Akumal, Mexico. Of Turtles and Tourists.
Updated: May 19, 2020
I love Akumal. It's where I said with a trembling voice but sure heart " I do" to my love, in front of family and bestus friends. A sun filled day that eventually turned to gray skies and rain, but for us that was simply heavenly applause. "Why thank you", the angels it seems have a sense of humor, so do I. The backdrop below is of the Ya Kul Lagoon at Villa Gaugin, Akumal Mexico.
Akumal, depending on where you decide to plant your rump can be a quiet little slice of beach perfection, especially around the Half Moon Bay area, but it is not without it's quirkiness if not outright confusion. Why come to Akumal? Well, it's Caribbean Beach life without the truly big crowds (more on that to follow). Finding a stay north or south of Akumal's center is truly to experience Akumal's pace. It's leisurely and picturesque, close to almost all things Riviera Maya and represents a good home base for traveling the "Riviera" or just having a quiet Mexican beach front vacation. As you enter Akumal from Highway 307 (if by car) you will immediately think, if it's your first time here, that there is an admission price to enter. Please rest assured there is not, it's just the hucksters, depending on the time of day you arrive attempting to sell you tours (most likely Turtle Tours), parking and a little bit everything in between. Do yourself a favor, politely wave (one of those Homecoming Queen of the parade waves) and keep driving towards the town which is directly ahead of you. You'll know you're in Akumal proper once you pass under the arch.
Akumal is a small town, has a small town feel and offers the right reasons for a nice vacation of solitude. The main beach is a semi circle with a gentle rise from the shore and is often the most crowded beach in town. Half Moon Bay, slightly to the north, offers a smaller slither of beach typically fronting the very property that you will most likely be vacationing. It is quiet and offers comfort from the crowds of the main beach with lively restaurants (most have ocean views) and small shops. It also offers close proximity to the main beach area via a five minute walk. You will find properties of varying degrees of luxury and price depending on your taste, but rest assured it is cheaper than Playa, Cancun or Tulum. Akumal at Half Moon Bay has the feel of your own private beach, albeit small, but it is there and the solitude of sun and sand are yours to be had.
The main beach, which you should visit is fun, but can be crowded with the "tours". Yes the dreaded Turtle Tours. You will read a lot about them here and elsewhere and when you see them. you might just chuckle remembering what I just mentioned. If you're going to take a tour, use an authorized operator to prevent any difficulties of actually swimming with the turtles, which is a beautiful and wonderful experience. There are many "unauthorized operators" and your satisfaction may not be guaranteed should you choose to use them. If you have your own snorkel equipment, you can actually swim out to see the turtles in their natural habitat unaccompanied by a guide. You will undoubtedly, if you choose to go guideless, see those very same tour groups much like you might see Robin Hood leading a band of snorkeling, flipper wearing merrymen into battle. They will all be marching lock step proceeding directly into the ocean. The only problem with multiple groups taking the tour simultaneously is that the sandy ocean bottom becomes murky and nary a turtle can be seen or are difficult to see. Early morning or late afternoon is best for a swim with the turtles. Midday, during high tourist season, offers the most frustration when visiting, as the guided group of tourists all converge on the the habitat seemingly at the same time. Tour operators have often been known to get into scuffles for your tourist dollars, so yes it can be a zoo. If you're a bystander, grab your popcorn, sit back and watch as hordes of humanity go plunging into the ocean to scare the hell out of these wonderfully shelled creatures in "their" natural habitat. Ironically, if you're a semi-cynic like me, it is some of the best entertainment in Akumal.
At the very north end of Akumal is the Yal Ku Lagoon, another protected sanctuary where you can see and swim with marine life. The entry is a well landscaped park of natural beauty. It is a worthwhile visit, we walked there from our residence in North Akumal. It is a lush green habitat that encircles the calm waters of the Yal Ku.
The southern end of Akumal is a little more reserved, a little more expensive, but that's ok if you're looking for additional solitude. Nice restaurants and condos (for sale and rent) reside here. The beach is a little wider here and the feel a little more upscale. There are a couple of all inclusive hotels here as well if that is your preferred means of vacation. Most of the access to get there is not through the town of Akumal, but further south on Highway 307.
Akumal will always hold memories for me, for obvious reasons (see the first and last pic of this blog), but it is a getaway to truly getaway if that is what you're seeking. It is a nice, family oriented vacation town on the Riviera Maya.