Swimming with Turtles in Akumal, Mexico

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>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 2017)Swim with Turtles in Akumal

UPDATE 10th APRIL 2017:

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, 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 childres 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!

swimming with turtles in Akumal

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, same way as humans do.turtles Mexico

akumal turtles

Swim nearby but never touch the turtle.

Even more important… be careful with sting rays (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.

This ain't a manta ray!

This ain’t a manta ray!

If you have any other questions regarding visiting Akumal please comment below and I’ll try to help you as much as I can!

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  1. Mar 17, 2016 / 8:38 pm

    We went to Akumal when we road tripped around the Yucatan Peninsula last year, and it was our favourite thing we did during the trip! Such an amazing experience.

    We brought our own snorkel gear but rented life jackets so that we could get access to a locker for our valuables.

    • Mar 17, 2016 / 10:28 pm

      Yep, that’s the best way to do it! 🙂

  2. Mar 18, 2016 / 7:11 pm

    Great post Anna! Swimming with the turtles in Akumal was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Mexico.

    • Mar 19, 2016 / 5:09 pm

      Come back and we’ll go again 😀

  3. Mar 19, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    Looks like an amazing one in a lifetime experience. My girls would love this actually so would i . Great to read you encourage the activity done in a way that does not interfere with the animals. Even better that you can do this activity for free just wander done the beach. the beaches always look amazing in Mexico

  4. Mar 19, 2016 / 11:20 pm

    Great photos Anna! I’ve swum with sharks in Belize and want to swim with those turtles in Akumal 🙂 Thanks for the tip, I probably would have paid the $50

    • Mar 20, 2016 / 4:41 am

      Yay, don’t pay – turtles are free 🙂

  5. Mar 20, 2016 / 1:10 am

    Just one of the many things I love about Akumal! I really enjoyed our swim with the turtles as well. Good tip about bringing your own gear. The rentals can add up if you go more than once.

  6. Carol Colborn
    Mar 20, 2016 / 1:35 am

    Wow, thanks for this secret! How about from Cancun or Cozumel? We have time shares there. Would it be easy to go to Akumai Puente too? Would love to take my grandkids there!

    • Mar 20, 2016 / 4:40 am

      From Cozumel it’s easy – just get a ferry to Playa del Carmen and then colectivo 🙂 Ithink there’s a direct colectivo from Cancun as well actually, but not 100% sure !

  7. Mar 20, 2016 / 3:50 am

    Wow, those turtles are huge! I’d love to visit and great recommendation to bring your own equipment. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s also more sanitary!

  8. Nicole
    Apr 15, 2016 / 3:48 am

    Planning on roadtripping from cancun to tulum with stop at akumal for the turtles! Do you recommend a certain time to see the turtles (less crowds of people/more turtles to see?) Also, as a solo female traveler – what are your thoughts of renting a car and driving around the Yucatan? places on my list are Akumal, Coba, Valladolid, Panderosa Cenote … maybe Punta Allen. Id like to rent my own car so I can hit the road as early as I like, but am worried about quality of car, ease of directions and safety. Thanks so much!!! 🙂

    • Apr 15, 2016 / 5:23 pm

      The earlier you go the better! I’d defintiely suggest renting a car – it’s super cheap and easier. Cars are high quality and roads are fine, driving might be a bit more exteme as Mexican drivers drive a bit fast hehe. But I’m sure you’ll be fine 🙂

  9. Dan Smith
    Oct 24, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    Can you still swim with the turtles there? We were told by a tour company that this was now closed to swimming?

    • Oct 24, 2016 / 10:27 pm

      I wouldn’t use any tour operators to do this honestly. I know that there was a fight between some people who wanted to close access to the beach, but when I did it a few months ago you definitely could. Just like I said in the post: ignore all the vendors who’ll try to charge you for something that’s completely free to do.

  10. Jen
    Feb 23, 2017 / 9:47 pm

    Is it possible to swim with turtles currently, February 23, 2017? We are in Quinta Roo and were told Akumal is closed and protected by the army.

    • Feb 23, 2017 / 11:40 pm

      They’ve been saying this more or less every three months for at least two years. I don’t think it’s true.

  11. Mar 26, 2017 / 4:05 am

    I had so much fun doing this last July. However I forgot my iphone and had to use a disposable film camera and I also got the worst motion sickness that I’ve ever had in my entire life. I seriously couldn’t walk for at least a half hour after i got out of the water. Have you ever heard of anyone getting sick like this after snorkeling? I’m thinking it has something to do with my Multiple Sclerosis. I saw lots of great turtles though so I’d probably do it again even with the motion sickness.

    • Mar 29, 2017 / 3:02 am

      Hmm… never to be honest. I herd of divers getting sick, but not snorkelers.

    • Mar 29, 2017 / 3:02 am

      Hmm… never to be honest. I heard of divers getting sick, but not snorkelers.

    • Mel
      Nov 10, 2017 / 2:40 am

      I got sea sick while snorkeling once too! The water was rough, my mask didn’t fit right, so I was constantly looking up out of the water and down again, until I suddenly felt terrible!!! I wanted to die.

  12. Rachel P
    Apr 7, 2017 / 2:19 pm

    I have a Destination Wedding that I’m bringing everyone to see the turtles. So we can bring our own masks and snorkels, and we have to rent a life jacket now? No more swimming freely without one correct?

    Thanks for this info!

    • Apr 7, 2017 / 5:50 pm

      Hi Rachel,
      Yes, you need to rent life jackets now unfortunately. We recently brought our own snorkel gear and it was fine, but when my friend went he said he was having hard time getting just a life jacket. However, if you’re bringing a group I’m sure they’ll be happy and let you do that.

  13. Cindy
    Apr 7, 2017 / 8:51 pm

    We just got back from Akumal (hoping to swim with the sea turtles) and there is a giant red sign that reads:
    There is federal protection of natural resources. All activities of swimming with the turtles are suspended to prevent deterioration and further damage to the marine ecosystems which include various species of marine turtles.
    There were armed Marines (with huuuuuge guns) guarding the area and we were asked to snorkel with life jackets and swim with our hands behind our backs within a designated swim area. There weren’t any sea turtles in that area at all. The reef was still beautiful and we had a great time.

    • Apr 11, 2017 / 9:47 pm

      That’s really sad to hear 🙁 But thanks for letting me know.

    • Apr 17, 2017 / 11:02 pm

      I literally received an information today that it all depends of the day you go.

  14. Melissa Bahre
    Jun 24, 2017 / 12:07 pm

    Hello Anna, I’m enjoying reading your blog. I was reading about swimming with the turtles in Kuma & read an article in your local paper, which was attached by a commenter above. Am I confused in my reading, or are people now required to use tour companies to access swimming with the turtles? The article link is below. Any help is appreciated, we will be there in July 2017 & this opportunity sounds amazing, but I’d rather not get my family shot! ????


    • Jun 24, 2017 / 6:48 pm

      Things change every week to be honest, sometimes it even depends of the day you go. Last time I checked you need to use a guide from one of the dive centers there to go snorkeling I’d suggest you to get to the beach and see how things are.

      • Henry Dusseldorf
        Jul 28, 2017 / 2:36 am

        Have fun in Mexico, Melissa Bahre.

  15. Sep 27, 2017 / 6:15 pm

    Your close up photos of the turtles are so stinking cute! Aw, I would love to do this! (sans stingray lolol)

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