To get a feel for what a slower paced Mexican resort is like, head down to Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula about an hour from Cancun to the charming seaside town of Akumal. There are no high rises here, just a white, secluded sandy beach, a coral reef and warm waters rich in marine life, especially turtles. It is because of the abundance of turtles in the bay that makes snorkeling a must-do beach activity. Closeby are several natural and historic sites such as a lagoon, natural and ecological parks and Mayan ruins. Akumal is a perfect place to relax and do as little or as much as you wish.
1. Yal-ku Lagoon
Yal-ku Lagoon is an inlet from the ocean and contains a mixture of fresh and salt water. The calm turquoise waters are home to sea turtles, tropical fish and manta rays and makes for a nice day or afternoon of snorkeling. There are two companies, each with their own entrance to the lagoon, that provide everything you need for your day of snorkeling: snorkeling rental equipment, life jackets, changing rooms, lockers, showers, and bathrooms.
Surrounding the lagoon is a sculpture garden with bronze statues that you can explore. When you want to take a break from snorkeling, you can rent a little palapa for shade (there are not too many shady or sandy spots around the lagoon) and relax in one of the hammocks. If you want to get a snack, there is a snack bar available.
The lagoon itself has many areas to explore. If you are a good swimmer, you can go to the mouth of the lagoon near the ocean where the current is strong. On the back side, the water is clearer and calmer.
Look for starfish and urchins, damselfish, sergeant majors, hamlets, parrot fish, blue tangs and queen trigger fish, among other Caribbean species. Most of the lagoon is 5 to 15 feet deep and there are rocks where you climb on and rest. If you are a bird watcher, the area has various tropical species such as herons, cranes, pelicans, seagulls and egrets.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: Akumal, Yal-ku, 77776 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Website: Yal-ku Lagoon
Xel-Ha is a natural aquatic park and ecotourism all-inclusive development where crystal clear underground rivers meet and mix with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Translated from the Mayan language, Xel-Ha means “the mixture of the waters.” The grounds and activities available are extensive. There are many aquatic activities to choose from: snorkeling in Aventura Cenote, swimming in underwater grottos, kayaking across the Black Lagoon, or floating on a tube down a lazy river ride into a lagoon.
If you are into more extreme aquatic activities, you can try the Cliff of Courage where you jump 5 meters (17 feet) from a bridge into the river below. Or take a 49-meter (162-foot) walk between two ropes while swaying over the river. On the dry side, there are jungle trails that can be explored by foot or on a bicycle. If all that activity leaves you with an appetite, you can enjoy traditional Mexican food at any of the four restaurants in the park.
Xel-Ha Ecological Park
Address: Carretera Chetumal Puerto Juárez Km 240, locales 1 & 2, módulo B, 77780 Q.R., Mexico
Xel-Há Park All-Inclusive 1-Day Pass
Duration: 1 day
The Mayan ruins at Coba, still half covered with celba trees, aren’t as excavated as other Mayan sites, but it is worth a trip here, because the site doesn’t see as much tourism as the larger, more famous Mayan ruins. So, you may find yourself almost alone as you wander through the ruins and forest. The Nohoc Mul Pyramid is the tallest in the Yucatan at over 38 meters (126 feet) and climbing the 120 stairs to the top of the Grand Pyramid will reward you with a jungle canopy view for miles with unexcavated temple mounds peeking above the trees.
Coba also has the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Mayan world known as sacbes or white roads. Fifty have been discovered and 16 of them are open to the public. The raised stone pathways connect the clusters of residential areas to Nohoc Mul.
There are three ways to explore the ruins along these roads: walk, hire a bicycle taxi or rent a bicycle.
Another reason why the Mayan ruins at Coba are unique is that only a few of its estimated 6,500 structures have been uncovered. Walking through the extensive ruins in the jungle, you might see numerous species of birds, butterflies and animals, even the occasional spider monkey. An easy day trip from Akumal, the beautiful natural setting of Coba is a one-of-a-kind experience to explore.
Coba Mayan Ruins
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: Carretera Federal 307 Cancún-Chetumal, 77793 Cobá, Q.R., Mexico
Coba: Mayan Ruins and Cenote Tour from Riviera Maya
Duration: 8 hour
The protective reef in the bay at Akumal is so large that waves can’t disrupt the bay and that makes for some great snorkeling. Akumal is known for the loggerhead and green sea turtles that swim and feed in the bay. The turtles are plentiful and used to humans.
There are tour groups that do snorkeling trips in the bay, but you don’t need to rent a boat or a guide to go snorkeling with the turtles. There are several options for buying or renting snorkeling equipment. You can pick up snorkel gear at a reasonable price at the Walmart in Playa del Carmen or you can rent some from one of the local dive shops on the beach.
With snorkel gear in hand, head down to the beach past the line of boats along the shoreline. You will know the best spot to snorkel when you see other snorkelers or tour groups in the water. Snorkeling with the turtles will leave you with an appreciation of their strength and grace. Their strong front fins propel them through the water and as they come up for air you can look them in the eye. Be sure to give them their space as it is illegal to touch the turtles.
Note: As of April 2017, you may see signs that snorkeling has been suspended indefinitely to prevent deterioration and damage to the marine ecosystems due to the large crowds.
Snorkeling with the turtles
Address: 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Cancún, between the towns of Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Akumal Bay: Snorkeling with Turtles
Duration: 6 to 0.5 hour
5. Centro Ecologico Akumal
To learn more about Akumal’s fragile ecosystem, plan a visit to Centro Ecologico, a non-governmental organization that focuses on sustainability issues and improving the ecosystem in and around Akumal. They focus on research, education and outreach in their various programs and projects. They also work on the protection, conservation and research of the sea turtles. Under a government-issued permit, Centro Ecologico is allowed to work on four different beaches in the Akumal area.
You can learn about the work of Centro Ecologico and the area’s ecosystem at their small museum on the east side of the road at the town’s entrance. There are several exhibits on reef and turtle ecology. They offer a four-week volunteer program focused on protection, conservation, and research of female sea turtles, their nests and hatchlings.
Centro Ecologico Akumal
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; closed Saturday and Sunday
Address: Carretera Puerto Juarez ~ Tulum Km. 104, 77776 Akumal, Q.R., Mexico
Website: Centro Ecologic Akumal
6. Cenote Santa Cruz
This private tour package of Cenote Santa Cruz delivers you an up-close and personal encounter with some of the finest natural sights ever to grace Mexico. A cenote represents an especially deep well or natural sinkhole, constructed by the parallel collapse of selective limestone structures which expose underlying pools of water. The result is a majestic spectacle you’re going to want to experience for yourself. Take advantage of affordable group tour rates at this particular cenote, and you’ll soon discover the awe-inspiring panorama that is a distinct series of underground caves, caverns, and spaces characterized by frequent stalactites and vibrant waters.
Your surroundings seem to glow, and to hum with rejuvenating energy! Cenote Santa Cruz always presents sensational opportunities for winning photography, and the memories are sure to last you a lifetime. Widely regarded by locals and visitors alike as one of, if not the absolute best, cenotes in the area, Cenote Santa Cruz is the absolute go-to natural site as long as you’re in the Akumal, Mexico area! Discover how easy it is to fall in love with this cavity beneath the surface of the earth!
Cenote Santa Cruz
Address: Gonzalo Guerrero mz 12 Lt 10, 77776 Akumal, Q.R., Mexico
Website: Cenote Santa Cruz
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Home not only to indigenous species of monkey, but also to various other endangered species found in the immediate and extended regions that surround and include Akumal, the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary is the ideal experience if you’re looking to learn more about animals from the local area! More importantly, you’re also going to learn about all of the conservatory efforts that drive not only the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary, but also the continuity of the species themselves, as they are eventually released back into the wild. It’s easy to book your ticket to this site, either online or at the front gates, and trust that you’ll be in for the natural Akumal immersion experience of a lifetime!
Sensational photo opportunities abound at the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary, especially if you elect to bring your children, or the entire family, along for the ride. From various primates to local lemurs to goats, there’s always something to see and to encounter. The onsite staff is always ready to answer any questions you have about the area or the animals, and you’ll know that you’re supporting their efforts to minimize risks toward some of the world’s most dynamic species! From the spider monkey to the macaw, you’ll be treated to the full Akumal wilderness experience, at the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary!
Akumal Monkey Sanctuary
Address: Gonzalo Guerrero, 77780 Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Website: Akumal Monkey Sanctuary
Akumal Monkey Sanctuary Tour
Duration: 2 to 3 hours
8. Half Moon Bay
If you’re looking for the perfect place to familiarize yourself with white, soft sands and the occasional friendly sea turtle, you’ve come to the right place at Half Moon Bay in Akumal, Mexico! Watch the blue waters lap onto a calm ocean shore, in a coastal setting described by visitors and locals alike as a setting as beautiful and calmly majestic as any in Akumal. Half Moon Bay is also the privileged home to many recreational outlets, starting with everything you can discover on the shore itself, with a walk along the shore, or a hike just off the coast itself. This ocean is also conducive to any snorkelers or licensed scuba divers, as well as anyone looking to paddle board, or even kayak!
A wonderful variety of shops exists only a few minutes away from a local series of shops! It’s always a wonderful idea to stop by a local grocery store to pick up a quick lunch before you hit the shore, so that you won’t have to leave the peaceful atmosphere of the shore for a meal. For a unique exploratory adventure in Akumal, Mexico, one that on clear days can get you up close and personal with sea turtles, sea urchins, and a wonderful seasonal sun, Half Moon Bay deserves a spot on your Akumal bucket list.
Half Moon Bay
Address: Half Moon Bay, Akumal, Mexico
Immerse yourself in some of the rich history which characterizes Akumal! The Coba Ruins tour, available exclusively in the immediate Akumal historical region, is your ticket toward the discovery of dated, yet fascinating, localized history. You’ll be able to take a certifiable guide with you, one well-versed in the archeology of the region, and together he or she will facilitate a fascinating adventure of ruinous discovery! This tour allows you to beat the crowds, to cut the lines, and to discover the Coba ruins at your own pace, without the hustle, bustle, and general distraction of local tourists.
One of the highlights of your tour is the visitation of Nohoch Mul, one of the highest pyramids in the Yucatan! Atop the pyramid itself, you’ll be gifted time enough to take in the uninterrupted, 360-degree panorama of local treetops, from your vantage point virtually in the skies. Lunch and round-trip transportation from select stays in the region are also included! Along the way, you’ll learn so much about the ancient inhabitants of the region, as well as the complete religious significance of the pyramids, even as you climb them for yourself. Discover for yourself the nearly 43,000 individual ruins, across a stretch of nearly 43 miles, when you take full advantage of everything that this exclusive Coba Ruins tour has to offer!
Exclusive Coba Ruins tour
Address: Km. 47, Carretera Federal Tulum 307, 77793 Cobá, Q.R., Mexico
Coba Ruins, Cho HaCenote, Tulum and Paradise Beach Tour
Duration: 10 hours
10. Dolphin Discovery Akumal
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Only twenty miles from the Tulum Mayan ruins, a very different type of discovery experience awaits those adventurous enough to give it a go: it’s Dolphin Discovery Akumal! Located in a region of natural preservation, you’ll be gifted the chance to do what for most individuals will forever remain a dream: swim with dolphins! In a region widely considered one of the most beautiful on the entire face of the planet, given the sheer spectrum of its biodiversity, tropical breezes will prove the backdrop for your newest adventure in Akumal. The perfect family-friendly experience in Mexico, you and all accompanying companions and friends will partake in an immersive dolphin experience, perfect for all ages and demographics.
This endeavor not only introduces you to the joys of swimming with one of nature’s friendliest marine creatures. Dolphin Discovery Akumal has long existed as a means by which the organization introduces locals and visitors alike to the conservatory efforts which make the swim at all possible. At Dolphin Discovery Akumal, you’ll be gifted more than a swim with a marine mammal; you’ll also discover the importance of sustaining the lives of these majestic oceanic creatures, especially after experiencing them for yourself. All dolphins onsite were born under human supervision, and are excellently trained, providing you with a safe, secure, sensational chance to craft lifelong memories, all the while gaining a unique vantage point of a species in danger, and even making some new aquatic friends!
Dolphin Discovery Akumal
Address: Km. 256.3, México 307, 77710 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Website: Dolphin Discovery Akumal
11. Akumal Dive Shop
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Any true complete underwater experience in Akumal, Mexico, comes courtesy of the region’s all-inclusive solution to any and all diving, snorkeling, and scuba diving shop, the Akumal Dive Shop! From scuba diving equipment rentals to hands-on scuba courses of varying skill levels to cavern diving packages to instructive courses, the Akumal Dive Shop proves as immersive an underwater gateway toward discovery! The dive shop itself specializes in any and all types of localized dives, and allows only certified, top-tier dive experts to lead adventurous, exploratory dives of all sorts, through various aquatic locations all across Akumal. One of the country’s foremost authorities in all things diving, the Akumal Dive Shop promises to exist as your one-stop shop for dive props, instruction, information, advice, and everything in between.
From day dives, to night dives, to scuba diving, to cavern immersion, the Akumal Dive Shop has it all. The friendly staff can easily set you up with a dive selection perfect for both your individual dive preferences, as well as the perfect package with regard to affordability. The shop also understands how to take full advantage of seasonal marine life sightings; they even offer a whale shark snorkeling experience! Now, you can book your stay in Akumal and your dive package at the same time, earning you exclusive, additional discounts when you book through the Akumal Dive Shop. And their fishing and sailing packages are ideal for those aiming to take full advantage of their proximity to local waters, without disappearing beneath their surface.
12. Xibal Park
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
For the perfect immersion in local wildlife, the ideal outing with your friends or family, try the Xibal Park on for size! One of Akumal’s many winning locations in terms of both aesthetic beauty and recreational opportunity alike, Xibal Park is equal parts explorational venture and rejuvenating site! This natural wildlife sanctuary is the worthy host of so many indigenous plant and animal species, you’re going to find a picture-worthy opportunity at nearly every corner! Xibal Park proves the ideal location for a relaxing walk across pleasant, bright grounds. With a stunning combination of pools, walking and hiking trails, and something to see around every new bend, Xibal Park proves one of the few Akumal attractions that exists for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike.
Address: Xibalba Park, Carreterra Federal KM 186, Akumal
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
For a unique flavor of local adventure in Akumal, Mexico, check out Vea ATV tours! Grip the handles and give your ATV some gas, at one of Akumal’s finest alternative adventures. You’ll zip around on these efficient vehicles, under indigenous species of monkeys, among dense, lush local wildlife! Discover a unique flavor of local thrill, one afforded exclusively to those who take Vea ATV tours up on their offer of adrenaline-inducing excitement.
With Vea ATV tours, it’s more than simply the joy of driving yourself through some of the most vibrant wildlife in all of Mexico. Vea ATV tours is an entirely educational, immersive experience in the immediate region, where expert guides will take you through some of the most interesting indigenous sights and sounds to be found. Rest assured, it’s a fairly smooth ride, if that’s the route you choose! For those who crave a more daring for of ATV adventure, there are plently of holes and rockier paths, to satisfy your drive for speed on wheels.
Your tour guide will also introduce you to the local conservation efforts! As with many attractions in Akumal, there’s a deliberate focus on the immediate and ongoing conservatory efforts in the region, in order to perpetuate both animal and plant species, together with a collective drive to preserve the region, free from pollution, overt foot traffic, and even disrespect. You’ll experience a reverence for the region itself, all while on the back of an ATV designed to render the distance between you and authentic adrenaline a shorter one than ever before!
Vea ATV tours
Address: Avenida Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Website: Vea ATV tours
Tulum Off-the-Beaten Path ATV Adventure with Lunch Option
Duration: 4 hours
14. Riviera Maya Golf Club
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
If you’re looking for the perfect alternative activity in Akumal, Mexico, when you’re not walking sensational beaches or taking advantage of the various recreational opportunities afforded to you, the Riviera Maya Golf Club can help! Featuring a wonderful selection of club and green rentals, and with the added capacity to host your next social function, birthday, or other event, this social outlet is perfect for whatever you had planned! Whether you’re looking to hang with friends, or take the family somewhere that everyone can enjoy, you’ve found a worthy end when it comes to the Riviera Maya Golf Club. Conveniently located near the ocean, and featuring a stunning selection of greens for your enjoyment, it’s difficult to beat this Akumal location!
Riviera Maya Golf Club
Address: Carretera Chetumal Benito Juarez Km.250, 77760 Akumal, Q.R., Mexico
Website: Riviera Maya Golf Club
If you want to take a break from another day at the beach, a visit to Acktun Chen Natural Park makes a great day trip that offers a different kind of adventure: a guided walk through a five million year old dry cave, the largest dry cave system in the Riviera Maya. Once inside, you will be able to view spectacular natural domes decorated with beautiful tall stalactites, bizarre columns, and pillars and translucent curtains that seem to glow in the soft blue light. The National Geographic Society has included Acktun Chen on the list of the “Top 10 Best and Most Impressive Underground Walkways in the World.”
After your underground tour, spend some time above ground at the park’s crystalline waters of Acktun Chen’s cenote. The ancient Mayans considered these freshwater pools sacred. Or if you’re in the mood for something more adventurous, try the Riviera Maya Jungle zip line, an exhilarating and fun ride through the rain forest. Another option is to take a relaxing stroll through Acktun Chen’s zoo where you can observe spider monkeys, tall tail deer, agutis, coatimundis, and kinkajous, as well as numerous tropical birds and exotic plants.
Acktun Chen Natural Park
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed Sunday
Address: 107 carretera Cancún-Tulúm, 77780 Akumal, Q.R., Mexico
Website: Acktun Chen Natural Park
Aktun Chen: Caves, Cenote and Zip Line Expedition
Duration: 10 hour
Charming and peaceful Akumal
White sands, a coral reef and warm waters rich in marine life, including turtles, await you in Akumal. Akumal in Mayan means “land of turtles” and they abound in the protected bay of Akumal. And it is that spectacular bay with its clear waters and underground rivers that draws tourists from around the world. Akumal is a charming beach side town and one of the most peaceful spots in the Riviera Maya. This tourist-friendly little town is about an hour south of Cancun, but it seems light years away.
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