We have been to Akumal twice now, both times during Spring Break, and both times we stayed in the Luna Azul condos in Akumal. On our first visit (2006) we rented a unit on the 3rd floor, on our second (2007) visit we got a unit on the ground floor. These units are modern and well-appointed and will have everything that you could possibly want for your stay. Both times our unit had two bedrooms -- one room with a king-sized bed, the other room with two twin beds. The area (Half Moon bay) is very quiet. There is a small convenience store just a hundred yards away where you can get quickie stuff like chips, soda, cereal, beer, etc, but for most of your shopping needs you'll want to visit the town's main grocery store in the town center. That is only a few minutes's drive down the road by car, or you can even walk to the main part of town from Half Moon Bay in about 10-15 minutes. Luna Azul is also only about 5-10 minutes' walk to the Yal-Ku lagoon, where you can rent a mask and snorkel and paddle about in the super-calm water and enjoy the fish. There is a small entry fee to get into Yal-Ku lagoon, which I gladly paid, but a friend of mine who goes to Akumal often (he has a house there) tells me that they always just enter off to the side and skip the entry fee. Cheapskate. There are no lifeguards at Yal-Ku (or anywhere else in Akumal for that matter), so don't send your kids there unsupervised. You can rent life vests at the entry station, which I thought were well worth it, given the ages of my kids.
If you like the idea of a warm sunny beach during Spring Break, but you think that "Beach, Spring Break" equates to a place crawling with wall-to-wall drunk, loud, over-sex'ed college students, then think again... Akumal definitely does NOT fit that description. Akumal has absolutely no night life that would appeal to your typical college undergrad, is very family-oriented, and extremely quiet. There are no discos or similar night spots, only a few bars (which close at reasonable hours), only one street that serves most of the rental units, and only a handful of restaurants. It is truly a "sleepy little town".
I highly recommend a unit on the ground floor, either at Luna Azul or at any of the other fine and similar condos located on Half Moon bay, especially if you have young children. On our first visit our youngest child was 8 and so every time he wanted to go back to the unit to get something, go to the bathroom, etc, one of us had to go with him to help with the lock and to make sure that he didn't get into something in the unit that he shouldn't be messing with or otherwise get distracted and wander off to who-knows-where. Having a unit on the ground floor saved many trips up and down the stairs. Another plus with a ground floor unit was that ground floor units have patios right on the sand, so we could just sit on our patio all day while the kids played on the beach (the water's edge is only about 50 yards from your patio). On the previous visit in our 3rd floor unit, we felt that we had to get down to the beach every day fairly early so as to secure one of the limited number of palapa umbrellas that are permanently installed out there -- we don't like to sit in the sun all day long. Having a ground-floor unit meant that we could use our shaded patio all day long while still being 'on the beach' which is where the kids wanted to be.
Both times we rented our unit from LocoGringo.com, and have had nothing but positive experiences with them. The LocoGringo web site is an excellent resource to use for checking out the Akumal area and doing research. You should have a look, even if you are not renting from LocoGringo.
Here are some of my recollections about Luna Azul and Akumal in general, in no particular order:
-- On both visits, our young kids quickly made friends with other kids in other nearby condos, and so they always seemed to have somebody to play with. Making friends in other condos came with the added benefit that some of these other condos (e.g. the Playa Caribe right next door) had a small pool, so we ended up getting pool privileges as "guests" of the kids staying there. Frankly, nobody seems to be policing the pools all that much, so if you just wander over from Luna Azul to Playa Caribe and happen to fall into the pool, and it takes you a while to get out, I doubt that anybody would say anything to you.
-- It's so easy to get to Akumal from the Cancun airport -- exit the airport, hang a right before you cross the overpass (if you go over the overpass and cross the N-S highway, you'll end up in Cancun), then keep going until you get to the Akumal exit. The road is a 4-lane modern divided highway. You do have to go thru a couple of towns which will slow your progress. Maybe one day these towns will have a bypass, though you might appreciate the town if you need to purchase gas or want a quick bite. Watch out for the 'topes' (aka speed bumps) along the way. Imagine sawing a bunch of bowling balls in half and gluing them across the road in a strip. They are killers.
-- There is essentially one grocery store in town (Super Chomak), which stocks almost anything you want or need (we even bought sand toys there for our kids), and I felt that the prices were quite reasonable there as well. I've seen other posters talking about how they stopped at the Sam's club in some town halfway between Cancun and Akumal to stock up on this or that. Yeah, I guess you could do that, but I think it's a waste. You're on vacation, right? Shopping at the local grocery store adds to the experience of visiting another country, shopping at the Sam's Club adds to the experience of visiting Anytown, USA.
-- There is only one ATM in all of Akumal -- it is located in the aforementioned Super Chomak. WARNING #1 -- both times that I have visited Akumal, I have gone to use the ATM midway through my visit and found it to be out of cash. WARNING #2 -- when the ATM is out of money, it is not the #1 priority of the store to get the machine refilled, nor is it the #2, #3, or #4 priority of the store to get it refilled. The ATM can be out of cash for days on end. On my second visit, the ATM was out of cash for three days straight and I got so desperate for cash that I had to drive over to the Akumal Beach resort and sweettalk my way past the security guard at the gate and then past several hotel staff until I finally got access to their ATM. So -- lesson learned -- if you are in the Super Chomak and the ATM is working, use it, even if your wallet is already stuffed full of cash, since it may be your one and only chance to use it. Some things in Akumal are on a cash-only basis, including the grocery store itself. All restaurants that I visited would take credit cards.
-- If you are in the Half-Moon area (and perhaps even if you are not), be sure to visit the La Buena Vida beach restaurant (an easy 10 minute walk down the beach from Luna Azul). Tons of fun, excellent food. Kids and adults both will like the "tree houses" which are there. There are buckets with ropes that make delivery of cold bottled beverages easier than coming up and down the ladder, not sure if the waitstaff will actually deliver food up there. Seats at the main bar are swings -- again more fun. Lots of fish skeletons hanging over the bar.
-- The beaches at Half-Moon bay are excellent, with powder-fine white sand. Almost every morning I awoke to find beach maintenance in progress. Staff from the various condos will be out there, raking up any seaweed and trash that might wash up overnight. You will find lumps of coral in the sand, but it is mostly smooth, having been eroded by the sea and sand over the years. Even so, you might want to take a pair of those rubber-soled "water socks" or similar (e.g. Teva sandals) that you can buy at places like REI. Having these might make your experience in the water a little better.
-- Be sure to drive down to Tulum and see the Mayan ruins there. It's only maybe a 20 minute drive further south on the same road you took from Cancun to Akumal. We hired one of the uniformed tour guides that are hanging out near the entrance, and it was worth the small fee that she charged. We had her exclusively to ourselves and learned and saw so much more than we would have if we had self-explored the site. Skip the shuttle service between the parking lot and the entrance -- it's only a short walk and, if you hire a tour guide, they will use the walking time to give you some background on what you're about to see. She even pointed out chicle trees that were growing alongside the road as we walked, and we got to taste some chickle sap. Chickle used to be the main ingredient in chewing gum (think "Chicklets" gum) and was used by the Mayans for this purpose. Before or after your Tulum tour, there is a nice (but not overdone) market outside the entrance to the ruins where you can do some shopping if you like, or sit under an umbrella with a cold drink.
-- We ended our 2nd visit to Akumal by driving over to Chichen Itza for a two-night visit (you can read my separate review on TripAdvisor about that visit). If you have time, visiting C.I. is well worth it -- it has probably the most famous and best recognized Mayan ruins in the area, if not in all of Central America. On your drive from Akumal to C.I, you'll likely pass though the town of Valladolid, which is a good place to stop for lunch and perhaps a quick stroll of the city's historic town center. There is a nice public square/park right in the middle of town, and also the usual very-old and very-historic Catholic church right on the square, which you can stroll though at your leisure (we didn't find that there were any official tours when we were there -- just go in). If you go to C.I. for an overnight stay, skip the nighttime light and sound show. Just getting into the show was a hassle -- you have to queue up to surrender your driver's license as collateral for the headphones. Once in our seats, we found that the headphones (which work via infrared signal broadcast from a couple of towers at the front of the audience) hardly worked at all for us (we were seated near the rear of the crowd and off to the side). Between the intermittent sound from the headphones, as well as the cheesy light show and cheesy narrative when we could hear it, we ended up leaving well before the end of the show. I'm glad we did if for no other reason than we didn't have to wait in a long line to turn in the headphones and get our driver's license back. Given the size of the crowd and the inefficiency of the process when we entered, those at the end of the line after the show were probably in for a 30+ minute wait just to get out of there.
-- On our trip over to C.I., we passed by the entrance to the Mayan ruins of Coba. Since we were looking to get to C.I. as soon as possible, we didn't drop in for a tour, but it's definitely on our list for next time (March, 2010). Coba is an easy drive from Akumal (maybe 45 minutes) -- just drive South to Tulum, turn right, then maybe only another 20-30 minutes on a good two-lane road. I haven't been to Coba (yet) but from what I read it is one of the largest Mayan ruins in the whole Mayan empire. Much of Coba remains unexcavated, you can get your "Indiana Jones" experience there and see what other places such as C.I. must have been like in their unexcavated state. Coba has one of the tallest/biggest pyramids around, and the last I checked you can still climb it (at your own peril). The place is so big that they have bike rentals to help you get around -- fun!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.