Steady temperatures and otherworldly scenery make the Caribbean a hot place to visit in more ways than one. When cold weather descends upon the less fortunate countries of the world, this sultry swath of the globe becomes even more attractive; in fact it’s practically impossible to avoid heading down here one winter or another. A few particular places tend to dominate travelers’ wish lists and unfortunately show signs of overcrowding, but a little research will reveal that you can find virtually the same set of scenes with fewer bodies milling around. Consider Akumal, for example. Several miles south of crazy Cancun, this vacation destination is lovely, brimming with activities, and doesn’t inspire images of over trodden beaches or spring break bonanzas.

Akumal is on the Caribbean coast known as the Mayan Riviera. Granted, it used to be more remote than it is now, but it’s still much quieter than some of Mexico’s other major tourist draws. Thus, during a visit here you’ll find it possible to enjoy a mind-blowing beach perfect for surfing, swimming and sailing all in one day, and come across a few unexpected options as well that don’t include dodging underage drinkers or fighting for a spot for your beach chair.

The Yucatan peninsula is rich in history, brimming with inlets big and small, and pretty easy on the eyes. Akumal itself has three distinct bays that provide ample opportunity for all that you want to do, so save some time to visit Half Moon, Aventuras, and Akumal Bays. Individual areas, like Yal-ku Lagoon (a good place to go snorkeling) and Jade Beach will compete for your attention, so it might be a good idea to start at the top and work your way down the coast so as not to miss a single stretch of sand, sun and fun.

In addition to scuba diving at one of the 30 or so reef sites, lounging on the white sandy beaches, and sipping tropical drinks at a beach bar, you may also find yourself heading out to sea on a catamaran for a fishing expedition unlike any other. A guide will take you for a ride that’s complete with sightseeing, a picnic lunch, and lots of good advice and instructions. Especially during the summer months you’ll be likely to reel in some whoppers, so don’t forget to bring your appetite for freshly caught fish.

Part of Akumal’s allure is that it feels like a secret place that’s been hidden from view. A few lucky tourists aren’t the only ones who enjoy this phenomenon; another group is the sea turtle population. Akumal is the home of a non-profit group specializing in marine research, conservation, and sea turtle protection. This organization lends the region a certain status and respect, as not everyone has taken the time to make environmental protection a high priority. While you’re here, stop by the center to learn more, and if you’re lucky you might spy a turtle to two. By the way, Akumal means “Place of Turtles,” so you’ve come to the right locale if you have a soft-spot for these slow-moving beach dwellers.

For total immersion into the laid-back lifestyle of Akumal, make sure you consider renting a vacation property. This distinctive getaway deserves distinctive accommodations, which is exactly how a condo, villa or beach house in this region can be classified. Instead of a standard hotel that will feel vaguely familiar, find yourself a true gem that feels unique to your tastes and needs. Most of the properties here are drop-dead gorgeous, and many are surprisingly bargain-friendly, especially if you start doing your homework now. If you play your cards right, you could end up in a charming adobe casita with lots of space and stellar amenities that will propel your vacation into the stratosphere.

Go online to discover the Akumal Vacation Rentals available, and set the wheels in motion. You and your traveling companions deserve to have an amazing trip, so start planning now to achieve the best possible outcome.

Caitlin Moore