6 Real Tips for Enjoying Akumal, Mexico, on a Budget
Akumal, a tiny little village about an hour south of Cancún, Mexico, delights all visitors with dreams of sea turtles, dolphins, and manta rays. The local tourism industry knows this and wants to spoil you to your budget’s delight. We figured out how to have a dream stay without a dream budget, enjoying all of Akumal at a fraction of the cost. Below we give six tips for enjoying Akumal on a budget. Akumal beach, or Playa Akumal, is a safe place to enjoy a family vacation.
First, it’s important to say that we stayed in a housesit in the subdivision called Sirenis. Not only is it an all-inclusive resort, but there are private homes in the complex as well. We secured our stay via Trusted Housesitters (read about How We fit Housesitting into Our Nomad Life), but on a quick Airbnb search, we found several properties available. Sirenis is a great location; it’s away from the noise and tourism of Playa del Carmen, it’s close to Tulum, and snorkeling and swimming abound within the complex. You can stay in Akumal Pueblo very cheaply, especially if you don’t stay in the Akumal Beach resorts.
Tip One: Cheap Places to Stay in Akumal
If you are willing to go a bit more rustic, you may be able to find a place in Akumal pueblo. But it’s a rustic, rustic, rustic town and housing/rooms are difficult to find. Your best bet would be to just walk around, talk to the locals in Spanish, and maybe you’ll find a place. We found a few places on Airbnb for about $30 a night. Otherwise, a good alternative is to stay at Akumal Natura Glamping where tented rooms go for about $50 almost every day of the year except during the winter holidays. Remember, there’s Akumal Pueblo, Akumal, and Akumal Playa (Akumal Beach.) Each has a different price point.
Additionally, our homeowners at our housesit lent us their car. If you stay in Sirenis or anywhere near it, you’ll need a car. Taxis will have a hard time finding you at Sirenis. Otherwise, you’ll be at the beckon call of the next available collectivo to get to anywhere outside of Sirenis. Nothing is walkable once you leave the complex. But downtown Akumal Pueblo is perfectly walkable and safe.
Now that we’ve gotten housing and accommodations out of the way, we’re going to tell you the five more tips to use to get the most out of Akumal and enjoy the heck out of your time. It’s safe to walk around Akumal Pueblo and if you’re lucky, you might catch a local futbol (soccer!) game.
Tip Two: Volunteer and Go to An Amazing Cenote for Free in Akumal
Check the Akumal Natura Rescue Facebook page. If you don’t stay there, you can at least volunteer. They have a volunteer event once a month. Why volunteer? Well, not only do you get to help rescued monkeys, turtles, and birds, but afterward, they’ll treat you to homemade paella on an open fire AND you’ll get to go swimming in the best cenote in Akumal. It’s underground, private, and clean. It might have been the prettiest place that we enjoyed in all of the Yucatan. Seeing this cenote in Akumal was one of the best free things we did.
Tip Three: Go Snorkeling for Free in Akumal Playa Beach
Go snorkeling for free. But first, you’ll need snorkel gear. You can buy it at the local Chedruai in Puerto Aventuras, but it’s overpriced and nasty. Instead, subscribe for a free month of Amazon Prime, Mexico version, order it, and have it delivered to your accommodation. Place the order before you travel and alert your host that you’ll be receiving a package. If you don’t want to do that, as you walk into Akumal Playa, there are snorkel tour guides along the way. You can rent gear from them. It’s cheaper than those who rent it on the beach. But be wary, most will try to sell you the guide that goes along with the gear. You don’t need a guide unless, perhaps, you’ve never snorkeled, then it might be a good idea. Just bring your own gear to Akumal Playa and you can snorkel for free even if you feel like you can’t, access to Akumal beach is free.
Once you have your snorkel gear, drive or walk into Akumal Playa. Right after the Oxxo on your right, you’ll see a dirt road. There’s a guy there who monitors the chain across the dirt road. Tell him you’re going to Lol Ha. He’ll remind you to put your mask on, give you sanitizer, and take your temp. Drive to Lol Ha and park. If you’d like, grab a bite to eat. Then walk right out to the beach and snorkel. You’ll see lots of people out there already, following each other in big groups. Notice where they are (next to the buoys.) Follow them and enjoy your snorkel time. By the way, Mexican beaches are public property. It’s getting to them, sometimes, that can be difficult. But they are free despite what some of the tour guides may try to tell you.
Or, if you like to exercise, do the following instead. On Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 am, there’s an outdoor Zoomba-like class at Lol Ha. Show up at 7:45 by following the instructions above. Take the class for $100 pesos, then afterward go snorkeling. There is a bathroom/shower available where you can change. It may cost you $10 pesos.
Tip Four: Eat for Half Price in Akumal Pueblo
You must eat in Akumal pueblo. We’re serious. It’s a 7-dog, 1-cat, no lights kinda town. There are a couple of small puestos (tiny family-owned restaurants or stands) that cater to gringos and those who don’t speak Spanish. Tequilaville is one. You’ll notice the menus are in English and the prices run about $200 pesos per entrée. They’re on the north side of the street right as you come into the pueblo. The food in Akumal Pueblo is better than every other food around Akumal and its playa.
OR, go one or two more blocks west of Tequilaville and find the two tiny puestos. They each have two or three tables, both are probably grilling chicken in the open. One has a menu written in Spanish hanging as you enter, the other doesn’t have a menu. Speak your best Spanish and get chicken in chocolate sauce (pollo con mole) or a fried fish with head and tail (mojarro frito) for $200 pesos total, half the price, if not better. Grab two beers from the corner store one block west for $24 pesos. Granted, I could not find a vegan meal to save my life (perhaps at Tequilaville), but we did make friends with the owner of the fried fish place. He invited us to his family’s home in Chiapas after telling me he goes to South Carolina every summer to plow tobacco. He even put his WhatsApp in my phone.
Tip Five: Eat Churros and Watch Futbol in Akumal
When you’ve finished your authentic Mexican food, walk across the street to the basketball courts. If it’s in the evening, you’ll probably catch a pick-up soccer (football) match going on with the locals. Buy yourself a bag of churros ($25 pesos) for your evening dessert or find the guy selling postres from his car trunk. He wears a Dodgers hat and speaks fun English.
Tip Six: Get All the Fruit You Can Carry for $10 in Akumal
Finally we have one last tip. Before you leave town, stop at the fruit stand and stock up. Our weekly haul of fruit beat Chedrui’s prices every time. We came away with a bunch of bananas, a fresh pineapple, 3 mangos, limes, onion, chayote, mushrooms, carrots, and 2 cucumbers for about $200 pesos.
Akumal is a fun place that can be very expensive if you stay in the tourist zone. But step outside of it, volunteer a bit, and have a chat with the locals and you’ll not only have a fantastic time, but you’ll save a boatload of money so you can come back again.