Seaweed in the Riviera Maya in 2018
Whether you’ve been to the Riviera Maya in the past few years, live here in the area, or are thinking about coming, you’re probably already aware of the growing sargasso problem. Seaweed in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya has gotten worse in recent years, and can present a challenge to those beautiful beach days you want while here.
What is the Seaweed?
The seaweed in Playa del Carmen is known as sargasso or sargassum. Sargassum is a type of sea plant that lives in shallow waters and coral reefs. The plants can grow a few meters long, and you’ve likely seen this type of seaweed before.
Although the plant is itself harmless and natural, it can create problems when it drifts onto the beach. As the sargassum dries and rots, it gives off a fairly strong sulfurous smell. In addition, it is not great for the environment to dispose of. It also clouds the water and can leave a residue on your skin (which is harmless).
What Causes the Sargasso in the Riviera Maya?
The seaweed in the Riviera Maya and Caribbean comes from an area known as the Sargasso Sea. In this area of the ocean, a ton of sargassum grows on the sea floor.
There are a few reasons the seaweed gets worse during certain times. These include:
- Rising temperatures of the ocean
- Wind and current patterns
- Storms driving the seaweed to shore
- Inactive hurricane season, leaving sargassum whole
When is the Seaweed the Worst?
In general the sargassum is at its worst during the summer months. The best time to visit Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya to avoid a summer of seaweed is from November to February. During these periods, you are far less likely to sea sargassum piling up on shore. However, wind shifts and weather changes may still cause the seaweed to float ashore.
Things to Do to Avoid the Sargasso
Although the Riviera Maya is known as a beach destination, there are many things you can do to enjoy your time when the sargasso is bad. Here are a few of our recommendations.
There are a ton of natural cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. The cenotes are away from the beach and have fresh water. Most importantly, they are always seaweed free. You can ask around for the best cenotes in your area, or check out one of our favorites, Cenote Azul.
The eco parks in the area are really world-class. There’s something for everyone. As the parks are often on lagoons, you can swim in the water and hang out on the shore without seaweed. Try checking out Aktun Chen or Xavage for two of the less-crowded parks. You can also read our post at https://therivieramaya.org/xel-ha-vs-xcaret/ about Xel-Ha and Xcaret, two of the most popular and beautiful parks.
A great thing to do when the seaweed is bad is to visit Cozumel. You can take the ferry to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen pretty easily. The westward-facing beaches are almost always seaweed-free, and there are plenty of things to do on the island.
One of our favorite things to do when the seaweed is bad is to check out one of the many rooftop pools in town. You can find beautiful pools, delicious food, and incredible ocean views while swimming. We recommend checking out Purobeach in Playa del Carmen.
Visit Mayan Ruins
If you’re in the Riviera Maya, you have to check out some of the Mayan ruins. There are quite a few ruins near Playa del Carmen, and they are sure to be free of the sargassum. For one of our favorites, spend some time at the site of Muyil and in the surround biosphere.
Although there may be some seaweed washing ashore, the fishing is still great. Get out past the seaweed, and check out some of the fishing in the area. Whether you want to deep sea fish, fly fish, or spear fish, there are many ways you can get out on the water.
Play a Round of Golf
Finally, play a round of golf on one of the world-class golf courses. There are many great golf courses you can play right in Playa del Carmen. Get out in the sun, tee off, and enjoy your time in paradise.