Sea turtles are а big attraction for anyone who has not been in the tropics. It is amazingly cool to get close to these big animals in their natural habitat, to see one slowly swim close by you. Sea turtles are common for the Riviera Maya and lay eggs at many of the beaches around Tulum. For those fascinated by these super nice creatures the easiest way to see one is to get to one of the places famous for their turtle population. If you stay in Tulum or nearby,  the two most accessible spots would be either Akumal Bay or the reef just in front of Tulum beach. Since Akumal is 20km North of Tulum getting there requires transportation. The reef, on the other hand, is reachable by swimming or a boat ride.

Akumal Bay


Photo by Robert Pittman, CC BY-ND 2.0

Akumal bay has become famous for its sea turtle population. Even so that the flow of tourists and the distribution of the generated incomes have created hostilities and crashes among the local people from Akumal and the big tour operators. After the intervention of the Environmental Protection Agency, as of now, only several local cooperatives have licenses to take people on guided snorkeling tours in the bay. Akumal Bay is perfect for both adults and kids, the depth of the water varies from 0.5 to 3 m. And the use of life jacket is recommended. Diving and touching the turtles is forbidden.

Getting to Akumal beach:

  • By car: Follow HWY307 North till you get to Akumal and turn right to get to the beach. There are multiple parking lots along the beach road.
  • By Taxi: A taxi from Tulum to Akumal beach is 350 – 400 pesos
  • By collectivo: Any collectivo going to Playa Del Carmen can drop you off at Akumal. You would need to take a short walk of less than a km to get to the beach.
  • Guided tour: Many of the tour operators combine snorkeling in Akumal bay with activities to make for a half day or full day tour.

TIP: There are multiple vendors along the beach road to Akumal bay. Some of them do not hesitate to hassle the passing tourists with their offers for guided snorkel “tours” in the bay. Lying is not uncommon especially when they try to convince people that snorkeling in the bay without a guide is not allowed. This is absolutely untrue and nobody can stop you if you follow the rules established for the protection of the turtles and the environment and swim in the designated areas.

2.5 km North on the Akumal beach road is Yalku Lagoon. This place is excellent for snorkeling and easily accessible. If you have made your way to Akumal bay, this is a good option to add to your sea turtle viewing experience.

Reef Snorkeling

Photo by Ipittman, CC0-1.0

There are multiple beaches from which the reef is easily accessible. A favorite spot for swimming with the sea turtles is the reef off Playa Paraiso – a long beach just South of the Tulum Ruins. There you can find many boat operators that offer boat rides to the reef. The snorkeling is usually combined with sightseeing of the ruins from the sea – a nice view and perfect opportunity for pictures. Just have in mind that the heavy boat traffic in the area is already changing the environment and the chances of encountering turtles at this part of the reef are minimal at the moment.

Getting to Playa Paraiso:

  • By car: Follow the beach road Tulum-BocaPaila. At the roundabout turn left, North towards the ruins. There are billboards for both Playa Paraiso and Playa Pescadores.
  • By taxi: a taxi from Tulum town would charge 150 pesos and one from anywhere on the beach road – 80 to 120 pesos
  • By bike: easy and pleasant ride from both the town center and Tulum beach

TIP: boat operators at Playa Pescadores seem to have a good level of service. Pricing is 200-300 pesos per person. The rates include full snorkeling equipment.

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