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Yal-Ku is a narrow inlet through which fresh water traveling via underground rivers reaches the ocean. The lagoon has many small islands and areas where wildlife, flora, and fauna thrive. The primary activity at Yal-Ku is snorkelling.
One of the things that makes the Yal-Ku park so unique and beautiful are all of the great statues they've added throughout the grounds--on the rocks and in the forest. It's hard to tell exactly how many there are. Dozens? More than a hundred? They're all unique and genuine pieces of original art.
There's no beach at Yal-Ku, you just jump in off the rocks and start snorkelling.
Towards the entrance (the shallow area) there are lots of colourful fish. I got to see one of the very shy bright yellow "parrot fish". Out further, in the area where the lagoon meets the sea, you can see stingrays and if you're lucky, some sea turtles.
You can buy burgers, pop, and a modest lunch from their snack stand or you can bring your own. We saw several locals that had come to the park for the day and brought picnic baskets.
There are small bathrooms and a shower at the park but no change rooms--you'll have to use the bathroom for that.
Yal-Ku is open every day from 8:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m.
Admission was 65 pesos. Snorkel equipment rentals are available at an extra cost.
Updated Dec 16, 2010
I never seen any turtle here, maybe it´s possible to see some during the night at the rigth season...but this place is a nesting place for green turtles. There are also some environmental associations in the area. So if you´re tired of the hords of all-inclusive resorts guys, this could be a good option.
Written Apr 21, 2009
We booked a trip through Aveturas Maya called "Tulum Extreme" that was a BLAST!! It included a zip line, a rappel, swimming in an underground ceynote and a visit to the ruins in Tulum. As a couple of middle-aged women who'd never done anything like this before, we were afraid we might wet ourselves on the zip-line, but were surprised to find, it was just plain FUN!! Our guides were terrific. Very safety conscious, organized, funny.. and with great knowledge of local history, flora and fauna. I would highly recommend this tour. It was worth every penny.
If you go: Bring enough cash for tips, a cold drink at Tulum AND $25 for the photo CD of your rappelling and zip line adventure. There are lockers to store your valuables while you play.
Updated May 26, 2008
Scraaape-ka-bonk! That's about the dozenth time I've hit my head on a stalactite crawling through this enormous underground cave and cenote system. I'm glad we were issued these helmets or I'd be covered with blood by now. A "cenote" is a cave formed by an underground river travelling through porous rock. "Aktun Chen" literally means "cave with an underground river inside" in the Mayan language.
"A stalactite hangs from the ceiling," our guide explains, "and a stalagmite is what grows on the ground." He describes how they take thousands of years to form from water dripping off limestone, and how the stalactite and stalagmite will eventually join together forming a hollow column.
Some of the cave tunnels open into massive caverns. Cave walls have been lit up with hidden bulbs, showing spectacular formations.
Our guide is extremely knowledgeable and quite funny. He points out quartz deposits, alcoves where bats are sleeping, areas that archaeological artifacts were found, and conch shells that have been petrified into the limestone walls. "This whole area used to be under the ocean," he tells us.
In the last cavern at the end of the one-hour tour, he hits a switch that lights up an underground river. It's a gorgeous sight!
Exiting the cave system is an area with exotic animals to look at as you walk your way back to the entrance gate--parrots, monkeys, deers, capybaras. Nothing very impressive with this part of the tour and I feel sorry for most of the beasts. I walk over to a cage that says "Danger, vicious animal!" I look inside a hollow log in the cage and see a little cat trying to sleep. The display of snakes is impressive, and as much as I don't like them, I feel sorry for them as well.
Overall, the $25 price was reasonable for the tour but Aktun-Chen isn't something I would recommend first-time visitors to the Mayan Riviera. Do not bring your bathing suit because you can't swim in these caves. But wear clothing that breathes; the caves are hot and humid. And bring bug spray against the mosquitoes.
Updated Jul 10, 2007
"Cave with an underground river inside" is the translation of the Maya title AKTUN CHEN.
The park itself is 988acres, of which is mostly unexplored rainforest. 3 caves have been discovered and it is the main one, with cenote, that is open to the public.
At the reception/visitors centre you will be given hard hats and an informative tour guide who will escourt you for the duration of the 75 minute tour through approximately 600m of cave. The finale is the cenote. It s waters are 12m deep and absolutely crystal clear. It is surrounded by thousands of stalactites and has bats flying overhead - beautiful. This concludes your tour.
This was our first stop in Quintana Roo and the first time we had experienced the company of other tourists. The nice thing was there really were not many - 4 others in total!
It was in the park that a spide monkey came and sat down next to me and touched my knee before scooting off into he trees again :)
Would suggest walking sandals for this cave because at points you have to walk through (shallow) water.
Written Jun 23, 2007
I don't know if this tip belongs in "Things to Do" or "Off the Beaten Path", but it's my personal theory that every town's main commercial centre is worth at least a quick look. Akumal's downtown is still very much a dusty little village, slightly reminiscent of some of Clint Eastwood's old spaghetti westerns. There are only two or three corner stores, a few kids playing, dogs wandering around aimlessly, and some workers taking naps on the sidewalks. Look around and you won't see any tourists; and that's a refreshing thing along the Mayan Riviera. I think the town serves mostly to sell gardening supplies to the resort hotels--there were a few larger storefronts selling rakes, massive bags of grass, and hedge clippers. There's not much to do here, it only takes a few minutes to walk around the town, and you'll notice people looking at you kind of wondering whether you've taken a wrong turn somewhere. These shops don't speak any English.
Take a good look at this sleepy little village because you probably won't recognize it in a few years--growth in the Akumal beachfront area is booming and massive development of the downtown will probably come with it very soon. If you're the kind of tourist that calls places "ugly", do not visit here.
Updated Apr 20, 2007
Yal-Ku is a beautiful natural lagoon near Akumal, it reminds me a lot of Xel-ha when we visited it back in the late 1980s, before it became commercialized with a large admission fee and lots of people. You can swim all the way out to the sea but we saw the most fish right near where people were getting in and feeding the fish. While I didn't see anything unusual but I did see lots and lots of fish. Yal-Ku is starting to show up on guided trips but it wasn't overly crowded.
Admission is 75 pesos for adults, more if you need to rent snorkel gear. I didn't ask but I didn't see any lockers. There is a bathroom and changing room. Currently it's open from 8 am-5:30 pm.
Things to bring-camera, money, towel, biodegradable sunscreen, bathing suit, extra tshirt if you are as fair skinned as me to snorkel in, snorkel gear, water/beverage. Although I swam without fins, it would have been nice to have them.
We visited from Playa del Carmen via a combination of colectivo and taxi, if you are staying in Akumal, you'll probably either be able to walk or catch a taxi, check with your hotel on the distance.
Written Dec 27, 2006
Yal Ku Lagoon is located about 3 miles from the centre of Akumal. You can walk along the road to it (about 30-40mins) but it is very hot with little shade. It is interesting to look at all the villas, hotels and apartments along the route, however. The Lagoon is where the fresh water reaches the sea and is a lovely natural environment which has been enhanced with sympathetic planting and the addition of well chosen and tasteful statues. As for the snorkelling, what can I say! We saw more varieties and greater numbers of fish there than we did at the much more expensive Xel Ha, and in a much less commercialised setting. It was only $7 dollars for adults to snorkel all day, with lockers to store your kit in. The water is very clear and was warm enough to be comfortable without suits when we went in April. As other tips mention, you cannot wear ordinary sun cream, only biodegradable, so please remember to take a t-shire to be more environmentally friendly. Another tip is definely to get there early, before lots of people with flippers reduce the visibility by stirring up the bottom layer. We were the first people there in the morning at 0830hrs, and the visibility was great. Also be careful what you do with your shoes. We left ours under a bench and someone moved them by mistake. This resulted in a few panic-stricken moments thinking they had been stolen before they were returned to us!
Written Jun 8, 2006
Address: Yal Ku Lagoon, 3 miles from Akumal
A visit to the Mayan ruins at Coba is within easy reach of Akumal Bay - it takes 45 minutes by coach. We took an organised trip with our travel agent as it included a tour of a neighbouring Mayan village, a swim in a cenote, lunch in a local restaurant and a visit to a local handicraft shop - all for under $100 for adults. You could arrange it yourselves by hiring a car, or by taxi, but we found it easier to take the organised trip. My only criticism is that the visit to the ruins was a bit rushed and we were given very little time to climb up the pyramid - it was also very hot, so take the usual sun precautions and plenty of water. The swim was very welcome afterwards. We also saw a poisonous coral snake, so please take care and give them plenty of room to escape into the undergrowth.
There is about a 2km walk from the entrance to the pyramid, but you can hire a bicycle or a "Mayan taxi" (bicycle with driver) both ways for a few dollars.
Written May 15, 2006
When in Akumal it is very easy to visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum as they are only 10-15 minutes away. You can take an organised trip from the hotel or do it yourself by taxi or collectivo (you need a half day to see them properly, and perhaps cool down with a swim from the gorgeous beach). The area has been cleared of jungle, but you can find shady areas to escape the sun. You need hats, water and sunblock and comfy walking shoes. Look out for the iguanas which sun themselves on the rocks.
Written May 14, 2006
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