When I first visited Mexico, I fell in love with the Spanish colonial towns and coffee farms of Chiapas. Then I fell in love with the international beach scene and charming streets of Playa del Carmen. But once I moved to Mexico, I lost my heart to Akumal. It is one of the most spectacular and magical beaches here on earth. I discovered Akumal through my roommate who was a scuba dive instructor at Akumal Dive Shop.
When I first moved to Mexico, I waited three months for my work visa so I could begin work. In the meantime, I did a lot of walking around, sightseeing, checking on the status of my visa and practicing my Spanish! One day, my roommate suggested I come to work with her. She pointed out that I could sun bathe on the beach, go snorkeling and we could have lunch together. It sounded like a fabulous idea to me as I was running out of activities to keep me occupied. So off we went…
And I did just as she suggested. I tanned out in the sun. In fact, the photo above is my view from the beach. Heaven!! Later on, I rented a wet suit to go snorkeling. I was in very shallow water and yet I saw so many wonderful creatures – a stingray, a barracuda, countless fish and one marvelous turtle. It was right there next to me! The turtle or tortuga was completely oblivious to me while I was experiencing sheer joy!! What an amazing animal to behold in person! At lunch, we ate fresh seafood and stared out into the magical Caribbean Sea! I was elated that I had chosen to go to Akumal and I never looked back.
Akumal is a small fishing village located about 62 miles from Cancun between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is what Playa del Carmen used to be before it became a popular tourist destination – small, intimate, quiet. It is very popular with snorkelers, scuba divers and ‘people in the know’. In the Mayan language, Akumal means “place of the turtles”. Hence, all of the turtle sightings especially during nesting season which occurs between May and October. Turtle nesting season is a fantastic time to go not only to see the turtles’ hatching, but experience turtle conservation firsthand.
Akumal is also near the second largest barrier reef which begins at Isla Contoy and goes along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Therefore, it is the perfect place for open water scuba diving, cave diving and snorkeling. It is possible to even snorkel to the barrier reef if one is not an accomplished diver.
The three bays – Half Moon Bay, greater Akumal Bay and Aventuras Akumal Bay – make the water calm and tranquil. This tranquility creates an amazing environment for learners and those who are a little skittish. The dive shop also provides fishing trips, boat rentals, scuba certification and whale shark tours!
The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans. It has a lifespan of about 70 years and lives in the open sea. However, during June through September, hundreds of whale sharks gather north of Isla Mujeres to take advantage of the plankton rich waters created by the joining of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The phenomenal whale shark tour is an all day trip from 5:30 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon in Akumal. If you have not taken this tour, I cannot recommend it enough. The exhilaration of swimming near a magnificent creature of that size and strength is life altering!
Another experience which is truly magical in Akumal is to take a full day cruise on a catamaran. The crew sails the boat and catches fish while you sun tan and enjoy tasty beverages. The catamaran goes along the coast until it reaches the beach of Xcacel or Chemuyii depending on the weather. Then you can swim, snorkel or sun bathe; while, the crew prepares a delicious lunch of fresh fish ceviche, guacamole, salsa mexicana plus fruits accompanied by beers, water, sodas and of course tequila! The amazing experience will have you thinking that you are either Robinson Crusoe or on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”. Either way, you will think that you have died and gone to heaven! I know I did.
There are so many other sights and adventures to experience in Akumal. There is night diving and bull shark excursions. You can even get married underwater in your wedding dress and scuba gear! There are dolphins to see; as well as, lion fish, trunk fish, pork fish and grey angel fish. You will never tire of experiencing this fantastic place called Akumal whether you go to see the turtles, scuba dive or just refresh yourself in the Caribbean. And you will always find yourself wanting to return to this magical place to feed your soul one more time.