How to Swim with the Akumal Sea Turtles in Mexico

How to Swim with the Akumal Sea Turtles

Swimming with sea turtles is a once in a lifetime opportunity. At Akumal in Mexico, it’s possible to do it on your own, without the aid of a tour. In this post I’ll tell you how…
Luckily for intrepid explorers, the Akumal sea turtles are visible all year round. Unperturbed by humans, will swim right past you. That doesn’t mean they have come to play. It’s really important that when visiting the area, you remain respectful at all times and let them go about their business.
Akumal is an important area for sea turtles due to the high concentration of algae on the ocean floor. It’s a feasting ground not only for sea turtles, but also tropical fish who swim in the nearby coral reefs.
Here’s how to get to Akumal and swim with Sea Turtles for less than $5 USD.
Swim with Akumal Sea Turtles in Mexico
A sea turtle swims past
From Tulum town centre, colectivos leave every few minutes. Jump on one heading in the direction of Play del Carman and expect to pay $25 MXN Pesos for the 25 minute journey. If you are coming from Playa del Carman, the same applies. But expect to pay a little more than if you’re departing from Tulum.
Ask the driver to drop you at Akumal and he’ll know where you’re going. You’re dropped off at the edge of the highway, by the Akumal bus stop!
Akumal bus station
Akumal bus station
There is a path at the base of a flyover, which has graffiti either side. Walk down the path for 10 minutes to get to the site.
Akumal graffiti bridge
As you go, you’ll get hassled by people offering a tour, or selling snorkels and life jackets. They are also likely to tell you that you can’t see the turtles without a tour and that a life jacket is mandatory. Of course, you will need a snorkel to see anything underwater. Yet tours and life jackets are not mandatory for swimming in the ‘green zones’ (more on that later).
Akumal sea turtle path
Walk down this path (but ignore the hawkers)
If you don’t have your own snorkel there are shops near the entrance selling them for around $450 MXN pesos upwards. We also saw them for sale in Tulum for $350. It may be wise to buy or bring your own snorkel. That way you have it for more great snorkelling sites in the Yucatan area.
At the end of the path, you reach a large white archway.
Akumal sea turtle entrance archway
The ‘main’ entrance to the Akamul dive site
Go through and on your right you will see a dive centre.
Akumal Dive Shop
Akumal Dive Shop
Just ahead is a ticket booth that charges $100 pesos for entry to the beach. This includes the use of changing rooms, showers and lockers (bring your own padlock).
Akumal ticket office
Akumal beach ticket office

They issue a wristband which allows you through a guarded turnstile.

We read and heard that you can get to the beach for free, but it seems as of early 2019, access is genuinely closed off. You may be able to try and sneak through one of the resorts. Or, head past the ticket counter to where the road forks. But there we got turned away by security. One local told us “They charge now. It’s these Americans’ and their resorts. Next year we’re gonna charge for air!” Point taken.
Still, $100 MXN pesos is an absolute bargain for what you’re about to experience.
Akumal beach entrance
Entrance to Akumal beach is through this turnstile
Coming out the changing rooms, you will see signs telling you about red and green zones. The green is for general public use (even the sign says you don’t need a life jacket). The red zone is an ‘eco zone’ and you are only allowed entry with a guide. People patrol the waters and shout at you to go away if you try and enter. We got near and were shouted away!
This map shows where you can (green) and cannot (red) swim.
Akumal Sea Turtles Sign
The ‘Red Zones’ and ‘Green Zones’ for swimming
Here I’d like to give some advice about how to find the sea turtles!
Outside the large rectangle area is fantastic for swimming amongst coral reefs. Tropical fish in a dazzling array of colours come to say hello in the clear waters. If you swim really far out to the north of the rectangle, you may even see a barracuda! We did and I was excited. Then I saw its teeth and was scared!
It’s different for spotting sea turtles though. As you now know, the sea turtles love to feast on algae. This means you’ll want to head to the dark green areas of the sea. Stand back from the shore and those spots are easy to identify.
Akumal snorkelling with sea turtles
Get your snorkel ready
If you need a bit of help, find the below spot a few hundred yards up the beach and head straight out to sea, towards the buoys.
Spot for swimming with sea turtles
Look for this spot and then out to sea for the best sea turtle spot
Swim out past the other tourists and kids splashing to where the water is calm. This area is perfect for swimming with sea turtles.
Within five minutes a dark shadow appeared to my left. I was in shock. I didn’t know what it was. After seeing a barracuda earlier and my only experience of dark sea shadows being shark documentaries, I froze. Moments later a huge sea turtle swam up to the side of me, ducked below and started chewing on the ocean floor! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was about two feet away, tucking in to dinner!
Akumal Sea Turtle Mexico
Watching a Sea Turtle feast on the ocean floor
I lay motionless, in awe. I couldn’t believe it’s size. Many Remora fish had attached themselves to the sea turtle’s underbelly. Protecting themselves from larger predators.
After a few minutes, the sea turtle started to swim up. Watching it glide through the sea was one of the most incredible things I had ever seen. It went up to the top of the sea for a breath of air and then descended back down for another feeding dive.

I was the only person around and feel so fortunate for the experience. It’s possible to see sea turtles in their natural habitat throughout the world. Although usually on an expensive tour. Yet I had seen it all for $100 MXN pesos. This is truly a bucket list experience and if you get the opportunity to visit Akamul, don’t pass it up!


4 thoughts on “How to Swim with the Akumal Sea Turtles in Mexico”

  1. HI

    Great blog post – really helpful

    When were you in Akumal? Want to go but seen another version of the sign you posted – in English which says its closed on Monday?

    1. Hi Joe, thank you for checking out the post. I hope you find it of great use for your trip. I wanted to create a blog that helps people have amazing experiences, so glad it is of use.

      We were at Akumal and swimming with sea turtles just two weeks ago, on Sunday 6th January 2019. So the information is very recent. I didn’t see a sign saying that it was closed Monday, but of course, it’s best to know first before making the trip. Are you staying in Tulum? We stayed at a great place; Pueblo Magico and the owner Rafael was really helpful. I’m sure he could confirm if the beach is closed on Mondays. Even if not staying there, maybe you could the hostel a message – you could say Chris and Rose from England thought he might know 🙂

  2. It can definitely be tricky getting to the beach and snorkeling with the sea turtles if you are passing through town. After visiting during a road trip, we came back the following year and stayed at Akumal Bay Resort, which made it easier to swim right off the beach. Such an amazing experience!

    1. What a joy 🙂 I’m so glad to hear you experienced it too!

      If someone isn’t short on time, I think staying at the beach resort will definitely ensure people get to easily swim there (and see the Akumal Sea Turtles). Nice one!

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