The Complete Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumal!

Mexico, Travel Tips

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By Ryan Gargiulo

Swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumal

Interested in learning more about how you can swim with the sea turtles in Akumal Bay?

Well, today I’m going to cover everything you need to know in order to have the best sea turtle experience in Akumal.

Have you ever dreamed of swimming freely alongside sea turtles?

I don’t know about you, but swimming with sea turtles had been on my bucket list for years.

I had been around the world several times and somehow I had yet to find the opportunity to go swimming with sea turtles in the wild.

That was until I arrived to the Riviera Maya.

After spending the previous day exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, it was time to knock yet another adventure off my bucketlist in the Riviera Maya.

This time, I was on a mission to check out some of the activities available in Akumal Bay — a popular, touristy beach front destination situated approximately 25 mins south of Playa del Carmen and half way from Playa to Tulum.

You have a few options when it comes to getting to Akumal and swimming with the sea turtles and below I’m going to explain each of your options in-depth so you have everything you need in order to make the best of your day in Akumal.

How to Visit Akumal Independently

Visiting Akumal independently is a breeze thanks to the extensive colectivo system that runs to and from Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

For those of you who are not familiar with the word “colectivo”, it’s the name for the shared group taxi system in the Riviera Maya which many locals use to get to and from work each day.

The colectivos operate the following two routes.

  • Cancun to Playa del Carmen
  • Playa del Carmen to Tulum

What most tourist don’t know or care to know is that foreigners and visitors are welcome to use the colectivos as well.

Sure, it’s a little intimidating the first time around but once you realize that all you need to do is tell the driver your destination, you’ll quickly learn that it’s not only an easy way to get from Point A to Point B in the Riviera Maya but it’s also dirt cheap.

If you’re looking for the cheapest way to get to Akumal, your best bet is to take the colectivo from the colectivo station in Playa del Carmen and you can learn how to do so in the next section below.

How to Get to Akumal by Colectivo

Fortunately, getting from Playa del Carmen to Akumal couldn’t get any easier.

The colectivo station in Playa del Carmen is located on Calle 2 Norte between Avenida 15 and 20 [See Map].

In order to visit the Akumal sea turtles, you’re going to want to take the colectivo heading in the direction of Tulum.

The colectivos heading towards Tulum can be found in the middle of Calle 2 between Av 15 and 20. You’ll hear the colectivo guys yelling “Tulum!” Hop on this colectivo and you’ll be on your way.

The colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Akumal takes approximately 25-30 minutes and costs 35 pesos per person ($2.68 USD) for a one-way journey.

Akumal Sea Turtles

Where to Find the Akumal Sea Turtles

If you take the colectivo from Playa to Akumal, you will be dropped off underneath a white bridge with a pedestrian overpass.

Simply walk up the stairs and cross the bridge that takes you over the highway.

Once you arrive on the other side of the road, simply walk straight down the road towards the beach about a half mile or so and you’ll arrive at Akumal Bay.

Warning: There has been a lot of talk in the local Facebook groups that there are people that stand near the entrance of the beach claiming to charge $50 USD per person to access and/or swim with the sea turtles. This is a SCAM. Do not fall for it. Simply pass by and act like you’re just heading to the beach for the day and be sure to keep your snorkel equipment packed away just in case.

Note: If you do not have your own snorkel equipment, you have three options:

  1. You can purchase quality snorkeling equipment at a very reasonable price prior to here.
  2. You can pick up snorkel gear at Walmart in Playa del Carmen prior to your arrival to Akumal.
  3. If you arrive in Akumal without equipment you will need to rent some from one of the local dive shops. I believe the cost is somewhere around $18-20 USD per day. A bit pricey, I know. In saying that, it’s one of those once in a lifetime experiences that you won’t want to miss.

Once you’ve got your snorkel equipment in hand walk down the beach (south) past the line of boats parked along the shoreline.

Keep an eye out for other snorkelers or tour groups in the water and follow along with them.

Where there are snorkelers, there are likely sea turtles.

Akumal Snorkeling Tours

If you’re not feeling confident enough to make your way to Akumal to swim with the sea turtles on your own, your best bet would be to book a tour like the one below.

What’s great about this Akumal Snorkeling Tour is that it includes hotel pickup (any hotel in the Riviera Maya), water, snacks, and also includes a visit to two cenotes.

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More Tips for Akumal

1. The most economical way to get to Akumal is to take a colectivo as mentioned above. Of course, there are a variety of other ways to get to Akumal, such as the bus, a taxi, rental car or through organized tours to Akumal.

2. There is no admission price to visit Akumal. If you are approached and asked to pay for anything other than a tour, simply walk away. The beach is free to access and if you’ve got your snorkel equipment, you’re good to go.

3. Arrive early! Please don’t make the mistake of arriving to Akumal at noon. If you do, you will have limited visibility. Why? Well, you’ve got a combination of independent travelers and tour groups swimming around and they’re all looking for the same thing. Everyone will be swimming and kicking up the sand and all of a sudden a beautiful crystal clear bay becomes a cloudy mess. Do yourself a favor and get there bright and early.

4. Getting back to Playa del Carmen, Cancun or Tulum is as easy as getting to Akumal. All you need to do is walk out to the highway area and you’ll see colectivos waiting to take off. If there isn’t a colectivo in sight, simply stand by the edge of the highway and put your hand out and you’ll be sure to find yourself a colectivo heading north (or south if you’re heading back to Tulum).

5. Please be sure to give the sea turtles some space. I did some freediving to get a closer look at the turtles, not realizing that I wasn’t supposed to be getting that close to them. I believe that one of the rules is to give them at least 6 feet of space and because of this I now regret attempting to take selfies with the turtles. Fortunately, it was a learning experience and now I can share this information with you, the readers.

6. You should know that Akumal Bay is becoming more and more popular by the day due to the opportunity to swim alongside Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Loggerhead sea turtles in the wild. Be a responsible tourist

Note: It is illegal to touch the sea turtles or any other wildlife in Akumal. Don’t be an idiot.

Other than that, I wish you the best of luck and I hope you enjoy Akumal as much as we did!

Akumal Packing List

Here’s a brief overview of what I recommend that you pack for your upcoming trip to Akumal.

All of the items below can be purchased directly through the links at very affordable prices.

At least, a heck of a lot cheaper than if you were to purchase them here in Mexico.

Akumal Sea Turtle Video

Did you find this article helpful? Have any other questions? Leave a comment below!

Article last updated: 12/20/2016

88 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumal!”

  1. Don’t forget your BIODEGRADEABLE sunscreen! (And just to elaborate on Ryan’s great tips – taxi from PDC to Akumal is only $35-40 USD. With 4 people still very economical and don’t have to make the walk from the highway to the beach in what can be very hot weather). We too did it on our own and it was much better than doing it through a tour company who only gives you 35-40 min in the water – although the tours if booked in PDC includes the boat ride plus the 40 min snorkel from PDC but will cost upwards of $80 USD per person.

      • I spent a week in Akumal – going back again in June 2017 – I arrived at the Bay every morning around 6 a.m and swam with the turtles by myself. Not a soul in sight. I brought nothing with me except the bicycle I was riding and a towel. By the time 8 o’clock rolled around, “guides” were showing up to rip off tourists, and I was ready for breakfast at the Turtle Bay Bakery. The beach is free. Swimming with the turtles is free. If you bring your own snorkel gear, you’re good to go. As long as you are an experienced swimmer, there is no reason to pay for this exquisite experience. Just respect the turtles. Don’t wear sunscreen. Don’t bring any valuables to the beach. Arrive early and snorkel in bliss. Btw, I’m a solo female traveler, and I always felt safe in Akumal.

        • Hi Paloma. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences from Akumal. I guess it’s true when they say the early bird gets the worm! Sounds like you have the perfect plan in place when it comes to swimming with the turtles. I can’t stress it enough how important it is to arrive early before the crowds and tour groups hit the beach. The fact that you bring just a bicycle and a towel tells me that you’re a very well traveled woman. Good on you! Keep up the good work and thanks again for sharing your story. Safe travels!

          • We arrived around 10am and it was difficult to find a spot in the shade…and with kids we needed it. We only visited this beach once but we are going back in October and plan to go there a few times. Perfect place. Just beautiful. X

      • I just returned from a week at Akumal at the Secrets, and I have to say, the snorkeling was great. However, all the warnings about sunscreen, flippers and the turtle police were unwarranted. Never saw anyone, at any time of day, patrolling the beach or speaking with any of the tourists about what they were wearing for sun protection, and I did observe lots of people wearing fins, touching the turtles and otherwise being irresponsible.

        • Hi Bev — Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s always nice to hear from those of you on the ground reporting back and giving the readers more insight as to what’s going on at the moment there in Akumal.

          • Just was in Akumal today 3/11/18 and unfortunately, they have started charging to access the beach here. It is 100 pesos. They put up a big fence so you have to enter thought a turnstile. According to the guy at the surf shop, the federales put the fence up only a few days ago.

          • Wow! Lots of changes. It has been so day-to-day over the last year or so but I’m not sure I ever expected them to start charging for access. That said, the popularity of the swimming with the turtles has gone a little out of control at this point and it’s not so sustainable to be having large groups of people circling around them on a daily basis. I think we can all understand and agree to this point.

  2. Turtles are one of my favorite animals, so when I was faced with deciding what tour to do on my birthday, swimming with the gentle creatures is what I chose to do. Our guides were great at finding them in the waters and we had ample time to watch them in their natural environment.

  3. I’m so excited to visit the area next week! My husband and I will be in Tulum for a few days. Have you seen any life vests for rent as well? I’m not the strongest swimmer :)

  4. This is so awesome! I just swam with turtles in Hikkaduwa Beach, Sri Lanka and it was incredible!

  5. We are going to Akumal for vacation on July 25 this year. Swimming with sea turtles hadn’t even crossed my mind but after running across your blog, it’s definitely going to be something we try to do. I’m planning on taking our own snorkel gear and life vests since we have three extremely active, thrill seeking children who like to find places to cliff jump!

  6. We just did this in late July 2014 with my family. We went with a tour company it was about 85.00 US per/person.(plus a equipment deposit 25 US ) This company has a if you don’t see any sea turtles they refund your money, we swam with about 6-8 over the dive. The company tries to keep it no more than twelve people in a group. This included transportation from the resort and back and equipment, snack, water and guide to help find the turtles. The local dive shop had a person with a couple underwater cameras go with us to take pictures, they took a picture of each family group so at the end they made a cd of your group swimming and sea life that you seen on the dive and things you could see in the area. It cost about 28.00 US, but was worth it, there where was about 50-70 pic of us and what sea life we seen and 100 plus of what sea life you may see in the area, you swim about 45-60 min start on one of the beach than swim across to the other side and pass a couple reefs were you see lots of fish schools sting rays and other things. Like earlier posted make sure you have the biodegradable sun block can’t use normal sun screen and get their early by the end the water was getting cloudy. Hope this helps

  7. Turtles are one of my preferred creatures, so when I was experienced with determining what trip to do on my wedding, diving with the soothing creatures is what I select to do.

  8. great stuff, thanks! going to take your advise on Akumal and the Tulum ruins! we are visiting the first week in august, thanks so much for the great info, keep it up!

      • Ryan, I am wondering if you have any contacts to stay with locals there near Akumal beach. I stayed at a resort for my daughters graduation present and we had the opportunity to swim with the turtles. I would love for my husband to have the experience too; however, I would rather give my money to a local if I can find cheap flights over. I remember there being a Christian school close by the beach access — do you know the name of it by chance? Thanks for sharing and for the help. RoxAnn

        • Hi Roxann — I do have a friend. His name is Seth and he runs He is always up to date on the latest news and would probably be able to give you a better idea about the situation than myself. Reach out to him via his website and I’m sure he’ll be in touch.

  9. Thank you so much for all the info, we are going next week and I am so exited about going there.
    Question, we renting a car, any parking around there?

    Again thank you so much and will check you channel on YouTube.

  10. Thank you for this post & all the tips everyone! Can’t wait to be there next week from NY :) I think we’re either going to take the collectivo or taxi there instead of doing a tour.

    Also, FYI there is a nearby lagoon Yal Ku Lagoon just north of Akumal Beach. After hanging with the turtles at Akumal, I’m planning to go there by taxi: lots of fish and apparently you can see the fresh water mix with the salt water (since it’s right on the beach) and the mixture looks like oil in water. And I hear there’s a crackling noise in the water from the mix too. For some reason the fish like to hang out in that part.

    $14 admission, $5 life jacket, and $20 for a hut to hang out in all day. There are lockers too.

    In between Akumal and Yal Ku is a cute outdoorsy restaurant on the beach with swings at the bar that I want to check out too: La Buena Vida


  11. This was an amazing experience once in a lifetime. We followed the instructions listed on this blog and had no problems at all. We did have several people telling us that we could not snorkel without their but it’s a public beach so you definitely can . I just brought my own goggles but it would’ve been beneficial for me to have the snorkel and a life jacket. without the lifejacket and snorkel it was exhausting constantly swimming and holding my breath following the turtles around. Although it was still absolutely amazing. It is worth taking the collectivo there it’s easy to find an economical. I ended up just following a tour out into the water. Or where other large fish and even stingrays at the bottom it was a great experience especially something you can do for free.

    • Wow. Excellent trip report! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on here with us. Swimming with the sea turtles in Akumal is definitely an amazing experience.

  12. Hi Ryan, thanks for the great insight into this awesome location! We followed your tips yesterday, arrived around 8am via colevtivo and there were only around 5-6 people in the water, by 9am the crowds were arriving and we were on our way home after spending nearly an hour alone with these amazing graceful creatures…… Next stop Tulum ruins! Thanks again! Andy and Julia

    • Hi Andy. Wow, you got there nice and early. Nice work! Glad to hear that you followed my tips and enjoyed yourselves with the turtles. Best of luck and thanks again for following up!

  13. Hi Ryan, Fantastic post! We are planning a trip to Akumal in Feb 2017, and planning to rent a beach front home. I see rentals are all the way up and down the coastline starting north of the lagoon and well south of Akumal. Is the snorkeling good the whole stretch or can you recommend are area to target or should we stick to the public beaches?

    • Hi Christina. Thanks for the feedback. Sounds great about your upcoming trip to Akumal. When it comes to swimming with the sea turtles in Akumal, the only place I’ve ever swam with them is just off the beach a few hundred yards south of the main entrance to Akumal bay so I really can’t say how much luck you would have when it comes to staying in a home somewhere along the beach. I say go for it. Worst case scenario you hop in the water and don’t see much of anything and have a nice walk down the beach until you reach the portion of the beach where the turtles are most active. As you see from Paloma’s comment here, getting there early is super important so don’t forget to set your alarm and hit the beach as early as you can (without your valuables, of course)

  14. Hi Ryan, Awesome post!!! Now, I have a stupid and tricky question for you. Swimming with sea turtles is always on my bucket list. I always dream to do that, it will be an amazing feeling … my husband and I are coming to Akumal this Dec staying at Grand Sirenis and he sure will enjoy it very much, he can swim and dive… but as of me…. I can’t even swim. Tried to learn many many times as adult in the past, just not happening and face in water just freaks me out… I guess I’m hopeless? any brilliant idea that I can fulfill my dream to cross that out from my bucket list?

    • Hi Sherly. Congratulations on your upcoming trip!

      Hmm. That’s too bad. There are no mini submarine tours or anything like that so I can’t imagine there would be any other way to see the turtles. I’m sorry! I wish I had one of those brilliant ideas for you.

  15. Great info on the DIY trip, my girlfriend and I are implementing your tips next week. Hope to see some turtles .thanks again for all the info

    • Hey Jeremy. Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad to hear that you’ve found this guide helpful. Best of luck and be sure to swing back through and let me know how it went.

  16. Hi Ryan

    We would like to visit Akumal within 2 weeks (Christmas period). Will it be extremely crowded? Do you really suggest us to come another time of the year?

    Any experience of swimming with the big whale sharks?

    Nancy wrote about using biodegradable sunscreen. Can you buy it in Akumal (which brand)?!

    Thank you for any reply

    • Hi Ann. December is the beginning of high season here in Playa del Carmen. I’m not sure if Akumal is the same but either way you’ll still have a great time. I doubt it will be jam packed during the Christmas week.

      I have swam with the whale sharks. I did a tour that leaves picks up from Playa del Carmen and leaves from Cancun to head out to see the sharks. Recommended but can be a bit hectic if there’s lots of groups going at the same time.

      I’m not sure about where to buy the biodegradable sunscreen. You could check out Walmart here in Playa or find it on Amazon before you go.

  17. Hi Ryan, great post. I am heading down there in January. Do you happen to know how early the colectivos start running? I am going to head there early 5:30-6:00 am.
    Also any follow up on Yal Ku Lagoon from Kim? Also did you check out the Santa Cruz cenote in Akumal? Looks interesting…
    Thanks again for all the great information….
    I can’t wait to cross off swimming with sea turtles off my bucket list….
    For those interested you can check out Cumberland Island off GA coast for sea turtle nesting and hatching. I did that this summer, AMAZING!!!!

  18. Our trip was a few years ago to Playa. We rented a car and driver for the day through our hotel as we wanted the freedom and flexibility that comes with it. For four (two adults, two kids) of us it was around $70.

    The family thought I was crazy getting going at 8am, I think we were on the beach by 8:30. The four of us shared the beach with one other family and we headed right in. We stayed clear of the boats but had no idea where to go. That said, 5 minutes in we saw our first of countless turtles. After about a half hour my wife went over a Stingray, freaked and her and my daughter headed in. My son and I stayed out another half hour and just enjoyed all the company (turtles, rays, and plenty of fish).

    The beach had started to fill up by the time we got out of the water and we packed up and headed to Tulum. Had a good time exploring Tulum and it was one of our favorite vacation days ever.


  19. Hi there, Heading to Akumal in a few weeks and can’t wait to swim with the sea turtles. If we bring life jackets and snorkel masks, would that bring more attention to us from those who may demand a charge for snorkeling off the beach? also, how would you suggest to keep some minimal belongings (towels and money for lunch, sunglasses) safe while we are snorkeling? Where would we find a locker? any suggestions?

    • Hi Jenn. Sounds great! No, I would actually suggest that you bring your equipment in order to avoid having to pay to rent it. As for keeping your belongings safe I would suggest two tricks. Buy a can of pringles potato chips or a big bottle of sunscreen/shampoo, wash it out so that it’s clean and then put your money, keys inside. The chances of someone stealing your can of pringles or big bottle of sunscreen is pretty minimal. ;-) Otherwise simply snorkel in pairs or take turns.

  20. Hi Ryan,

    Great article, thank you!

    We’re going to Riviera Maya mid April (12 th- 29th) Do you know if the turtles will be around in April?

    Also, we’re planning on renting a car, would you suggest we stay in Akumal for a night too? Is it quite nice?


    • Hi Bruce. You should have no issues spotting the turtles. As far as I know they’re there year-round. I think Akumal is good for a day trip. I’m not sure I’d spend the night there. Tulum on the other hand is worth a couple night stay.

  21. Thank you for the great tips!

    I have two questions:
    1. Are there colectivos that run from Tulum to Akumal (rather than from playa del carmen)?
    2. Are there lockers at the beach to store valuables?

    Thank you!

    • 1. Yes – you can hop on a colectivo just about anywhere along the main avenue in Tulum town.
      2. I’m not 100% sure about this. I’ve never used lockers there. Your best bet might be to ask one of the local dive shops nearby about locker storage.

      Best of luck!

      • If we catch a taxi from our hotel in Playcar can do you think there is any chance of finding a taxi at the beach to take us back? The idea of a colectivo doesn’t sit well with my wife.

        • Hi Troy. A taxi from Playacar to Akumal will be pricey. Just a heads up on that. But yeah, you will have no problem finding taxis to take you either way. To be honest though, renting a car would be your best bet and would be cheaper than a round-trip taxi.

    • I don’t believe that life jackets are required because the rules are seemingly changing everyday. In order to keep a fair distance from the turtles (and for safety reasons), I think a life jacket would be a pretty reasonable idea.

  22. Just a question about what type of camera you are using underwater. Looking for options for clear pictures to capture great pics and memories for my honeymoon. We will be traveling here as well.

  23. Hi Ryan, thank you for the great post. We just had an amazing day with the turtles. However our morning started badly because those local guides at the beach were quite pushy. When we arrived they came to us and explained the rules that it is a protected area and the only way to swim with the turtles is if we hire a local guide. They actually closed down a part in the water (close to the entrance of the beach) where they have ”guards” in the water and if you swim there they stand in your way and even touch you. First we tried to snorkel there but after the 4-5 such instances we gave up. We figured out that you have to walk a bit further from the beach entrance where the diving school is and the hotels and you can snorkel there. Luckily we’ve seen at the end plenty of turtles and rays.
    I really don’t mind to pay for a good service but this one looks like a scam to me.
    It might be a good idea to update the post and highlight this part because what we’ve seen that most of the people walked into this ”trap” and paid basically for nothing.

    • I believe you have the opportunity to swim with the turtles year-round. One thing to note is that people have run into some roadblocks with the locals there as of recent and being able to swim with the turtles is really day-to-day. Give it a shot and report back to me.

  24. Hi. Just a quick update for you. We’re currently in Akumal and there are 2 lanes, marked out by buoys, that the general public are not allowed to swim in – only tours. In these areas there should be a max of 6 people per guide and everyone has to wear life jackets. This is to protect the reef and turtlesand reduce our impact on a delicate area. The other areas are free for anyone to swim in. I’ve only been snorkelling in the free areas and have been gutted to see people standing on coral – breaking stuff that has potentially taken decades to grow – and harassing turtles :(
    Please do remember the ocean/reef friendly sunscreen – or even better, wear a sun protection top – so that it will remain a gorgeous natural wonder for others after you (in particular check that your sunscreen doesn’t contain nasty coral-killing oxybenzone).

  25. Really loved your article! Very informative and truthful!
    Heading to the beach in Galveston right now, thinking about how many beaches I’ve been to and stopped counting after 25 and wanted all to know that Akmul has been my favorite beach out of all that I’ve been to. Swimming with the turtles was such a wonderful and awe inspiring experience I’ll never forget. We took a tour and went to tulum, the cenotes and caves and a jungle trip with zip lines before we got to the bay. We snorkeled with the turtles for awhile and then went to a nearby place where a river meets the ocean. The warm saltwater mixing with the cold freshwater makes tiny bubbles you can hear popping while snorkeling and that’s the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced is at that area. So many different varieties of fish and so many of them!! Akmul Bay is hands down my favorite beach ever!

  26. We have been to Akumal several times, for the day and also having stayed in a resort on the beach. It is such a wonderful experience to be able to swim with the turtles! It is also much easier to stay locally with beach access, versus trying to navigate through the tour guides trying to get money.


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