We know what you must be thinking if you are reading this ‘how is the sargassum going to affect my vacation in Playa del Carmen?’ I think many vacationers are doing a daily “sargassum playa del carmen” google search (it’s probably how you found this post). We really do wish that we could tell you the Sargassum in the Riviera Maya has cleared up, or even that it will be gone soon, but the truth is it hasn't and we have no clue if it and when it will.
But that’s not to say that your vacation will be ruined there is so much more to Playa del Carmen than the beach. So in this blog post we wanted to give you an update on the current situation (we will keep updating this with more news as and when the situation changes) and also reassure you that you can still come here on vacation and let you know where you can find the white powdery sand and turquoise seas still in the Riviera Maya.
The current seaweed conditions in Playa del Carmen as of March 2019
The current seaweed situation in Playa del Carmen is that there are good days and bad days. It is nowhere near as bad as it was in the summer of 2018 when the water was discolored and it smelt very bad. Now the water is mostly back to it’s normal color with just a small amount to Sargassum to wade through to get into the clear water. It really isn’t that bad.
As for the beach, it really depends where you go. For example if you are staying in one of Playa del Carmen's resorts the maintenance guys are going to be up with the sun cleaning the sargassum off the beach before you are even awake. So you really don't have anything to worry about.
If you want to go to the public beach then there is likely to be piles of sargassum you will need to step over before you get in the water. Although it is regularly cleared away it is a huge job and not done daily. As there is more sargassum being washed in every day this means the public beaches are likely to have sargassum still on them.
Don’t worry though we have some solutions for you if you want to use the public beach and not deal with sargassum…. Read on!
Sargassum Playa del Carmen - What causes the Playa del Carmen Seaweed problem
It is very hard to answer this as there are many different theories. So here is what we do know and a few of the theories you can understand without needing an environmental science degree.
Firstly this issue is affecting the whole of the Caribbean and has been since 2011. Since 2011 it has come and gone from beaches around the Caribbean.
There are three theories as to what is causing the Sargassum in Playa del Carmen:
Global warming - as the earth warms more sargassum is produced.
Pollution - Sargassum reproduction is asexual and a theory is that because of the pollution in our oceans it is helping to fertilize the water which is helping the Sargassum to speed up its reproduction process.
High winds causing a disturbance - Thanks to swirling currents caused by storms and high the sargassum is being dispersed throughout the world.
In all likelihood it is probably a mixture of all three things. Interestingly in 2010 the year before the first load of sargassum washed up the sea temperature rose significantly. According to James Franks, of the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory this has had an impact.
We believe that it initially began as a result of shifts we observed in the climatological and meteorological indices - the waters were extremely warm in 2010; there were some shifts in the currents and winds,
But he also states that no one really knows and more research needs to be done.
So what is Sargassum anyway?
Sargassum is a type of brown algae. There are lots of different species but the two most common in this area are Natans and Fluitans.
As annoying as the sargassum is, especially the unpleasant smell it gives off as it is decomposing, there are many positives. Like the fact that it provides food for some many species, think of it as a big floating jungle in the ocean providing food and shelter.
Which beaches in Playa del Carmen are affected by the Sargassum?
Pretty much all of the beaches along the entire cost are effected. The only place in Playa del Carmen that doesn’t seem to be as affected as others is right at the far end of Playacar. However it isn’t easy to access without a car so in all honesty unless you are staying in Playacar we would recommend hopping on a colectivo and heading out to Xpu Ha beach as that is one of the few places that isn’t affected due to it being in a bay.
5 ways you can still enjoy your vacation if there is Sargassum on the beach:
#1 Head to one of the resorts
Can’t afford 2 weeks in one of the all inclusive resorts to avoid the sargassum? No worries, just get yourself a day pass. Most of the big resorts in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum all offer day passes. Simply give them a call to check before you arrive. Expect to pay around $100 USD ( season dependent) and for this you can normally enjoy all of the resorts amenities from 9am until 11pm (food and drink included).
Can’t afford a day pass, no worries just find a clean beach club and then put your towel down in the sand on front of it or to the side. Playacar is your best bet, you can walk in to Playa car and enter the beach through the public access point then just walk down until you hit the resorts.
#2 Enjoy one of Playa del Carmen's many rooftop pools
Who needs the beach and all of that messy sand when you can sip cocktails up on the roof of one of the hotels on the beach. You get the best of all worlds, perfect sea views, and a swim up bar so your hand is never empty while enjoying the pool.
If you don’t mind not having a sea view there are so many more rooftop bars in Playa del Carmen. In fact so many that we should probably write a blog post with our favorites to help you choose.
#3 Enjoy swimming in the Cenotes
So the sea has a bit of seaweed, but luckily in the Riviera Maya we are blessed with Cenotes just waiting for you to explore. The water is fresh and crystal clear, you can snorkel, you can sunbathe, and most of the time you also get the shade of the jungle.
Seriously, forget the beach and head out cenote exploring. Not sure where to go? We run several tours that include a visit to a cenote (some even offer ziplining and rappelling). Or simply hop on a collective and go to one of the many cenotes on the road between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Here are some of our favourite cenotes to explore in the Riviera Maya.
#4 Take a trip to Xpu Ha beach
As mentioned before Xpu Ha beach is in a bay meaning it isn’t very affected by the sargassum. To get there is very easy. Just hop on a colectivo from calle 2 heading to Tulum. Let the driver know you want to go to Xpu Ha (pronounced ‘esh - pu - ha’). Then listen out for him calling out when you arrive. Cross over the road and take the short walk to the beach. Trust us it is totally worth the short trip from Playa del Carmen to Xpu Ha.
#5 Visit Cozumel or Isla Mujeres
If you want to spend a day swimming and relaxing on beaches not affected by the sargassum then your best bet is to take the 8am ferry over to Cozumel and take a taxi to one of the public beaches down towards the south of the Island. You can either head to a beach club or simply go to one of the many public beaches.
We actually wrote a whole post on things to do in Cozumel which you can read here.
Be sure to take your snorkeling gear though as the snorkeling is pretty epic over there.
If you don't mind traveling a little further Isla Mujeres is another great option although you will need to take the ferry from Cancun which will mean an earlier start if you want to get a full day at the beach.
We do offer a day tour to Isla Mujeres although most of the day is spent in the boat snorkeling so if you want to enjoy the beaches the best way to do that is by taking the public ferry from Cancun.
#6 Take a day tour
Who wants to spend their hole vacation lying on the beach anyway? Not where there is so much to do in the Riviera Maya. If you need some inspiration of things to do in Playa del Carmen take a read of our top ten.
If you want to go further afield our top 5 tours from Playa del Carmen are:
Swimming with Whale Sharks (May- September)
So there you have it! Although we all hope the sargassum will leave soon nobody really knows how long it is going to be around for. But now you can rest assured that you can still have an amazing vacation here in Playa del Carmen with or without the seaweed!