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A beach with mounds of seaweed with the blue ocean behind it.

Sargassum and Seaweed in Mexico

What is Sargassum?

Sargassum (also known as Sargasso seaweed) is a brown seaweed with berrylike gas-filled sacs that keep it afloat, typically forming large floating masses. It’s a floating brown macroalgae, related to kelp, but it’s always afloat, never attached to the bottom.

Visible from outer space, the Great Sargassum Belt that’s making headlines recently is a 13-million ton mass that stretches 5,000 miles long and 300 miles wide in an area of the Atlantic Ocean between the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of West Africa.

Sargassum provides habitat for hundreds of species and invertebrates and even endangered sea turtles, supporting fish like mahi mahi and other fish that feed near the surface.

Are there certain times of the year when sargassum is on the beaches?

The sargassum season is typically April through October, which some times more heavily affected that others.

Which beaches in Mexico are affected by the Sargasso seaweed?

Generally, beaches with the highest seaweed count include Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Siaan Kaan, and some points between Cancun and Puerto Morelos, however, predicting which beach the sargassum seaweed will impact and in what quantities is nearly impossible as conditions change almost daily.

Garza Blanca Resort & Spa and Villa del Palmar Resort & Spa in Cancun does get seaweed during the sargassum season, but it’s located a bit north of the areas listed above and doesn’t get quite as much, though still enough to be considered bothersome to some.

Beaches in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta are rarely affected by sargassum, so if you do plan to visit Mexico during Sargassum season, and want white, sandy beaches, consider staying at Garza Blanca Los Cabos or Garza Blanca Preserve in Puerto Vallarta during these times, and visit Garza Blanca Cancun and Villa del Palmar Cancun from November through March.

Can you swim in the water when there’s seaweed in the water?

When mounds of seaweed hit the beach it’s not so pleasant. You can swim in the water if there’s sargassum and people do, but there can be sea lice (small jellyfish larvae) associated with sargassum in water with big mats of it floating around, which can cause the skin to erupt in a red, itchy rash. There could also be stinging jellyfish that can also often be present among sargassum.

Do the resorts do anything to help eliminate the seaweed?

Garza Blanca Resort & Spa Cancun and Villa del Palmar Resort & Spa work tirelessly to clean the beaches and pick up the seaweed. They have special trucks that pick up the seaweed that they drive up and down the beaches to clean them up from morning to night.

What can I do if I don’t want to go swimming during seaweed season?

Fortunately, there are still a lot of activities you can do to stay busy while visiting Cancun during sargassum season.

  • If you want to go swimming, there are lots of Cenotes you can swim in.
  • Visit some of Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza, Tulum or Coba.
  • Spend the day at some of the adventure parks such as Xcaret, Xel-Ha, or Xavage.
  • Book a sailing adventure and see MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art), there typically isn’t much seaweed further out in the ocean, and the captains know where to go to avoid it.
  • Visit the local markets where you can pick up lots of local arts and and eat some great local food!

See our Things to Do in Cancun page for ideas of things to do while visiting Cancun.

Is there a way to tell when the seaweed will be affecting the beaches in Mexico?

There is a map to track the seaweed in Mexico to know what to expect during your Mexico vacation. To help pinpoint where Garza Blanca Cancun and Villa del Palmar Cancun is, when looking at the map, Garza Blanca Resort & Spa and Villa del Palmar Resort & Spa are located in Punta Sam, north of the Hotel Zone, and west of Isla Mujeres.

In conclusion, you can still have a wonderful vacation to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, and all of Mexico no matter when you visit Mexico, seaweed or no seaweed.


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