One of the most popular things to do in Tulum is swim with the wild sea turtles in Akumal. It's so exciting because Akumal is one of the only places in the world you can swim with turtles!
Where is Akumal?
Akumal is located 16 miles/27 km north of Tulum or 24 miles/39 km from Playa del Carmen. This makes it an easy and quick trip from either. Plus, there are many things other than swimming with Turtles to do in Akumal - you should really make a whole day of it! While in Akumal check out Yal-ku a great cenote and natural aquarium for snorkeling. There are also many restaurants and bars in Akumal!
How to get to Akumal from Tulum
You have a couple of options...
The most popular is simply adding it on to a tour or doing a specific turtle tour to Akumal. I did this when I went and loved the experience.
If you want to go yourself you can take a cab to Akumal. The drive is around 30 minutes. Negotiate the price before hand. I find asking your hotel what appropriate prices are for surrounding locations is best.
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. The colectivo station in Playa del Carmen is located on Calle 2 Norte between Avenida 15 and 20. Look for the man yelling "Tulum". The colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Akumal takes approximately 25-30 minutes and costs 35 pesos per person for a one-way journey. You will be dropped off underneath a white bridge with a pedestrian overpass. All you have to do is walk up the stairs and across the bridge. Once on the other side, walk straight down the road towards the beach about a half mile or so and you’ll arrive at Akumal Bay. To take the colectivo back simply wait on the opposite side of the road you were dropped off on. I am not sure of colectivo options from Tulum.
Can anyone swim with the Turtles?
Yes, but because of conservation efforts they now limit the number of people swimming with the turtles to 300 a day.
Back in the day, before Tulum showed up on everyone Insta feeds, anyone could jump in the water and swim with the turtles. Once the area became popular, too many people were in the bay at once and the turtles began being abused. Tourists would feed them, pick them up for pictures, and leave trash behind in the water. In 2016, the government intervened and along with a number of other rules they limited the number of general tourists who could enter the bay. They also limited the number of tour agencies who could bring tourists in on guided tours.
Do you have to join a tour to swim with the turtles?
No, but it is harder and there is a chance you will not be able to swim with them. Visitors can sign up for a tour on the main beach in Akumal just inside the arches at the entrance.
If you don't join a tour... BRING YOUR OWN SNORKEL EQUIPMENT!!! Before you leave buy some for a reasonable price on Amazon... or once in Mexico head to a local store and grab some. If you wait till you arrive in Akumal you will pay about $18 - $20 to rent the snorkel equipment for the day. Pricey!!!
Best way to snorkel with the turtles: A group tour
While I was in Tulum, I went on a tour with Edventure Tours which included an add-on to snorkel with the turtles. This made life so much easier!! They picked me up in the morning - took me to see the cenotes and feed me lunch, and then drove me to Akumal and privately guided me around the buoys in the bay.
While we were swimming our guides pointed out squids, and other colorful fish I would have missed. This is just one of the reasons I highly recommend just paying for a tour. It is totally worth every penny.
Other important information about Akumal
The beach is closed during the months of September and February.
Akumal beach is closed every Monday
You can only swim in the bay from 9 am to 5 pm
There are now designated areas to see the turtles. Buoys and ropes have been places to limit the areas people can snorkel.
Tourists must maintain a minimum distance of 3 meters (10 ft) from the back of each turtle, without exceeding the observation time of five minutes
During the course of snorkeling it is prohibited to touch, feed, disturb, retain, remove, hold, and/or damage any specimen of wildlife.
What to pack for a day with a Akumal Beach
Click on any of the links or pictures for more options.
Definitely don't leave behind your snorkel equipment or biodegradable sunscreen. I mentioned it above but you should just pack it before hand to save money. Rentals once in Mexico are stupid expensive.
You should also bring a towel to lay on and/or dry off with after.
Final Thoughts on Tulum
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (email@example.com).