Don’t be misled down the main street of Akumal

December 28, 2015

As one enters Akumal on foot you pass at least five different palapas selling services, tours and snorkeling with turtles experiences. There have been various tourists who have complained at not just the harassment, but also the lies they have been sold on this street.

As luck would have it, a couple of friends volunteered to be undercover tourists to get the scoop and to hear the fabrications firsthand as they walked from the highway, through the arch and to the bay. We also checked with the Ecological Center in Akumal to shed light on the shell games being played on the street.

Note that the identity of our undercover tourists will not be shared, but what we can tell you is that they were a youngish American couple, visibly toting their own snorkel gear.

This is what they were told, and in some cases, what they overheard other tourists being sold…err… told:


  • … you must have a life-jacket. You can rent one here.
  • … it is illegal if you don’t wear one.
  • … you can’t swim outside the buoys without a life-jacket

It is not a mandatory requirement to use a life-jacket. Of course, for safety reasons, it is highly advisable, but in no way is it mandatory or illegal. As well, snorkelers can swim inside or outside the buoys without a life-jacket. There is no debate that life-jackets keep you afloat (off the reefs) and safe. It’s important that each snorkeler/swimmer know their limits and use sound judgement, but it is also important to know the truth–you won’t be denied access to the bay without one, nor will you be arrested!


  • We work for the ecological center…
  • 70% of your fee is donated back to the ecological center.
  • The bracelet is to show that you paid an eco-tax because this is a marine park.

First, Akumal Bay has not been designated a marine park or turtle refuge. It is, however, in the works, but the government has yet to make this announcement.

Second, there is no such thing as an eco-tax. Any money paid to the tour operators/guides goes to the operators’ pockets, not the ecological center. Donations that come to the ecological center are given directly at their office or online via their website.

Third, the ecological center doesn’t offer or provide snorkel tours. Any guide or tour operator that says they are connected or working for the ecological center is a sales ploy. No tour guides or tour operators have been hired or are employed by the ecological center.


  • It is mandatory to have a guide.
  • It is mandatory to have a guide if you want to snorkel outside the buoys.

It is NOT mandatory to hire a guide. Again, this is a sales ploy to drum up business. Any snorkeler visiting Akumal can enter the bay and snorkel at their own accord. Of course it is wise to know the guidelines of the bay, the water safety rules and get a general orientation. All of this can be done by asking the lifeguards on duty or dropping by the ecological center.

You can’t blame the guides or tour operators for wanting to conduct business. However, you can see the deceitful ways in which they are doing so. The bottom line is to be in the know and don’t be misled down the main street of Akumal.

If you want more information on snorkeling guidelines, be sure to visit or drop by their office.


As of noon today, Saturday, December 19, 2015:
  1. The main road entering Akumal continues to be blocked by a group of local tour operators protesting the current beach access.
  2. Vehicular traffic is being blocked in and out of the Akumal. There have been reports that those who can prove that they need to get to the airport are being allowed to exit, but at this time it is unconfirmed.
  3. Foot traffic is also being impeded as the walkway into Akumal is blocked. Pedestrians have been allowed to cross with varying degrees of hassle.
  4. Police are on-site at the roadblock and while they are not taking action to dismantle the blockade, it appears they are there to simply monitor.
  5. Despite the protesters’ claims, the beach access is open and there is no entry fee.