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!
If you’re staying in Tulum, take advantage of this amazing opportunity. There are parks that offer a similar opportunity like Xcaret, but it’s not entirely their natural habitat, it costs money to enter and it’s slightly a cheese place since most visitors are groups from resorts in the area. Swimming with turtles in Akumal is a much more authentic experience.
How to Swim with Turtles in Akumal, Mexico
(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!
While in Akumal check out Yal-Ku lagoon. It’s a natural aquarium for snorkeling and swimming and not as well known as Cenote Azul or Cenote Jardin del Eden.
Tips for Visiting Akumal
A few years back Akumal Bay was free for all and you could swim with the turtles whenever you wanted. Unfortunately, due to the rising amount of ignorant tourists touching and grabbing poor turtles, causing damage to the marine ecosystems, now there are limits to 300 people per day and the activity is supervised.
They also limited the number of tour agencies who could bring tourists in on guided tours, so it requires slightly more organization from you. The beach is open from 9am to 5pm, but my recommendation is to be there right when they open.
You DO NOT need a tour to swim with turtles. 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.
I actually recommend you bringing your own snorkel equipment to avoid paying huge rental prices ($20+). If you don’t have your own you can easily purchase a set at some stores in Playa del Carmen.
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, feel free to ignore them and keep walking.
You can rent a lifejacket from any dive store for 95 Pesos (approx. $4.5). If you need snorkeling equipment you’ll need to pay an extra 85 Pesos (approx. $4).
- The beach is closed during the months of September and February.
- The beach is also closed on Mondays.
- Fins are banned.
- Life jackets are technically mandatory these days (they weren’t before), but it’s not an official rule. If someone yells at you, rent one.
Rules of Swimming with Sea 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!
Sunday 5th of March 2023
Where does a person rent snorkeling gear and is there a specific location to see the turtles? Is there parking anywhere if you arrive by vehicle and is there a fee to enter the beach or a specific entrance the public
Tuesday 7th of March 2023
It keeps changing, but parking is available by the beach and you can also rent snorkeling gear there. There are multiple dive shops :)
Sunday 8th of January 2023
We just went at Christmas, 2022. It's $6USD to get entry to the beach, by the dive shop, unless through a hotel. If you want to bring your own gear, you can no longer rent only a life jacket at the beach (must get a guide + lifejacket). We didn't notice it until after, but you pull into town, there was a little shop (maybe a convenience store?) nearer the highway that appeared to be renting them (it was on the side of the road that is heading OUT of town). A guide spoke to us at the entry, explained the different tour options, and the option to swim without a guide, outside of the buoys. Despite my hesitation about getting a guide without knowing who he was, my husband said "yes". He did have an "Akumal" something shirt on, and a badge that beeped him past the folks going through the turn-style. He was connected with a little hut on the beach, just past the dive shop/lockers area. They had guides and gear rentals, and gave us our lifejackets. He told us everything was the same, as far as the costs for the shops (but who really knows). The afternoon before, when just visiting the beach, we did go into the dive shop and asked about the prices, and were told similar prices, and that was where we were told that you cannot rent just a lifejacket without a snorkel guide. We paid about $35USD each (which included our entry) to snorkel along the buoy circuit from the beach. It was like $50USD to take the boat out further, with bigger reefs and more diversity. There was another man we met on the beach the afternoon before, he gave us his number, as we told him we were interested in snorkeling in the AM. He was nice, unsure if he was connected with the other folks. After we snorkeled, we have several folks approach us on the beach about tours, too. The guide we did get was very nice. My husband and I were on the guided tour with a mother & teenage son. He kept us moving quickly, pointed out several turtles and made sure we all saw them, kept close watch of us, and even pulled me on a life saver out against the current, haha, as I was struggling to keep up while adjusting to my snorkel equipment. It went well for us beginners (my husband has never snorkeled, and I only did once in a bay in Oahu, Hawaii many many years ago, very casually). It was only somewhat busy around 9:30ish when we arrived, getting very busy around 11:00ish, when we wrapped up. We saw at least 5 turtles (I lost count, maybe 7 or 8?), including some very large ones, probably 4 feet long, a puffer fish and a small sting ray, and other colorful fish. The guide was helpful when, as I was viewing a large turtle, I started floating over the top of it and looked up at him worriedly, knowing you are not supposed to swim over the turtles... he said it's okay, just to stay still. He regularly reminded us to keep our feet up, to protect the animals. We did not wear flippers, and were not offered them. The guide did wear them. I don't remember if I saw signage about flippers, but a sign did say that lifejackets were recommended. While I am sure you can get lucky and see turtles on your own, much of the area has buoys, sectioning off where one is not supposed to enter unless on snorkeling guide (not sure who is watching, or how they can tell, but I've read stories about people being chased away by folks in kayaks, so I wouldn't push it). We moved fairly quickly along a circuit within the buoys, pausing to observe the turtles, and at a small area of coral reef. We had planned to go snorkeling on our own, but wanted life jackets. We did not notice the life jacket rental place near the highway until our way out, after we paid for the guide. But... I think, being amateur snorkelers, we got to see way more, thanks to the guide, and the area we were able to access. As we learned on our five days there... always be prepared to adjust in the moment, have a plan B, and maybe a plan C, haha.
Monday 16th of August 2021
nice report. Is the Yal-Ku lagoon completely closed to tourists from September?
Sunday 8th of January 2023
@Anna Karsten, Giventhat we are in January 2023 can you tell me if this information that I’m seeing still correct? Is the turtle area closed in February? Is it still a good idea to not pay and go on your own?
Monday 16th of August 2021
Where did you see that? It normally doesn't close (it was closed on Tuesdays usually).
Saturday 9th of January 2021
Is this still true that it’s free to enter the public beach and why is it closed in February. I can’t find anything else online that says this is true. Can you point me to a reference?
Thanks a million!
Monday 11th of January 2021
It's Mexico - there's no reference, it's whatever the person guarding it that day decides ;-)
Wednesday 20th of February 2019
Thank you for your comment. Me and my friend are going to riviera maya in two weeks and akumal is def on the list.