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Swimming with Turtles in Akumal, Mexico

 Swimming with turtles in Akumal, Mexico: Updated for 2024

swimming with turtles in Akumal

Swimming with turtles in Akumal, Mexico:

If you are reading this, than you are interested in swimming with turtles in Akumal, Mexico. I have been twice now over the years to snorkel and both times I was not disappointed!

The combination of white sand and shallow, clear water allows you to spot the turtles with unbelievable ease! The turtles tend to swim in groups close to the shore where there is seaweed for them to eat, so you don’t even have to swim too far out.

Most of all, the experience can be done for FREE, completely independent of tour groups (despite reported scams on beach entrance fees, life jackets and tours – see below).

If tours are your thing though, there are also plenty of Akumal turtle tours departing from Cancun.

Update on the Akumal Turtles Beach Scams:

There have been reports of aggressive tour and lifejacket scams, and beach entrance fee scams. Allegedly, men are standing by the entrance to the beach area claiming tours and lifejacket rentals are mandatory to snorkel. While I didn’t experience this because I went so early and no one was there when I arrived, I did experience a man aggressively snorkelling alongside me in the water, blocking me from crossing the roped off area. I simply left the roped off area where he was “monitoring the waters” and went further down the beach to get away from him.

NOTE: This beach is PUBLIC. You do not need to pay to enter or pay for a tour or life jacket – just keep walking. Apparently as of March 2018, you do need to pay $5 USD if you choose to enter the beach through the CEA Centre building, which will include access to their washrooms and lockers. If you don’t need a locker, simply go through to the beach at any of the other entrances.

What to Expect with swimming with turtles in Akumal: 

I first visited Akumal turtles beach almost 10 years ago, and wow has it ever changed since then. The beach was once quiet and secluded, but now you will find luxury resorts and tour shacks for guided snorkelling and fishing situated on the shore.

swimming with turtles in Akumal

If you are seeking a peaceful experience without the hustle and bustle of tour groups and boating operations, I highly suggest going early in the morning to have a private experience observing the turtles – otherwise you will be surrounded by many other tourists circling the same water and kicking up sand, decreasing the visibility.

swimming with turtles in Akumal

I arrived in Akumal at 7:00 am, just in time for the gorgeous sunrise! There was no one else there ,aside from another group capitalizing on the empty beach to do wedding photos. If you arrive early, you will beat the guides who haggle beach-goers to join groups and rent lifejackets, and arrive well before the other tourists.

 swimming with turtles in Akumal

By 7:30ish, the “snorkel guides” had showed up and one even followed me into the water to push lifejacket rentals on me, literally swimming along side me (super awkward and annoying). According to him, there is a new rule where snorkelers must wear life jackets while swimming beyond the roped off area, regardless of whether you do a tour or not, so his job was to guard the boarder of the rope (snorkel police?!).

Note: I have learned that this is not true!

The area is making huge strides towards turtle conservation so in all honesty, I do believe the tours are part of the plan to ensure tourists do not touch or harass the turtles (though you shouldn’t need a guide to know not to do this).

However, this beach is publich which means you DO NOT have to join a tour or rent a life jacket to swim in the water. If someone is forcing you to do this, it is a scam.

 swimming with turtles in Akumal

If you are not a confident swimmer, or would rather just rent the jacket to avoid the hassle, come prepared with cash (USD or pesos). You can get the lifejacket, as well as a mask/snorkel and fins from the dive shop on site, or from vendors up and down the path to the beach (though if you come early enough like I did, the vendors won’t be set up yet).

Alternatively, you could rent the gear prior to leaving Playa or Tulum and bring it with you. However, I highly suggest you purchase your own mask (I use a Cressi). If the snorkel is not properly cleaned, you are putting yourself at risk to pick up all kinds bacteria and viruses from who ever used it before you (yuck).

I did not want to use a life jacket and had my own mask and snorkel, so when the snorkel police tour guide followed me in the water, I simply left the roped off area and walked down the beach, passing the boat area and into the hotel resort’s ‘private’ beach to be on my own. I had no trouble doing this and quickly spotted 3 turtles grazing on the bottom of the ocean!

 swimming with turtles in Akumal

By 8:30, I was just finishing up and multiple tour groups were just getting ready to enter the water. If you are part of a big group traveling together, you may prefer booking a tour for the ease of someone else organizing these details.

 swimming with turtles in Akumal

Getting to Akumal:

When coming from Tulum, take the collectivo headed to Playa del Carmen. The bus begins running each morning at 6:00 and will cost 35 pesos to Akumal per person, one way. You can simply stand at the side of the road in Tulum and flag one down, and tell the driver to drop you off in Akumal. When arriving early, it will still be dark so when you will get off at the side of the highway, look for the large, white pedestrian bridge as a landmark. Take the pathway South of the bridge that veers east towards the water. It is approximately 5 minutes to arrive at the beach, and you will reach what looks like a resort entrance but continue through to the sandy path for beach access.

To reach Akumal turtle beach from Playa del Carmen, simply follow the same directions but with the collectivo headed south to Tulum. You will arrive on the opposite side of the highway and need to walk across the pedestrian bridge to access the pathway to the beach. From Cancun, you will need to take a bus to Playa (i.e. ADO bus line) and then hop on a collectivo from there (or you could try to take an ADO bus to Tulum and see if the driver will drop you off at Akumal – but don’t quote me on this).

Alternatively, you can also book a private transfer from Cancun or Playa.


If you prefer to snorkel independent of a tour, I highly suggest going early. Otherwise, if a tour is more your style, you can get taken straight from Cancun to Akumal or combine the turtles with a Cenote tour!

I also highly recommend investing in your own mask if you think you will get good use out of it, because it can be hard to determine how clean a rental mask is, or its quality, before getting in the water. I use the Cressi Marea (in pink of course). They make high quality masks in many colours and sizes.

I also recommend considering approved reef-safe sunscreen for your trip to protect the turtles and our oceans, or conversely try a rash-guard as a non-toxic way to protect your skin.

You might want a water-proof camera to capture your experiencing with the turtles in Akumal. I’ve used the same GoPro Hero 5 for over almost 10 years and still absolutely love it. It is 100% an investment that you will use time and time again on your travels and outdoor adventures.

If you are traveling solo, no worries: I wrote an entire article on how to take professional photos of yourself with a GoPro.

Lastly, if you’re travelling throughout Mexico, you will want to check out these interesting facts about Mexico and get inspired with these 33 awesome things to do!

If you are heading to Western Mexico, be sure to check out these 10 things to do in La Paz.

Have you snorkelled with turtles before?

If not, is Akumal turtle beach on your bucket list?

Let me know in the comments below!

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swimming with turtles in Akumal

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swimming with turtles in Akumal

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What are your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * said:
Hi Nancy, the GoPro stick I use is 22 x 22 x 6 Centimetres (here is the link to the one I refer to, it can be used as a stick and a tripod - Enjoy!
January 6, 2023 at 6:28 pm
Nancy Ransom said:
How long of a stick did you use for your gopro? I bought a gopro 10 but need to buy the stick for it.
January 6, 2023 at 11:08 am
tamtam said:
where do you leave yur things if you are alone and not on a tour?
August 3, 2021 at 3:40 pm said:
Hi Adriana, no, I haven't heard anything! It was open in January and at that time it was open for everyone, though there are ppl there who try to get you to do tours pretty aggressively.
June 3, 2017 at 7:31 am
Adriana Illera said:
I keep hearing the akumal beach is closed for snorkeling? Have you heard anything about this? Is it for tours or everyone? Let me know
May 23, 2017 at 10:43 am said:
Hi Nancie, I completely relate! I was so enthralled by the turtles in the water; I couldn't get enough. Definitely check this beach out if you are in Mexico :)
February 23, 2017 at 5:26 am said:
Hi Kassie, thanks for stopping by! I would absolutely love to go to the Philippines. Definitely add this to your upcoming travel plans, you won't regret it :)
February 23, 2017 at 5:18 am said:
Thanks Kyntra! I still need to add more of my gopro photos to the post as I am still learning how to edit them, but I am happy the info was helpful to you :) xx
February 23, 2017 at 5:17 am
Nancie said:
When I snorkeled in Sipadan there were lots of sea turtles. I was blown away by how graceful they are in the water. I would love to see them in Mexico. Going early in the morning seems to be the answer.
February 19, 2017 at 3:59 am
Kassie said:
This looks amazing! I swam with turtles in the Philippines and am dying to do it again. I'm not too far from Mexico so I will have to add this to my upcoming travel plans! I'll keep these amazing tips in mind.
February 18, 2017 at 9:55 pm
Kyntra Strickland said:
It looks beautiful! Swimming with turtles is something I plan on doing one day. Very helpful information. Thanks for sharing!
February 18, 2017 at 9:19 pm