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Akumal vs Tulum – Which is the Better Vacation?

Last updated on January 17th, 2023 at 04:56 pm

Akumal vs Tulum – While Tulum is known for its luxury hotels and ecotourism, Akumal is better with its blue beaches and underwater activities.

Comparing Akumal vs Tulum

In this battle, we pick Akumal as the winner. Swimming with turtles in Mexico is what Akumal is known for. White sand and blue waters with incredible marine life are what you get from Akumal, while Tulum is the luxury digital nomad area focused on ecotourism and hip activities like the Temazcal ceremonies. Read here Cozumel vs Tulum and Akumal vs Playa del Carmen

Here are some key differences between Akumal and Tulum:

Size

Akumal is a small town with about 3,000 people, while Tulum is a larger town with a population of around 20,000.

Location

Akumal is located about an hour south of Cancun, while Tulum is located about an hour south of Playa del Carmen.

Beaches – Tulum vs Akumal

Both Akumal and Tulum have beautiful beaches, but the beaches in Akumal are quieter and more laid-back, while Tulum’s are crowded & touristy.

Ruins

Both Akumal and Tulum are home to Mayan ruins, but the ruins in Tulum are more famous and well-preserved. The ruins in Tulum are also located on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, which makes them more picturesque and a popular tourist attraction.

Eco-tourism

Tulum is known for its eco-tourism opportunities, including cenotes (natural swimming holes) and underground rivers while Akumal is good for snorkeling and diving in its protected bay.

Overall, Akumal is better for its small and laidback vibe with beautiful beaches and a focus on marine conservation, while Tulum is a larger, more touristy town with a mix of cultural and eco-tourism attractions.

Should You Get Your Sim Card from Cancun Airport? – Tulum vs Akumal

I wouldn’t recommend you buy a sim card at Cancun airport. For ease and comfort, you can buy an eSIM online. If you aren’t in a hurry, just go around phone shops in the city and compare prices to buy the cheapest sim card in Cancun.

Read here the best Mexico eSim and best Mexico sim card for tourist

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Why Snorkeling is Huge in Akumal

Akumal literally means in Mayan a “place of turtles“. In Yucatan Peninsula, a big number of turtles arrive every year to lay their eggs on the Akumal beach during the summer. Summer in Akumal is between May and October. These turtles are also known as Akumal sea turtles, laying approximately 70,000 eggs every year. Every year, you can see loggerheads and green sea turtles laying their eggs on the beaches of Half Moon Bay and surrounding areas.

Akumal is also popular for its exotic coral reef surrounding Akumal bay which makes it one of the top places in the Riviera Maya for diving and snorkeling.

The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk, and more than 500 species of fish. It also includes sea turtles, rays, manatees, and sharks contributing to the complex ecosystem.

Book Your Travel Insurance – Tulum vs Akumal

You can read here for Heymondo Vs Safetwing cheapest travel Insurance. You can get for $135 USD your Heymondo Travel Insurance with Heymondo discount code valid for 90 days. Read our full Heymondo Travel Insurance Review

You can get Safetywing Travel Insurance for Digital Nomads valid for 28 days Safetywing for $50 USD per month with kids until 10 years old included

Getting to Akumal Bay – Akumal vs Tulum

Akumal Bay or Akumal beach is easily reachable from Playa del Carmen with a 20-30 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. If you’re coming from Tulum, Akumal is a 15-20 minute drive from north of Tulum, on highway 307.

Things to Do in Akumal – Akumal vs Tulum

1. Akumal Bay / Akumal Beach

Akumal Beach in Mexico, Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Swimming in Akumal Bay or Akumal beach is completely free – great news! You’ll have to pay for everything else, and since snorkeling is huge in Akumal, either bring your own snorkeling gear or rent them near the beaches.

2. Aktun Chen – Tulum vs Akumal

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Tulum vs Akumal
Aktun Chen Natural Park in Akumal, Mexico

One of the most unique things to see in Akumal is the Aktun-Chen Natural Park, an incredible cave system and a beautiful one at that. You’ll see stalactites, columns, pillars, and translucent curtains that are all totally dry, and just breathtaking especially in real life. There are activities near Aktun-Chen like swimming in the cenote and ziplining.

3. Yal-ku Lagoon

Yal-ku Lagoon Akumal Mexico, AAkumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Another beautiful thing to do in Akumal is the Yal-ku Lagoon. A shallow cenote offering clear waters – perfect for snorkelers. In Yal ku Lagoon you can snorkel with fish & sea turtles.

3. Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and Rescued Animals

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation? - Akumal Monkey Sanctuary
Akumal Monkey Sanctuary – Tulum vs Akumal

A perfect place to see to complete your nature and animal experience in Akumal is the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and Rescued Animals in Akumal. This is a sanctuary for a wide variety of animals. The top goal of the rescue center is to make sure they give the best care to all the rescued monkeys and other animals. This activity is perfect for families, couples, and every one a great break from the water.

4. Cenote Santa Cruz

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
Cenote Santa Cruz

Cenote Santa Cruz is a cenote for swimming in Akumal, not to be confused with the Cenote Santa Cruz that they have in Tulum.

Public Beaches in Tulum – Tulum vs Akumal

Playa Paraiso

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Playa Paraiso directly translated to Paradise Beach is one of Tulum’s most stunning beaches as it sits in the Caribbean sea. It is known as one of the world’s most popular beaches.

Here you’ll see the National Park of Tulum and the archeological zone. Playa Paraiso is also an open and public beach. It’s a good beach for lounging around and gentle for family visits as well, with swimming and activities available.

Mayan Beach / Playa Ruinas

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Just from its name, the Mayan Beach in Tulum overlooks the famous Mayan Ruins. This definitely gives you a bit of a balance of having a beach area and having a look at the ruins too, and of course, you can tour the Mayan Ruins being in closer proximity to it.

Playa Pescadores

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

A part of Playa Paraiso, Playa Pescadores is another open and free public beach of Tulum and one of the most beautiful as well. You can hire boats from this part of the beach to do tours in Tulum, but make sure that you book with a reputable boat or tour company as some are known to be unfriendly and aggressive.

Playa Santa Fe

About a 10-minute walk from the ruins, Playa Santa Fe is another beach you can spend time on if you want to be close to the Mayan ruins. Another beautiful public beach as well.

Playa Boca Paila / Playa El Canto

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
This is Playa Boca Paila and can usually be toured with Sian Ka’an

One of the hidden gems of Tulum, Playa Boca Paila, called Playa El Canto by locals, is located by the entrance of the National Park and Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an.

Private Beaches / Beach Clubs in Tulum – Tulum vs Akumal

Ziggy Beach

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
This is the Ziggy Beach Club inside The Beach Tulum Property

Ziggy is a beach club hotel in Tulum, and one of the more luxurious and popular attractions in the area. You can have lounge areas here, and you’ll have access to their bar and restaurant. It’s one of the more expensive areas to stay in as Ziggy is considered high-end compared to all the places around Tulum.

Caleta Tankha Beach

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
The Caleta Tankah Beach

Caleta Tankah Beach is another of Tulum’s private beaches, costing around 100 Mexican pesos to enter. Beach clubs are good options if you want a little more “privacy” in that it’s not immediately open to everyone unless you pay, but still not the most expensive private beach in Tulum.

More Top Things to Do and See in Tulum

Tulum Ruins

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

The Tulum Ruins make Tulum popular and historic at the same time. Its ancient Mayan ruins overlook the beautiful Mexican Caribbean waters, making this part of the world not only exotic and unique but add to the beauty the Tulum beaches bring.

Coba Mayan Ruins

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
A day trip to the Coba Ruins is not to be missed when visiting Tulum!

The Mayan Coba Ruins are one of the most important parts of the Mayan Ruins or Tulum Ruins, about 28 miles or 47 kilometers inland from the Caribbean coastline. To access this part of the ruins, you’ll take a short drive from Tulum or Valladolid. This is one of the most frequented Mayan ruins in Tulum, so if you want to explore this part of Tulum’s beauty, take time to visit the ruins.

El Centro (Tulum Pueblo)

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
Image via Alma de Flores Tulum, El Centro

The Central city of Tulum, El Centro is the place to visit when you want to get away from beaches for a bit, and of course, see its local life – local restaurants and good food (Mexico is very popular for this of course), and try other activities in the town without being in the beach and the beach clubs.

Sian Ka’a Biosphere

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
This is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site in Tulum

Sian Kaʼan Biosphere Reserve is a biosphere reserve in the municipality of Tulum in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It was established in 1986 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. “Sian Ka’an” means “gate of heaven” or “a place where heaven begins.

Tulum Cenotes

Dos Ojos Cenote / Two Eyes Cenote

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

If you want the option to swim, free dive, and dive while being in one of Tulum’s picturesque cenotes, visit the Dos Ojos or Two Eyes Cenote.

Cenote Calavera / Skull Cenote

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Another of Tulum’s Instagram worthy cenotes, is the Cenote Calavera. Be careful as guides here may not be watching you as you swim but there are a lot of people in the area because of its popularity. Prices can be high too.

Big Cenote / Gran Cenote

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Gran Cenote or the Big Cenote is the most popular Cenote and is very touristy in Tulum. It’s on the way to Coba, so make sure you plan properly if you want to swim and take pictures here.

Cenotes Casa Tortuga

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?

Cenotes Casa Tortuga in Tulum is not only a place in the middle of the jungle of Tulum that you can stay in, you also have access to 4 beautiful cenotes on the property when you stay here.

Instagrammer Popular Areas in Tulum

Ven a la Luz at Ahau Tulum Beach

Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
Ven a La Luz Artwork in Ahau Tulum

This artwork is arguably one of the top Instagrammer worthy photos in Tulum and it’s an artwork in the Ahau Tulum Beach Resort. It’s a beautiful sculpture on its own, and definitely an easy spot to recognize to mark your visit to Tulum.

Cenote Suytun

Cenote Suytun is one of the most Instagrammer worthy places in Tulum, Akumal vs Tulum - Which is the Better Vacation?
This is Cenote Suytun in Valladolid Mexico

Hard to miss the most Instagrammer worthy photo in Tulum, which is the Cenote Suytun. Okay, Instagram shows it as part of Tulum, but it’s an hour and a half drive away. If you’re staying or visiting

Cost of Travel: Tulum vs Akumal

Budget for Tulum, for one week, one person – Tulum vs Akumal

It is difficult to give a specific budget for a trip to Tulum, as it will depend on a variety of factors such as your travel style, the type of accommodation you choose, and your activities and dining preferences. Here are some things to consider when budgeting for a trip to Tulum:

Flights:

Prices for flights to Tulum can vary depending on where you are departing from and the time of year you are traveling. On average, you can expect to pay around $500-$700 for a round-trip flight from the United States to Tulum.

Accommodation:

Tulum offers a range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury resorts. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30 per night for a budget hostel to $500 or more per night for a luxury resort.

Food: Tulum has a variety of dining options, from street food to fine dining restaurants. A meal at a local restaurant can cost around $10-$15, while a meal at a more upscale restaurant can cost $30 or more.

Activities:

Tulum has many activities to offer, such as visiting the ancient Mayan ruins, snorkeling in the cenotes, and exploring the surrounding jungle. Prices for activities can vary, but you can expect to pay around $20-$50 for a tour or activity.

Overall, you can expect to pay around $1,000-$1,500 per week for a budget trip to Tulum, not including flights. This budget would cover accommodation, food, and some activities, but you may want to budget more if you plan to do more expensive activities or stay in a luxury resort.

Which is more expensive, Akumal or Tulum?

Tulum tends to be more expensive than other destinations in Mexico due to its popularity and limited capacity, especially compared to the smaller Akumal. And while Tulum is the popular area to go to if you want more access to nightlife and parties and to connect to a bigger younger and digital nomad scene, you can actually divide your time between Akumal and Tulum.

With how close Akumal is to Tulum, you can go to Akumal for all the beach and water activities you want to experience (don’t skip the turtles!) and experience a bit of Tulum’s luxury eco scene as well.

Best Time to Visit Tulum and Akumal

Since both Tulum and Akumal are close to each other, you have the same weather for both.

Weather

Tulum has a tropical climate with hot, humid weather year-round. The dry season runs from November to April, and is generally considered the best time to visit. During this time, temperatures are more pleasant, rainfall is minimal, and humidity is lower.

However, it is also the busiest and most expensive tourist season. If you don’t mind the heat and humidity, you may find lower prices and fewer crowds during the rainy season, which runs from May to October.

Check the weather in real-time in Tulum and Akumal

Festivals and events

Tulum is home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year. If you are planning your trip around a specific event, be sure to check the dates and make your travel arrangements accordingly.

Hurricane season

Tulum is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, which is vulnerable to hurricanes during the hurricane season, which runs from June to November. The peak season is September and October. If you are planning to visit Tulum during this time, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared for potential disruptions.

Final Thoughts – Akumal vs Tulum, which is the better vacation?

It’s Akumal for us. Akumal wins over Tulum for its laidback and quieter beach time, with more incredible beaches and incomparable underwater marine life. If you want to experience Tulum, we suggest giving time to visit it to see Tulum’s vibes, visit the ruins and experience the Cenotes.

Do you agree with our choice? Let us know what you ended up choosing. All in all, have a fantastic trio, and see you in the next guide!

Ruben Arribas is the co-founder of Gamintraveler and a Spanish traveler who has traveled to more than 100 countries around the world. He is now a full-time digital nomad.