On our trip to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, we wanted to swim somewhere we would see a lot of fish and possibly other things like sea turtles. We decided to try out Yal-Ku Lagoon, which is not far from Tulum, and just over 1.5 hours south of Cancun.
Yal-Ku is easy to find, and Google Maps directed us there as well. We rented a car in Cancun at Avant Car Rental.
You turn east off the main highway (Carr. Cancun 307), and then continue on Playa Akumal, following the road as it turns north for a few miles.
Right when we turned off the main road and entered the town of Akumal, there were people telling us to stop. This is not the case – they are trying to sell you tours and tell you where to go. We simply continued on the road and both Google maps and road signs guided us to Yal-Ku.
We finally reached the Yal-Ku entrance. The entrance is small – not somewhere you are going to see hoards of giant tour buses.
We turned on the narrow road to find a tiny parking lot. This part of the lagoon seems to be visited by tourists like us, just visiting on our own and not with a hotel or tour group.
Right off the parking lot is the ticket counter.
We bought our tickets and headed down a short path to the lagoon.
There are bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms, which is all very convenient.
You can also rent lockers for your stuff. We brought our own gear but you can rent snorkels, life jackets, etc.
Also note that regular sunscreen is not permitted. The employees at the ticket counter saw us using sunscreen and were very concerned, but we had reef-safe sunscreen (affiliate link). I recommend a long sleeve rash guard (so you can reduce your sunscreen use) and reef-safe sunscreen, both of which you can easily find on Amazon.
You start out in the end of the lagoon, working your way out to the ocean.
The entrance to the lagoon is very nice with large staircases entering the water.
There are quite a few fish right away as you enter the lagoon.
Even from land we could see blue tang, Sargeant Major, trumpet fish, and much more.
My husband headed into the lagoon with the kids. There were times the lagoon was very busy with tour groups (who had entered along other parts of the lagoon), and other times it was quiet. We liked that by going on our own, we could spend however long we wanted there.
My kids (ages 8 and 10) did an impressive job swimming the lagoon. They are both on swim team, so they snorkeled for quite a distance, and without life vests.
The lagoon eventually meets the ocean. The kids swam out to the reef but were too tired to spend a lot of time there. There is a halocline where the fresh water mixes with the salt water, making things blurry.
My husband headed back with the kids, continuing to explore the lagoon.
The kids spent some time warming up and drying out on the deck, and we also had fun watching wildlife too.
There were a bunch of iguanas sunning themselves around the lagoon on rocks (and on the occasional backpack!).
The walk from the dock back to the parking lot is just couple minutes, which is very convenient when you’re carrying all your equipment.
We had a great time at Yal-Ku Lagoon. I didn’t even snorkel, and I enjoyed how peaceful it was to sit by the lagoon and watching the fish from above! We were hoping the kids would get to see sea turtles when they made it out to the bay, but they didn’t see any. We were told you can go to the Akumal beach for a good chance of seeing turtles as well, where there is a lot of grass growing in the water. While we would have liked to try again, the kids were exhausted, so we passed.
The kids worked up an appetite, so after drying off and checking if it was ok to leave the car in the lot, we walked to a restaurant a few minutes away.
Visit Yal-Ku Akumal Lagoon & Snorkel on Facebook:
Yal-Ku also shows up as “Yalku Snorkel” on Google Maps.
What to bring:
~ Rash guards, reef-safe sunscreen
~ sandals, water shoes
~ Snorkel gear if you don’t want to rent
~ Underwater camera
~ Change of clothes
Check out all of my Mexico blog posts here.
About the Author: Marysa
Busy blogger and mom of two girls! We love traveling and the great outdoors, and are always looking for our next adventure!
~ Some of my other Mexico posts ~
Our Mayan Riviera wedding
Aldea Zama condo rentals, Tulum
Avant Car Rental, Cancun
Cenotes Casa Tortuga, Tulum
Coba Ruins, Coba
Fiesta Americana Villas, Cancun
Muyil Ruins, Tulum
Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen
Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, near Coba
Xcaret Park, Playa del Carmen and Tips for Visiting XCaret
Yal Ku Lagoon, Akumal
Zazil Kin Beach, Tulum
Our Mexico Road Trip Itinerary (with Kids)!
Mexico Packing List
Tips for Traveling to Mexico with Kids
Tips for Swimming & Traveling with Reef-Safe Sunscreen
That sounds like such an amazing place to visit and experience with the family! I would love to go there with my family someday.
Oh wow, what a gorgeous lagoon! I would love to go here one day. My kids would love looking at all the fish.
This was a cool post. I shall be paying a visit sometime soon.
What a great experience that must have been. I have always wanted to be up close with tropical fish like that, maybe snorkeling.
Now that had to of been a trip of a lifetime. It looks like it was a beautiful place to go. I love to travel so I’m hoping at some point I can visit here myself.
This looks like an amazing trip! We love to snorkel and this looks like it was fantastic snorkeling.
How amazing to even see that many fish from land. I bet once you were in the water it was just magical. Looks like an amazing place to visit.
Yal ku lagoon looks really scenic and looks like everybody had a great time. You also were able to get wonderful underwater shots as well as pictures of the animals and fishes.
We went snorkeling in the bahamas and it was a lot of fun. This place looks beautiful, I would love to visit there!
Oh my!! What a pretty oasis!! I love that you could spend as long there as you wanted!! Looks like a place I could experience ALL day long!!
Oh my goodness what an absolutely beautiful looking place to travel to. The photos from your snorkelling the water is so clear and I love the fact they you can see the fish so clearly.
Beautiful lagoon to visit and swim around in to see what is below the surface. Never been to Mexico at all. Looks and sounds like a wonderful place to visit.
This looks like a beautiful lagoon. I would love to visit here one day. I definitely would go by myself and not with a tour group.
This is paradise – I’ve never heard of this place – this would be a dream. I’d love to travel here.
Oh my!! I would love to travel to Mexico one day! Your photos are do GORGEOUS!!
How fun! I’ve never been to that part of Mexico! I’m amazed at the fish, that they were so close and did t take off when you approached them. This will be a trip you never forget.
these photos are amazing!!! you saw so many awesome things. what a great experience for your kids!
omgee so pretty and looks like you had fabulous time! i need a vacation and i would love to go here!
These photos make me miss the warmth! I love all the activities and it looks like you all had a great vacation!
how cool…and what a very neat place. I would love to visit this place someday. Thanks for sharing.
Great photos. You definitely had a great experience. Makes me want to plan my next trip there.
The underwater snorkeling pictures are the best! Its nice that your kids are enjoying these great experiences.
Wow that place is stunning. I LOVE that it’s a small hidden treasure without tons of tourists around.
Wow, this place looks absolutely beautiful! I love the clear water and those fish are beautiful!
Those are some amazing views. I wish we were there now.
This looks so fun. Thays great the swim team helped them to swim the amount they did. What nice memories to have! Would love to go on a similar experience.
This looks like an amazing place to vacation and so much fun. Absolutely beautiful photos!
What a beautiful place. Looks like a great place to visit.
Wow! This place seems like a piece of paradise, Marysa! Would you recommend this place as a good summer destination?
We went in November, so the water wasn’t particularly warm, and the evenings cool down. I think the summer would be a great time to go! It would be refreshing to spend so much time in the water on a hot day 🙂
This is so nice, the Yal-Ku Lagoo is a place to make sure you stop by and enjoy. The fishes, the critters, the changing of the waters. I would want to go in summer with warmer water!!! Kids don’t mind the cooler water, though! And they are good swimmers!
This looks like a beautiful place to visit with my family! The water looks amazing!
This looks like paradise! Good tip on the sunscreen. I’m glad they are trying to protect the reefs. I really need to get down to Mexico.
That’s a very beautiful place with clear waters and the fishes! This place looks like a must visit! I’ll wait till my son is a bit older for us to bring him here!
I love that you can enjoy this place without snorkeling! Just sitting in the area and enjoying the serenity sounds like so much fun during a family trip.
Fantastic! I’ve always wanted to go to a place like Yai-Ku Lagoon. I’m bookmarking this place, it’s probably because I’m just sooo fascinated with aquatic life!
What a wonderful place to visit! No crowds and the water in the lagoon is so clear! I love your photos of the fish and other wildlife. I would be terrified if I find an iguana on my backpack though. Scared of those reptiles!
It sounds like you all had a wonderful and memorable time at the Yal-Ku Lagoon. It looks like such a beautiful location.
Thanks for the pics and the insight in to your lovely holiday, looking at this place for a wedding destination:)
So glad you got to go on this trip. Kids impress us sometimes with their abilities 🙂
Oh my gosh this trip looks like so much fun! That water is so clear!
I’ve been here before and I had an absolute blast! Want to go back after the corona thing is over, lol.
O my love for nature. Nice pictures and thanks for sharing.
Wao, Yal-Ku Lagoon is a very beautiful and heart touching point, thanks for sharing beautiful photos of the point.
Wow! It looks fun and the water is so clear as you can see the bottom. I love nature, fish and the ocean, will definitely consider this on our next trip. Thanks for sharing this to us.
This looks like so much fun! Love the photos.
Wow, what a magical place with beautiful oceans! I would love to go snorkeling there!
Wow, what a great adventure you must have had in the lagoon! Sounds like an amazing place to visit when this pandemic is over.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
The place looks wonderful and relaxing. I hope we have the chance to visit this place someday. Thanks for sharing!
This looks like an absolute paradise! Would love to visit sometime…
This was a highlight of our trip to Mexico and we wouldn’t have gone there if not for this blog post! It was perfect for our family and one of our favorite day trips! This was such a helpful post for our trip planning. We had an easy time getting to the lagoon since we knew not to stop early for people trying to sell tours. We enjoyed our time there – so many fish in such beautiful scenery! Thanks for putting all the tips into these posts!