akumal Beach entrance (La entrada de la playa de Akumal, por favor). Note that ADO buses don’t stop in Akumal.
Once there, you’ll need to embark on an approximately 10-minute walk from the highway to the beach. It’s a straight shot, so there’s no need to worry about missing a turn.
You’ll encounter some shops along the way where you can load up on drinks and snacks. There’ll also be vendors happy to sell you a sombrero to keep that beautiful Mexican sun out of your eyes.
And vendors will try to sell you a snorkeling tour with turtles. If an Akumal turtle tour is part of your plans, I recommend holding off until you arrive at the beach, though.
Tip #2: There’s an Entrance Fee
One of the biggest advantages of visiting Akumal over other beaches in the Yucatan is its entrance fee.
I know that may sound odd, but hear me out—the fee for foreigners is only about $6 USD. For that price, you’ll have access to a cleaner, relatively less crowded beach, fewer vendors trying to tell you things when you’re mid-nap, and a safer atmosphere for your belongings.
The exception to the entrance fee rule at Akumal Beach is if you’re staying at a hotel on the beach. In that case, you’ll have free beach access.
As a word of caution, people might try to charge you more for the entrance fee before you arrive at the main gate. They do this by telling you that you must book a tour or have a guide to enter.
Qué mentira! What a lie!
Here’s another lie they may tell you—if you plan on booking a tour, you have to do so before entering the beach.
Nope. That’s not true either.
Once you’ve settled into your spot on the beach, you can seek out tour guides if you want to take a boat ride or sea turtle snorkeling tour. It’s easy to figure out where to book a tour—just head to where all the boats are parked.
The bottom line is to hold on to your pesos until you arrive at the real entrance gate. It’s impossible to miss the entrance, given that it leads directly onto the beach.
Travel Tip: The entrance gates to Akumal Beach open at 9:00 am, so don’t rush to arrive before that time.
Tip #3: Lockers Are Available
Leaving your belongings on a beach towel is relatively safer at Akumal Beach than at other destinations in the Riviera Maya.
Nevertheless, you can never be too cautious, especially if you plan on spending a significant amount of time in the water.
So, you can use a locker near the entrance, which is included with your entrance fee, provided that you arrived through the public entrance. If you’re staying at a hotel on Akumal Beach, you can use your room to store your belongings or rent a locker.
Since we’re back on the subject of fees, you can also rent snorkel and scuba diving gear.
There are also public bathrooms and showers that you can use for free too—just show the staff the bracelet they gave you when you purchase your entrance ticket.
While we’re at it, there are a few beachfront restaurants that you can dine at.
How’s that for getting a lot of bang for your peso within a single tip?
Tip #4: You Can Swim With Sea Turtles
This isn’t another mentira that locals are telling you so that you book a tour with them; you really can swim with sea turtles at Akumal Beach.
In fact, the word “Akumal” translates to “The earth of the turtle” in the Mayan language.
More often than not, you’ll need to book a boat tour to see the turtles. But if you get lucky—especially if you swim out far enough—you might be able to see sea turtles on your own.
Akumal sits in a bay, so the water is usually calm and safe for swimming.
Lots of yummy seaweed beds grow in Akumal for sea turtles. That, coupled with a relatively tranquil environment, makes it an ideal place for young green sea turtles to grow from babies to teenagers.
Before booking an Akumal tour to snorkel with sea turtles, ask your prospective guide how they handle the tour. Not all companies follow the rules, particularly in regard to enforcement of what should be a no turtle-touching policy.
That said, the turtles are used to humans (and the food the boats give them). So, they might come so close to you that they rub against your skin.
If they do, consider yourself lucky.
However, that’s not an invitation for you to reach out and touch them; sea turtles have a delicate bio-film (which gives their shell a slimy texture) that protects them from infection.
By reaching out and petting a sea turtle, you might inadvertently strip away its bio-film, leaving the turtle susceptible to disease.
Tip #5: Resorts Are Limited But Nice
Akumal is still off many tourists’ radar, but it offers a small selection of upscale hotels and resorts.
Secrets Akumal is the most notable contender, with rooms ranging from the mid $300s to over $1,000 USD per night, depending on the season and whether it’s a holiday.
Needless to say, you can expect to experience all the bells and whistles there.
If you’d rather not spend in one night what some people spend in a month for rent, Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort or Akumal Caribe might be more up your alley.
For even cheaper accommodation options, you’ll need to head inland to downtown Akumal. There, you can find family-run B&Bs and Airbnbs for lower rates.
Downtown Akumal is super tiny, but you’ll have a small selection of shops and local restaurants to choose from.
Tip #6: Plan Your Trip Around Seaweed Season
If you’ve already booked your Akumal Beach trip for dates between May to October and you can’t change it, I don’t want to burst your bubble. So, close your eyes and scroll to the next tip.
But should you be in the research stages for a potential Yucatan vacation, knowing about seaweed season is a must.
Sargazo is a word you’ll hear a lot during the late spring and summer in Mexico. It translates to “sargasso” in English.
If that still doesn’t ring a bell, this will…
Along with the rest of the Yucatan, Akumal never used to be susceptible to copious amounts of seaweed.
Unfortunately, the rise of fertilizer in agriculture has been creating massive blooms of seaweed that plague Mexico’s coastline, keeping its stinky self around until a hurricane whisks it all away.
Sargasso makes Akumal’s water unpleasant for swimming. It consumes a portion of the sand that people normally use for sunbathing. And its rotting egg smell can be suffocating, especially mid-day when the sun beats down on it.
And that’s not even considering the stress that such an unnaturally thick layer of seaweed puts on the marine ecosystem.
The bottom line?
Avoid sargasso season if you can, and eat organic produce to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers.
Tip #7: There Are Things To Do Inland
When people think of Akumal, they think of the beach. However, the Akumal region offers many things to do away from the water.
If you’re an animal lover, paying a visit to the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary is a must. You can sign up for a tour where you’ll learn about the sanctuary’s mission, hear about the animals’ stories (many of whom arrived there from abusive situations), and interact with some of the sanctuary’s four-legged residents.
You can also hop on an ATV and head to under-the-radar cenotes (sinkholes).
These natural formations are millions of years old. Back in the day, Mayans worshiped them and believed that they were a portal to another world.
You can swim in the freshwater that has made its home in these sinkholes. However, only enter the water if your body is sunscreen-free since it’s damaging to fish and the sinkhole itself.
Furthermore, don’t touch the stalactites, which hang from the ceiling. They grow at a mind-boggling slow rate, so if you damage them, it could take thousands of years for them to repair themselves.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Akumal Beach
Parking is limited in Akumal, and wheelchair accessible parking is even more so. Therefore, I recommend arriving early to try to snag an accessible spot near the beach’s entrance.
The entrance itself has a steep ramp leading from the parking lot, crossing through the open-air payment area, and down into the sand.
The sand is compact at the end of the ramp. However, they don’t offer a ramp that extends out into the beach, so bringing a beach chair might help you more easily access the shoreline as the sand gets softer.
Are You Ready to Visit Akumal Beach?
Akumal Beach is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air from the crowded beaches in nearby Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Whether you decide to make Akumal your home base during your Yucatan vacation or visit it on a day trip, I encourage you to see what it’s all about.
If you have questions about visiting Akumal Beach, feel free to leave them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help.
P.S.- If you’re on the fence about where in the Yucatan to pitch your beach umbrella, check out my guide on the best Yucatan beaches. I’ve included a bonus “beach” you won’t expect.