Swimming with Sea Turtles for Free in Akumal, México!

by Stephanie Walsh · 33 comments

in Mexico, North America, Travels

Swimming with Green Sea Turtles, Akumal, Mexico

Finally! Something (almost) free to do in the Yucatán Peninsula and it’s amazing; swimming with sea turtles! The Yucatán Peninsula is super touristy so finding something to do for free is as likely as me not getting burned without my factor 60 sunscreen! So when we heard it was possible to not only do something cool for (almost) free, but that it was snorkeling with green sea turtles, we were very happy and excited!

When we say ‘almost free’…we mean that naturally we had to pay for transportation to Akumal from Tulum (30 pesos per person), and of course we also rented some snorkel gear from our hostel for 50 pesos per person for the day. Still a very low cost for such a great experience!

These adorable green sea turtles come to waters of México’s Carribbean coast, especially Akumal, a small beach town between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, during the months of May and October to lay their eggs in the sand and raise their cute babies.

Swimming with Sea Turtles Akumal Beach, Mexico

Akumal Beach, Mexico

Swimming With Sea Turtles!

After arriving in Akumal we impatiently put on our snorkel gear and waddled out to sea in our flippers, eager to get a glimpse of the amazing green sea turtles we had heard so much about. We swam about 50 meters out into water until we could no longer stand. After some time searching the grassy floor of the ocean, I suddenly spotted what looked like a big rock on the floor in the distance. As we got closer we were delighted to see our first sea turtle, casually grazing on the ocean floor below us. After a few minutes of underwater excitement, things got even better when he decided to take a quick swim to the surface for air. As he glided up, flapping his fat paddle like flippers, we followed his action and broke the surface of the water at the same time to see him grab a gulp of air and quickly dive down again. Adorable!

After our first sighting, we got even luckier throughout the day. We spotted an even bigger turtle that was so big she had permanent residents living on her back. We also spotted a scary barracuda fish, which remained completely still and thankfully didn’t take any interest in us, despite some people (ahem, Andres!) getting too close! We also saw a few sting rays and lots of small colorful fish but none of them could top the laid-back cool green sea turtles just going about their day, paying no attention to the crowd of excited snorkelers around them.

Swimming with Sea Turtles - Scary barracuda fish

Scary barracuda fish

Getting up close to these beautiful animals was one of the highlights of our trip around the Yucatán and Chiapas. I am now more in love with turtles than ever before and I want to squeeze their cute little round spotty heads!! We would love to witness a turtle giving birth to her eggs on the beach one day and the subsequent journey of the baby turtles to the sea. I have heard it is an unforgettable experience. We’ll just have to return to México some day to experience I guess! 😀

Swimming with Sea Turtles Playa in Akumal, Mexico

Playa in Akumal, Mexico

Underwater Sea Turtle Photo Credit: puuikibeach

Barracuda Fish Photo Credit: JennyHuang

Would you like to go swimming with sea turtles?
How you ever found that one of your favourite experiences on a trip has also been one of the cheapest?

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annette | Bucket List Journey October 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

Wow! This looks amazing. I swam with sea turtles in Maui, but never saw one of those scary barracudas!
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2 Stephanie Walsh October 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Ha you’re lucky I think! I’m glad I didn’t know too much about them at the time, until I researched afterwards, otherwise I would not have hung out so long staring at it! I’m sure Maui had its own charms, sounds amazing too! 🙂


3 Cassie October 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Beautiful! I never made it to Akumal when I went to the Yucatan, but I’ve been wanting to go back and when I do, I’ll check it out. The beach looks heavenly!
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4 Stephanie Walsh October 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Yeah it’s a lovely beach alright Cassie. It’s got palm trees everywhere and it’s very wide, unlike a lot of the beaches in the Yucatan. You definitely have to try this, it was amazing and you can spend as long as you want happily swimming after these guys! 🙂


5 Sarah Somewhere October 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Hi! just saw your commment on Furtherbound and was like, “I’m doing that tomorrow!” if the rain holds out, of course! Love your photos, and I’m even more looking forward to tomorrow now!
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6 Stephanie Walsh October 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Yay amazing!! How was it? So jealous, I wanna go back and do it again! 🙂


7 Sarah Somewhere October 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

It was amazing! Huge turtles, lots of fish and the most beautiful turqoise bay, heaven!!! Such a beautiful place 🙂
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8 Stephanie Walsh October 7, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Ahh delighted for you! 🙂 Aren’t they amazing? So adorable, especially when they come up for air! 🙂 We must have seen the same giant one with the fish on his back! Love how calm they are!


9 Agness (@Agnesstramp) October 7, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Wow, that must have been a great experience. Weren’t you scared? I am heading to Mexico next year and I can’t wait to experience it and eat lots of food as well 🙂
Have a great time and happy travels guys!
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10 Talon October 8, 2012 at 12:06 am

Nothing to be scared of. They really don’t pay attention to you. If you get too close and that bothers them, they will just swim off. And when they want to, those suckers can move!
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11 Stephanie Walsh October 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Thank you Agness! 🙂 No we weren’t scared at all…they’re so calm and lovable. They barely bat their eyes at us as we swam beside them! Swimming with whale sharks a few weeks ago however, was a much different story! I was very scared initially but it also turned out to be just amazing! I have the link to that article at the bottom of this comment!
And the food in Mexico is sooo good! I’m gonna miss it..we just left Mexico this weekend! 🙁 You’re going to have an amazing time there, its an incredibly rich and diverse country! Love it!
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12 Talon October 8, 2012 at 12:05 am

So glad you enjoyed it! It is such a cool experience. So worth the trip.

One of the cool things about Akumal is that even though turtle season is typically during those months (this year it’s extending into November and possibly even December YAY!), you can usually find turtles there YEAR ROUND! WOOT!
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13 Stephanie Walsh October 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Wow, I didn’t know that! That is fantastic! Have you had the pleasure of seeing them lay their eggs in the sand or watch the babies try to go to the sea? I would LOVE to witness that! 🙂
And yeah they are surprisingly fast for their size! They can easily out-swim us awkward humans! 😛


14 Keane October 9, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Great photos! How beautiful 🙂
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15 Stephanie Walsh October 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Thank you Keane! 🙂


16 Savvy Scot October 12, 2012 at 7:36 am

I’ve done this before in a place near Tulum.. can’t remember if it was the same place though! Wicked pictures!
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17 Stephanie Walsh October 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Yeah this was really close to Tulum, must have been the same place! 🙂


18 Agness (@Agnesstramp) October 18, 2012 at 3:46 am

I agree with Talon and there is nothing to be scared of (did some reading on Google ;))
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19 coolnewz October 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I should have read this before January 2011 when I visited Yucatan peninsula! 🙂
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20 Stephanie Walsh October 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Ha never too late to return! So worth it! 🙂


21 Kyle Goes Global October 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Akumal looks incredible!! Definitely just added it to my places to see that I’d never heard of prior to today list!

How long will you guys be exploring the Yucatan? I arrive next Tuesday!
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22 Stephanie Walsh October 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Glad to help Kyle! Unfortunately we have already left Mexico. We were about 1 month in the Yucatan alone. It was an amazing experience, you’re gonna love it!


23 Robert January 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Great article and photos! We enjoyed swimming with Sea Turtles in the U.S. Virgins a few years ago. Thanks for sharing!
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24 Stephanie Walsh January 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Thanks Robert, it’s our pleasure to share our travel experiences with people. I would love to swim with sea turtles again! 🙂


25 liz miller February 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Success!! When you first get into Akumal, go to the left and park in the public parking (it cost us $5 for 2.5 hours). Walk to the beach and look for the tour groups in their lifejackets. There is a snorkel outfitter right there on the beach but they want $30/person just to take you out into the water-don’t do this! Swim/snorkel out there and, voila! The sea turtles are there eating the sea grass. They are so cute! The beach is great with facilities and restaurants and bars, too.


26 Stephanie Walsh February 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

Yay!! You did it! Great tips too, thanks Liz!


27 Kayli Schattner June 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Do you know the particular beach this was at in Akumal?? I will be arriving in Riviera Maya tomorrow and would love the opportunity to do this!
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28 Stephanie Walsh July 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Hi Kayli! Sorry I never got a chance to reply to you on time. For what it’s worth, I don’t think there is a particular name. The entire beach at Akumal is one long stretch along the village…it’s really small so I’m sure you found it! 🙂


29 Wholesale Swimming Goggles September 3, 2013 at 9:22 am

Such a beautiful beach! You have to watch out for the barracudas nasty set of teeth on them!
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30 Raphael Alexander Zoren April 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

That barracuda sure looks tasty!!! 😀
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31 Troy Martin June 2, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Wow! You swam with turtles? How was the experience? I swam with sperm whales and baby beluga whales but turtles, not yet. So it’s something that I am dying to try out.


32 Chris July 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hi. We’re visiting playa del c in a few days. Want to snorkel in akumal. Wife though does not want to be where she cannot stand if she needs to. Are the reefs fairly shallow? I’m hoping that it like hanamau bay in HI, where freed is a few feet from shoreline. Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!


33 Jim Dardeen February 28, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Is there a turtle farm there in Akumal ?