Where is the beach? Beach erosion hits Playa Del Carmen hard

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion

Playa Del Carmen Beach Erosion Hits Hard

Beach erosion in Playa Del Carmen is always a topic since the shore line is always changing naturally. Beaches change with the season and storms. Some storms change the current and push the ocean more aggressively toward the beach in Playa Del Carmen. Lately though we have seen some of the worst beach erosion in Playa Del Carmen. The photos below will show you what the current condition of the beaches are.

“We are going to have to soon change the name to Del Carmen because the “playa” has practically disappeared.”

The bad beach erosion is a second hit to the beaches in Playa Del Carmen. If you remember back in late 2014 and 2015 there was a massive amount of seaweed that washed ashore. This made many of the beaches unsuitable for swimming and it caused an unknown amount of damage to the tourism industry as people canceled trips to the area. This also had an impact in 2016 as some people still considered other areas for vacation as the image of beautiful beaches was tarnished by the natural phenomena.

Tourism impact and the quality of the beaches in Playa Del Carmen

The beach is the single most important aspect of Playa Del Carmen for tourism. It is the number one reason why people come to Playa and people expect there actually to be a beach. Without a good beach tourist will soon be migrating north and south of Playa Del Carmen to other towns or even to other destinations in the Caribbean. This is what happened because of the seaweed problem of  2014-2015. An unknown amount of damage to the tourism industry was caused because people canceled trips to the area. This also had an impact in 2016 as some people still considered other areas for vacation as the image of beautiful beaches was tarnished by the natural phenomena.

Locally the impact of beach erosion in Playa Del Carmen hits hard at beachfront restaurants, beach clubs, and hotels that promise that stay in paradise by the beach. This also filters into the whole economy of Playa Del Carmen as a slow done in business takes on a ripple effect.

Where is the worst beach erosion taking place?

There are two main areas of beach where the erosion is the worst. The first area is from 4th Street to Constituyentes Avenue and from about 42nd Street to about 48th Street. The map below highlights these areas.

Map of the erosion taking place in Playa Del Carmen

Photos of the beach erosion in Playa Del Carmen

Here are some shocking phots of how much of the beach in Playa Del Camren is gone!  These photos we taken by us on January 10th, 2017. We will keep you up-to-date on the situation. In the short term we think things will get somewhat better but in the long term we hope a more overall fix will be in place to restore the beaches of Playa Del Carmen.

We will start with photos on the south end and work up the beach to show you the photos.

The beach near 4th Street is so bad that they had to put sand bags around the palm trees to protect them from falling over.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
Sand bags protect palm trees near 4th Street.

The poor palm trees have hard the roots exposed by the crashing waves.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
The roots of a palm tree are exposed by the waves taking all the sand.

A father and son try to navigate the rocky beach since all the sand is gone. This photo is looking north from near 4th Street.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
Careful where you walk, the beach is gone.

Looking north from about half way between 4th Street and 6th Street you can see the rocky shores of Playa Del Carmen. Most of the beach from 4th Street to 10th Street is rocky now.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
Looking north towards El Faro.

What used to be covered by sand is now exposed rock. This is just north of 6th Street by the old Fusion Bar. So much for running into the ocean for a swim. As you see, no one is in the water swimming here.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
Large rocks are exposed on the beach.

A narrow beach indeed! This is just by the lighthouse in the middle of Playa Del Carmen. Zenzi Beach Club is just ahead where chairs and people walking fight for the remaining space on the beach.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
The narrow beach at 10th Street.

In front of 12th Street they have resorted to adding rocks to protect the remaining palm trees and their buildings from getting washed under.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
Stones are piled up to protect the palm trees  at 12th Street.

Coco Maya has almost no beach now and looking north, Indigo Beach Club is suffering a lot of loss of beach.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
Coco Maya’s beach is gone and palm trees have exposed roots.

Has the water really taken away this much beach? Well the whole story with this pier is, it was built but not maintained. The first section has already fallen off, but that only accounts for about 15 feet (3 meters). The rest of the beach is all gone here which is near 16th Street. So you can imagine what this area looked like before when the beach reached the pier.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
A pier is a long walk through water to get to it.

The Gran Porto Hotel has been fighting for a long time to save this beach. There are both visible smaller white sand bags imbedded in the beach and also larger black bags that were places to slow the water.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
The beach next to the Gran Porto Hotel.

On the north end of Playa Del Carmen near 48th Street, you can find the Canibal Royal. The beach has been all washed away and men work on installing large black bags to prevent beach erosion. You can also see in the foreground one palm tree that succumb to the waves.

Playa Del Carmen beach erosion
Near 48th Street beach area. 

What is your opinion? What is the best way to protect the beach and the environment? How should this be done to protect the beaches of Playa Del Carmen? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. I was at Indigo Beach Club May 2016 and then again a day after the storms on Nov 1, 2016, the loss of beach just in those 6 months was startling. I have read that there has been a little bit of progress on the ocean receding right there, but obviously this is a long term issue that the area is going to have to deal with or there will no longer be a beach to visit. As stated the tourists will go elsewhere. Not only are the beaches in danger, but so are the buildings right on the edge of the ocean, the more erosion the closer the water is to the hotels and restaurants.

    • I have lived near the Mayan Riviera for 20 years. The erosion has happened due to the over development of the coast. Too many hotels have been built on top of the wetlands which are a natural buffer against erosion.
      The storms wash in but have no where to be absorbed by the land that has been filled with concrete. The waves just wash up and pull the sand away from the shore.
      Global warming is increasing the water level as well. This erosion is happening in California as well.
      Stop building! You are killing the goose that laid the golden egg!

  2. More rock and concrete are needed to use as a stronger foundation to keep sand from being washed away by the tide. Like they did for Cancun’s beach. Maybe even an artificial reef or barrier to be built 400-500 yards off the beach to slow the tides ebb and flow. We love Playa Del Carmen more than any other part of the Riviera Maya and hope it’s restored again.

  3. Wow, hate to see this again. I remember when it happened a few years back and they pumped in a new beach. I was there in July and it did not look like this…then back in November and was amazed. It happens so fast. Hopefully they will pump in new beach again.

    • Cancun beaches are washing away more then Playas. There no smooth leveled beach and the waves crash very hard. My parents just went last week. They could swim in the beach.

  4. This explains a lot. We walked this stretch several times recently and wondered why the pier was way out in the water…

  5. I am assuming this is an issue that occurs over the “winter” months however it looks to be extreme this year. What month does the beach usually start to come back?

    • It is rougher seas in the winter and it really depends on the wind and weather. When the wind blows from the sea and the waves lash the beach, the erosions starts. Usually by the end of March is when it is more calm.

  6. I am a condo owner in playa palms
    The beach is disappearing ,in Curaçao in the Dutch caribian, they had a similar problem
    At The Mambo Beach, Sea Aquarium area, beach they made an artificial reef en put sand for a new beach.
    The Dutch firm Fugro is specialist in this ,they can solve the problem.
    The Dutch are specialist in protecting land against the water.

  7. That’s bad news indeed.

    What about the areas north and south of Mamita’s Beach Club and north of Arrecife Playa del Carmen?

  8. Is anything being done by the government or city officials to come up with a solution to the eroding beaches? Or will they just let the sea take what has been built? So so sad. I love Playa Del Carmen, but seeing these pictures of the erosion are not appealing to not only myself, but I’d imagine tons of other tourists that visit the area. Here’s to hoping there is a plan in place to fix the problems…erosion, and open sewer drain that was discovered in the sea close to cannibal royal.

  9. What about the Fonden, the fund that is responsible for refilling the sand periodically in Playacar? They pay a Dutch engineering company to dredge sand from a sand bank near Cozumel and dump it in Playacar. My opinion is if what you are selling is beach, then you better spend some money and get some sand. This area totally depends economically on tourism looking for beautiful beaches, and there is plenty of competition, so, wake up Playenses, and smell the coffee!!

  10. I am sure destruction of the mangroves play a part. The government and the beach condos and resorts should all contribute to rectify this problem.

  11. We stayed close to Coco Beach this April. The beach was awful from there, all they way Senior Frogs in the Main Plaza area. Between the erosion and the Seaweed, it was crazy. Hopefully they can get a handle on it. I won’t go back until they do.

    • Thank you for your comments Jackie. The beaches are very important to Playa and everyone involved need to have a part in keeping them in good shape for both tourist and locals.

  12. How is the beach erosion now in Playa Del Carmen? Is it better? We are looking to book a hotel in the center and want to be able to have a beach to visit.

    • Hello Cynthia

      Since we took the photos for this article, it has improved a lot. It is not as perfect as it was a few years ago and there are still issues. We would not book a hotel in the area of 12th street to Constituyentes because the beach is bad there right now. Other areas will be fine.

  13. They need to build a Breakwater wall. Way out, this will slow the surf and it will totally protect the beach. I’ve seen them before they work.

  14. How is the beach around 38th St? Want to take my folks to Mexico for their first time, and would like there to be a nice beach. =)

    • Hello Susanne
      The beach is normal width now. Just north toward 40th-46th Street it can smell a little sulfur like. So the area at the end of 38th is good but if you walk a couple of blocks south you hit Mamitas with lots of people. You might like going to the beach south of the Cozumel Ferry Pier. It is nicer to walk south and you can walk further.

  15. How is the beach errosion in front of Residence El faro, taking first timers and want to pick a location that will make great lasting impressions.

    • The beach is in fairly good shape with not much erosion. It is about 30 feet from the building to waters edge. North of here the beach is not as nice until you get past Constituyentes. Playacar has the best beach now in Playa but that is all large all inclusive hotels only.

  16. Just came back from PDC. Been going there many years. But this time the beach was terrible. And there is a large quantity of sand in the surf along with seaweed. Even in our swim suits we were covered in sand and weeds. Which leaf to itch and rashes. Never a problem before. We had to teach the kids to try to remove all that before leaving the ocean. The atmosphere is less fun as often only room for 3 rows of chairs. It’s sad but I had to google today to ask “what happened”. It may be eating up the beach but the sand is still in the water.

  17. Hello! We are renting a condo on 42nd street, near Cozumel street in April. Can you tell me what the beach around there is like? We will have our 2 year-old daughter with us… will we be able to swim in nice water?

    • This beach is not in the best shape of right now. If you go toward 38th Street it is better. They were going to work on the beaches but the money went to earthquake relief this past year.

  18. Sounds like the beaches further south such as sandos are ok. Is this correct? Taking a special family trip to sandos in June. 1st time in Mexico so we hope to find a nice beach!

    • It is more in the winter that the currents change and the beaches erode. June is the dry season and just the woods are very dry, but most enjoy the beaches then and weather. We hope you have a good trip.

  19. Just returned from staying 3 miles or so north of Playa, at Petite Lafitte on the beach. The beaches is this area are in pretty decent shape. We drove in to Playa on Jan 29, parked on 38th next to Mahekal, and walked the beach going south to the pier going to Cozumel. There were a few of Mahekal’ beach front bungalows damaged. buildings, and the entire beach is pretty much gone. And there were times we had to go through some water to get around obstacles, rocks, etc. We have been coming to Playa yearly since 1990, and it is so sad to see this happening. We did the same walk in January ,2016, and the beach erosion has gotten much worse since then:

    • The beach at Zenzi is ok. Not huge but decent. Kool beach is a little larger and of course popular. Further north of Zenzi the beach is not that good now between 12th and Constituyentes.

  20. We are going on 10 day trip to playacar Reef hotel in mid August. How are the beaches in this area? It’s a special family vacation and if the beaches are terrible then I want to look elsewhere to stay in the Rivera.

    • Hello Mike

      Right now the beach is good in that area and usually in front of Playacar the beaches are in good shape. The beach changes a lot in the seasons but baring some tropical storm, the Reef hotel should be a good place to stay.

  21. Hello! Glad I found this site before booking our hotel. We are traveling to Playa del Carmen March 18 – 24. We were looking at booking a condo at the El Taj Oceanfront. What are the beaches like in front of the El Taj? Thank you!

    • This is one of the hardest hit areas. There is a very narrow beach there. This part of the beach also gets more seaweed. Sorry to be the barer of bad new for you.

  22. Will be staying for a week next month at 38th at the Natz Ti Ha Condos. Can you give me any insight in what to expect the beaches to be like up there?

    • Tim

      We hate to say this but right now the seaweed is really bad up and down the beaches. Today it was not even possible to swim. It can change in a month but no one knows for sure what it will be like.

        • Hello Tim
          The errosion and seaweed almost go hand in hand. When the currents bring the seaweed they aslo erode the beaches. The seaweed helps midigate this. However the beaches now are not the best but not as bad as the photos in this article. The usualy spots like Coco Beach an 14th Street area are the worst hit.

  23. We are at Playacar Palace for a week. Thank goodness for the pools. Beach is almost non existent and the seaweed is rolling in daily. Smelly and sad.

    • Hello Anne

      We were there the other day. The erosion is not that bad right now. It does have some seaweed though. The beach in front of what was Canibal Royal is not good.

  24. Hi we’re looking at going in May 2019 to OceanMaya Hotel …looks like they’ve already put a platform/artificial ‘beach’ in?? Is it still possible to walk on the beach and at least dip toes into the sea??

    • Are you referring to the Ocean Maya Royale resort north of Playa Del Carmen? If so we have not bee there recently so we cannot comment on the beach condition now. The seaweed is a worse problem then the erosion in most places.

  25. This is a great site. I remember when the Poryo Real was being built around 2000. The beach was at least 30 meters wide. Too bad. Mayan.

    • Yes the beach comes and goes with the seasons but over the years it has gotten smaller. There are always ideas thrown out to replenish the beach but that comes with environmental issues as well.

  26. Hi, We are heading to Panama Jack Playa del Carmen in March 2019. How is the beach here. I don’t know the area and I can’t determine if this is convered in the other posts as well. Is the beach not usable?

    • Hello Tracy
      This resort does not have one of the better beaches. It is usuable but often has bags of sand for retaining walls. It is also near where a lot of seaweed collects where there is a probem. The front side has a pier and the beach is rocky there. It is also in the center of Playa so it is easy to walk around Playa but the beaches are much better in Playacar.

  27. Any beginning biologist can tell you that the sargassum seaweed provides nutrition to the tens of thousands
    of organisms that inhabit and stabilize each square meter of beach sand. When the “powers that be” author-
    ize the removal, they are actually killing the goose that lays the beautiful white egg [sand]. Get it? Ignorance
    is starving the beach. Not only are the PTB spending great treasure and fossil fuel, they are quickening and
    exacerbating the problem. It may be too late for Playita, but Fonatur could consult real biologists in the future. The only real option is too desecrate some other source of sand and barge it and pump it ashore
    and repeat, and repeat. Climate change also, will not be a friend. I am not condemning anyone, just observing
    what is happening worldwide and am personally saddened by these insidious events.

  28. Hi,

    I’ve read most of the comments here, and while there are some good ideas presented to protect the beaches of The Riviera Maya, there seems to be some misunderstanding of the root cause of the problem, and it’s solution.

    The Mesoamerican Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Barrier reefs are essentially the largest living structures on the planet (visible from space), they are the densest and most diverse habitats per square inch on the planet. Because they are so complex, they are also tightly self-regulating. The white sand on our beautiful beaches is actually composed of bits of coral which have been eaten, crushed and passed through the digestive tract of Parrot Fish over millennia.

    The barrier reefs also calm the waters and wave action from the sea, which creates the conditions for mangrove forests, atolls, islands and, yes, beautiful beaches, all of which are part of the near-shore habitat and nutrient cycles which all are part of the reef ecosystem and maintain healthy reefs.

    Unfortunately, because of a wide variety of human activities, we have, unwittingly, destroyed the completely cost-free, self-repairing, ecosystem services of the coral reefs.

    The long term solution (hundreds or even thousands of years) is to stop the ongoing damage to the reefs (I won’t even name all the obvious causes of this damage, you can figure that out yourself) and allow the reefs to recover.

    In the short term, some engineering solutions may help, but of course, these repairs will cost huge amounts, and who will pay for them?

    It’s not rocket science, its life itself.

    • Why does the Mexican government continue to allow more and more construction on the beach even today? And then proceed to spend a fortune to « restore » the beaches temporarily. They know and we all know that sea levels are rising, and yet the Mexican government even permits construction within the 20 meter federal beach zone, which is contrary to the Mexican law. As a result, Playa Del Carmen and much of the Mayan is on the fast track to self-destruction. Go figure,

  29. Hello, thanks to everyone providing information about the state of the shoreline. I am contemplating a trip to Playa Del Carmen (first time ever) and have booked my family (including young children) at the Panama Jack resort. Can someone please give me a current assessment of the beaches at that resort?

  30. As global warming speeds up corals will die off at a greater speed. This means there’s less protection from waves. As developers continue to be allowed to remove mangroves you will also lose the protection from them.
    Climate change means more and stronger storms. So, what are we going to do about it?

    • I’ve written about this beach erosion and climate change concerns for Mexico over on my site and put this site as a resource as well. Hopefully getting the word out can help. If enough people see it.

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  1. What beaches in Playa Del Carmen have less seaweed?

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