Yal-Ku Lagoon on the Riviera Maya
HOW TO FIND YAL-KU LAGOON
If you enjoyed snorkeling with the sea turtles and rays in Akumal Bay (read more about it here), Yal-Ku is another great place to don mask and flippers. This lagoon is also located in Akumal on the Mayan Riviera and is easy to get to. Take the main road into Akumal from Highway 307, drive thru the arch and follow the road north (left) for about 3 miles. Yal-Ku Lagoon is at the end of this road. There are many private homes/rentals along this road, as well as a few hotels. The way to Yal-Ku is well-marked, even if the quality of the road is a little dicey. Just follow the signs. Ample parking is available on the grounds.
IT’S BOTH A LAGOON AND A CENOTE!
Yal-ku is an inlet where the freshwater of the Yucatan’s extensive underwater aquifer system mixes with Caribbean saltwater in a small lagoon. The area where fresh and salt water mingles is all cloudy and looks striated. This is due to the different levels of salinity and is termed a “halocline”. (Snuck in a little science for you, my friends). The beauty of the Yal-ku Lagoon for me was that you could peacefully snorkel and see an amazing diversity of fishes where the cool freshwater lowers the ocean temperature just enough to make it refreshing.
Sea turtle and ray sightings are rare in this habitat, but it is rich in fish species diversity. You will probably encounter sea urchins (wear foot protection!), starfish, damselfish, sergeant majors, hamlets, parrotfish, blue tangs, and the magnificent queen triggerfish among other Caribbean species. There are mangroves on some of the rocky islands, so be sure to look for the little fishies hiding in their watery nursery among the mangrove roots.
Don’t forget to look up too. Great blue herons are common, and we spent time watching a laughing falcon out on the point, roosting low in a snag. Magnificent frigatebirds can be seen soaring over the lagoon on their 7-foot wingspans. Cranes, pelicans, gulls and egrets are also frequent visitors. On land, pacas, snakes, coatis and agoutis are fairly common. A biologist’s dream!
To help swimmers, there are platforms and stairs to the water for easy entry and exit. Another great advantage of Yal-Ku Lagoon is that during heavy sea-days where the water is too rough to safely swim at the main beaches along the coast, you can have a great day swimming at Yal-Ku, which is protected from the sea and remains calm. The lagoon is extremely easy to navigate and only 6-10 feet deep, so it’s accessible to snorkelers and swimmers of all levels. As you move further toward the ocean in the lagoon, you can swim across a shallow area where the species change somewhat. You usually find larger fishes near the sea entrance since the water is deeper there.
WHERE’S THE BATHROOM
Yal-ku is privately owned. In Mexico, that seems to be the key to quality experiences and conservation of the environment. It costs $14 to snorkel for an adult. Yal Ku Lagoon has clean bathrooms, changing-rooms, showers and lockers for rent at the entrance. Snorkel equipment and life jackets can be rented for a small fee if you didn’t bring your own. The owners have thoughtfully provided a snack bar and shaded areas to sit and picnic. It’s ok to bring your own food if you prefer. If you decide to stay all day, they have rental “casitas” scattered along the shore, which are open-air rooms shaded by palapas. Be sure to bring a t-shirt because sunscreen is not allowed here, unless it is biodegradable.
WHAT MAKES YAL-KU LAGOON SO UNIQUE?
Just the name Yal-Ku in the Mayan language is wonderful. It means “where small things live in safety”. The grounds surrounding the lagoon have been manicured with paths, waterfront benches, palapas and statues. One of the most unexpected pleasures of this place is the art. They have many beautiful bronze figure sculptures on the rocks, the walking paths, and in a jungly garden between the parking area and lagoon. The sculptural styles vary from traditional to contemporary and provide a whole additional dimension to the experience. Art exhibit, swimming, snorkeling, dining and relaxing. Yal-Ku has it all. Plan to get there early or late to avoid the “crowds” and spend 2-4 hours, if not all day.
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
If you visit as a result of our review here, or have already visited and want to share your experience, please let us know below. We LOVE to hear from our readers!