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In Mayan, Akumal (pronounced ah-koo-maal) means "place of the turtle," and this portion of coast is a storied nesting ground, especially at Half Moon Bay. Akumal first attracted international attention in 1926, when explorers discovered the Mantanceros, a Spanish galleon that sank there in 1741; then, in the 1960s, diver Pablo Bush Romero established the Hotel Akumal Caribe. The rest is history.

Today Akumal is an Americanized beach community, home to divers, fishermen, and laid-back expats from the U.S. and Canada. It’s essentially a long string of upscale homes and condos along three bays. Akumal Bay is the best base for visits, with a good selection of hotels and restaurants plus the best all-around beach for swimming and snorkeling. Half Moon Bay, just beyond, has decent snorkeling and more condos for rent, but the beach is narrow and rocky. Laguna Yalku is a protected snorkeling lagoon.

Bypass the vendors at Akumal’s entrance offering snorkel gear for rent. Although their rates are slightly less than you’ll pay elsewhere, once you tack on conservation fees, parking, and a guide, you’re better off going through an official dive shop.

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