Snorkeling with turtles in Akumal was top of my list of things to do during my stay in Playa del Carmen. Akumal welcomes visitors all year round to swim with the sea turtles who come to feed on grasses in its protected bay, just a 40 minute drive south of Playa.

Akumal beach

Arriving at the entrance to the cove, I was blown away by the beauty of the still, glass-like water and blazing white sand dotted with swaying coconut palms.

I hired my snorkeling gear and life jacket at the small hut near the entrance and found myself a shady spot under one of the palm trees that lined the shore. Thankfully I had arrived early enough to beat the crowds and immediately took to the water in search of some shelled creatures.

playa del carmen activities

I didn’t expect to see one so soon. Just off the shore in the shallow depths of the bay, a huge sea turtle chomped slowly on the sea grass, not seeming to mind having company while he ate. I hovered above, careful not to disturb him (or her!), but being unable to pull my self away from the majestic creature.

playa del carmen activities

After eating for a while, he rose up to the surface to take a deep breath of air. Being so close to such an amazing creature in its natural habitat was such a treat that I lost track of time, and before long the waters were busy with other snorkelers. There were more turtles and sea life to meet, however, so I swam away from my first sighting to meet some other residents.

Soon I found myself gliding over an impressive reef system, chasing a school of shiny fish as they darted over the colorful coral. I was a little taken aback when I spotted a huge barracuda hovering in the reef, his black scales reflecting the light like mirrors. He was a little scary looking but seemed pretty relaxed and uninterested in me.

Soon, I made my way back to the shore, and took up residence under the palm trees, laying back to bathe in the speckled sunlight.

playa del carmen activities

By then, quite a few other people had arrived and were donning their snorkeling gear, wading into the water in the hope of seeing a turtle eat their lunch. I listened for the cries of excitement as they spotted their first turtle of the day, happy that they saw what they came for.

I know I did!

Akumal snorkelers

Excited snorkelers in Akumal bay

Akumal exceeded my expectations on every account, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting Playa del Carmen. Even if you don’t snorkel, the beach itself is truly magical. The peaceful, protected bay is a great place to spend the day, either in the crystal clear waters or in a hammock under one of the many coconut palms.

The main attraction is, of course, snorkeling with the turtles. They are truly a sight to behold and don’t seem to mind all the attention they receive from well-meaning tourists.Thankfully, Akumal is a protected ecological area, which means the turtles will have a safe place to feed for many years to come.

You can reach Akumal by car, van or organized tour. My tip: Visit on a week day if possible, and arrive early to beat the crowds!