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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 just 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.
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 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.
- Knowing 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.
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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.
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!
Looking for more excursions in Playa de Carmen? Explore the Mexico Guide to learn how to spend a relaxing weekend at Laguna Bacalar, take a boat cruise with Catamaya Sailing, visit the most unique restaurants in Playa del Carmen or save a few buck at the cheapest bars and best cheap restaurants in the city.