Swimming with turtles has been on the top of my bucket list for a long time. When I knew I will be travelling to Mexico, I was determined to finally scratch off this item off my list and make it happen!
The best thing about snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal is that it is almost for FREE!
The name of the town translates as the ‘place of the turtles’ in the Mayan language so it is no surprise to see there are plenty of turtles there. Snorkeling and diving is possible year-round with water visibility ranging from 40 to 100 ft. The shore water is typically very calm as it’s protected by the barrier coral reef.
Getting to Akumal Bay
Akumal is situated between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, along the Mayan Riviera.
The easiest is to take the trip from Playa del Carmen by colectivo.
For those of you who are not familiar with the word “colectivo”, it’s the name for the shared group taxi system in the Riviera Maya which many locals use to get to and from work each day.
The colectivos leave from the station on Calle 2 Norte between Avenida 15 and 20.
Simply hop on to the colectivo in direction to Tulum and ask the driver to drop you off at Akumal.
The journey only costs MEX 40 / USD 2 per way and takes about 30 minutes.
The colectivo will stop at the highway in Akumal. You just have to cross the bridge and walk towards the beach. You will soon see a lot of tour operators offering guided turtle tours – that way you’ll know you are on the right way.
Book A Tour or DIY?
I always like to find ways to explore places on my own. Tour groups are not really my thing, not only because it’s more expensive but mainly because I am less flexible by following a group schedule.
Swimming with the turtles on a self-guided tour is damn easy and as I said – almost for free.
You will only have to pay for the transportation from/to Akumal and get a snorkeling gear.
You can either rent snorkeling equipment directly from one of the diving centers along the beach or buy your own.
I would say it always pays off getting your own goggles and breathing tube as it’s more hygienic and you will be able to use it again for future snorkeling adventures.
Once you reach the beach, you can go directly into the water. You will have to swim a bit until you can no longer reach the ground with your feet.
At first, I thought I will be lucky if I can spot at least 1 turtle, but there is a 99% guarantee that you will see more than just one.
The turtles are very used to humans and don’t shy away once they notice you.
It is really super easy to enjoy this expierence without a guide.
If you’re not feeling confident enough to make your way to Akumal to swim with the sea turtles on your own, your best bet would be to book a tour.
Insider TipsCheck the weather forecast a day before you go to Akumal.
If the forecast predicts clouds in the morning, rather go a bit later during the day.
Many websites will suggest to go as early as possible in order to avoid the crowds, but from my experience I can say that there are not more crowds later during the day.
Having sunshine while snorkeling really makes a difference! The visibility and color of the water is so much better and you will be able to take amazing shots of the turtles. If you buy your own snorkeling gear, don’t wait until you reach Akumal. If you are coming from Playa del Carmen, visit the local Walmart store prior to heading off. The gear is much more cheaper than in Akumal. It will save you at least MEX 100 / USD 5. Turtles feed on the sea grass. The best chances for you to find them is by spotting the dark patches under water as seen from land.
Or keep an eye out for other snorkelers or tour groups in the water and follow along with them. Where there are snorkelers, there are likely sea turtles. Rent a locker in order to keep your valuables safe. Lockers at the dive shop will cost you MEX 100 / USD 5 per day (it’s not possible to rent them by hour).
If you are coming with a group of friends you can arrange yourselves and always have someone watching your personal belongings while the rest of the group is snorkeling. Use lots of sunscreen especially on your back. When snorkeling and looking out for turtles your back will logically be on the surface of the sea and your skin can get really, really burned. Been there, done that!
However, only use biodegradable sun blocks to help to prevent polluting the water. If you are going on your own without a guided tour you will not need a life jacket (unless you feel more secure having one). Many security people along the beach will try talking you into renting one and say it is mandatory, but it is NOT. Bring your own food and plenty of water if you have a limited budget. There is a restaurant (Lol-Ha restaurant) right on the beach but is kind of expensive. Help maintaining the natural habitat, respect the turtles and follow the sea turtle protections laws. There is a board right by the beach explaining the basic do’s and don’t’s. The Green Sea Turtles are endangered and many of them suffer from stress due to the increasing tourist crowds and climate conditions. Always keep a distance of about 2 meters, don’t swim directly above them and of course – do not touch them. They are fascinating enough to watch!