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The Summer of Seaweed

How Playa Del Carmen and the Rivera Maya have dealt with it.

seaweed on the beach mexico

It actually started late 2014 summer and at first everyone thought it was just some seaweed washing ashore. That happens from time to time. Then it kept coming.

This is not the first time this has happend and we are not the only ones being affected. It is however something we have not seen in decades. Much of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida have been effected as well. Here is a look at this historic inundation of seaweed on the beaches that we have been faced with.

Update: We have gone up and down the coast a little and as of September 6 we are at about a 8 out of a 100 for seaweed. The warm temperatures and the wind currents have brought some to our shores. This is not a major issues but we just like to keep you updated as to what things are like here. Of course there are some areas with none and some with a little more.

When will the seaweed go away?

We are glad you asked! In fact many people ask how things look at the beach because it is a day to day changing situation. People actually have been checking in with people in other parts of the region and looking at webcams to get a daily report. Then people make decisions to go visit a beach along the Rivera Maya or stay put. This however is not possible for people that book their holiday months in advance.

Nasa and Texas A&M have developed a website that gives advanced predictions of the floating mats of seaweed. It is an interesting website to look at. It is called the SEAS project which stands ” Sargassum Early Advisory System“. Here is the website: Tip: Go to the forecast section and look for Yucatan Passage 18 for the forecast for the Riviera Maya.

What is the cause of the seaweed?

There are different opinions to the cause. The most popular are:

  • Changing climate and wind patterns blowing the loose mats of seaweed to coastlines.
  • Nutrient rich waters producing more sargassum (seaweed).
  • When there are periods of low hurricane activity, the natural process of being “chopped up” by storms is lessened and more seaweed is floating around.

How to Escape the Seaweed

Now that the seaweed has been here for a while, some people have just gotten used to it and swim out past where most of it is. However there are some places you can go to avoid it.

  • Visit a cenote. These natural water pools are inland and have crystal clear water.
  • Xel-Ha park is a natural inlet and has ground water flowing out to the ocean. This area is fairly clear of seaweed.
  • Visit a roof top pool club in Playa Del Carmen. Most of them charge a minimum consumption of 200-500 pesos and you can lay by the pool. One roof pool you can check out is Be Playa.
  • Take advantage of the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula. Everything is not all about the beach here and there are many treasure to explore. For example there are Mayan ruins and colonial towns to visit.
  • One of the most consistent beaches that is not as affected is on Isla Mujeres.

Removal of the Seaweed

Usually the routine is when seaweed is washing ashore, staff from hotels or beach clubs will rake up the seaweed and dig a hole in the beach and bury it. The seaweed breaks down and becomes part fo the beach. When there is more seaweed that washes up and it has been several days, the seaweed is raked up and often carted away because you can only bury so much in beach.

The city of Playa Del Carmen does have beach racks. They are a tractor that has rotating tines that pick up seaweed and trash from the beach. The tines rotate and drop everything in a tray and the sand falls out back onto the beach. This is very efficent for cleaning large swaths of the beach. The city does not uses these everyday leaving it up to people to do the work of romoving the seaweed to make the beaches more beautiful for visitors.

seaweed on the beach in the Riviera Maya

A man rakes up seaweed on the beach.

|After a while the less used beaches just got piled up with seaweed as you can see in the photo below. This remote stretch of beach just north of the Canibal Royal Beach Club is lined with seaweed.

seaweed on the beach in the Riviera Maya

A streach of beach north of Playa Del Carmen just past Canibal Royal.

While most people dislike the seaweed because it is unsighlty and can smell when decomposing, there are actually some good things about seaweed.

  • Seaweed makes great mulch for your garden. It is rich in nutrients and is a natural deterant to bugs and pest.
  • It brings nutrient to dunes and helps plants grow near the beach.
  • The seaweed slows the errosion of the beach and in some places the beach is 3 to 17 meters wider!
  • Seaweed attracts flyies and insects which might not sound like a great thing, but shore birds do enjoy it. This makes for ample feeding for them.

When the seaweed is alowed to pile up it makes mounds. The floating seaweed is actually alive and green but dies when it reaches the shore. If water remains traped behind these mounds it can become pretty smelly.

seaweed on the beach in the Riviera Maya

Seaweed piling up near the boats.

seaweed on the beach in the Riviera Maya

Seaweed mounds.

Most of the seaweed seems to collect within 20 feet or 7 meters from the beach. As the seaweed dies and dries it goes from green to dark brown. When it is dry it breaks up and makes the water look bad. The photo below is a more extreme example of how bad the water can look.

Lets all hope the seaweed stops arriving on our costline and we return to normal. Then we can look back in wonder at these photos and hardly believe what the summer of seaweed was like.

seaweed on the beach in the Riviera Maya

Our beautiful turquose water turned brown with seaweed.


28 Comments on The Summer of Seaweed

  1. Regarding the seaweed problem, you can´t bury it if you want to maintain the pristine beaches and water. Now on most days and after 2 years of burying the seaweed the water is no longer transparent but a brown colour, as seen on live web cams playa del Carmen. The beaches are changing colour due to the seaweed. Any seaweed that settles in the water, settles and forms mud. The municipal government is a fault and after 2015 they should see the number of tourist drop due to their inability to use common sense. Cancun, Tulum, Pt Morelas do not bury the garbage and seaweed that floats onto the shore, but truck it away. I don´t believe that the government will learn that you can´t bury garbage (natural or manmade) in a beach and hope to maintain its pristine appearance.

  2. Does someone know if we will have seaweed in August of 2016?
    How is that right now?
    Thank you

    • Mr.Yucatan // May 10, 2016 at 6:25 PM // Reply

      It is hard to predict the future but we have had a much better year so far and only had small amounts is seaweed wash up. We imagine it will be just fine for August and you should plan your trip here and have a great time in Playa Del Carmen. Thank you for sending us a question.

  3. Sergio Pena // May 21, 2016 at 11:19 PM // Reply

    How is the seaweed right now?

    • Mr.Yucatan // May 22, 2016 at 7:24 AM // Reply

      We have not had much problem with the seaweed at all. On a few windy days there is a little seaweed that makes a fine line at the high tide line but that is all. The only place that seems to have a collection of it is the boat area around 14th street in Playa. We have been to almost all the beach areas lately and it is not a problem. So don’t worry about it now and plan on having some great beach days here!

  4. The seaweed right now is horrendous At blue beach esmerelda and all its surrounding hotels. Water is brown and seaweed is everywhere!

    • Mr.Yucatan // May 23, 2016 at 5:07 PM // Reply

      Thank you for the update from there about the seaweed. You must be staying at the resort now. We have not been by the beaches there lately but everywhere we have been has been good. We were at the beaches in Tulum on Sunday and there were only a few pieces in the water and the other week in Holbox had none. We were also at Punta Venado this past week just south of Playa Del Carmen and there was none there. Playa is also pretty free now except the area around 14th Street and Coco Beach which are both places where the seaweed seems to accumulate.

  5. MARIE WAYWELL // June 13, 2016 at 4:25 AM // Reply

    How is the seeweed now at Playacar and Playa del Carmen

    • Mr.Yucatan // June 13, 2016 at 8:21 AM // Reply

      Hello Marie. The beaches in front of Playacar are very good and clear of seaweed. In front of Phase 2 where most of the all inclusive hotels are is the best part. Most of the hotels clean the beach if there is any seaweed but in general this beach does not get much. Overall most of the seaweed on the coast is gone and nothing to worry about ruining your vacation. Playa Del Carmen center beaches are good as well with the only two exceptions where the boats park on 14th Street and a little near Coco beach which is near 44th Street. We hope you have an wonder vacation and enjoy swimming. For up to the minute photos, you can check our instagram account @EverythingPlayaDelCarmen

  6. MARIE WAYWELL // June 15, 2016 at 9:17 AM // Reply

    Thank you Mr Yucatan, that’s fantastic – we had a lot of seaweed last July and so very pleased it’s gone!

  7. planning a trip to Cancun in July and would like to know how is the seaweed in that area, I been going to Cancun for over 25 years and never saw how it was last year, my usual trip is always to enjoy the ocean and I did not have any chance to do it last year, please let me know how is doing.

    • Mr.Yucatan // June 30, 2016 at 1:50 AM // Reply

      Hello Selma

      The good things is Cancun is looking great these days. Last year was something else for the seaweed. It truly was a remarkable things that happens in nature. You should have a great vacation in July and have nothing to fear, except having too good of a time and you don’t want to go home. We hope you have a great vacation!

  8. We are so glad the seaweed is gone! we were in Akumal last year and there were piles of sargassum. the beaches now look like they used to. We are here now in Tulum.

  9. Aaron Walden // June 30, 2016 at 8:53 AM // Reply

    Hello. We have been wondering if we should come because the seaweed problem but we have seen photos of the beaches now and are coming down to Playa del Carmen this week. We are looking forward to a week of nothing! and seeing nice beaches.

  10. We are going to the Puerto Morelos in August. What’s the seaweed like there? Lots of mixed reviews on trip advisor. Many thanks in advance. X

    • Mr.Yucatan // July 1, 2016 at 6:36 AM // Reply

      We were just in Puerto Morelos about one week ago. There was some in the water in some parts. Other parts were almost empty of seaweed. We would not worry about it too much now. The worst part is over and now large hotels are working to maintain the beaches after almost giving up when the worst of it was coming ashore. We hope you have a great vacation there and there is no seaweed for you.

  11. We are going to the Playa del Carmen in August. What’s the seaweed like there?

    • Mr.Yucatan // July 25, 2016 at 6:23 PM // Reply

      The seaweed issue is really a non issue now. It has for the most part gone away. You should be able to enjoy a nice clean turquoise sea on your vacation. We hope you have a great time visiting.

  12. Thanks so much for replying. We are staying at the Royalton Rivieria in a few weeks. Trip advisor is a saying it’s very bad at the moment! Any chance it might calm down again? Many thanks! X

    • Mr.Yucatan // July 26, 2016 at 6:05 PM // Reply

      The Royalton is close to Cancun so we cannot say exactly what the seaweed is like there but we have seen pictures from there this week and it did not look like an issue at all. You can see the link in the article to the NASA tracking to see if there is any seaweed in the ocean. We hope it is good for you and you have a great time. The pools are nice at that resort.

  13. hi, could you please send mu updated pics and info on the seaweed situation at the moment at playa del karmen or riviera maya/

    • Mr.Yucatan // July 26, 2016 at 6:07 PM // Reply

      Hello. We cannot post pictures in the comments but you can see our Facebook and instagram photos of the beach. Of course the Rivera Maya is long and there are a few small places where seaweed collects but you should not have anything to worry about. We hope you have a nice vacation here with no seaweed.

  14. I just returned from a week in Riviera Maya. There was seaweed washing up every day but 2 while I was there. The men work tirelessly to try to keep the beaches clear but it still remains. Still a beautiful place but was definitely surprised by the amount I saw.

    • Hello Lori. Can you tell us what beach or hotel you were at? The Riviera Maya is a large stretch of coastline.

  15. Please update on the seaweed in Riveria Maya, especially Iberostar hotels. Going this November 2016. Thank you!

    • Hello Anne

      The seaweed is nothing like last year so that is a relief. We are at about a 16 our of 100. There is a small line that washed up on most beaches. The situation changes weekly so there is no knowing how it will be in November. However the winter months do tend to bring different currents and that means a much less chance of getting seaweed. What Iberostar Hotel are you staying in? We will try to keep you updated. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Helena Scaff Pedrosa // October 3, 2016 at 12:53 PM // Reply

    Hello Mr Yucatan
    February is a month of high probability of accumulation of seagrass in Cancun and Playa del Carmen?
    How is the situation now?
    Thank you!

    • Hello. The seaweed has been going away to the point of being gone completely. We only have a few pieces here and there on the beaches in most places. We were just at the beach this morning and there was no seaweed. We don’t know how the seaweed will be churned up by Hurricane Matthew or how this will change things but we will keep you posted. It really is not a factor as of now and no one should plan around it or not come because of it.

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