Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Akumal Report

Well . . . at least part of it! Lots of folks want to know what we thought about Akumal.  How did it compare to Isla Mujeres?

Here are some of the pro's:

If you love snorkeling, you can wade right in off the beach and go for it.  The snorkeling's good in Akumal Bay, Half Moon Bay, Ya Kul Lagoon, and probably many other spots we didn't investigate on down the coast.  Craig saw turtles every time he snorkeled in addition to all the colorful fish.  He could literally just grab his gear and step into the water right in front of the condo building.  And it's a safe place to snorkel without a lot of boat traffic.  Since the bays are snorkeling tour operators' bread and butter, they're watching for people in the water.  And the bays are beautiful.

The shopping's unique.  Akumal has some galleries (a little pricey) with art and crafts that are a cut above the usual souvenirs.

It's quiet!  Muy tranquilo, especially on Half Moon Bay where we stayed at Playa Caribe condos.  The shoreline's mostly occupied by expensive homes (more like estates) and condos. The beach down below our condo had some palapas with loungers, and only one or two were occupied on any given day.  A woman next door spent her day painting the scene with watercolors.  The only sound was the waves hitting the shore.  No party boats, no A.I.'s with loungers blocking the sand and shoreline, and no people putting towels or flip flops on loungers at 7 a.m. to save a place.  (That's my pet peeve in paradise!  Keep me away from those people!)

That condo was like heaven -- an infinity view from the living area and bedroom. We were even greeted with a large gift bowl of fruit and assorted snacks.  The building had its own state-of-the-art filtration system which made the water totally safe to drink.  Being the untrusting soul that I am, I still drank bottled water, but Craig drank the water with wild abandon and had no problems.  And I used the ice, so that water system was a miracle in Mexico!  (Actually, we stayed at a penthouse in Bucerias, Mexico in 2010 that had the same luxury, but the owners provided a water garrafon for wary people like me.)  And don't give me any guff on this next one.  A sign in the bano noted that the toilet paper was biodegradable and the condo was set up to flush away.  A property manager was onsite during the day to rent bikes and handle any questions.  We were on the third floor and the building had 24/7 security, so we relaxed to the sound of the waves with sliders open the entire stay.  It was cool enough that no A/C was needed.

 View off the balcony at Playa Caribe.

 Gorgeous sunrises every morning.

 View north from the condo on Half Moon Bay.  Notice the uncrowded beach!

Master bedroom in the condo.

Kitchen/dining room area.

 View south down Half Moon Bay at sunset.

Oceanfront condos seem a little more affordable in Akumal as opposed to Isla Mujeres, probably because there are more of them!

It was a great base location for exploring the Riviera Maya.  Tulum and its ruins and beaches are just a short collectivo ride down the road, and from there you can venture on to Coba, Sian Kaan, and other points beyond.  We used a collectivo to get to Tulum, then a bus from Tulum to Coba.  The transportation once you got out to the main highway was cheap and efficient.  Thinking back on it, our fellow passengers on the collectivos were almost all locals and the drivers did not speak English, but we managed to communicate (very poorly) where we wanted to exit.

The beach side of Akumal's very clean.  Notably clean!  We never saw a single pile of dog poo the entire time, and there was no trash on streets or beaches.

Par for the course in my tropical travels, calamity struck the first full day in Akumal.  Literally, I fell (more like was thrown) off my rental bike onto the asphalt road.  Loose handlebars.  They showed no signs of being loose until I ended up on the pavement.  I landed on my hip and knee and feel fortunate that I didn't land on my head or break any bones.  (Wonder what age a person stops bouncing?)  The hip was so bruised and sore that literally, I couldn't sleep on that side.  If that wasn't bad enough, on Day 2 I stumbled in a huge street pothole down by Akumal Bay and once again landed flat in the road.  This time the exposed rebar in the pothole broke skin on the knee and we limped the mile plus back to the condo with blood streaming down my leg.  The condo, of course, was equipped with a fabulous first aid kit, so I was able to use alcohol to thoroughly clean the knee and bandage it.  Basically, the rest of the planned activities were cancelled for me because I was too swollen and bruised.  I also think the moist air (as opposed to dry Phoenix) played a part in the degree of aches and pains. Fortunately, the snorkeling was great right out front and Ya Kul was a short walk down the road, so I liked that Craig could still easily find ways to entertain himself for the remainder of the trip. And really, who could possibly complain about being marooned on a lounger on a balcony with this view! 

Now here are the con's:

The food choices in Akumal aren't anything like Isla Mujeres.  We found a few restaurants that we really liked and stuck with them.  I'm sure that perception would change a little if we'd had a rental car and ventured up and down the highway to restaurants in neighboring areas.  But Isla Mujeres definitely wins the restaurant competition for great food and easy accessibility, but truthfully, I think Isla Mujeres is very unique for its number and variety of great food choices.  Maybe it's not fair to compare other places to Isla in that category.

Transportation can be a problem in Akumal.  Let's just say it's a place where transportation isn't made easy for you if you're a traveler without a car.  Taxis don't circulate much beyond the main Akumal gate.  The easy solution would be to stay in the central part of the village, or to rent a car if you're staying beyond Akumal Bay.  If I hadn't gotten banged up early on, it wouldn't have been an issue for us.  We planned on using bikes during the daytime and walking after dark.  I will say that the road through Half Moon Bay had some very dark areas with few street lights, so the condo's flashlight came in handy! I'm telling you, that condo was equipped!  The dark walk down a deserted road in Mexico would be a little worrisome/spooky for a single woman, but almost every estate and condo building along the road has night security guards on duty.  So we felt safe.  But if I was a singleton in Akumal, especially a woman, I'd stay in the Akumal Bay area close to the village and restaurants.

We loved the fact that Akumal was quiet for the first few days, but then all that solitude started to wear on us.  It's VERY quiet.  Craig and I aren't party people, but the streets in Akumal roll up in the evening.  Maybe it's a little livelier in high season?  Unlike Isla Mujeres, Akumal doesn't have an El Centro with a bustling village. 

The beach side of Akumal's also fairly gringo.  I don't mean that as an insult, but it's probably a little too sterile for our tastes.  The resort side of town is mainly populated by ex-pat's and tourists.  Most of the signs are in English.  Finding someone who speaks English is not a problem. That being said, the pueblo side of Akumal on the other side of the highway is where the locals live and shop.  We rode our bikes there the first day (the scene of the accident) to stock up on groceries.  We took one look at the shelves of the two supermarkets in the main resort area (a lot of the items on the shelves were unmarked?) and decided to head across the pedestrian bridge to a tienda on the other side.

Would we go back to Akumal?  I'm sure we will!  Snorkeling snorkeling snorkeling!  Craig loves it, and it is superior there!  It was an extremely relaxing place to hang out, but we probably wouldn't spend more than a few days.  Our take is that Akumal would be a great place to retire if you're looking for a very peaceful ocean side place in Mexico within easy reach of shopping, airports, medical, etc....

I'll just say we once again ventured further afield in search of greener pastures, but as always, we'll be back to Isla.  Soon!  (At least I hope.)

I'll be posting more photos of Akumal in the next few weeks. More to come!


drgeo said...

"Akumal would be a great place to retire..." vs "Would we go back--yes, but we would only spend a few days..." So it is good to retire there, and yet you guys are retired and would only spend a few days? Confused.

Life's a Beach! said...

Now don't be confused! LOL

krisla said...

Thanks for that report...I really didn't know much about Akumal. Snorkeling, esp seeing turtles & tranquility sound good. But, I think I would miss crashing waves, come to think of it. What about the color of the water? compared to Isla, that is...?

Life's a Beach! said...

Kris, the waves were crashing when we were there. The water is much the same color as it is on Isla, but Half Moon Bay has more of a coral type bottom as opposed to Akumal Bay which appeared to be more sand.

The weather this November was a little disturbed our entire trip and the water felt colder to me than last year. I'm guessing the windy weather made the water cooler. I love floating in the warm water, and it was too cool to be relaxing for me. I'm like Goldilocks!

The tranquility was great, but Isla stills wins because we can stay in a very tranquil setting there with crashing waves and easily step in and out of the action of El Centro. And the restaurant choices are just better on the island. Akumal's definitely slower, but still a nice choice.

Anonymous said...

Hello..Lets not forget that Akumal is only 20-25 mins away from Playa de Carmen and there is way more choices for resturants , shopping, and there's even a Sams club nearby "hello"...

Pablo Alejandro Macías Torres said...

That was a great vacation!! I'm convinced vacation rentals by owner are a different a cooler way to experience travels to México!