My family and I recently spent a week in Akumal, Mexico. If you haven’t heard of it, you likely soon will as it’s nestled on the Mayan Riviera between the fashionable Playa del Carmen and the newest hotter than hot spot, Tulum. The word Akumal means “place of turtles” and as such attracts day-trippers from all the area resorts, bohemian travellers, local condo owners and randoms like us who come to swim in pristine waters and look for turtles (and other sea creatures).
As this was our first time to Akumal, we rented a beautiful new build, gated-condo in the jungle – found on Airbnb.com. Although Akumal is so small, there are several condo and luxury rentals along the sea, most of which can be found online. I had a vision that we would arrive in Akumal, and find a little place on the beach for next to nothing to stay after our condo rental. No such luck – Akumal is not cheap and deals are better found online!
For our next trip to Akumal though, I would love to round up a bunch of friends and rent a 5 or 6 bedroom mansion on Yal-Ku lagoon – a dream!
Akumal is the most perfect location for exploring the entire area and with a hefty budget, there is so much to do! Many of the “attractions” are nature and/or adventure-based: off-roading through the jungle, zip-lining, swimming in caves (cenotes) or even holding crocodiles at the crocodile zoo! Honestly, the whole Mayan Riviera is designed and/or caters to tourists – there is a lot to choose from!
The largest and most popular destinations are the “experiences xcaret” and include:
Xel-Ha: a huge natural water park to swim and snorkel with tropical fish, dolphins and manatees all day! Sort of like Discovery Cove in Florida, but much larger and all natural!
Xcaret: Jaguars, butterflies, birds and fish. Mayan entertainment, rivers, cenotes and jungle walks. There is so much to do – it takes a whole two days to experience Xcaret!
Akumal Bay is absolutely gorgeous! Palm trees on a pristine beach (much needed for shade!), intensely gradiated blue and turquoise sea, tropical fish swimming around your legs and if you swim further out – turtles! There are snorkel rentals available on the beach (about $15US), scuba tours and boats for hire everywhere! There are a few other bays in the area, mostly lined with small hotels and condos. Equally intimate and gorgeous, although on one of our visits to Half Moon Bay, swimming was impossible because of all of the mounds of sea grass that had washed up onto the beach.
We rented a car during our stay in Akumal and it was the greatest! Pure freedom to zip around the Mayan Riviera! I read sooooo many negative reviews about renting a car in Mexico and getting ripped off at gas stations – fortunately we had a good experience with both. We rented a little VW Gol from America Car Rental in Playa del Carmen (online). The rental included all necessary insurance (except tire and window coverage and after seeing the extra giant speed bumps, or topes, I understand why this is extra!) and even if we didn’t need it, the peace of mind was worth the extra pesos. A car is definitely the best option for getting around the area.
Otherwise, if you are coming into Akumal, you can take one of the many collectivos – cheap, zippy little vans that drive up and down the highway all day! Once you get off at the main stop, it is quite a long (hot!) walk to the beach or anywhere interesting really with kids in tow. However, cabs are available as well.
All in all, Akumal is a definite new fave of mine! Although I have plans to see the entire world, I hope to fit the Mayan Riviera into my plans at least yearly!