Mexico’s Mayan Riviera coastline is famous for soft white sands, turquoise waters, and great snorkeling (hello, sea turtles!). But not all oceanfront hotels in Akumal offer the same beach experience: Some are set along rocky coral shorelines, others are plagued by crows, seaweed, and gusts of wind. To help you find a great hotel beach in Akumal — one of the world’s major world-class diving destinations — we culled our favorite right-on-the-Caribbean properties and identified the pros and cons of their beaches.
For such a relatively small resort (324 rooms), the beach at Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort is sprawling. A leisurely walk from one end to the other can take up to 10 minutes. Along the way, you'll find a healthy amount of white plastic loungers covered with teal mesh and teal towels, as well as hordes of bamboo cabana huts. The sand is white and incredibly soft. The bay has gorgeous blue-green water with great snorkeling spots where you can see turtles, fish, and coral -- but be prepared for rocks or seaweed. And whether it's the number of people or the number of loungers, the beach feels congested, particularly around the northern side by building one. It can be a bit of a trek to the snack bars, buffet, and main pool, but the sands out by building four are typically less packed and decidedly more relaxing.
Though filled with sunning bodies (some topless), palapa huts, and lounge chairs, the long stretch of beach behind the 422-room Grand Palladium Kantenah (shared by Grand Palladium Colonial) still manages to feel natural and relaxing. Perhaps this is due to the mangrove and palm tree barrier between the edge of the pools and the beach itself, or the secluded Las Rocas area -- a naturally elevated spot with coral reefs and a saltwater pool -- connected to the sandy beach via a scenic walk through jungle landscaping with peekaboo ocean views. Down on the sands, lifeguards are on duty; paddle boats and kayaks are in frequent use; a webcam streams live; and people take dips in the shallow waters. There is a small section of sand under the shade of palms, but otherwise the beach is mostly unshaded.
Sharing space and beachfront with Grand Palladium Kantenah, the 414-room Grand Palladium Colonial is located along the beautiful Akumal coastline. The beach here is the same as Kantenah's, with typical white loungers with tight-stretched blue fabric strewn across the sand and small shady palapa huts. The beach is busy with guests sunbathing, immersing themselves in the turquoise water, and making use of the water sports gear, but it still feels serene and natural, thanks to the palm trees and mangroves separating the sand from the resort. If you've got kids, note that topless sunbathing is allowed.
The 758-room Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal Don Pablo Collection has an impressively large beach area, complete with both soft white sand and rugged, rocky coral edges; a wooden pier; and turquoise water for miles. The beach rarely feels overcrowded -- possibly because so many people spend their time around the massive main pool. Guests can access the beach by walking straight onto the sands from the pool areas, or over a red bridge, through a section of mangroves off the pool deck. Sturdy palapas provide shade and drink holders, while blue and white striped loungers or swaying hammocks are on hand for relaxing.
With 978 rooms, Grand Bahia Principe Tulum is the second largest property in a four-resort complex. It's ideal for friends and couples who want a basic all-inclusive experience and a beautiful beach. Grand Bahia Principe Tulum's picturesque beach is the largest stretch of all the resorts within the complex, with crystal-clear waters, patches of coral rock, and powder-soft sand (and a patio-style beach bar). Solid blue loungers in two rows are set up with private palapas. Since all resorts have access to Tulum's beach, it's a gamble whether or not it'll feel full.
Guests at the 112-room, all-inclusive Grand Oasis Tulum have the privilege of using their own exclusive Beach Club area or snagging one of the many loungers on the Oasis side of resort. Whether nature or nurture, the beach on the Grand side has decidedly fewer clumps of seaweed, impossibly soft sands, and easy access to the two relaxing hammocks stretched out on the small pier. This side of the beach is smaller, but much less crowded as only Grand guests can grab a loungers or slide under the shade of a rustling palm-frond palapa.
Located on a pristine (and rocky) stretch of sand just a few minutes' drive south of Akumal Beach’s increasingly popular center, the 26-villa Las Villas Akumal feels miles away. Unlike Akumal Beach central, Las Villas' beach still feels private and is far less trodden by tourists. Thanks to the location a 30-minute trek away from the center along the sand, even during peak season it’s rare to get too many people walking along the beach just behind the hotel. This frees up the view, the vibe, and the loungers for Las Villas guests only. Multiple stone paths lead toward the beach and are punctuated with small water pools to clean your feet upon return. Sunsets are great (and sunrises better) though it can get windy in the evening hours.
The 42-room, family-friendly Hotel Akumal Caribe is a solid choice for a laid-back beachfront hotel in Akumal. The hotel features a prime location on Akumal's central beach. (Akumal Dive Center is just next door.) On the hotel's beach, guests can grab chairs and a thatch-style umbrella from the on-site attendant. It’s not a private beach and it can get crowded at times, due to its reputation for excellent snorkeling conditions. The beach bar provides snacks, drinks, and happy hour for guests.
Although the beach may be more idyllic directly off Akumal Bay, the sand behind the 29-room Del Sol Beachfront is soft, white, and much less crowded. Behind the condos, the beach is small, very shady (thanks to the palms), and could feel crowded at full occupancy. Behind the main building, palm trees bearing coconuts share the sand with mattress-sized, brightly colored pillows, loungers, and, down by the water, clumps of brown seaweed. Thanks to this tangly brown barricade, this area of the beach, while still beautiful, is not the same swimmer’s spot as just down the road. There's a few beached kayaks awaiting rental just down off the side of the hotel.
Located just around the corner from the small but lively heart of Akumal Beach, the 18-room Las Casitas Akumal is one of the most conveniently located properties in area -- if you want to be near the hustle and bustle. (If you’re looking for a more secluded escape you may want to check out Las Villas Akumal a few minutes south.) Nonetheless, Las Casitas' great location along scenic Akumal Bay affords fabulous sunrise views. The hotel's beach is beautiful, quiet, private, and offers free kayaks, but it's small and can get congested with a full house.
Anyone expecting a long, sweeping beach at their doorstep may be a bit let down at the Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya. For a resort with nearly 1,000 rooms, the beach area is small, although deep. However, the sand is equipped with row after row after row of blue and white loungers, a good spotting of rustling palpa huts, and gorgeous views of the rocky coral coastline. While there’s not much space to swim due to the jagged rocks, the north side of the beach has boulders big enough to climb onto, and you can even make a short trek out to the bona fide Mayan ruin built into the rocks. Beach-goers take note: You’ll be sharing your sunny spaces with hordes of peckish birds and strong gusts of wind.