Akumal is a town about 20 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen off the 307 Highway. Here you can find the Yal Ku Lagoon. This area is an inlet from the ocean and the salt and fresh water mix. The calm turquoise waters are home to sea turtles, tropical fish and manta rays. This place makes for an nice afternoon of snorkeling.
Some tour companies offer this but you can also do this on your own if you like as you can read below.
Yal Ku Lagoon
Yal Ku Lagoon is very organized and clean by two companies that each have their own entrance to the lagoon. The first one is smaller and is the left two blocks when you get to the end of the Akumal beach road. The other is at the very end.
When you pull into the parking lot you are greeted by a guard that explains what the park is and what is permitted and what is not (you cannot bring outside food and drink nor can you use non-biodegradable sunscreen). You will pay and get a bracelet to wear. There are changing areas, bathrooms and lockers for use.
See our video introduction to Yal Ku Lagoon in Akumal
What you can find at the second company for Yal Ku
There are small palapas to rent and they come with hammocks. They are designed nicely because on one side they have some privacy from the trails. These palapas (open cabins) make for a nice place to shade your group and spend the day lounging around and enjoying the view. There is not too much shade or sandy spots to lay out besides the cabins so make sure you plan on being in the sun while here.
When you walk to the lagoon you will see many bronze statues. This is a nice statue park and even around the lagoon you can see some of these works of art. These are a nice addition to the park.
Because the second company has the cabins and is more centrally located on the lagoon, we prefer this one. If you want a little quieter location at the end of the lagoon but don’t need a rental cabin, the first company can do just fine.
What to bring to Yal Ku Lagoon
Make sure you bring:
- sandals for walking
- maybe some water shoes because the area is rocky and it makes it easier to get in and out in some areas.
- biodegradable sunscreen
- waterproof camera
- and if you want to, your own snorkel gear
Tips to use while at Yal Ku Lagoon
- The area around the lagoon is rocky and some of the natural rocks are very rough. When you are swimming you may want to get out and explore the little islands and the water shoes will come in handy on the sharp rocks.
- You can spend hours here snorkeling around. There are many little areas to discover. If you go toward the mouth of the lagoon near the ocean there is strong current and only good swimmers should go there
- Life jackets are optional to wear in the lagoon unless you are with a tour.
- Where there are mangroves, make sure you look under the water at the roots growing down, there will be fish hiding out there and it is nice to see.
- On the back side the water is clearer and calmer. You will notice a haze in the water here and that is just the salt water mixing with the fresh water that is coming from the land and running into the ocean. In some places you can dive down and it becomes much clearer.
- Some places the water is shallow and there are rocks where you can stand and rest. Most of the lagoon is 5-15 feet deep (1 1/2 meters-3 meters).
- Tour groups do come here but since the lagoon is large you can always swim in another direction and enjoy the nature here.
Services at Yal Ku Lagoon
The Yal Ku Lagoon is set up pretty well. There is a free parking lot, snack bar, bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, lockers, and rental equipment for snorkeling at both of the two companies that run Yal Ku.
The larger company that is a little further to get to however has cabins you can rent for the day. These make a nice place to rest both from snorkeling and from the sun.
Hours of operation
Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm.
Tours to Yal Ku Lagoon
Since getting to Yal Ku Lagoon is not really possible by public transportation and not everyone wants to rent a car and find things on vacation, you might want a tour. There is one tour that is good and will allow you to see this beautiful area. To learn more about this Yal Ku Lagoon tour, click the button below to take you ta information sheet on the tour.
Directions to Yal Ku Lagoon
If you are driving here you will enter the main entrance to Akumal. You will pass through the main entrance arch and then follow the road to the left as it parallels the beach. It is about a drive for 8 minutes until the end . You will see yellow signs for Yal Ku that direct you to the either one of the companies that run Yal Ku.
Note: The first turn the left at the end of the road is the first company for Yal Ku Lagoon. This is the smaller of the two. If you want to go to the larger one, driver just a little farther to the end.
Tip: Parking can fill up especially on the weekends by 12:00 noon. Arrive early or visit during the week for less people.
Public transport to Yal Ku Lagoon
If you take the colectivo from Playa Del Carmen or Tulum, you will get off by the main entrance and walk into Akumal. You will need to take a taxi to the lagoon because it is a long walk, about 23 minutes and usually it is sunny and hot. If you do walk follow the same driving directions above. For more on how to take the colectivos to Akumal, check out our article here.
Other similar activities like this one
If you like these type of activities you might also want to read about Xel-Ha. It is a very similar area but is more of a commercial park. There you can swim all day and food and drinks are included but of course it cost more.
Puerto Morelos is a popular place to snorkel the reef as well. Here is one tour that will pick you up and take you to Puerto Morelos to snorkel.
Most of the catamaran tours out of Puerto Aventuras will take you to a nice spot on a reef to snorkel. Here is our article about catamaran tours to take.
Also check out the cenotes you can visit when in the Riviera Maya. We have several articles on what they look like and how to get there in the Everything Beyond Playa tab.
Have you been to the Yal Ku Lagoon? What did you like about it? Tell us in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.
Hey guys! Just so you can update your article the entry price today was 269 pesos per person! (Or 14USD). Locker was 50 pesos. We had our own equipment so not sure of those prices but I think they were just under 100 pesos. We also managed to jump in a taxi back to playa for 350 pesos! Must’ve been a slow day!
Thank you for the update on prices at Yal Ku Lagoon. We checked our article and that was exactly one year ago we were there. Prices always seem to rise and especialy with the exchange rates. We hope you had a great time swimming around there!
My family was looking for a fun day that wouldn’t break the bank. This place was perfect. We rented a car and got there about 10:3O. We ended up eating at the snack bar restaurant and got hamburgers, burritos, nachos. Cash only. By 2:00 the place was packed with tour groups. Their posted exchange rate is 15 pesos to 1 US dollar. The current rate being 17.5-glad We brought pesos. Thanks for your reviews, this was a great find!
Hello.We just wanted to say what a lovely day we had at Yal Ku Lagoon. We would of missed it if we did not read about it here. Your tips were spot on. THanks for pointing this gem of a spot out to us. Cheers!
We are so happy you found the Yal Ku Lagoon and had a good day there. When we were there the snorkeling as fun and we loved taking photos there. We hope the rest of your vacation is great. Let us know how everything is so we can pass tips and comments on to other readers. All the best!
We loved yal Ku Lagoon! It is stunning and a cheaper version of some of the places to snorkel. The ricks are a little sharp so it is good to bring aqua socks.
This website is really cool. You have great tips for visiting place like this. I read it all the time to plan out our trips.
How much does it cost to rent palapa at the first place? How many do they have and do I need to book in advance to have one?
Thank you! Great article!
Yal Ku is a great option for a day of swimming! It has nice space for swimming an cabins to relax in. This is a hidden gem along the coast. It is best to drive yourself here.
This is a beautiful spot to swim and snorkel. We would of never found this if we did not read about it here. It is hidden. We did see online some people selling this as a tour but if you have a car or can walk you can do it yourself.
We had heard of this lagoon but you made it easy to find. We drove here and are glad since the walk would of melted us Cool place and we really enjoyed our afternoon there.
This looks like a beautiful place. It is on our list of places to go snorkel. Thanks for posting and the video.
This was a great place to snorkel. Thanks for telling us about it.
Thanks for another wonderful article and suggestion. This place was wonderful and my family loved snorkeling here.
A big thank you for this suggestion. We loved this lagoon and snorkeling here.
Can I bike from Playa del Carmen to here? Is there a place to lock my bike? I am a cyclist, so I know that I can handle the distance 🙂 I am also concerned about road conditions, if the traffic respects cyclists fairly well.
You can bike here but the trip will be on the only road in the state. It is a highway that you can bike on. It gets bus, truck and all the other traffic. There is a shoulder for most of the road, so that is good. The speed is about 100 kph or 60 mph. It is hot and open to the sun so going early is key. There is a place to lock up but have a good lock. Not many people bike there but it is possible.
Going back to Yal-Ku in October of 2018?
Hope that the place has not changed since 2013.
Just the way that I like it.
Not much has changed there. There is another entrance point but it still feels about the same. If a tour group comes it can be busy until everyone get in the water, but it still is a little hidden place.
Going back in October.
Was there in the 80s and 3 years ago and the place was still in awesome shape.
Hope it still is?
Hi, would you recommend to bring my 2 year old here or would it be too hazardous with the sharp rocks?
Well this place does not have beaches to ease into the water. Is your 2 year old going to swim much? There are cabanas you can rent that that will give you shade and a place to sit. It is best to go to the far end of the road to that entrance because the cabanas are there.
Does anyone know how much it costs to rent a cabana, and how early one would have to arrive to get one in early January? Also, has anyone taken the tour advertised on the sign with admission prices?
You really don’t need to take a tour here. It is self explanatory and fun to go art your own pace here. To get a cabana it is best to get there by 9am in January. The second entrance is best to use, which is the end of the road from town.
In your opinion, which is better to snorkel and see between xel ha and yal-ku? Is xel haha too crowded that will ruin the experience? Is yalku not as nice but cheaper and more serene? Just want to pick one as one day but not sure which.
Yal Ku gets tours as well and can be more crowded than Xel Ha. Xel Ha is huge and you can avoid crowds. Only the beginning of the river is more crowded. I would go to Xel Ha because it is much more relaxing and entertaining plus good food included. It is worth it in my opinion. Yal Ku is more for people that live in the area and want a cheaper place that is a little more chill and don’t need the ultimate snorkeling experience. Plus there is very limited places to sit at Yal Ku. It is mostly rocks and there are only a few cabanas to rent.