Translated into English from Mayan, Akumal means "Land of the Turtles", and there is no doubt why these prehistoric creatures come here to hatch their young. Akumal is strikingly beautiful, with crystal clear waters, underground rivers and unique flora and fauna. The lazy beach town is a mecca for divers due to the nearby reef and diverse animal population. The Caribbean climate makes it feel like a paradise, with the sleepy nature of the town adding to the relaxing vibes. There are many local bars and restaurants, but for those who want a taste of the highlife, Playa del Carmen is only a short coastal drive away. From there, you can also get a ferry to the nearby island of Cozumel, well-known for being home to a variety of unique wildlife and Mayan ruins.
At a glance
- Time Zone: GMT +
- Average flight time: 10h 10m
When to go
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The wondrous and unique marine wildlife is one of the main draws of Akumal. Although it’s probably most famous for the yearly turtle spawning, there are numerous other species that populate the bay and the surrounding areas. The reef is a popular area for scuba divers to visit, and there are numerous diving centres in the town that cater for all levels. There’s also the option to go cave diving in the network of stunning underground caves that surround Akumal. For an educational experience and a chance to really get to grips with the natural inhabitants of the island, there’s also an Ecological centre that has numerous exhibits on the area's ecosystem, with plenty of places to eat and drink all within walking distance. The partiers who might want a more lively night out will not be disappointed, as the nearby Playa del Carmen is host to numerous bars, clubs and other hotspots.
The nearby island of Cozumel is visible from the shore and is easily accessible via a ferry from Playa del Carmen. Here, history buffs can walk through the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio or visit the old Church, while the more adventurous can take part in kite surfing and banana-boating; all just a short hop from Akumal.
Akumal has a range of restaurants in the small built-up area around the beach. There are tourist-centric international offerings but also plenty of local cuisines. Expect some upmarket restaurants to cater to the numbers of American and Canadian tourists that descend on the resort in summer, but also family-run loncherias (snack bars) and beachfront palapa (an open-fronted building) restaurants.
Akumal is a firm family holiday favourite. Its 3 miles of picturesque beaches and bays have calm, warm waters and fine sand. The beaches generally have a number of facilities, including shops, restaurants and toilets. The area is known for its nesting turtles and although they're protected by law, you might still spot one or two. If you want a guaranteed wildlife experience then head to the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and Rescued Animals. If the little ones aren't keen on Mexican food there's no worry, as there are plenty of international eateries selling child-friendly meals.
Action & Adventure
Head under the waves. Seriously. Akumal's marine life is absolutely bustling. Quickly enforced marine laws mean that much of the area is protected and even rules about the sort of suntan lotion you can use on the beach are fairly strictly enforced. Explore the coral reefs, try and spot a turtle or head deeper with a scuba kit to another level of splendid wonders. There are also lots of amazing caves and underwater rivers. We recommend Cenote Santa Cruz, Aktun Chen and for a day wandering, the Yal-Ku Lagoon.
Without a doubt, the main attraction in Akumal is the beach; secluded and populated with plenty of palm trees so you can begin to really get that Caribbean feeling. A shallow bay means that the waters are usually quite calm, and the nearby reef is home to stunning wildlife and vibrantly colourful natural formations. The reef is not the singular point of natural beauty either, with underwater caves and rivers also available to dive and swim through for explorers young and old. There are a number of shops selling handmade, local goods and bars that serve food near the beach. If you want a livelier atmosphere, you can make the short drive up to the coast towards Playa del Carmen where the area is more built up; here there are beach volleyball courts, beach clubs and the opportunity for thrill seekers to take part in a variety of water-sports.
The postcard-perfect beaches are seriously romantic. Akumal is much quieter than its northern counterparts of Playa del Carmen and Cancun, which means there's a lot more time for a slow-paced, lush holiday with candle-lit dinners, beaches and exploration. Cozumel is where you want to head for your dose of temples and ruins, the beaches are ideal for an afternoon snoozing and the wide variety of hotels means you can pick and choose your holiday just the way you like. Everything from all-inclusive honeymoon level luxury to simple self-catering apartments.
You're in Mexico, there's culture coming out the country's nose. Akumal is relatively undeveloped and there are still remnants of its historic past. However, if you want a real taste of what Mexico has to offer, head either to Cozumel (a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen) for untouched history. Alternatively, from Cancun or with a tour provider in Akumal, you can head to the extensive Mayan ruins located just inland. The three nearest sites are actually the best. Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza. Coba is probably our favourite, being the oldest and most grand, so if you've only got time to squeeze in one, try here!