In our opinion, a visit to the Riviera Maya wouldn’t be complete without a day trip or two, to Akumal Beach. It is very easy to get to from both Playa del Carmen and Tulum – just a short, cheap collectivo or taxi ride away.
Not only is it a gorgeous beach but you get to snorkel with these little beauties for free… ^^
We have both seen sea turtles previously while scuba diving, and each time is incredible – they are definitely among our favorite marine life to spot on dives. But seeing them munching away on the sea grass only a few feet beneath us as we were floating along the surface was a different experience that we will never forget. They really are such beautiful animals!
Bring your own mask and snorkel – it is not cheap to rent on the beach. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring mine to Mexico this time and Nenad lost his mask on an earlier visit to Cenote Jardin del Eden so we had no choice but to rent our snorkel gear. It cost us $12 each to rent masks, snorkel and life vests for the day from the Akumal Dive Shop (not extremely expensive, but worth noting if you are traveling on a budget.) Fins were an additional $5 (we skipped them). There are plenty of dive shops in the area and people walking around selling snorkeling tours and renting masks, so you can probably shop around to find a better price.
We chose the Akumal Dive Shop because we were both in the market to buy new masks and wanted to try out theirs before purchasing our own. The staff at the shop was very nice, but told us life jackets were mandatory when snorkeling in the bay (they’re not, FYI – so don’t get suckered into renting vests, $5, if you don’t need them!) Obviously if you’re not a great swimmer, get one! I would also recommend it if you want a more relaxing experience – snorkeling can get tiring. After a couple of hours in the water, we enjoyed lazily floating around in our vests.
Unless you’re a nervous swimmer or just want the company, don’t bother buying a snorkeling tour. It’s not necessary. Once you have your gear just go straight out into the bay and swim, you are pretty much guaranteed to spot some turtles! We saw 5 or 6, happily eating the sea grass and followed one of them around for a while. He had a couple of hitch hikers with him!
Always remember to be respectful of the turtles’ space. Don’t touch them, no matter how tempting it is! Just watch and enjoy, seeing them peacefully going about their business is really something special.
Another tip, get there early in the morning! We arrived around 9am and immediately hit the water and I am so glad we did. By lunchtime, it was absolutely teeming with people looking for turtles and the visibility had really deteriorated from everyone kicking up sand with their freshly rented fins.
You may also see shops/people offering tours or rides to the Yal-Ku Lagoon. We didn’t go because we already had some scuba dives booked, but we have heard great things about the lagoon. Not for turtles so much but for plenty of tropical fish and coral… Apparently it’s just an all-around excellent snorkeling spot. Next time, we will definitely check it out. ($14 to get in for the day)
After you’ve snorkeled to your heart’s content, get a bite from the restaurant or just relax on the gorgeous beach. Our life jackets provided the perfect pillows for napping in the sand. We spent the rest of the afternoon hopping in and out of the water, alternating between turtle spotting and lounging under the palms.
At sunset we grabbed a couple of cocktails at the bar, took a long walk and enjoyed some people watching. It was the perfect end to the day, one of our favorites so far.
We can’t recommend a trip to Akumal enough, you will love it!
Have you ever seen a sea turtle?