Do you want to swim with sea turtles in Mexico? Located just 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Akumal is a Mexican beach town known for its abundance of sea turtles.
Akumal is a truly special place where you can snorkel with wild sea turtles right off the beach. Read on for my complete Akumal snorkeling tour guide to learn everything you need to know about swimming with sea turtles in Akumal.
About Snorkeling in Akumal
Snorkeling in Akumal is one of the top things to do in Riviera Maya and a totally unforgettable tour experience. Here’s what you need to know about Akumal:
Where is Akumal?
Akumal is located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, about half way between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The beach area is where you’ll go for you snorkel experience, which is also one of the best beaches in Riviera Maya and home to some stunning beachfront hotels and resorts.
Why visit Akumal?
Meaning “place of turtles” in the Mayan language, Akumal is known for its abundance of sea turtles right off the beach. Akumal bay is full of sea grass, which is what the sea turtles eat and attracts them to the area.
There are so many sea turtles in Akumal that it is almost guaranteed that you will get to see sea turtles when visiting. If you want to have an unforgettable snorkeling experience in Riviera Maya where you can get an up close view of sea turtles in the wild, then visiting Akumal is right for you.
Can you visit Akumal on your own?
Yes, Akumal can be visited on your own but if you want the most convenient and hassle free option then I would book a tour with everything included and knowledgable guides to show you the way and make sure you’re abiding by the rules.
If you are snorkeling Akumal bay on your own, you’ll still need to pay a $13 USD conservation fee, rent snorkeling equipment, and navigate transportation there and back.
How do you get to Akumal?
On a Tour
Personally I think the easiest and most convenient way to visit Akumal is to book a tour with transportation included, which is what I did and what I’ll outline in detail in this post.
Transportation in Riviera Maya can be expensive and difficult to navigate so the most hassle free option is to book an Akumal excursion where they take care of everything for you-including roundtrip transportation, all admission fees, and snorkeling equipment.
If you do choose to visit Akumal on your own, the easiest way to get to there is by driving or renting a car. Drive south from Playa del Carmen on the main highway 307 for about 30 minutes until you see the signs for Akumal. Once you arrive, there is paid parking available on-site.
By Public Transportation
You can also get to Akumal by taking public transportation known as a colectivo, or a shared van from Playa del Carmen. The main bus station is located in downtown Playa del Carmen at Avenida Juarez and the main Highway 307.
Look for the colectivos underneath the highway overpass that are headed to Tulum. You’ll then need to get off at Akumal. If you don’t speak Spanish, the easiest way is to tell the driver “Akumal” when you’re getting in the van.
The price should be less than $50 pesos each way, which you’ll pay upon exiting. Once you get off, you’ll need to cross the highway via the overpass and head to the beach area.
Rules for visiting Akumal
Akumal is a protected area and there are some rules you must abide by when visiting Akumal beaches:
- No touching the turtles
- No flippers or snorkel fins
- No sunscreen
- Only certified guides with a valid permit may access the reefs
Important considerations for visiting Akumal
Akumal has been a popular tourist destination for years and as a result the Akumal bay sea turtles are in danger of overcrowding and eco-system damage from irresponsible tourists.
Luckily the pandemic has given the Akumal beach turtles a much needed break, but when visiting Akumal, it’s important to remember that the sea turtles are endangered species and you should do everything you can to minimize human impact.
This means abiding by the rules set by the conservation authorities and overall being a responsible and eco-conscious traveler. Here are a few important things to remember when snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal:
- Don’t crowd the turtles and be sure to leave ample space (at least 6 feet) between you and the Akumal turtles.
- Always stay flat at the surface and do your best not to disrupt the natural eco-system.
- Don’t stand up in the water as this can disrupt the sea grass where the turtles are feeding.
- Wear a rash guard or long sleeve shirt instead of sunscreen to protect and preserve the sea turtles and coral reefs.
Also, when choosing an Akumal tour, be sure to do your research and make sure the tour company is eco-conscious and committed to marine conversation. Unfortunately, there are many irresponsible tour companies out there just trying to make a profit at the expense of the environment and marine life.
About the Akumal Snorkeling Tour
I personally booked this tour with Ocean Tours and would highly recommend them for your Akumal tour experience. Here’s everything you need to know about this particular snorkeling tour in Akumal:
What’s included in Akumal snorkeling tours?
Here’s everything that’s included in the Akumal turtle tour:
- Hotel pickup and drop-off
- Snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal
- Visit to Xtun Cenote
- All snorkeling equipment
- Light snacks and drinks
- Certified bilingual tour guides
- Professional tour photography (available for purchase)
- $13 USD Conservation Fee (must be paid in cash)
How much does the Akumal snorkeling tour cost?
There are a variety of snorkeling tours in Akumal for every budget and the price will vary depending on the extra activities and if transportation is included. Typically the price range for Akumal tours is around $50 USD-$150 USD.
The tour I went on was $89 USD per person and included roundtrip transportation, swimming with sea turtles in Akumal, as well as visiting an incredible underground cenote. Overall, I thought it was a very good value considering we got to experience two unforgettable activities.
How to book the Akumal snorkeling tour
I personally went on the half day Akumal snorkeling with turtles tour with Ocean Tours, which can be booked online here. It was a small group experience (maximum 12 participants) and it was such a fun experience with fun, personable, and knowledgable guides.
I really liked the small group experience because we really got to bond with the tour guides and other people on the tour. The company was also committed to marine conservation and really made an effort to educate us on the importance of protecting the turtles and coral reefs.
Travelista Tip: If you have a larger group, consider booking a private tour for a more exclusive tour experience.
Akumal Sea Turtle Snorkeling Tour Itinerary
Here’s an overview of the Akumal turtle snorkeling tour itinerary in more detail. It is a half day tour starting around 7:30 AM and ending around 2:00 PM.
The turtle snorkeling in Akumal tour will begin with hotel pickup at your resort or vacation rental. Our pickup time was at 7:40 AM but this will vary depending on where you’re staying. You’ll board the tour van and head to Akumal, which is about 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen.
Snorkeling in Akumal
The first stop on the tour is snorkeling in Akumal. It’s best to get there early before the sand gets kicked up by visitors and reduces visibility.
Equipment and Safety Briefing
Once you arrive to Akumal, you’ll enter through the Akumal dive shop and be given your snorkeling equipment to try on including a mask, snorkel, and life vest. Fins are not allowed to be worn. You’ll then board the boat to head to the reef area as the first snorkeling stop.
Snorkeling at Akumal Reef
One benefit of visiting Akumal on a tour is the opportunity to snorkel in the reef area, which is restricted to certified guides only. After arriving to the reef area, you’ll jump off the side of the boat with a splash to begin your snorkeling experience.
I was really impressed by the snorkeling at the Akumal reef. The visibility was great and there was a lot of colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, stingrays, and other marine life to be seen. This is also where we got our first glimpse of Akumal sea turtles swimming in the wild!
Snorkeling at Akumal Beach
After snorkeling at the reef, you’ll swim as a group closer to the beach, which is much shallower and where the sea turtles are more likely to be seen.
While snorkeling, we got to see 5 sea turtles in total and few more stingrays. It’s such an incredible experience to see them up close under the water! You’ll want to get your GoPro ready!
Visit to Xtun Cenote
After the snorkeling experience at Akumal, there are shower facilities where you can have a quick rinse and dry off before getting back in the van. You’ll then head to Xtun Cenote nature park, which is about 20 minutes away down a bumpy dirt road.
Equipment and Safety Briefing
Once you arrive to the cenote, you’ll be given a wetsuit, water shoes, and life vest to put on. You will definitely want to opt for the wetsuit because the water is extremely cold!
You’ll have a quick safety briefing and get to learn some interesting tidbits about cenotes and the history of the Mayans.
After suiting up, you’ll then head down to the cenote, which is one of the best Riviera Maya cenotes I’ve seen and an impressive underground cavern full of stalagmites and stalactites. It’s completely dark in the cenote save for the few light installations and flashlights provided by the tour guides.
The guides will lead you through the cenote swim where you’ll float, trek over rocks, and even have a chance to participate in a “Mayan sacrifice” where you can jump from an elevated ledge with the lights completely off. It’s a bit terrifying taking a plunge into complete darkness but also a huge rush!
Lunch and Video Presentation
After swimming in the cenote, you’ll return to the visitor area to have a light snack of empanadas and fresh juice. You’ll also get to see the photo presentation set to music of all the photos taken by the professional photographer on the tour.
The photo package can be purchased for $42 USD and they will email you a file with the photos. I don’t normally buy photos on tours but I was actually really impressed with the quality of the photography so I did end up buying the package.
Return to Hotel
After eating, there are restrooms and changing facilities where you can change into dry clothes. You’ll then board the van to head back to your hotel and they will drop you off in the reverse order of pickup.
What to Bring on the Akumal Mexico Snorkeling Tour
Here are a few must-have items and nice-to-have items I would recommend bringing on the Akumal sea turtle tour:
- Rash guard: My top recommendation is to bring a rash guard, which is like a swim shirt to protect you from the sun without the need for sunscreen. When visiting Akumal, It’s important to minimize the use of sunscreen to protect the turtles. If you don’t have your own, you can also purchase a long sleeve shirt from the tour company.
- Beach towel: Another essential item to bring is a beach towel to dry off after you get out of the water. These microfiber beach towels are great options because they are super light weight and dry quickly between the multiple stops on the tour.
Nice to Have
- GoPro or waterproof camera: I would highly recommend bringing a GoPro or waterproof camera to capture your snorkeling experience with the turtles. I always bring my GoPro and am constantly amazed by the picture quality.
- Snorkel Set: If you’re concerned about comfort or cleanliness, you can always bring your own snorkel set instead of using the one provided on the tour.
- Water shoes: Water shoes are definitely needed when swimming in the cenote as you’ll be walking over a lot of rocks. They are provided on the tour but it’s nice to bring your own water shoes if you have them to ensure the best fit.
- Wet Brush: I usually always bring a travel sized wet brush because my hair is always a tangled mess when I get out of the ocean. I would recommend bringing one if you want to comb your hair after snorkeling.
What to Wear on the Akumal Snorkeling Tour
Here’s what I would recommend wearing on the Akumal beach snorkeling tour:
- Swimsuit: Whenever I go on snorkeling tours, I usually always wear a one-piece swimsuit. It’s just so much more comfortable and provides much more coverage when you’re dealing with your lifejackets, putting on your snorkel gear, and getting in and out of the boat.
- Swimsuit coverup: You’ll also want to wear a lightweight swimsuit coverup or shorts that can be easily removed when you’re ready to get in the water.
- Flip flops: Wear flip flops or sandals that can be removed easily when you’re snorkeling.
- Change of clothes: You’ll also want to bring a change of clothes so you can change out of your wet swimsuit before the ride back to your hotel or resort.
Akumal Snorkel Tour Tips
- Book in advance: I would highly recommend booking online in advance to reserve your spot as tours can fill up quickly. Most tour companies offer flexible booking options so it’s easy to cancel or reschedule if needed.
- Book a private or small group tour: If you can, I would recommend booking a small group or private tour. It can be a little more expensive, but I’ve always had a better experience with smaller tours where you really get to bond with the guides and other tour goers.
- Bring a rash guard: As I mentioned, it’s best to limit the use of sunscreen (even if it’s biodegradable) in order to protect the turtles. A rash guard will protect you from a sunburn while snorkeling.
- Bring cash for tips: This is something I often forget then feel terrible when I don’t any cash on hand to tip the tour guides. Make sure to bring some extra cash (dollars or pesos) to give the tour guides a little something extra. They work hard to deliver great experiences.
I hope this snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal guide was helpful if you want to swim with sea turtles while visiting Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya! It’s truly an unforgettable experience and one of the top snorkeling spots in Riviera Maya.
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