For years we’ve heard rumors about giant sea turtles in Akumal Mexico.
Akumal’s inviting, calm lagoon with its picturesque white crescent of beach is a popular spot to rent a condo or home for a low-key getaway. We’ve driven past Akumal on the Riviera Maya’s Highway 307 countless times before, but never made the stop at this sleepy Mexican town.
On our most recent trip to the Riviera Maya, we spent time snorkeling at the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in Puerto Morelos. While there, our guide confirmed the rumors that there were in fact, giant sea turtles in Akumal. In fact, he said, they were “almost in captivity, as their protected breeding grounds are nearby and they love the safe lagoon where they always have plenty of food.”
He guaranteed we’d see the turtles.
Getting to Akumal Bay Mexico
So we packed up, piled into a taxi and headed south to try our luck swimming with sea turtles in Akumal Bay Mexico. After an easy 25 minute drive, we arrived into Akuymal where our taxi driver, Pepe, was happy to show us the best spot to rent a (mandatory) life jacket and snorkel. Outfitting our gamily of four for the day cost about USD $30.
The beach was absolutely packed, but never felt overly crowded or harried. In fact, we easily found our group of friends we were meeting set up on the beach in front of the dive shop.
Travelers of every nationality were spread out, lounging on simple beach towels under the shade of one of the many palm trees. There are no beach clubs or big resorts at all on this lagoon.
What do you see underwater in Akumal?
We quickly decided to follow the crowds, floating about 200 yards out into the sea. We guessed – correctly – that the crowds of people in the water were congregating around something interesting.
In only a few minutes of swimming, we came across several giant sea turtles. The calmly chomped on the sea grass that lines the bottom of Akumal Bay. Some of the turtles had fish swimming under their shells as well as on top of their shells. Apparently they live symbiotically, the fish helping keep the turtle shells clean.
Sting Rays are also quite common to see along the sandy bottom of the lagoon in Akumal.
Skip the guided tour to see the sea turtles at Akumal
Throughout the day, we saw busses of tourists arriving from the resorts along the Riviera Maya. It was clear they had booked tours to see the turtles. Typically they were given life jackets and snorkel gear, then boarded a small boat and were led by a guide to the turtles.
While guide-led tours often make for a better experience overall, this is one experience which can absolutely be done without a guide. Equipment is readily available, and the lagoon is relatively small making it easy to find the turtles on your own. Consider avoiding the late morning hours, which seemed to be the busiest time for the resort tour busses in our experience.
Even though the bay was crowded, there was plenty of room at the main restaurant, called Lol-Ha. We loved the fish ceviche, fish tacos, margaritas and reasonable prices.
Swimming with sea turtles at Akumal Bay Mexico is one of the best, family-friendly and, most importantly, cheap experiences to be had along the Riviera Maya. I highly recommend spending a day here!
Have you experienced sea turtles in the wild? I’d love to hear about your experience!