We need to address the Sargassum problem in the Mexican Caribbean. This issue is becoming more and more relevant, as you will almost for sure experience it, to some level, during your vacation. I would never send a client to Cancun, any time of the year, without alerting them of this possibility, so that their expectations are reasonably managed.
Playa Del Carmen June 2021and March 2021
First to explain what is Sargassum: It is a brown seaweed with buoyant, oxygen-filled bladders that keep it floating on the surface of the water. It can clump together in huge masses, often miles long, washing up and collecting on the beaches and in the sea. It is specifically located in the Caribbean Sea. We first started noticing it in 2015/2016, I was flying to St. Lucia for business and observed it from the plane. That is how big the clumps are. When we arrived to St Lucia, we were hearing the stories from the staff about the beaches being covered in sea grass just a few days ago. We had to visit Barbados for a day, and Barbados beaches were covered in sea grass. The staff in Barbados was telling us that just a few days ago everything was clear. In the last 4-5 years most of it is concentrated in Mexico, although we had some wash up in the Dominican Republic last summer.
Playa Del Carmen June 2021 and March 2021
As you see in both photos we have a stunning Caribbean turquoise sea, and then when the seagrass collects, it looks like a sewer spill.
One thing we know for sure: it’s unpredictable. Even though we have ‘sargassum season’ (summer months), one day you can have a screen-saver-worthy beach, that the next morning it can look completely unrecognizable. Then 2-3 days later it can be like the seagrass was never even there!
Traditionally, winter months fare better than summer. The warmer it is, the more chances of Sargassum washing up on the shores. The resorts have cleaning crews that are working daily and removing tons of seagrass of the beaches with no really visible results. The tons they remove are just a tip of the iceberg.
These two photos were taken at the same exact spot 1 week apart January 2022 Playacar Beach
Traditionally, the last month we would expect to see Sargassum is January, but here we are. I feel like the only difference about seaweed outside of the summer sargassum season is that it is mainly in the water, doesn’t collect on the shore and smell.
This is a photo for an article NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC published in summer 2021 about it. And I will absolutely vouch that I saw beaches looking exactly like this (even worse) numerous times. There is a musty, pungent smell, and yes flies are flying around it. Gross is an understatement.
My first trip to Cancun in 2021 was mid August, and my expectations were not very high about having a postcard worthy beach. I was in the center of the Cancun Hotel Zone. Imagine my pleasant surprise when my beach looked like this August 14, 2021:
I cleared my day of all the appointments, and spent almost an entire day in the water. At that point, after 2020 with almost no travel at all, it’s been a really long time since I enjoyed what I love the most – swimming on the perfect beach.
With no warning whatsoever: no rain, no change in the direction of the wind, no change in temperature, 2 days later I woke up to this same beach looking like this:
It stayed like that for the rest of my stay in Cancun.
I was back in Cancun end of October/beginning of November 2021, also in the Cancun hotel zone, in another resort about 1/2 mile down the beach (it’s all the same long beach), the entire time we had no seagrass. Very lucky.
This was taken November 01, 2021 at Live Aqua. I think it inspired my decision to pick Live Aqua and this beach for my DC’s Big Bash 2022 – November 3-7, because I am really hoping we’ll be lucky enough to have this stunning beach as a backdrop.
To plan your dream trip to the Riviera Maya, or any other of my favorite destinations, email (insert email link with subject DREAM VACATION) or call me at 800-303-7901.