I recently flew to Cancun, Mexico. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’ve been there both while working on board cruise ships, and in corporate meeting planning. Still, I went, with every intention of picking up a rental car and high-tailing it out of Cancun and past Playa del Carmen to see what was beyond. It turns out, beyond, otherwise known as Akumal was just what I was looking for. At just over an hour’s drive from the resort city of Cancun, Mexico, and about a half-hour from Playa del Carmen, it’s easily accessible by taxi, colectivo )a sort of hop-on hop-off bus that’s very inexpensive) or rental car (my mode of transportation). You’ve no doubt heard of Cancun and, if you’re interested in beautiful beaches, fruity drinks, tourists everywhere, shopping, American franchises and spa visits, Cancun is for you. There’s nothing wrong with this. If you’re interested in somewhat of a local experience, or just to get away from the crowds, Akumal might be the better choice.
Mexico News Daily
With about 1300 residents (according to a 2010 census) it’s a quiet village-like location with beautiful beaches, fruity drinks, excellent restaurants and very friendly people. Let’s begin with the beaches:
Located on the Caribbean Sea, Akumal Bay is breathtakingly beautiful, with lots to do. Depending on where you stay, you’ll find different activities, Stay in a resort on the main bay if you want larger hotels, jet-ski rental, beach-bars, parasailing and more. Stay at a place on North Akumal Bay (where I stayed) and you’ll experience a more serene experience. On North Akumal Bay you’ll have a choice of staying at small, boutique-like properties, as well as renting condos and rental homes. I had the pleasure of staying at the Vista Del Mar Hotel and Condos, a colorful, twelve-room hotel with all rooms overlooking the ocean. For a very low price, you can get a lovely room on the beach with a private bath, in-room water-cooler, and a small general store on the bottom. They offer bicycle and kayak rental on site, as well as free beach chairs set up right outside. Oh, and if you open your nightstand, you’ll find a hammock to hang on the hooks on your porch or balcony.
Just about a four-minute walk from the Vista Del Mar Hotel, you’ll find the fabulous restaurant/bar, La Buena Vida! Ladies, leave your high-heels at home and throw on your flip-flops or, even better, leave your shoes at home as this place is literally on the beach, with sand as its flooring. When you enter, you’ll first walk through the bar area. Your seating choices consist of glossed, wooden, tree-trunk type stools or swings. Yes, you heard me right, swings. The swingers you meet in the bar have a whole different meaning. After a pre-dinner cocktail – I recommend their margaritas – you’ll be seated for dinner at a table with one of the finest views you’ll ever have. While they have no bad seats, see if you can get one closest to the ocean (literally seven-feet away). With the moonlight, dimmed blue lights, candlelight and the ocean waves gently coming to rest on the beach in front of you, the food doesn’t need to be very good to enjoy this place. But here’s the thing – it is! Order the Tic Kin Xic Fish, a Mayan specialty, trust me.
Akumal is known for its sea turtle population, and you can get up-close and personal at two locations. First, there’s Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA). Depending on the time of year, you can participate in night-time or morning beach walks where you can help locate mother turtles laying their eggs, tag turtles, mark nests, check on the health of nests, or help hatching baby turtles make their way to the ocean. You’ll learn about coastal ecosystems, sustainable development, water quality and, of course, sea turtles. After you become sea turtle knowledgeable, head on over to the Akumal Dive Center. There, you can rent snorkel gear and, if you want, hire a guide. Just a short swim out and you’ll have one of the best views in the area; colorful fish and beautiful sea turtles! They also sell biodegradable sunscreen which is best for the sea turtles and which is required at many locations throughout the area.
Need a bit of a treat after that snorkel to hold you until dinner? Walk directly across the street and stop in the Turtle Bay Café and Bakery where you’ll find homemade ice cream in flavors including, Dark Chocolate and Chile, Nutella, and Akumal Road.
Akumal is strategically located about twenty-minutes from the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum. It’s easy to access by taxi, colectivo or rental car. The spectacular Mayan ruins of Coba are about an hour-and-a-half away. Along the way, you’ll find stops for beautiful cenotes – a Mexican version of an underground swimming hole – in which to take a dip. In fact, there are three wonderful ones right near Coba.
Below, I’ve included a list of links to some of the providers listed here. I hope you’ll get out of some of the large tourist areas and explore this beautiful part of Mexico.
Carole has spent 19 years working in a variety of positions in the Travel Industry including cruise ships, hotels, adventure tour guiding, international tour management and corporate meeting mgmt. She has the inside scoop on the business of travel and the best information on business and leisure travel.