Akumal, Mexico's trademark is its perfect crescent-shaped bay. The Riviera Maya's first inn was built there in the 1960s, catering to serious deep-sea divers on their way to scout for shipwrecked galleons. Its name means "place of the turtle," and this is where you can see green ridleys making nests on the beaches beginning in May. Swimming with sea turtles is offered year-round.

Although it's now a collection of upscale resorts and villas, Akumal manages to feel like a community. Located 21 mi/33 km south of Playa del Carmen, the compact town entrance has an eclectic assortment of businesses and services catering to tourists. There are also several attractive open-air restaurants, plus an ecological center near the town's popular beach.

The original lodge, Hotel Akumal Caribe, has been nicely restored, and Akumal is still one of the best dive centers in the region.

The coastal highway leading north from the town center passes through a residential area that is also home to popular local eateries.

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