This is how to imagine Mexican coasts – turquoise blue, crystal clear water, surrounded by coconut palms. This is usually what the Riviera Maya look like – usually. But for a few years now, especially in summer, large amounts of seaweed in Playa del Carmen have been unestetically on Mexican beaches. Anyone on vacation in and around Playa del Carmen at this time of year has surely noticed the seaweed. This is actually not seaweed, the correct expression would be brown algae or Sargasso.
The right concentration of algae is important for the environment. For example, sea turtles eat the seaweed in Playa del Carmen and hide their nests under it. But the algae in Mexico disturb the idyllic picture of the holiday beach. If you want to avoid the algae during your vacation on the Yucatan Peninsula, you should visit the islands off the coast. Islands have beaches in all four directions. Because of currents, the algae usually only appear in one direction and that is the east coast at the moment.
This article is about:
- Where do brown algae come from?
- More seaweed in Playa del Carmen – algae due to pollutants in the ocean
- When is the best time to travel to avoid algae?
- Avoid the algae on Yucatan’s islands
- Is swimming still possible?
- Brown algae-free cenotes
How do brown algaes grow?
Seaweed in Playa del Carmen: Sargassum – Algeas
Called “Sargasso” in Spanish, these algae are actually something natural and occur temporarily in many places in the Caribbean. They are washed up by currents from the Sargasso Sea, a sea between Europe and America, in which many brown algae grow.
Due to these currents, brown algae are washed towards Mexico and the Caribbean, especially in the summer months. A certain amount of algeas is actually good for the beaches, for example turtles lay nests under the Sargassum.
More seaweed in Playa del Carmen due to pollutants in the sea
Why do brown algae occur in Playa del Carmen and on the mainland of the Yucatan Peninsula?
In the last ten years, however, this phenomenon has massively increased and leads to algae plagues. This is mainly due to global warming, pollution and the food industry in North America. Fertilizers with toxic substances and tons of soy and corn from the animal feed are flushed into the sea. From this huge nutrient algaes form surplus in the water. This so-called algae bloom is found mainly in the summer months on the eastern coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The environmental organization Mighty Earth has discovered that, in particular, an American company, the Tyson Feed and Meat Facility, has carried 104 tons of pollutants into the sea only in the last 10 years. According to their own statements, they are now looking for more environmentally friendly methods of meat production. However, not only the North American industry is responsible for the pollution of the Mexican seas. Excessive hotel construction, land-use corruption and sewage and garbage problems increase the problem. Although legal regulations are in place, they are literally nullified by well-established, corrupt systems.
When is the best time to travel to avoid sargassum?
The good news first: The 2020 sargassum season has not yet started. At the moment the beaches of the Riviera Maya are free of brown algae. The Sargassum Monitoring Network continuously publishes current information on the brown algae situation on the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula on Facebook. Accordingly, most of the beaches are algae-free or only slightly affected.
The Seaweed between Cancun and Tulum occur mostly in the summer months. Then the sea warms up and the algae bloom can grow. In winter there is basically no or less sargassum on the Riviera Maya. Therefore, these months are particularly suitable for a beach vacation on the east coast in Mexico.
Avoid the sargassum on Yucatan's islands
Beach on Cozumel without Sargassum
Due to the currents, sargassum usually only affect the east coasts. In the Riviera Maya, most of the beaches are east-facing coast. As the islands of Yucatan have beaches in all four directions, there you might almost always find beaches free of brown algae.
Cozumel: The beaches on the west and south sides of Cozumel are usually without brown algae
Isla Mujeres: A trip to the island of the woman is worthwhile because of the brown algae-free beaches
Isla Contoi: A trip to the island of Contoi, which is protected by a national park, offers some surprises – and beaches without brown algae
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Cozumel Island Tour: Punta Sur lagoons and beach
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Private Boat Tour Cozumel Isla Passion (Lagoons)
A day trip to Cozumel therefore offers many opportunities to escape the algae on the mainland. For example, you can book a snorkeling tour on Cozumel in the morning and discover the island of Cozumel in the afternoon with a rental car or take a taxi to one of the beautiful beaches on the west side. Due to its southern orientation, the Punta Sur National Park usually has little algae. You can get there, for example, on a private Cozumel Jeep Tour or with a Cozumel rental car. In the evening there is a wonderful sunset on the west coast of Cozumel.
Is is still possible to swim on the Riviera Maya?
Since tourism is an important source of income for Mexiko, there is an increasing fight against additional sargassum. Aids are so-called algae barriers. They prevent the seaweed from getting anywhere near the beaches. These barriers have been set up in front of the beaches around Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum and are now increasingly being used on other beaches. The hotel staff and beach cleaners also work very hard to keep the beaches clean. There should be a beach without sargassum around your hotel.
Depending on the current, the sea is wonderfully clear on some days and the algae are washed up on others. Unfortunately there is no way to predict the algae flow, the situation can change from one day to the other.
Sargassum free cenotes
Cenote at Playa del Carmen / Tulum without brown algae
The cenotes in Mexico are another way to escape the brown algae and still take a refreshing swim in the cool water. Around Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun there are hundreds of cenotes that are worth visiting. On our excursion to Tulum, Cenote and Beach we visit a wonderful cenote with underwater formations.
Is Mexico still worth a vacation?
First of all: Mexico is such an interesting holiday destination. Mayan history, Mexican culture, people’s way of life is always a reason to visit Mexico. In this post we have given some ideas on how to avoid sargassum around Playa del Carmen in Mexico.
Great excursions in the Riviera Maya give an interesting inside of pre-Hispanic history, the cenotes in Mexico invite you to refresh yourself with crystal-clear water and a trip to the beautiful island of Cozumel is always worthwhile.
Brown algae on the Riviera Maya occur mainly in the summer months
The phenomenon has become worse in recent years due to pollution and warming of the oceans
There are mostly sargassum-free beaches on the islands of the Riviera Maya, for example on Cozumel
There are no brown algae in the cenotes of the Riviera Maya
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