7 Unique Things to Do in and around Akumal

by Paul Joseph  |  Published June 10, 2024

The popular coastal resort of Akumal on Mexico’s Riviera Maya is renowned for its pristine white sands, world-class snorkelling and abundant marine life.

Visitors peer into an enclosure at Akumal Monkey Sanctuary (Photo: woodleywonderworks via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Translated to mean “Place of the Turtle” in the Mayan language, Akumal attracts huge numbers of visitors every year – many of whom come in part for the rare and enthralling opportunity to swim alongside these quirky amphibious reptiles in the calm Caribbean waters. But there’s plenty more to enjoy here than simply its large population of shell-clad creatures. We’ve picked out 7 of the most unique things to see and do in Akumal.

Marvel at an array of exotic wildlife

Located a couple of kilometres west of downtown Akumal, the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary is dedicated exclusively to the housing of wildlife species or fauna that are in the process of domestication. Home to birds, snakes, ostriches, and zebras, the sanctuary is best known for its community of primates, many of whom have been rescued from lives of cruelty and deprivation. Visitors can book guided tours, during which expert guides will teach you all about the animals that reside here, with the added option of participating in hands-on bonding practices with macaws, snakes and primates. For more adrenaline-fuelled pursuits, the sanctuary also offers off-road ATV drives through the jungle of Akumal.

Camino a Uxuxubi S/N Predio Santa Pilar Lote 16 / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

Embark on a snorkelling adventure

One of the most popular activities to enjoy in and around Akumal is snorkelling thanks to the area’s calm waters and abundance of marine life. Situated just north of Akumal, Yal-Ku Lagoon and Cenote is a natural lagoon that’s home to an array of tropical fish including manta rays and even barracudas. Snorkellers flock here in their droves to admire such underwater riches before kicking back on the beach that fringes the lagoon and soaking up the gorgeous views.

Another hugely popular underwater activity is snorkelling with sea turtles, which can be found in abundance in the turquoise waters off the coast of Akumal. If you don’t have your own gear, snorkelling equipment can be rented from shops in town or vendors lining the beach Just make sure to get there early, as the water grows hazy with sand kicked up by fellow snorkellers and rising daytime temperatures. Alternatively, you can book a guided snorkelling tour which includes complimentary photos and videos taken using a GoPro camera.

You can book an Akumal snorkelling with turtles tour at GetYourGuide

Sea turtles under thw water off the coast of Akumal (Photo: nosha via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Enjoy a sunset from the seas

The Akumal coastline is a sight to behold at any time of day, but perhaps never more so than at sunset. One of the best ways to witness the sun disappearing over the horizon is from out on the tranquil waters during an early evening sailing cruise. There are a number of sailing cruises available that are timed to optimise views of the sunset, many of which include snacks and drinks to complement the blissful atmosphere and scenic vistas as you relax on deck with a gentle breeze in your hair. Tours typically last between 2 and 3 hours.

You can book an Akumal sunset cruise at GetYourGuide

Browse traditional Mexican folk art

While most of the action centres around its natural attractions, Akumal also has a modest but vibrant arts scene, with a number of galleries dotted around town. Among the most renowned is Galeria Lamanai, a laid-back spot on Akumal beach which sells rare and one- of-a-kind pieces of folk art and handcrafts. An ideal place for picking up a gift or souvenir, the gallery has developed a strong reputation since opening back in 1999, with more than 200 Mexican artists showcasing their work here in front of a steady stream of patrons who come to browse such eclectic items as hearts, crosses, mermaids, traditional masks and wooden jewellery boxes.

Mon-Sun 8am-9pm

Art pieces on display at Galeria Lamanai (Photo: Galeria Lamanai)

Explore an authentic Mayan Village 

Some 10 miles deep in the jungle just west of Akumal can be found Uxuxubi, an authentic Mayan Village that offers a fascinating glimpse into what life was like in this part of Mexico more than 1,000 years ago – and indeed how it largely remains for those who continue to call the village home. Visitors can stroll through the village and observe how residents harvest vegetables and conduct many of the same traditions and rituals as their ancestors. Other highlights include a zip line that takes you over a large lagoon (see below) occupied by native crocodiles, and a 30-foot wooden tower offering views across the jungle.

Learn all about the local ecology

The turtles of Akumal are among its most famed attractions and visitors can learn more about them and the area’s ecosystem as a whole at the Akumal Ecological Center. A non-profit organisation, the centre was created for the purpose of studying and conserving sea turtles across four local beaches. At the centre itself are numerous exhibits that inform and educate on sea turtle ecology and the reef system of the Riviera Maya. For those staying for longer periods, there are also 4-week volunteer programmes.

Carretera Puerto Juarez – Tulum / Mon-Fri 9am-5pm Closed Sat-Sun

A resident at Akumal Ecological Center peeks its beak out from its hiding place (Photo: Akumal Ecological Center)