"On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...."

This beloved traditional holiday song is the inspiration for our seasonal blog series, "12 Days/12 Ways", a promotional effort of goodwill we started last year to draw attention to 12 not-for-profit groups or charitable organizations in Playa del Carmen and along the Riviera Maya. So many people from around the world travel to the Riviera Maya during the holiday season. Many reach out to us via regional message boards and Facebook looking for a way to give back to the less fortunate residents in our local communities. 12 Days/12 Ways was started to help these generous, kind-hearted visitors find legitimate and worthy charitable organizations to support, addressing their particular needs for this holiday season.

For each of the 12 days of Christmas, the BuyPlaya Blog, better known as "Life's a Beach", will spotlight a charitable organization or giving opportunity. Some may already be familiar to locals and frequent travelers to this area. Others, perhaps those most in need of recognition and support, may be new to our readers. It is our hope to do this every year, with updated information and wish lists.

The "12 Day/12 Ways" list has not yet been completed for 2012. If you have a favorite charity that you feel belongs on this list, collect all of the information you can and I will be happy to consider your group for inclusion.


CEA AkumalCentro Ecologico Akumal is a non-profit conservation organization working on the Mexican Caribbean to monitor the impact of development on the regional ecosystems and culture; to report findings and their significance to the public through education; and, through education, to influence public policy. CEA is celebrating 15 years of research, education and advocacy in Akumal, working to understand better the natural elements that make this place so beautiful, to raise awareness about how to protect it and to invite others to participate in these efforts.

Centro Ecologico Akumal has a number of ongoing programs:

Marine and Coastal Program and Reef Monitoring and Research subprogram were established to promote the protection and conservation of the coastal ecosystems. With a focus on an integrated coastal system, the Marine Ecosystems Program collects comprehensive data on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the region of Akumal and promotes the implementation of a management policy based on the understanding and study of the marine ecosystem and its services.

CEA Turtle ProgramSea Turtle Program is charged with the protection, conservation, research and management of sea turtles. During the nesting season CEA turtle staff and volunteers patrol the beaches of Akumal in search of nesting female turtles, turtle nests, and recent hatchlings. Their duties include protecting and tagging females, collecting scientific data, relocating eggs (in extremely cases) to more favorable locations on the beach, and releasing hatchlings to the sea. The data that the turtle team collects are then used to determine turtle hatching success, behavior, distribution, and abundance. Raising awareness among tourist and residents on sea turtle biology and conservation issues is of the utmost importance. CEA holds "Turtle Talks" to give information to the people who visit the Riviera Maya. This year CEA documented a record year for turtle nests and hatchlings. By the end of the 2012 season, CEA recorded 200 Loggerhead nests producing 14,856 hatchlings and 596 Green Turtle nests with 43,397 hatchlings. Amazing!

CEA AkumalSustainable Development Program aims to influence development and lessen its impact on the local environment. Sustainable development is development that satisfies present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own needs. By maintaining constant consideration of the environmental benefits that the ecosystems of the region offer and understanding the interconnections among the environment, the economy and society

Water Quality Program works to reduce pollution of our watershed; promoting between the sector public and private the good managing of the solid and liquid tailing; as well as the utilization of technological alternatives that promote a sustainable development in the zone. This is achieved by monitoring the bays, lagoons and Akumal's artificial wetlands, training and application of technological alternatives for sustainable development (solar power, rain water catch, artificial wetlands, composting toilets and waste management) and coordinating activities with the program of Environmental Education to promote the care and managing of the water within the populations of Akumal and Chemuyil.

CEA Environmental ProgramEnvironmental Education is an ongoing educational program to teach both visitors and local people to preserve and respect our environment. Focusing primarily on local children, CEA organizers, volunteers and social service students visit the schools in the Pueblo of Akumal to teach the children how Mother Nature works and how to protect their local ecosystem. The CEA Information Center has been providing this education for the past fifteen years and recently, the tourist and community sectors of the Environmental Education Program have been expanded to include hotels, restaurants and dive shops outside Akumal.

CEA Communications strives to influence public opinion, shape public policy and to help preserve our coastal environment with compelling graphic and informational program. This program focuses its efforts with tourists, residents and hotels to help accomplish CEA’s mission by visually displaying and distributing the research findings and information. CEA has publications and presentations designed to inform CEA visitors about the research programs, problems and solutions at Akumal. There are displays, visually explaining the various research studies in which CEA is involved.

How can YOU help?

CEA AkumalBecome a CEA Member!
Memberships and donations charged through the CEA website are processed via Paypal by CEA's U.S. fiscal sponsor, the Yucatan Environmental Foundation (YEF), and are tax deductible in the U.S. You will first receive an order confirmation and then, when your order is processed, a YEF receipt, which you should print out for your tax records. CEA sponsorship levels are available from $50 usd to $5000 usd. With your contribution of $50 or more, you will receive a card allowing a 10% discount at many Akumal businesses. If you live in the Akumal area, with a donation of $125 US or more, you can receive a parking pass, good for one year, to use in the Plaza Ukana lot.

If you would prefer to pay by check, rather than by credit card, please make your payment to:

c/o Alex Bradley
PO Box 1813
Port Townsend, WA

Please note what level of CEA Membership you are requesting. Please include your e-mail address. Your tax receipt will be sent to you electronically.

CEA Adopt a TurtleAdopt a Turtle!
You can sponsor your very own Akumal turtle! There are three levels of sponsorship to fit any budget. Included in your "turtle adoption" will be an official, personalized Certificate of Adoption, mailed from the U.S. Please send us the name you want on the certificate, and the address you would like it mailed to, if different than your own. The tax-deductible proceeds help support the CEA Turtle Program.

Make a Donation in kind!

CEA's Environmental Education Program has started its activities for the year. They are working with a total of 95 students in the Akumal Pueblo. We take this opportunity to ask for your help in donating materials for the different activities with the students. Your input and support is important for activity development. CEA's Environmental Education Program will cover topics related to the different ecosystems found in Quintana Roo such as general characteristics, their biodiversity and ways to protect them. There will also be recreation activities, handicrafts and other crafts made with recycled material. The schools CEA has been working with are preschool Malintzin, Montessori Primary Otoch Paal, and Telesecundaria José Vasconcelos.

Things you can donate:

  • Digital camera with rechargeable battery
  • Scissors
  • Construction paper (different colors)
  • Hard- and soft-bristle brushes
  • Adhesive tape (clear, brown, gaffer, fragile, masking tape, parcel posting tape, etc.)
  • Sharpie markers
  • Acrylic paint (different colors)
  • Plastic palettes
  • Watercolors
  • Plastic tool set for clay
  • Rattail cord
  • Chinese knotting cord
  • Opaline sheets
  • Plastic beads
  • Tool box (to transport things)
  • Fabric
  • School glue
  • 2" brushes

Please refer to CEA's online wishlist for a complete listing of items and supplies needed throughout the year.

CEA Akumal Beach Clean UpVolunteer!
Each of the CEA programs is dependent on volunteers for its success. There is a recuperation cost for the basic expenses related with your stay, such as the kitchen, cleaning, water, gas, internet, electric, repairs and maintenance. The volunteer fees for the Marine Ecosystems Program are $200 usd/month and $1,500 usd for the Reef Monitoring Subprogram (Grants are available for Mexican Citizens). The monthly fee for other programs is $200 usd (Foreigners) and $100 usd (Mexican citizens). These fees are not tax deductible.

Participate in a Beach Clean Up day!
CEA has been actively cleaning up Akumal's beaches for over 18 years. In 2012, CEA organized three successful beach clean up days! All the trash collected is counted and weighed and the data sent to the Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup providing a country-by-country, state-by-state, item-by-item accounting of marine trash. Subscribe to the CEA newsletter to receive updates about Beach Clean Ups in 2013 to see if one of these events coincides with your visit to the Riviera Maya!

For further information:


Michele Kinnon

I moved to Mexico with my family in 2004 with the hope of offering our children a more global education and world view. Since then, we have traveled through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, gathering friends and life experiences and learning a lot about ourselves along the way. When we are not out and about exploring, Rob and I own and operate BuyPlaya, a Playa del Carmen real estate company and FurnitureMex. "Life's a Beach" is a catch-all blog where you may find anything from restaurant reviews, to recipes, gardening tips, commentary about expat daily life, local events, information about moving to Mexico and educating children in Playa del Carmen. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and .