It's been extremely cold here in Maryland this winter, but as luck would have it, Bill and I had planned a winter get-away just in time to avoid the "dreaded" Polar Vortex! They say timing is everything, and our flight was scheduled for Sunday morning, just hours before the deep freeze arrived in the Mid-Atlantic.
After traveling to the Riviera Maya last year, we decided that we wanted to spend a bit more time in Akumal -- the place of the turtles. Mid-way between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Akumal is a quiet tourist destination with white sandy beaches, plenty of sea turtles, and the impressive coral structures of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef are just a short swim from the beach.
Originally a coconut plantation, Akumal was officially founded as a scuba diving community in 1958 by Pablo Bush. It wasn't easily accessed by road until the 1970s when Highway 307 was built, though it still maintains a sleepy charm that has been replaced along most of the coast by the development of the mega-resort all-inclusive hotels that dominate the terrain between Cancun and Tulum.
Technically Akumal comprises 6 different bays (from north to south): Yal-ku lagoon, Half Moon Bay, Akumal Bay, South Akumal, Aventuras Akumal, and Jade Bay. We spent all of our time in the three northern bays.
There is only one road leading into Akumal from Highway 307, and the white archway of Hotel Akumal Caribe, which is still owned/operated by the Bush family, lets you know you've arrived in the "town." Much of the Akumal's commerce and activity takes place near this archway, where you'll find two small grocery stores, a handful of stores, most of the local restaurants, two dive shops and access to Akumal Bay.
|The archway leading to Akumal|
|Statue of Gonzalo Guerrero, Spanish sailor turned Mayan lord and father of the Yucatan Mestizas|
|Super Chomak -- the largest grocery store in Akumal|
|El Pueblito has a smaller selection of groceries but has ATMs that pay out in either US dollars or pesos|
|Local farmer's market every Wednesday and Saturday near the arch and just outside of El Peublito|
Akumal Bay seems to be the most popular beach, with no shortage of soft white sand to walk along, and an abundance of sea turtles feeding close to shore. Last year Akumal Bay provided excellent snorkeling -- we saw several turtles, the biggest parrot fish we've ever seen (more than 6 feet long!), several barracudas and schools of cuddle fish. The beach has gotten more popular in the past year, and they now have a buoyed maze to swim through and keep you away from the boat traffic but also some of the best coral structures.
|Akumal Bay in 2013|
|A few buoys, but a serene scene in 2013|
|The new buoy system for snorkeling in Akumal Bay|
|Navigating the buoy system|
Many people rent cars, golf carts or bicycles to get around, but we opted to explore the area on foot this year.
|Bill checking out the local golf cart rentals|
|Half Moon Bay|
|View from the northern part of Half Moon Bay|
|North Half Moon Bay|
|The view from Playa Caribe Condo|
|Our Easy Shot Clip HD video camera with underwater housing that clips onto your mask strap|
We spoke with people snorkeling with the more expensive GoPro cameras, and they had the same problem... But with a bit more practice I'm sure we'll get some good underwater video to share!
The Akumal area has plenty of great restaurants and watering holes to visit when you're not in the water. Lol-Ha, which is right on the beach in Akumal Bay, has a great happy hour from 5-7 with half price drink specials and free chips and pico de gallo.
Turtle Bay Cafe is a popular breakfast and lunch spot, with a great happy hour from 4-6. You can get beers for 20 pesos, 2 for 1 margaritas, tacos for 70 pesos, and flatbread "pizzas" for 80 pesos. The ahi tuna tacos are certainly not authentic, but absolutely delicious!
|Turtle Bay Cafe|
La Buena Vida on Half Moon Bay also has a great happy hour drink specials from 5-7 and beers are 15 pesos each. The food left a bit to be desired here, so we stuck with the libations.
|La Buena Vida|
|La Cueva del Pescador|
|Me with Teri and her family at Las 3 Acapulquenas|
|A fusion of Thai and Mexican cuisine and decor at Gynn'ak|
|Lionfish washed up on the beach. Note the size compared to the 6" long Bic pen|
As with any vacation, the time flew by way too quickly, and now it's back to the snow and bitterly cold temperatures. But at least we're rested, rejuvenated, and refocused on the work we need to do to really get Phoenix going this year. 2014 will be busy, but there should be plenty of progress and sailing to write about!
|Phoenix on our frozen creek. The ice eater is getting a workout this winter!|