Akumal

Free Mexico Travel Guide and Travel Information

Akumal is a small seaside village located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, about 60 miles south of Cancun in an area called the Riviera Maya. The 2010 census showed a population of 1,310 inhabitants.

Akumal is one of the best vacation beach resorts in the Riviera Maya, where you can get plenty of suns, relax or do water sports.

Akumal has become a favorite tourist beach resort, as it has the most beautiful bays on the eastern coast of Quintana Roo State. If you are looking for the charm of the Caribbean at a slower pace of life, along with brilliant white beaches and excellent snorkeling and SCUBA diving, this is a great choice. Akumal is one of the best places to visit in the Mexican Caribbean for its great variety of beautiful beaches and tourist services.

The Gran Bahía Príncipe Akumal (Great Prince Akumal Bay) and Half Moon Bay with its with fine white sandy beaches and the different shades of blue of the Caribbean sea will undoubtedly invite you to go swimming and snorkeling.

As this beach resort is surrounded by incredible coral reef formations with underwater caves and canyons, scuba diving is another most attractive water sport. Akumal is famous as a destination for snorkeling, where visitors can swim with endangered green sea turtles, who visit the shallow bay to feed on sea grass. The popularity of snorkeling has put environmental pressure on the fragile habitat.

The locals have developed a very high concern for ecological issues. They prefer that your sunscreen be biodegradable and that you do not touch the bottom over the eelgrass beds where the turtles feed.

They have also roped off an area of the reef for free snorkeling with a buoy line. Although small, the area is more than adequate to see many turtles and some interesting spotted and regular rays.

In the population, there is an Information Center on environmental issues, created by the CEA (Akumal Ecological Center,) non-profit civil organization, whose primary interest is to create ecological awareness to the inhabitants and visitors and ensure the environmental quality of the destination.

Origin of the Name

The name Akumal means “Place (land) of the Turtle”, due to the fact that sea turtles nest here each year from the end of April to October. These magnificent creatures can frequently be seen swimming in the shallow waters near Akumal. An important local organization, the Centro Ecologico Akumal, is dedicated to protecting these animals.

History

The town of Akumal has a rich and fascinating history. Akumal was originally a seaport and trading center of the Maya.

However, in the 16th-century a historic event occurred that had a lasting impact on the area.

In the year 1513, a Spanish galleon shipwrecked off its coast. Seventeen sailors made it to shore and were promptly made slaves by the Maya. Only two of these sailors survived their ordeal, one of these men, Gonzalo Guerrero, married a Mayan princess. Their union created the first mestizos. Gonzalo so integrated himself with the Mayan people, he no longer considered himself a Spaniard. Today, a statue of Gonzalo Guerrero greets the visitor at the entrance to the town of Akumal.

Akumal historically is the first tourist destination of the coastal strip of the Yucatan Peninsula bathed by the Caribbean Sea. It was originally a huge coconut plantation owned by Don Argimiro Argüelles until 1958 when it was discovered by CEDAM (Exploration and Water Sports Club of Mexico), an exclusive diving club. Akumal hosted this group whose interest was the search for underwater treasures.

Pablo Bush Romero, a Mexican businessman, diver, writer, historian, archaeologist and one of the founders of CEDAM, bought thousands of hectares around Akumal.

The town was officially founded in 1958 as a community for scuba divers by Pablo Bush Romero, a Mexican businessman, diver, writer, historian, and archaeologist. Pablo Bush’s family still owns a portion of Akumal, including the hotel Hotel Club Akumal Caribe.

Long before Cancun was in the Mexican government’s plans in response to the disappearance of Cuba as a pleasure destination for Americans, Romero flew over the shores of the state of Quintana Roo today and chose Akumal Bay as his future place of residence.

In the sixties, before the Cancun project, the Akumal coast was accessible only by sea.

Akumal was considered to be developed as a tourism destination before the start of Cancun but was discarded by a large number of mosquitoes produced in nearby wetlands.

On December 17, 2015, the residents of Akumal blocked the road to Akumal Bay, since repeatedly the Akumal Ecological Center (CEA) has locked one of the accesses that has been used as a street for more than 4 decades, claiming it is private property.

There is currently a dispute over access to Bahia, between local residents and the (CEA). The City of Tulúm, indicated that its position is to continue allowing all the people in the town to enter.

Akumal is also home to ONDARTE International Artist Residency.

Sanctuary of the Turtles

Akumal Mexico, in the Yucatan Peninsula, has been the sanctuary of the green turtles for hundreds of years.

The sea turtles nest here each year from the end of April to October. The green turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, and they are protected as an endangered species. These magnificent creatures can frequently be seen swimming in the shallow waters near Akumal. An important local organization, the Centro Ecologico Akumal, is dedicated to protecting these animals. The coral species and the endangered lion fish are also under Akumal turtles government protection, and the Akumal Ecological Center (CEA) makes every effort in this respect as well.

Things to do in Akumal

Akumal is a tourist destination that still retains its natural beauty. Swimming and snorkeling are excellent options in its coves, such as Kantena, Xaac, Crescent Bay, however the most famous is known as the Yalku Lagoon, which is 2 km north of the town. In Yalku there is a freshwater eye in its rocky area, and in that environment, a large number of colorful tropical fish live their youth away from predators.

The diving on the Akumal coast has a particularity since the morphology of the corals presents typical formations of caverns and canyons, creating “mountains” and structures inhabited by a great variety of marine fauna, and where it is common to find turtles that permanently swim in these areas of the Mexican Caribbean Sea.

There is a Mayan shrine built on a rock island in the Xaac cove, which is a clear example of how the Maya inhabited this site.

To the west of Highway 307, there is a large complex of caverns or cenotes, in which swimming, snorkeling and cave diving can be practiced, examples of which are the “blue” cenote and the “Eden” cenote.

To the south 2 km from the coastal town of Akumal, there is the “Akumal Adventures” bay, this bay is protected by a shallow barrier of coral, which forms “gardens” very close to the coast. By 1985 it began its development by the construction of a hotel, but its growth has been spreading by the construction of houses, villas and condominiums.

Four kilometers to the south, is the Aktun Chen natural park (in Mayan it means “cave with cenote inside”), of 400 hectares, the visiting area has a serpentarium, and spider monkeys coexist with visitors. The cave has three galleries with formations of stalactites and stalagmites forged by water and calcium carbonate over five million years, in the main gallery you can see a cenote.

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However, what makes Akumal charming and fascinating for tourists from around the world, is its spectacular bay with clear waters and underground rivers. Akumal is one of the most peaceful places in the Riviera Maya: one protected shallow bay with a secluded beach and a nearby reef.

Akumal’s shallow bays are a popular destination for scuba divers and for those who enjoy snorkeling. The water is an incredibly brilliant turquoise blue color with fantastic clarity.
The world’s second-largest barrier reef occupies these waters and the abundance of sea life is amazing. There are over 500 species of fish and 4 different species of sea turtles that can be seen here. For those who prefer freshwater, there are a number of cenotes (sinkholes) that provide entrance to underlying cave systems, offering the cave diver fantastic opportunities for exploring.

Adventures on land include exploring the surrounding jungle where hidden caves can be explored and where exotic flora and fauna can be seen. Deep-sea fishing is an active sport in these waters as well; the promise of a day’s catch might include Mahi Mahi, Kingfish, Marlin or Sail Fish.

Snorkeling

Sections of the reef and the main feeding ground of the sea turtles are completely closed to the public due to severe overcrowding by humans and the resulting spread of diseases in the turtle population. This is enforced by the federal military.

With the destruction of hurricanes and popularity, the reefs near Akumal have been damaged, but are protected and gorgeous. Sea life abounds. A snorkeling trip is very worth the time and expense. Snorkeling is free, life vests are suggested but not mandatory, and beaches are public – remember that! There are three options for snorkeling:

1. Go on a tour provided by one of the two great dive shops in town. It is $40 USD per person.

2. Go on an “unofficial” tour. If you stand on the beach with a clueless look on your face, a local may approach you and offer to take you snorkeling on his glass-bottomed boat. It is usually $20 USD per person and includes snorkeling equipment. The guide will attempt to find the famous sea turtles for you and show you different corals and fish. Make sure you are comfortable swimming with flippers as the guide may swim quickly from site to site. Not always legal business’, hence the deals.

3. Rent or buy your own equipment and swim out alone. The coral reefs are not too far from the shore and can be easily accessed by swimming, especially with the help of a life preserver. Much of the bay is not more than five feet deep. Be very careful to stay away from the “fire reef” marked with buoys and a distinctive red-colored coral. It stings and excessive contact can be fatal.

There are sea turtles living in the bay that visitors will see while snorkeling, enjoy this incredible experience.

Respect the nature

Since coral dies on human contact, you should avoid touching coral at all costs. It is also illegal to touch the wildlife, such as the sea turtles, so please do not try to ride them or bother them in any way.

Other tourist activity

  • Scuba diving
  • Cenote/cave diving
  • Sunbathing: enjoy the sunny beaches
  • Birdwatching tours
  • Deep sea fishing tours
  • Sailing tours
  • Whale sharks tours

Ecological Center (Centro Ecológico Akumal or CEA) at the end of Akumal bay to learn more about the area’s ecosystems, species and local environmental events.

Although many tourists come to visit, the beach resort never seems crowded and remains as an ideal vacation destination.

One of the finest places to go swimming and snorkeling in addition to the main bay and half moon bay is the Yal ku lagoon about 2km north of the town, where you will find sweet water well among the rocks and much colorful tropical fish.

Not far away from Akumal town to the west you will get to the cenote “Azul” and cenote “Eden” and may more, where you can also enjoy swimming, snorkeling and cavern diving in a vast cavern area.

Some 4 km to the south you reach the extensive natural park Aktun Chen with spider monkeys, white tail deer, iguanas, wild pigs and tropical bird species. The park also contains a huge cave of three galleries with stalagmite and stalactite formations, and in the main gallery, you will discover a beautiful cenote.

Among other famous cave systems with cenotes, worthwhile visiting is Kantuchi within the same area known as the Maya Zone or Felipe Carrillo Puerto Zone.

The zone called Rio Secreto also contains huge caverns with cenotes everywhere, and all of them are very close to Akumal.

About 6 km south of Akumal you will reach the beautiful beach Xcacel, and in walking distance you will reach a cenote with clean cool water.

Xcacel is the protected natural reserve, where the green turtles come to the beach during the night in the nesting season, where you will be able to observe them. This is certainly an amazing experience for kids and grown ups alike.

How to get there & Transportation

By bus from Valladolid (via Tulum): $7-$27 (2:15/2:55 hours)
By bus from Tulum: $1-$3 (0:25 min).
By bus from Chetumal (via Felipe Carrillo Puerto): $12-$17 (3:30/4:00 hours).
By bus from Cancun: $4-$6 (1:50/2:10 hours).
By bus from Playa del Carmen: $1-$2 (0:35 min).

“Colectivos” or taxi from Tulum or Playa del Carmen.

Transportation

Unless you plan on just staying in Akumal, you will need a rental car to get around. The closest sights are at least a 20 min drive. However, if you’re not comfortable driving in a foreign country, there are plenty of taxis to take you wherever you need to go.

There are also colectivos, a local 15-passenger van service that runs between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. They’re cheap (35 pesos per person), and usually full, but run very frequently. You can catch the colectivos off the main highway. If you are standing on the side of the highway the driver will flash his lights at you if he has room in his van. This is the preferred local way of getting around.

Tourist Assistance + Emergency Numbers

You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.

Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.

You can also request information to the email correspondencia@sectur.gob.mx

MORE EMERGENCY NUMBERS:

General Information: 040 (not free)

National Emergency Service: 911

Radio Patrols: 066
Police (Emergency): 060
Civil Protection: +52(55)5683-2222
Anonymous Complaint: 089

Setravi (Transport Mobility): +52(55)5209-9913
Road Emergency: 074

Cruz Roja: 065 o +52(55)5557-5757
Firefighters: 068 o +52(55)5768-3700


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