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There has been a lot of misinformation going around lately. You may be asking yourself:

Is it still possible to go swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen?

Is Akumal beach closed?

Do you need a guide?

What’s the situation?

Well, I swam with the turtles in January 2018, and I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed. You can still swim with the turtles in Playa del Carmen for free. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is running a scam.

Akumal beach has exploded as a tourist destination in the past few years, but swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen has not changed. The only difference is that there are plenty of men there trying to rip you off.


swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen in 2018


So, what’s the scam?

The men stand directly in the entrance to the beach with large professional looking signs to make you think they’re associated with the actual authorities, or turtle conservation, or any other legitimate company.

They’re not.

They will stop you and tell you to “look at the rules” and “read the rules” but just keep walking and ignore them. These rules are not real. They say that you now need to be accompanied by a professional guide and rent a life jacket, but you don’t.

If you want to go swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen, just go to Akumal beach like normal and find a place to sit, preferably down away from the entrance and the scam “guides.”

Here, you can spread out a blanket, grab your snorkel (also available at Walmart if you didn’t bring one) and jump into the water completely for free.


Does Swimming With The Turtles Destroy Their Habitat?

If you’re planning to go swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen, there are some ways you can make extra sure you don’t contribute to ruining their habitat on Akumal Beach. Some of the most important are:

  • Only wearing biodegradable sunscreen (buy it before you go or pick it up at Walmart)
  • Giving the turtle lots of space and making sure not to crowd them.
  • Understanding that fins are not allowed (so that no one accidentally kicks them).

All in all, just use some common sense. This is their home and you are a visitor, so treat them with respect! 


When is the best time to go swimming with the turtles?

Get there early!

Daniel and I arrived at Akumal beach at 8 am and it was practically empty. I spent about 30 minutes just chilling alone with a turtle while he ate breakfast, enjoying the total serenity of the morning. I also snorkeled alone around the reef, seeing colorful corals, giant schools of fish, and even a sting ray!

By 9:30 am, the masses were arriving.

Giant tour groups in orange life vests, following “tour guides” who had successfully convinced them to give them their money. By this point, any turtle had 10 or 15 people around it! Luckily, we were already ready to go.


How to Get to Akumal Beach from Playa del Carmen

Getting to Akumal Beach from Playa del Carmen is super easy, even without a car.

There is a collectivo station on the corner of Calle 20 and Calle 2. Just tell the men you’re heading to Tulum and they’ll make sure you get on the right van.

Akumal Beach is on the route, and the driver will tell you the stop if you ask him too. The cost is only 40 mxn / 2 usd per person and the collectivos are comfortable, if a bit crowded.

Once the van drops you off on the highway, cross the bridge overtop it and walk down the street to the beach. It’s really as simple as that.

To get back to Playa del Carmen, just repeat these steps in the opposite direction. We stood at the bus stop on the side of the highway for about two minutes before a collectivo came by and picked us up. So easy!

Because this is such a quick trip you don’t need to pack too much, but this list will help you make the most of your morning with the turtles.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:


What Else To Do Near Akumal Beach

Like I said above, the crowds come to the beach around 9:30 am and we took that as our cue to leave.

Daniel and I continued our morning with breakfast at the Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery.

The food was good and the servings were huge for only 100 mxn / 5 usd each. It’s a bit off the beach (but still has a super open, outdoorsy and laid back vibe) so it’s not overpriced like the bigger hotel cafes on the water.

Near Akumal Beach there are also cenotes you can walk or take a taxi to.

After swimming with the turtles, walk 30 minutes to cenote Yal-ku. Here you can snorkel more in the super clear fresh waters and see a lot of colorful fish. The entrance price is about $15 per person. Cenote Santa Cruz is also very close, but costs $55 per person for a tour.

For serious nature lovers, there is also an animal sanctuary in Akumal that you can visit on this guided tour through Airbnb.


swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen in 2018


Swimming With the Turtles in Playa del Carmen

If you’re confused about all the different info on the internet (just like I was) you don’t have to be any longer. You can still swim with the turtles in Playa del Carmen for free.

Don’t fall for the scam, and tell others about it so they don’t either. Buy your own snorkel, ignore the men at the entrance of Akumal Beach, go super early, and enjoy your own magical and private moments with these lovely creatures.

I hope you have as much fun as I did!


Ready to go?

Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this eco-cabin with a private pool or this modern jungle escape – and the top-rated hotels on to plan the perfect night, weekend, or long-term stay in the Riviera Maya.

Then, check out the top food, nature, and cultural experiences on Airbnb in Playa del Carmen to round out your itinerary (or, book a best of Mexico tour with Intrepid to finish your travel planning in once click!).

Finally, join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new destinations, join virtual trail cleanups, and take part in monthly sustainability challenges!


This article is part of the Riveting Riviera Maya series. Read the rest below:

Coba Travel Guide: How to Get to the Coba Ruins from Tulum

How to Visit the 3 Coba Cenotes Near Tulum

Everything You Need to Know to Visit Bacalar, Mexico

Then, explore the complete Mexico Series for more to insider tips on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in Playa del Carmen and beyond!


Did you know every time you read an article on Slight North, you're also planting trees in the Andes? Start here to learn more about our mission and how to get the most out of the site!


  1. Thank you for this post! Very helpful after trying to weed through old posts saying different things. AGAIN Thank you. Cheers

    • You’re welcome, very glad I could help! Just checked out your blog and it’s beautiful 🙂 Are you going to be in Mexico City anytime soon?

  2. Hello, My wife and I just went to Akumal on Feb. 27th 2018. We got told that we needed life vests, guides, etc. We did eventually go free diving at Half Moon Bay and Yakul Bay. It was awesome and cost us 20 dollars. My question is “What is the deal with all the ropes and lanes?” Is this part of the scam? As a sidenote we did not get scammed and ended up meeting a guy that took us for an incredible day 2 days later involving “conch” cenote, private tour of Tulum, and snorkeling off of Tulum (very generic).

    • I think the lanes and ropes are to mark off places to swim, because there’s a few resorts on the beach. They may also mark off the reef but I’m not sure… glad you had an awesome time!

      • Thanks for the reply. There are some great places to snorkel for nothing all along the coast. It’s taken us 4 trips to figure it out. Sidenote… the seaweed is very heavy all along the coast so be prepared.

  3. Hi there,
    how far out from shore do we have to swim to see the turtles? I prefer to be near “safety” as I am not a super strong swimmer.

    • Not too far at all! The swimming area is roped off and you can stay inside the ropes near shore but still see them.


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