YAL-KU LAGOON

on the Riviera Maya, Mexico

Yal-Ku Lagoon on the Riviera Maya

by | Apr 5, 2016

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.

YAL-KU FISH

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.

YAL-KU WILDLIFE

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!

SNORKELING CONDITIONS

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!

Yal-Ku Lagoon

Don’t Drive in Panama City, Panama!

With no street names or numbers, and 24 hour traffic jams, don’t drive in Panama City, Panama. Walk, take a cab, a bus, a train, or bike instead! Listen to our funny experience and enjoy the beautiful photos.

Read More

Gamboa Rainforest Resort

Where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort nestles in a tropical rainforest filled with wildlife, culture, & relaxation-ahhhh. We especially recommend Gamboa, Panama for nature lovers.

Read More

Magical, Mystical Bali

A traveler’s introduction to the magical, mystical Hindu island of Bali, Indonesia.

Read More

8 Delicacies of Mexico’s Yucatan

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has great food sourced in the Mayan culture. We encourage you to be gastronomically adventurous on your visit to this magical region. Two main ingredients are sour orange juice and a specialty spice paste called recado.

Read More

3 Perfect Days in Cozumel, Mexico

There is something exceptional about the island of Cozumel, Mexico. The energy, the peace, the people, the ocean. Sea turtles nest here in counterbalance to huge cruiseships. Somehow, the synergy of her Mayan goddess Ix Chel prevails.

Read More

Cozumel, Mexico

The Mayan “island of swallows” known as Cozumel basks in the warm Caribbean Sea off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Famous for idyllic beaches, water sports, diving on the Meso-American Coral Reef with its rich underwater flora and fauna, the isle is a warm, welcoming immersive experience into Mexican and Mayan culture.

Read More

Vibrant San Miguel de Allende # 2

Countless travelers have come to San Miguel de Allende for a few weeks’ vacation, and never made it back home. So charmed were they by the hip, colonial, old-Mexico modern vibe that they purchased homes on the spot and had their worldly goods shipped south from the USA or Canada.

Read More

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico #1

Traditional, eclectic, historic, vibrant, artsy. All these words have been used to describe the village of San Miguel de Allende located in Mexico’s heartland state of Guanajuato. With an energetic nightlife, outdoorsy focus, international ex-pat community and welcoming local residents, anything and everything that interests you is here in a temperate mountain environment.

Read More

Top 7 Things to Do on Staycation

Sometimes a great choice for time off is to catch up on tasks that are stressing us, establish practices to feel more relaxed and less harried, and just explore and enjoy where we live and spending time with family and friends.

Read More

Chichen Itza, Mayan Metropolis

A visit to Chichen Itza is awe inspiring, BUT there are key travel tips you need to know to fully appreciate and enjoy your visit, avoiding the throngs of vendors. Read our Best Travel Advice section to hone in on the best options. You’ll be glad you did.

Read More

Idyllic Paamul Beach and RV Community on the Mexican Riviera

Projecting a 1960’s style hippie beach commune vibe, the hidden gem of Paamul on the Mexican Riviera has remained a pristine paradise. The offshore coral reef is breathtaking and in good condition. Scenery here boasts the whitest of beaches caressed by a turquoise sea, alive with coral and tropical fish. Also an RV Community, it’s a Baby-Boomer’s dream of tropical bliss.

Read More

Yal-Ku Lagoon on the Riviera Maya

Yal-Ku is a protected lagoon where freshwater from the cenote empties into the salty ocean. Rich in fish and wildlife, it’s a safe and easy snorkel for all abilities. It Is also a wonderful outdoor sculpture exhibit and provides a café for snacks. Adjacent to Akumal, this place has it all!

Read More

Akumal on the Riviera Maya

Akumal on the Riviera Maya is a complex of five beautiful beaches known for easy to find sea turtles and rays. It is an ex-pat hangout and gets busy in the middle of the day. Best relaxation and snorkeling is early morning and late. Great beach restaurants make this an ideal chill spot.

Read More

Xcaret Park, Riviera Maya

Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park is a must-see on the Riviera Maya of Mexico. Plan two days if possible because there is so much to see and do: wildlife, Mayan culture including the famously difficult ball game, geology, swimming, Mexican heritage, orchids, great food and drink. There are beautiful evening shows to enjoy as well.

Read More

Swim with Whale Sharks

From June to September each year, lovers of fish and wildlife can snorkel or dive with the largest fishes in the ocean – whale sharks. These mammoth filter feeders feast on zooplankton off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They are truly gentle giants.

Read More

The Town and Beaches of Tulum

Tulum is a fascinating mix of Mayan archaeology, Mexican history and international boutique beach hotels. The beaches are all idyllic Caribbean white sand and turquoise waters. Visit now, before planned government developments attract the huge tourist crowds of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Read More

Tankah Tres Beach & Cenote Manatee

This beach and cenote go by multiple names. By any measure, Tankah Tres Beach and Cenote Manatee are a mellow, uncrowded spot to relax for a day, or an entire vacation. Snorkel, swim, dive, birdwatch, sunbathe, relax. Close enough to Tulum to access fancy restaurants and nightlife, this is an ideal spot on the Riviera Maya.

Read More

Great Eats by Arenal Volcano

The restaurant Chifa La Familia Feliz is operated by a classically trained Peruvian chef in La Fortuna, Costa Rica near Arenal Volcano. Chifa is a synthesis of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine very popular in Peru, and Lima in particular. Chef Martin cooks behind a glass wall, so you can watch your meal taking shape in the immaculate kitchen of this 6-table delight. Eat here. Definitely.

Read More

Aktun Chen on Riviera Maya

Beautiful dry cave, cenote, zoo and zipline experience. Aktun-Chen is Mayan for cave (Aktun) and underground river (Chen). They emphasize the importance of protecting endangered species and maintaining jungle habitats. We support their efforts.

Read More

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen, Mexico is a touristy beach town on the Caribbean. It’s quite laid back compared to Cancun. A great central location for exploration of Riviera Maya and the Yucatan Peninsula, it has everything for a relaxing or energizing vacation.

Read More

Gelaterias in Panama

Gelato and Italian food is everywhere in Panama due to a 1966 immigration agreement. What a treat for tourists and residents! The gelato is made with the freshest Panamanian fruits and It’s totally delicious.

Read More

Riviera Maya Overview, Mexico

On Mexico’s Riviera Maya, you can have any vacation experience you desire: chill-out, luxury, budget, wildlife, adrenalin adventure, educational, historical, geological, archaeological, shop-till-you-drop or party all night. What a fabulous place. We can’t stop going back.

Read More

Shake Your Booty, Agouti

Our original fresh tropical fruit drink recipe created with overproof Jamaican rum and Caribbean Guavaberry Liquor – very potent. After one of these you’ll want to “Shake Your Booty, Agouti”!

Read More

The Relationship Between Arts & Culture

The arts are an expression of prevailing culture, both the positives and negatives. Arts are shaped by culture. Personal expression holds a mirror to society and shapes culture in turn. This creates a rich on-going dialog.

Read More