How to have a seaweed free Vacation in the Riviera Maya
Since 2014 we have experiencing excessive seaweed washing ashore at times here in the Riviera Maya. Like the other countries in the Caribbean, we have learned to deal with it as best we can. Beach cleaning, offshore collection boats, barriers and more have been implemented to slow or stop seaweed from reaching the beaches. Regardless of the efforts, there is always the chance that seaweed (sargassum) will impact your vacation to the Riviera Maya. Here are all our best tips for avoiding seaweed and enjoying some of the great things to see and do in the Riviera Maya without worrying too much.
The number one question we get about seaweed is…?
Usually, the number one question we get about seaweed is if it will affect people’s vacation that they are planning in the future. People will ask about months ahead or a particular time of year. The answer is “no one knows what it will be like at any one time in the future“. It is very unpredictable and can change week to week. However, there is some guidance as to when times of the year often have more seaweed than others. There are also some areas that traditionally get more seaweed based on the natural water currents and coastal form. So hopefully this article will help you plan and be more resilient against having your vacation impacted by seaweed.
How the weather affects the seaweed
One of the main drivers of seaweed is the warm waters of the Caribbean. The warm waters all the seaweed to grow faster and create more. The Caribbean has been warmer in recent years, and this is exacerbating the situation. So, the water temperatures are precursors to more seaweed floating around the ocean as a general rule. So, when are the waters warmer and when are the cooler times? We will talk about this next.
Best times of the year to avoid seaweed
As mentioned above, the warm waters of the Caribbean are one of the factors that are leading to the growth of sargassum. The warmest months for the Carribean are May to November with September being the hottest sea water temperatures. This means as the waters warm, there are great chances of having more seaweed floating around the sea that can come ashore.
November to February are the months that we usually have the least amount of seaweed coming ashore. Also, hurricanes and tropical depressions that pass through the center of the Caribbean often disrupt the flow of seaweed to the coast of the Riviera Maya. So, we often have gorgeous beach days after a hurricane has passed by and gone north.
During the summer months we can get large mats of seaweed that come ashore but it is very hard to predict all the factors that contribute to this. The beaches can be beautiful one week and covered the next.
Selecting a hotel
If you are the type of person that wants a hotel and a great beach access, then it is even more important to read this section. Hotels can be near a beach that is often very clear or have seaweed collecting on the beaches whenever there is some in the water, so it is important to know all the factors that go into avoiding seaweed.
Two of the best hotels to stay at
Imagine a hotel on the ocean but also has its own canals, inland beaches and so much that is not even affected from seaweed. Hotel Xcaret Mexico and Hotel Xcaret Arte. These two hotels are side by side and include access to all the parks for free. The hotels are some of the best we have been to and it is worth the price. The hotel is so amazing that you will find new things all the time and secret passages, plus beaches that are not on the ocean, so there is no seaweed.
The best beaches with hardly any seaweed
The form of the beach will affect how or if seaweed collect or piles up there. There can be one beach on the same day that looks amazing and another beach that is full of seaweed. This is because piers, bays, reefs and how the current flow all change how a beach will look concerning seaweed. This is the reason we wrote this guide to what beaches in Playa Del Carmen have less seaweed than others normally. By looking at the map below, the color-coded beaches will highlight what beaches are usually clearer and you might want to select a hotel based on what beach it is close to.
Perhaps a pool will do?
Many times, we have been in all inclusive hotels and even when the beach is in good shape, many people hangout at one of the pools at resorts. Pools have swim up bars, entertainment, games, music, and maybe even a water slide or lazy river float. We mention this because often people like being in the pools with no sand and salt but enjoy the views overlooking the ocean.
If you are looking to book an all inclusive hotel, check out how many pools and what amenities they have. This can come in handy if the beaches have some seaweed. Tip: We like the larger all inclusive hotels because they offer more options and a lot more share spaces with the hundreds of other guests. Some smaller hotels have some nice things about them, but you can be limited in what they can offer because they are a smaller hotel.
Even if you are not staying at an all inclusive hotel, you might want a good rooftop pool or pool to give you more options on vacation. Check out these hotels in Playa Del Carmen that have rooftop pools. Rooftop pools can be like a daytime club. Some offer trendy music, bars, entertainment and great views.
Cenotes, a lake, or ocean spots with no seaweed
What is a cenote? Cenotes are freshwater pools that have been eroded out of the limestone base of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cenotes are always free of seaweed and are always a good bet. Here is a list of cenotes close to Playa Del Carmen. We also have many other cenotes that are a little further away from the Riviera Maya also.
Bacalar Lagoon is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Mexico. The lake is known for the many shades of blue it shows because of the white sand bottom and cenotes that fill the lake. Bacalar is about 3 hours south of Playa Del Carmen and can make for a good trip for a few days. The area has some pretty amazing Mayan ruins and the town of Bacalar has good restaurants, hotels and tours of the lagoon. Because Bacalar is a lake and fresh water, there is never any seaweed here. Best of all, the water looks like the Caribbean because of the turquoise water that fills the lagoon.
Ocean swimming spots with no seaweed or low amounts of seaweed
The best beaches with no seaweed or low chance are these:
- Isla Mujeres Playa Norte. Since the seaweed comes ashore with the currents, most west facing beaches get the brunt of seaweed. Playa Norte faces northwest, so it is one of the few beaches that are almost always clear. See our article here about visiting Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres.
- The east side of Cozumel. There are not a lot of beaches on this side, but you can find a few all inclusive hotels or parks where you can buy a day pass. The east facing beaches on Cozumel are almost always clear of seaweed.
- Caleta Tankah is a small inlet close to Tulum where there is a barrier reef and a flow of fresh water entering the ocean and pushing any seaweed away.
Tours and activities
Visiting the Riviera Maya is not just about the beach. There are Mayan ruins to visit, cenotes, colonial towns, and tons of tours to go on that will not really be affected by seaweed.
- Xel Ha Park is an inlet that is an eco park meant for snorkeling and swimming all day. Since the entrance is small to the inlet, most of the time, there is little seaweed here.
- All of the Mayan ruins except Tulum ruins, are not affected by seaweed. Here are the main ruins you can visit from the Riviera Maya.
- YalKu is another inlet between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum where you can snorkel and see a lot of fish, perhaps a sea turtle. This inlet gets little seaweed mostly and it is a good bet to visit. Click the photo below for tour information.
- Xplor Park is an all-day adventure of zip lines, underground rivers and all with no seaweed.
- Xcaret Park is the biggest of the parks. It is a very long day of seeing shows, swimming in underground rivers, learning about animals and the ecosystem of the Riviera Maya. It sounds education but it is a lot of fun! They even have an inlet beach that often is much better than the beaches just outside on the ocean.
Thank you for reading our article about how to avoid seaweed on vacation in the Riviera Maya. We hope that when you come it is very manageable and you enjoy a great vacation here.