Looking to explore a single spot with a superb barrier reef that is well preserved and teeming with fish, and with seagrass beds full of green turtles and stingrays? Then head for Akumal, the most famous and busiest spot in Riviera Maya. Facing a white sandy beach lined with coconut trees, the crystal-clear waters are the guarantee (despite the high visitor numbers) of an exceptional snorkeling experience.
How to get there?

The small village of Akumal is in the heart of Riviera Maya, about 22 miles (35km) south of Playa del Carmen and 15 miles (25km) north of Tulum. All the group taxis (known locally as vans or “collectivos”) that travel non-stop along federal route 307 stop there. They come by every 5 minutes, costing 30 pesos ($1.7) per trip and per person from Playa del Carmen, and 20 pesos ($1.1) from Tulum or Puerto Aventuras. Traditional buses stop at the same places and are a little cheaper, but run less often. If you’re coming by car, you should be aware that it can be hard to find free parking.

When you arrive, you will be accosted by a large number of firms organizing snorkeling tours. They will use every ruse to convince you that this is the only way to explore the area. If you are a beginner, this could indeed be a worthwhile option (it costs about $25 per person, but you can expect to find yourself in the middle of a group of 8 to 10 people wearing your obligatory lifejacket). But if this is not the case, you can pass them by.

Water entrance

You can enter the water anywhere along the beach, near the swimming area marked out by buoys. For a bit more peace and quiet, and to get closer to the barrier reef, we recommend walking along the coast to your left and to enter the water there (see map below).

Aerial view


The spot can be divided into two distinct areas: the seagrass beds, visited by green turtles and southern stingrays, near the beach, and the barrier reef, divided at one point by a pass, some 250-300 yards off shore.

The seagrass beds (↕3-7ft/1-2m) begin near the swimming area, and extend for several dozen meters. The green turtles and stingrays that visit the area are the spot’s main attractions. It shouldn’t take too long for you to come across them, and you are practically guaranteed to see them. Don’t disturb the turtles, which come to the spot to feed and rest and don’t forget that stingrays have a sting that can cause serious lesions. This is the busiest area, so watch out for other snorkelers, particularly since many of them will be enjoying their first snorkeling experience.

Snorkeling Report Turtle Akumal Bay Mexico
Green sea turtle at Akumal Bay

For a little more peace and quiet, you can leave the seagrass bed area and swim at right-angles to the beach towards the barrier reef. After crossing sandy areas that are of little interest, you will soon see the reef (↕3-20ft/1-6m). This is dominated by sea fans and several species of hard coral (porites, branching acropora and salad coral). Move along in parallel with the beach and here and there you will come across shoals of grunts, Atlantic blue tang, parrotfish or butterflyfish. The area around the pass, shown by buoys, is much deeper (↕20-26ft/6-8m) and the reef drop-off is spectacular. Rays (eagle rays, yellow stingrays) sometimes visit the spot. Be careful when you reach the pass, as boats use it to access the beach. Stay at a distance from the pass (the current is strong in the area) and don’t try to go to the other side of the barrier (the sea is rougher).

The spot is visited each day by hundreds of tourists, who are not always aware of the rules of good conduct in the water. To guarantee the best possible experience, get there very early in the morning, as the first groups of tourists are already in the water by 8 or 9 a.m.

Restaurants & accommodation

In Akumal (near the beach and on the main street) there are several small supermarkets, snack bars and restaurants. A few luxury hotels have opened on the beach, particularly the Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort, the Hotel Akumal Caribe and Las Villas Akumal.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
  • Maximum depth
    8ft (2.5m) on the reef flat, 20ft (6m) in the channel
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential Dangers
    Stingrays, boats
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
    Very high
  • Access costs
    Free or excursion price (approx. $25 pp.)
  • Restaurants nearby
    Yes, inexpensive
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos

Species you may spot while snorkeling Akumal

Common name Scientific name Abundance Fishbase Wikipedia
Green sea turtle
Chelonia mydas
Southern stingray
Dasyatis americana
Yellow stingray
Urobatis jamaicensis
Great barracuda
Sphyraena barracuda
Atlantic blue tang
Acanthurus coeruleus
Doctorfish tang
Acanthurus chirurgus
Banded butterflyfish
Chaetodon striatus
Foureye butterflyfish
Chaetodon capistratus
Anisotremus virginicus
Bar jack
Carangoides ruber
Calamar de récif des Caraïbes
Sepioteuthis sepioidea
Sergeant major
Abudefduf saxatilis
French grunt
Haemulon flavolineatum
Flamingo tongue snail
Cyphoma gibbosum
Purple sea fan
Gorgonia ventalina
Elkhorn coral
Acropora palmata
Show all species
You encountered a specie at this spot that is not listed here?