Akumal – The Snorkeling Capital of Mexico

You cannot visit the Riviera Maya and not snorkel in Akumal!

Akumal lies roughly between Playa del Carmen and Tulum and to the south of Cancun. The bordering reefs of Playa del Carmen are mostly dead, while Cancun and Cozumel are better known for their deeper waters and scuba diving rather than their snorkeling.

Photos of Akumal Dive Shop, Akumal
This photo of Akumal Dive Shop is courtesy of TripAdvisor

As compared to the other beach destinations on the Riviera Maya, the waters around Akumal are much less polluted and feature healthy coral reefs. Some of region’s most beautiful and healthy reefs are situated in Akumal and it also has significant amounts of marine wildlife. There is plenty of underwater adventure here for snorkelers assuring them one of the most fantastic experiences ever!

A perfect snorkeling experience requires just four things: clear waters, gentle currents, abundant aquatic life and the chance to get away from the crowds. And Akumal has it all! Here’s our guide to Akumal’s topmost snorkeling sites:

Akumal Bay: For those looking forward to spotting some sea turtles a visit to Akumal Bay is a must where visitors can snorkel with sea turtles and swim alongside them.

Half Moon Bay: It is the next bay towards north of Akumal Bay. The snorkeling here is rich with hard and soft corals, sponges, lionfish, angelfish, sea turtles, parrot fish and rays. More snorkeling is possible right from the beach here, and without the risk of “fire corals”. The area behind the beach is developed with restaurants and hotels.

Yal Ku Lagoon. For the advanced snorkeler a great site is the  Yal ku Lagoon. This area is an exit point for freshwater that flows out to the ocean underground. This unique blend of waters attracts schools of fish and often acts as a nursery ward for new fish. It is more placid than Half Moon Bay, but one must be careful of the triggerfish found here. These territorial fish have a painful bite that could cause big bruises. Yal ku Lagoon is a unique snorkeling site that is not to be missed.

Tak Be Ha or Palace Of Hidden Wonders: This is one of Mexico’s most famous cenotes. The cool, fresh water in this cenote is so crystal-clear that snorkelers can see plenty of stalagmites, stalactites and other cave structures lower down in the cave.

Night snorkeling is also a regular feature at Akumal standard as many sea creatures are nocturnal. Most snorkelers in Akumal rent underwater flashlights and return to either Half Moon Bay’s reef or Yal Ku Lagoon at night where a highly experienced guide helps them look for elusive sea creatures.

Some lucky snorkelers can also spot the “Wall of Fish“, an unusual occurrence that Akumal is known for. ‘Wall of Fish’ is thousands of silver looking fish swimming in a dense circle that resembles a bagel. In the centre of this formation is usually a  barracuda.

Just so that you have a safe and a memorable snorkeling experience in Akumal, please remember the following steps:

  1. Ask at your hotel desk if they have complimentary or rental snorkeling gear. Most hotels in Akumal provide this service. If not, or if the rental seems expensive, you can rent a kit from some beach gear shop or kiosk.
  2. Study the surf before getting in the water and swimming out to the reef directly off Akumal Beach. The reef is as shallow as 5 feet in some places and even lesser at low tide. If the surf is up, consider snorkeling at some other place that day.
  3. Strap on your snorkeling mask, snorkel and fins, and swim off from the beach for roughly 100 yards, until you reach the reef.
  4. Maintain a safe distance from the part of the reef marked by buoys. This is the so-called “fire reef,” comprised mostly of bright red stinging corals. The stings are painful, and too many are potentially dangerous or even fatal.