Did you know that you could swim with green sea turtles in their natural habitat in Mexico? Amazing, isn’t it? Do you know what’s even more incredible? This activity is totally free and this is why I’ve done it three times already while living in Playa del Carmen as the turtles are only 20 minutes away!
Swimming with turtles in Akumal, Mexico (updated for 2018)
Please note that swimming with turtles like we know it is no longer guaranteed.
Some readers informed me that they found a bunch of armed marines and giant sign that swimming with turtles has been suspended indefinitely to prevent deterioration, and further damage to the marine ecosystems, which include various species of marine turtles. They could only swim with hands behind their backs in a small area without any turtles around.
But it’s not the case every day. One day you’ll be able to swim with them, another day you won’t be able to, as the situation is unstable. Either way, I still recommend you to at least try.
(Click to watch Swimming with turtles in Akumal, Mexico with Anna Everywhere on YouTube)
How to get to Akumal?
Getting to Akumal from Playa del Carmen is easy. You can hop on a colectivo (minibus) from the colectivo stand located on Calle 2 Norte between Avenida 15 and 20 (search for Correos Mexico on Google Maps).
Tell the driver you’re going to ‘Akumal Puente’ and he’ll drop you off on the other side of the road that you can cross using the bridge. Colectivo will cost only 35 pesos (approx. $1.60) each way.
If you’re coming with children or want to have more privacy you can obviously get a taxi to Akumal, but colectivos are equally safe so don’t be afraid of them!
Tips for visiting Akumal
I recommend you bringing your own snorkel equipment to avoid paying huge rental prices. If you don’t have your own you can easily purchase a set at some stores in Playa del Carmen. Don’t pre-book a turtle tour, as they’re a big tourist trap and charge $50 for taking you to the water as you can just walk in and swim on your own.
You can follow the people to get to the beach or simply continue straight and see some signs for the beach. You will be approached by various tour guides asking if you want to do a tour to swim with turtles.
My advice: don’t do it and continue walking, as you don’t need a guide to see turtles. Both times when I visited Akumal I saw my first turtles within 5 minutes of entering the water, so even I could be a tour guide in this case. This has NOT changed in 2017.
Last year everyone was able to bring their own snorkel equipment and simply jump into the water without a guide or extra gear.
Unfortunately, due to the rising amount of ignorant people who were touching and grabbing turtles, this is no longer allowed. Usage of life jacket is now obligatory and fins are forbidden too.
You can rent a lifejacket from any dive store for 95 Pesos (approx. $4.5). If you need a snorkel equipment you’ll need to pay an extra 85 Pesos (approx. $4). It’s still cheaper than a tour.
Rules of swimming with turtles
There’s one important rule when visiting Akumal: DON’T touch the turtles! As cute as they may look to you hugging them may harm them, so please don’t do this. Swim with turtles, leaving a decent distance as they need their personal space, the same way as humans do.
Even more important… be careful with stingrays (yes, these guys that killed Steve Irwin)! When I visited Akumal for the first time I was convinced they were manta rays and I swam quite close to them which was a big mistake.
If you have any other questions regarding visiting Akumal please comment below and I’ll try to help you as much as I can!