Akumal, a small coastal town located on the Caribbean Sea in the Riviera Maya, is a hidden gem in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The town, which means “place of the turtles” in Mayan, is known for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and abundant sea turtles.
Akumal’s beaches are also a draw for visitors. The town’s main beach, Akumal Bay, is a picturesque stretch of sand and crystal-clear water perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The bay is protected by a barrier reef, which offers calm waters and a variety of marine life. Visitors can also explore nearby beaches such as Half Moon Bay and Yal-ku Lagoon, which offer a more secluded and tranquil setting.
Things to Do
Enjoying the Beach
If you’re not really a fan of swimming but still want to enjoy the weather – you can always set up camp on the beach and get some Vitamin D. There are lots of hotels and restaurants lining the shore so you’ll never run out of food or water sources. Some hotels offer their beachside facilities like cabanas and lounge chairs for rent.
Note that it’s perfectly normal for seaweed to accumulate in the beach. This is not a sign that the beach is dirty or polluted. In fact, it’s a good sign as many marine animals feed on the seaweed. Throughout the day, hotel employees are tasked to gather some of the seaweed so they don’t overcrowd the shoreline.
Look Into Ancient Ruins
The town also has a rich cultural history. Akumal was once an important trading center for the ancient Mayan civilization, and visitors can still see the ruins of a Mayan temple on the nearby Akumal Beach. The town also celebrates several festivals throughout the year, including the Day of the Dead and the annual Akumal Arts Festival. Many Mayan ruins are actually located in Tumul but close enough to Akumal that you can turn it into a day trip.
From Akumal, you can go to Chichen Itza and be amazed by the grand pyramids. It’s considered to be one of the most iconic pyramids in the area, rising up to 79 feet or 24 meters. You can climb the pyramid through the convenient stair structure built on the side. The view is amazing from the top and turns your Akumal trip into a uniquely memorable experience.
People who visit Akumal do so specifically to snorkel with marine life. The beach is known for their abundance of sea turtles – allowing you to dive and frolic in the water side by side with these amazing animals. One of the main attractions is the opportunity to swim with sea turtles. The waters around the town are home to large populations of green and loggerhead sea turtles, which can often be seen grazing on the sea grasses near the shore. Visitors can take a guided tour to snorkel with the turtles and learn about their habitat and conservation.
For those looking for outdoor adventures, Akumal offers opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and exploring nearby cenotes, which are freshwater sinkholes unique to the Yucatan Peninsula. Visitors can also take a boat tour to nearby islands such as Cozumel or Isla Mujeres.
Explore the Cenotes
Cenotes are natural pits made when bedrocks collapse and expose the groundwater. Think of them as little depressions on limestones that expose these amazing little lagoons with cool and fresh water. They make for perfect swimming holes that give you the sense of privacy and exclusivity. Not to mention that with Akumal’s hot weather – a luxurious dip in a cool pool really gives your skin that much-needed relief!
Cenotes are also a favorite hangout spot of local wildlife. The freshwater is perfect for them to drink and keep cool from the sun. Most popular cenotes in Akumal include the Yal-ku Lagoon and the Gran Cenote. Both are unique in themselves and deserve a visit!
Walking through the City Center
Once you’ve had enough sea air, you can always go for a walk in the town center. It’s a fairly quiet area in the morning but comes to life in the afternoon as restaurants and shops open their doors. You can take a walk through the area and encounter various markets, local artisans, jewelries, potteries, and more. Local street food are also available including gelato and ice cream which should help with the heat.
What to Eat
Akumal’s cuisine is a blend of traditional Mexican dishes and fresh seafood. The town has numerous restaurants and food stands that offer tacos, ceviche, and other local specialties. Visitors can also enjoy margaritas and other tropical cocktails while watching the sunset over the Caribbean Sea.
Here’s what you should know when it comes to food:
- La Buena Vida – this is perhaps the most popular restaurant in the place, which means that you’ll have to fight for space with other tourists. It’s worth it though, as La Buena Vida is a family-friendly restaurant with an amazing view of the beach from any corner. It offers a variety of dishes from Mexican, seafood, and Central American. They even have vegan and gluten-free options! They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a special space just for kids.
- Lol-Ha Restaurant – another tourist favorite, this restaurant and snack bar offers a variety of food from authentic Mexican dishes to pizza, burgers, and steaks. There’s something for everyone – just in case you miss the taste of food from home. They also offer entertainment at nighttime plus a view of the main bay from your seat. Kids are welcome in the restaurant with meals served during breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks.
- Loncheria Akumalito – another good spot for all-day meals, this restaurant even offers brunch options in case you slept in the morning. It’s wheelchair accessible and serves a variety of dishes inspired by different cultures, including Spanish and Latin. Of course, they also offer authentic Mexican dishes plus vegan options.
Akumal doesn’t have its own airport. Instead, you have to go to Playa del Carmen and take land transportation to Akumal. The drive takes approximately 35 minutes if you’re taking a direct route with no stops. Your options of getting there include car rentals, taxis, or a bus locally known as a colectivo.
If you’re taking your own car, take the highway towards Tulum from Playa del Carmen. Once you reach Tulum, it’s just a 15-minute ride to Akumal. Parking costs 50 Mexican Pesos (MXN) for the whole day.
To avoid parking fees, you can take the bus or colectivo which costs as little as 22MXN. These buses are air-conditioned and should give you a pleasant ride to your destination. Finally, you can also take a taxi to Akumal but this can be quite expensive at 250MXN one way. You might need to haggle with your driver for the rate.
Best Time to Visit
Time your Akumal visits to give you the best experience in this lazy beach town. Weather-wise, the best time to visit Akumal would be from December to March. The temperature is perfect during this time, allowing you to really enjoy the outdoors at moderate temperatures. The downside is that a lot of tourists visit during these months, which can account for steeper flight and hotel prices.
Low-peak season is anytime between August and October. If you’re a sun worshiper, you’ll love August because this is when temperature is at its peak – something reaching as high as 31 degrees Celsius (91F). Around October, the weather quickly shifts to rainy days so outdoor activities may be limited.
Overall, Akumal is a beautiful and tranquil destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re looking to swim with sea turtles, explore ancient ruins, or simply relax on a stunning beach, this picturesque town is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories.