This Small Beach Destination Near Cancun Is Exploding In Popularity Right Now


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The Mexican Caribbean is the go-to spot for Americans traveling abroad.

With its turquoise waters, charming coastal settlements, and wellness scene, there is truly no better place for sunseekers to be, but if Cancun no longer appeals to you, then vacationing in a smaller beach destination away from the big city that’s surging in popularity, this might be your best bet.

Aerial View Of Akumal, A Small Resort City On The Riviera Maya, State Of Quintana Roo, Mexico

Akumal Is The Next Trendy Caribbean Spot

Akumal is one of the trendiest beach resorts in the Maya Riviera, with the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico reporting occupancy rates of 87.6% for the first quarter of 2023.

According to a report issued by the entity, it already outpaces well-established tourist towns like Playa del Carmen, its closest competitor in the Caribbean (86.6%), Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific coast (84.5%), New Nayarit (84.4%), Puerto Vallarta (83.6%), and even the mighty Cancun (80.5%).

Beachgoers Walking Along A Beach Lined With Palm Trees On The Caribbean Coast Of Mexico, Akumal, Quintana Roo

As we have discussed previously, while Cancun remains Mexico’s number one sunny hub in terms of overall figures, largely due to its record-breaking tourism – last year, over 30 million arrivals were recorded in Cancun Airport – it has long ceased being the fastest-growing destination.

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Beachgoers In Cancun Beach, Cancun Hotel Zone, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Mexican Caribbean, Mexico

For months now, it has been bumped off the number one spot by competing cities as returning travelers and first-time visitors alike look for alternatives to the jam-packed Mayan city.

In a way, it feels like Cancun is yesterday’s news, and places like Akumal, and the lesser-known Bacalar, are finally getting the hype they deserve.

What Can Akumal Offer?

Akumal is a small coastal community of roughly 1,300 inhabitants, sitting between the much busier Playa del Carmen and Tulum, 62 miles south of Cancun.

Fishiing Boats Docked By A Sandy Beach In Akumal, On The Mayan Riviera, Caribberan Sea, Mexico

It straddles both Akumal and Half Moon Bays, two of the most scenic swimming sites in the state of Quintana Roo, where marine life still thrives, and overtourism has yet to drive out a majority of the locals with its associated gentrification.

Due to its size, it can feel more exclusive, with a more limited selection of hotels, resorts, and luxury stays than internationalized Cancun. More specifically, there are only 23 five-star properties listed on, against Cancun’s 48 or Tulum’s 32.


Though it is a lot smaller, it is by no means less well-equipped, offering visitors both all-inclusive resorts – the adults-only Unico Hotel Riviera Maya is a perfect romantic getaway for couples – and charming, boutique hotels nestled in the jungle, where you can go ‘glamping’.

Fellow budget travelers, rejoice: unlike other Caribbean destinations, Akumal still warmly welcomes us.

A king room with a garden view at the three-star Akumal Natura Glamping costs a mere USD$84 for an overnight in June, while private stays at the colorful Del Sol Beachfront Hotel are on the market for USD$89.

colorful buildings in mexico

All in all, whether you’re the splurging type or a budget-conscious vacationer, Akumal has some great deals for you.

Beautiful Natural Attractions

Seen from above, it looks like a beautiful crescent lapped by crystal-clear waters, and although it is a miniature development zone, it certainly has no shortage of attractions.

Other than the beautiful beaches, most notably the landmark Playa Akumal, a sandy extension of coast bounded by the translucent waters of the Caribbean, tourists have access to a monkey sanctuary, inland, shallow, family-friendly cenotes, such as Ya-kul, and relaxation spas.

beach in akumal

Basing yourself in Akumal, you can also take a few day trips out to explore the Tulum Ruins or spend a day at the Xel-ha aquatic theme park. Adult tickets start from USD $89, including all food, drinks, and unlimited snorkeling.

But first and foremost, Akumal is a natural oasis where people go to escape the hustle and bustle of Cancun.

If you’re wary of the latter’s mega resorts and Instagram crowds, and you’re hoping to have a more relaxed Caribbean experience, then this is the place for you.

Mexico Is Set For A Record-Breaking Year In Tourism

Mexican Flag Displayed Against A Tropical Sea Background, Mexican Caribbean, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Overall, Mexico has reached occupancy rates of 60.5% in Q1, 9.5 percentage points higher than in 2022, which indicates the country could be set for yet another record-breaking year once the December count is in.

In beach areas, an average of 142,685 rooms were filled, against 124,300 in the previous year, at a year-on-year increase of 14.8%. In terms of occupancy, this means an even higher rate of 71.7%, surpassing that of the national average, which accounts not only for coastal zones but also for inland destinations like the country’s capital, Mexico City, or the beautiful Guanajuato.

Though it faces strong competition, Akumal has resurfaced as one of the leading beach zones amid Mexico’s post-crisis tourism revival.

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