Akumal on Mexico’s Riviera Maya is known for its soft white sands, clear turquoise waters, and rich marine life (sea turtle sightings are common). Over the years word has spread, and Akumal’s once quiet and relaxing beaches have become littered with tourists and sprawling mega-resorts, the waterline speckled with kayakers, paddlers, and snorkeling tour boats. With the influx of tourism, many long-time visitors lament the loss of the tranquil and “secret” place. Luckily, visitors can still get a taste of Akumal’s quiet side at these small boutique hotels (which seem microscopic when held to nearby mega-resort standards).
The 42-room Hotel Akumal Caribe is a lovely, low-key hotel well situated for tourists on the main Akumal Beach. The hotel was the first resort and beach club in Akumal and is a family-friendly establishment that prides itself on intimate service, eco-friendly practices, and guests that return year after year. Today, it’s ran by the family of Pablo Bush Romero, the man who introduced tourism to Akumal and built it into a major diving capital. The public areas have a relaxed vibe, and the grounds are landscaped with green grass, tropical trees, and stone pathways that lead to the restaurant, beach, main building, and bungalows. The green and white adobe-like exterior of the three-story building speaks to the laid-back nature of the place.
Sitting on Akumal Beach away from the tourist zone, the 26-villa Las Villas Akumal offers a quiet and relaxing slice of Akumal's past. The property is low-key, even with kids running around, as most people are on their private terraces, reading by the pool, or soaking in sun on the beach loungers. This is not a party spot, but the large units, which have up to three bedrooms, have pretty good sound control indoors -- and the strong winds take care of the ambient or neighbor noise in the evenings. Most units are bright and feature full kitchens; all have purified water jugs (as faucet water is undrinkable) and free high-speed Wi-Fi. There are also beach loungers, free kayak and snorkel rentals, drink service by the (small) pool, and a simple restaurant overlooking the bay.
Definitely one of the brightest hotels on the block, Del Sol Beachfront’s boldly colored, Pueblo-style pink, purple, lime green, and electric blue exterior will not fail to grab your attention. This 29-unit hotel off North Akumal’s Half Moon Bay is a funky and fun (but relaxed) beachside spot with great views. Accommodations include bare-bones budget rooms (with mini-fridges) and fully equipped apartment-style condos. Either way, you can count on fabulous oceanfront views, simple-but-funky Mexican decor, crashing waves outside your window, and front row hammock seating for some out-of-this-world sunrises. There are a restaurant and bar with a lively scene two doors down; free bikes, kayaks, and snorkeling gear; fast and free Wi-Fi, and an on-site shop. However, if you have an aversion to clumps of seaweed on the shore, you’re better off sticking to Las Villas Akumal or someplace off Akumal Bay.
The mid-range, self-catering Las Casitas Akumal is located along northern Akumal Beach, just around the corner from the heart of Akumal Beach's center. Each of the 18 individually owned, home-like units faces out toward the ocean giving guests a panoramic view of Half Moon and Akumal Bay from generous private terraces. (Other room amenities include free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and full kitchens.) Because many families have owned their units for over 30 years, there's a congenial vibe and many guests seem very familiar with the leafy grounds. There’s not much by way of communal or social space save a garden encompassed tennis court area, small stretch of beach, and wide stretch of walking space between the beach and the casitas. The prime central location does mean lots of foot traffic and some noise near the entrance; if you’re looking for a more secluded escape you may want to check out Las Villas Akumal a few minutes south.