Sargassum Got You Down? Here Are Some Other Things You Can Do When the Seaweed Rolls In

Sargassum on the beach near Xpu Ha

Millions of tourists each year visit Cancun and the Riviera Maya. The majority are drawn to the picturesque white sand beaches and light blue water of the Caribbean Sea.

Unfortunately, this year the beaches haven’t looked their best due to the arrival of large amounts of seaweed, called sargassum.

Sargassum has been around for a long time; however, it wasn’t much of a problem until 2011. That year everything changed and, for reasons that scientists are still debating, there was a massive and unprecedented Sargassum bloom that severely affected both the Caribbean and the west coast of Africa.

Suddenly, huge floating rafts of seaweed started washing up on beaches, clogging inlets and severely impacting both the tourism and fishing industries.

Since 2011, large Sargassum blooms have become the norm; however, some years are better than others. Unfortunately, 2018 has been one of the more severe years and it has prompted many readers of the blog to contact me directly to ask when I think it will end. Here’s my answer, “I have no idea.”

Sargassum arrives in waves and we will often have a few great Sargassum-free beach days followed by a few days where the foul-smelling plant stacks up on our shores faster than it can be removed.

If you’re here on vacation, my advice is to take advantage of the good days to enjoy the beach and to find an alternative activity on the bad days. Here are a few suggestions:

Visit the Ruins

There are several to choose from throughout the Yucatan but our favorite ones to visit are in Tulum. They are located right on the coastline and at the highest point, you can stand at the top of a cliff and look out over the Caribbean. It is truly breathtaking.

Visit a Theme Park

There many theme parks to choose from in the area. Most offer a wide range of activities like snorkeling in cenotes, cave exploring and zip-lining.

Some of our favorites are Xcarat, Xel-Há, Xplor and Aktun Chen.

Cool Off in a Cenote

Cenotes are natural pits or sink holes that fill with fresh spring water. They are normally crystal clear and the water is cold — a perfect place to get some relief from the summer heat.

You won’t have any trouble finding a cenote, there are over 6,000 of them in the Yucatan Peninsula but they aren’t all open to the public. If you’re looking for one that offers snorkeling and cave diving options near the beach, check out Dos Ojos.

Head to the Islands

I’m not talking about Jamaica either. Both Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are only a short ferry ride from the mainland, and depending on the currents, the western side of both islands is often clear of Sargassum.

Shopping, Wining and Dining

It’s the perfect opportunity to visit some shops, bars and restaurants. If you want to explore on foot, I recommend going to 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. There are a ton of great restauarants, cantinas and stores.

Get a Day Pass at an All-Inclusive Resort

Many of the all-inclusive resorts will offer day passes to non-guests. The resorts are a nice option because many have multiple swimming pools where you can spend your day eating and drinking to your heart’s content.

The price for day passes vary; however, most range from $50 – $100  USD per person.

Head Inland

Why not rent a car and head inland to explore some cities and towns that are not as touristy as the coastal area. We highly recommend visiting the colonial city of Valladolid. It’s one of our favorite places in Mexico to spend a night or two.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Since we’re retired and live in the Riviera Maya full time, we have the flexibility to change our schedule at a moment’s notice. If the weather is perfect and there isn’t any Sargassum, we head to the beach. If the weather is perfect but there is a lot of Sargassum, we either head to the pool or do one of the activities I mentioned above. In either case, we make the best of the situation and still end up having a great time.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

19 Comments on "Sargassum Got You Down? Here Are Some Other Things You Can Do When the Seaweed Rolls In"

  1. Great advice, Paul. So much to do, so little time!


  2. Cherry Scott | July 25, 2018 at 9:37 am |

    Thanks positive take on the sargassum. I’ll share this on my Facebook. I’m a local, but it is great info for tourist friends.

  3. Thnx Paul, Went to Aktun Chen for the first time yesterday and it was enjoyable plus did the ATV to a swim cave at the Monkey Sanctuary / Akumal. Was surprised at how nice the facilities were at both places & they support the locals. Still wish to see a Jaguar in the wild (but only the 4 nose snake behind glass like at Aktun Chen 🙂

  4. I’m so looking forward to it!

    Another place to go – Crococun Zoo near Puerto Morelos. Kristen and I went there and enjoyed it. I’m sure there are a ton of others…

  5. Paula Landis | July 25, 2018 at 10:16 am |

    Not much sarg at all in Progreso 🙂

  6. Ingrid C Royle | July 25, 2018 at 10:22 am |

    Thank you once again for a great post. I enjoy hearing from you.

  7. Isla Mujeres was busy last week with LOTS of daytimers coming over to Isla Mujeres. We are so fortunate on the island that there is a team that gets up early every morning to clean the sargassum off the beach. Playa Centro and Playa Norte beaches are absolutely beautiful!!! Much better is to spend at least a week on the island – many wonderful places to eat, the friendliest people on the island, and lots of choices of places to stay.

  8. Bee Zallito | July 25, 2018 at 1:07 pm |

    Thank you for the positive spin on something we have no or little control over-the arrival of sargassum.
    Yes, there are lots more activities to do and places to see. That’s why I love it here! Way to share!!!

  9. Be glad it’s not PLASTIC that is spoiling those beaches! Hope tho it will be gone at the end of August, September cuz I am planning a trip down there…O well, wine and dine then ;)’

  10. Exactly why I spend most of my time on the beautiful and more authentic Pacific side of Mexico. And there are many picturesque beaches that are a joy to swim in , especially if you know where to go. Not to mention the sunsets. Before 2011 the Caribbean side was clear and beautiful, now I spend little time there.

  11. Me and my wife just discovered three fairly new cenotes about an hour from where we live in the yucatan. It’s only been 5 yrs open to the public called:  Cenote Tzapakal at Cuzama. We were in Playa De Carmen a few weeks ago and was disappointed with the huge amounts of Sargassum on the beaches. But, that’s life in Mexico sometimes. Adapt and find other interesting things to do for sure!

    • Q-Roo Paul | July 25, 2018 at 3:41 pm |

      Thanks for the tip on the great cenote. We’ll add that to our list of places to visit in the near future.

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