After seven years living in the Caribbean city of Cancun , I've had the chance to visit endless local beaches and nearby attractions; however, there are still a few spots in the Riviera Maya that haven’t been ticked off my bucket list. One of those places was Akumal, a small beach town that I'd been dying to experience since moving to the area. Friends had been raving about this hideaway for years, and I was determined to see it with my own eyes.
My dream finally came true in April, when my in-laws opted for a family vacation in the form of a weekend getaway to Akumal, an easy drive just 90 minutes south of my hometown of Cancun. With our condo booked and my suitcase in-hand, I was on my way to my much anticipated destination.
Akumal means "Place of the Turtles" in the Mayan language, and for good reason. Adventurous snorkelers are sure to come across some of the area's peaceful sea turtles right in Akumal Bay, especially if you get out there early in the morning. For our family vacation, we stayed in a condo on the neighboring Half Moon Bay, lined with charming villas. While the rocky Half Moon Bay is not ideal for swimming or snorkeling, it does offer laid-back bars and some of the most jaw-dropping views I've ever seen. This secluded area has been popular among Riviera Maya locals for decades, and it's just beginning to be discovered by international tourists. The destination offers travelers an authentic Mexican atmosphere with laid-back beach bars, palapa-style restaurants and a few shops selling brightly colored handicrafts.
A paradise for divers and snorkelers, the resort town of Akumal is made up of several bays, each with its own unique charm. Akumal Bay is the main hangout, bustling with travelers from across the globe. A veritable Mecca for beach bums, this bay has white powdery sand, crystal clear water and endless palm trees, which provide ample shade. Visitors can also enjoy delicious meals at beachfront eateries, or they can grab some snorkel gear from the bay's local dive shop. Our family spent our first afternoon in Akumal eating pizza and seafood at the popular Lol-Ha restaurant with a bar and tables set right by the ocean.
For our family vacation, we stayed in a condo on the neighboring Half Moon Bay, lined with charming villas. While the rocky Half Moon Bay is not ideal for swimming or snorkeling, it does offer laid-back bars and some of the most jaw-dropping views I've ever seen.
At sunset on Saturday, I was scrambling across the rocky point of Half Moon Bay, collecting dead coral with my father-in-law and watching the waves crash along the jagged coast. The entire area was filled with ancient coral imprints, holes carved out by water, and some resilient plant life that somehow manages to survive the rough terrain. I felt as if I were walking on the surface of the moon, a stark contrast to the peaceful post card beauty of the nearby Akumal Bay. Fascinated, we searched for the perfect coral fossils until it was dark and then returned to the villas for an evening of games, movies and conversation.
I woke up with the sun early Sunday morning and spent a few hours of solitude lying under a palapa, looking out over Half Moon Bay and daydreaming about staying forever. As my travel mates woke up one by one, plans were made to walk over to Yal-Ku Lagoon for some snorkeling. It was a beautiful day, and the lagoon was breathtaking, but eventually, the springtime heat got the better of us, and we drove down to the beach at Akumal Bay to cool off under the shade of some palapas.
While half of our group napped and chatted on the beach, the rest of us went for a "quick dip" in the bay, which turned into several hours. Our Sunday afternoon was spent laughing, performing some water acrobats and snorkeling in the pool-like waters of the Caribbean. I was giddy with joy and fully relaxed, which was a sensation I had only experienced at the most perfect beaches in the Riviera Maya.
Late afternoon, we headed back to the condo on Half Moon Bay to feast on some shrimp that my brother-in-law had bought locally in Akumal's small town. We savored the spicy dish while watching movies and enjoying the ocean views, and it was the perfect way to wrap up our mini vacation.
Throughout my travels in and around the Yucatan Peninsula, I've visited more beaches than I can count. After this trip, the beach at Akumal Bay sits near the very top of my list of favorites. With such a relaxed vibe, diverse tourists, natural beauty, amazing bays, and excellent accommodations at affordable rates, the quiet Riviera Maya destination of Akumal is hard to beat.