Akumal is centrally located along the Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico and has been described as the perfect seaside village. Others describe it as ecologically-oriented, which is evident in its protection and nurturing of the sea turtles that make their home in its bays. In fact, the name “Akumal” in Mayan means “place of the turtle” and for hundreds of years Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles have been coming all the way from the European coasts to Akumal each year to lay their eggs. The turtles begin arriving in April with hatching season running from June thru November.
But the sea turtles are just one of Akumal’s many incredible attractions. Akumal is a prime travel destination for water sport enthusiasts and those who enjoy the warm tropical sun on a sugar-sand beach. And due to its location along the Caribbean Sea with the famous Mesoamerican Reef, a living coral reef, along its shores, it is an ideal diving, snorkeling, and fishing site.
This small village is a somewhat Americanized community developed to meet the needs of its visitors. It offers an abundance of accommodations to meet any budget, has several restaurants featuring both local and European fare, grocery stores, and gift shops. An excellent dive shop in the area provides anything that you would need for a diving or snorkeling excursion. The best part about this village is that most services or attractions are within a 15-minute walking distance of each other.
Akumal first attracted international attention in 1926, when explorers discovered the Spanish Galleon Mantanceros, which had sunk off its shores in 1741. This of course, attracted divers to the area, and following that snorkelers began admiring the beauty surrounding the reef. As things seem to go, one thing led to another, and the town’s beautiful, turquoise bays have been drawing tourists for years. Still, Akumal is relatively unknown as a tourist destination to most, allowing it to retain its relaxed, laid-back atmosphere that the robust cities of Playa Del Carmen and Cancun further north on the Riviera Maya have long since lost.
Activities and attractions are centered about Akumal’s 2 bays, which are: Half Moon Bay and the greater Akumal Bay. Both are teeming with pretty beaches, sea life, and water sport opportunities that offer something for everyone. The greater Akumal Bays has recently been extended to include Jade Bay, South Akumal Bay, and Akumal Aventuras Bay.
Within the greater Akumal Bay area you’ll find accommodations, restaurants, shops, the ecological center, and rental services; it’s where Akumal’s community life is centered. From Akumal Bay, visitors can swim, kayak, boat, or join a guided excursion out to the Mesoamerican Reef, abundantly populated with tropical fish, brightly colored and beautiful; sea turtles; and many other forms of marine life.
Half Moon Bay offers snorkeling from shore, and is the best place to view the nesting sea turtles.
The sheltered waters of Yal Ku Lagoon, located just north of Half Moon Bay, is actually a small series of fresh waters lagoons whose waters eventually lead to the sea. The lagoon’s calm waters are home to schools of parrot fish and many other tropical fish. Its clear waters make it an ideal setting for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. It’s also a great place for bird-watching and to enjoy a stunning sunrise.
Area adventure tour operators and dive centers provide guided tours to enhance your exploration of Akumal’s beautiful bays and the Mesoamerican reef, including kayaking, catamaran rides, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and deep sea fishing excursions.
Because Akumal is centrally located along the Riviera Maya, it is an excellent base for exploring many other attractions. Among the area’s most interesting attractions are:
Tulum Archeological Ruins – the famous archeological site is located 32 km south of Akumal and is the most visited of all Mayan ruins. Over 2 million tourists visit the site each year. It is a walled city situated on the edge of a 40-foot cliff.
Aktun-Chen – the area’s largest underground cave is estimated to be about 5 million years old. The cave features several underground passages, a plethora of amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations, and fresh water cenotes, one in which you can swim. Located in a jungle, you may catch sight of monkeys and other fauna. And for the adventure sport enthusiasts, canopy tours are available here!
Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park – it’s so amazing that it was featured in a 2002 IMAX film, Journey into Amazing Caves, which was shown in theaters across North America. To get to the cenotes, you’ll ride in a jungle buggy through dense tropical forest from the main entrance. From there you’ll see some of the Yucatán's most spectacular cenotes, full of stalagmite and stalactite formations. Take a guided diving or snorkeling tour here, or ride the sky cycle – a cable bicycle that soars over the Mayan rain forest.
Xcacel (pronounced ish-ka-shell) – a nesting ground for endangered Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles.
Xel-Há – a very popular park and natural aquarium made from coves, inlets, and lagoons cut from the limestone shoreline. Scattered throughout the park are small Mayan ruins, wooden bridges traversing the lagoons, walking paths, and swimming areas. There is an entrance fee to the park, and package deals are offered, which include interacting (but not swimming) with dolphins.
The Del Cedam Museum – features a permanent exhibit of relics from area archeological sites, including those of: Kohunlich, Xel-Ha, Chichen-Itza, and Yaxcaba.
There’s so much to do in and around Akumal, but the tropical sun gleaming off the calm, clear blue Caribbean waters off Akumal’s shore are meant for enjoying, relaxing, and taking in all the wonders and beauty of nature. You may just want to settle in beneath a shaded palapa on the white-sugar sand beach with a cold drink and enjoy the landscape!