Skip to Content

Iconic Beaches Near Cancun Being Rescued Using Unlikely Ingredient — Sargassum

Share The Article

Last Updated

With concern mounting over the long-term effects of sargassum seaweed on everything from the environment to health, Mexican Caribbean officials are finding new ways to benefit from the pesky macroalgae.

Aerial view of a white sand beach in playa del carmen

In Playa del Carmen, a popular beach destination just south of Cancun, experts have begun using seaweed to restore one of the city’s most iconic beaches. 

The new scheme involves drying massive quantities of seaweed and turning it into a fine powder that mimics the soft white sands of the Mexican Caribbean. 

sunrise on beach at playa del carmen with sargassum

With travel to Playa del Carmen skyrocketing this year, here’s how sargassum is playing an increasingly important role in preserving the location’s famous white-sand beaches. 

Environmental Challenges Force Officials To Test Innovative Solutions 

Sargassum seaweed is a perennial issue that plagues countless coastal destinations in the Mexican Caribbean each year. The sargassum season typically begins in late February to early March, although this year seaweed levels spiked much earlier than usual. 

The Riviera Maya is among the hardest-hit areas in terms of sargassum seaweed, with tons of the macroalgae washing up on its shores each week during the peak of the season. 

Top 5 Travel Insurance Plans For 2023 Starting At $10 Per Week

Easily Earn Points For Free Travel

@aliciasadventures sorry playa #playadelcarmen #mexico #travel #stinky #seaweed #sargassum #travelmexico #beaches ♬ original sound – Alicia Ard

And with forecasts suggesting more sargassum in the future, officials have begun to seek new ways of using the naturally-formed seaweed to improve the quality of public beaches. This summer, environmental experts in Playa made history when they restored one of the city’s most iconic beaches – Playa Recodo – using sargassum.

The beach, which has suffered from erosion over the past several years, has now received 800 tons of ‘sargassum sand’, allowing locals and travelers to once again flock to the famous beach and bask under the tropical heat of the Caribbean.

Coastal area in playa del carmen

The innovative process involves drying hundreds of tons of sargassum seaweed and grinding it into a fine powder, after which experts dump the byproduct onto the local beach, with results very much comparable to real sand. Experts use an intricate filtration system to remove potentially harmful contaminants, like microplastics, which could harm the environment and pose a rise to sun-seeking travelers. 

As a result, travelers can now enjoy a new and improved Playa Recodo, which now measures around 20 meters in width. With plenty of space to enjoy the soothing blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, the beach is expected to rise in popularity during the remainder of the summer season. 

A worker cleaning sargassum from a public beach in cancun

Officials have also restored beaches around Playa del Carmen’s 4th, 8th, and 10th streets in an attempt to prevent erosion. There are also plans to deploy ‘sargassum seaweed’ on other popular beaches like Punta Esmeralda as well as around downtown Playa del Carmen.

Investors See Massive Potential In Sargassum

While sargassum is often viewed as a nuisance, a growing number of stakeholders are mulling new ways to turn foul-smelling seaweed into useful products.

@lifeof.hers 📍Playa del Carmen, Mexico, seaweed/sargassum season, July 2021 #fyp #travellife #traveller #mexicotravel #playadelcarmenmexico #sargassum ♬ original sound – Ivca

Fertiliser, fuel, and even heat generation are just a few of the many ideas that are currently being tossed around. In Cancun, sargassum is already being collected and converted into biofertilizer with the help of cutting-edge technology. 

And with growing investments in green tech solutions, sargassum may very well become a hot topic in the future. For now, travelers will still have to deal with encountering sargassum on their next Mexican Caribbean holiday, although officials have taken extensive measures to prevent the seaweed from tarnishing some of the most popular beaches.

@lousdayout In Cancún too! Seaweed or sargassum as a result of rising sea temperatures! #travel #mexico #playadelcarmen #cancun #tulum #mexicobeach #mexicotiktok #cancunvacation #playadelcarmenmexico ♬ original sound – Louanne

Fortunately, the Mexican Caribbean is home to hundreds of stunning freshwater lagoons – cenotes, which are naturally shielded from sargassum and offer a refreshing break from packed beaches.

Plan Your Next Cancun Vacation:

Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!

Choose From Thousands of Cancun and Riviera Maya Hotels, Resorts and Hostels with Free Cancellation On Most Properties

↓ Join the community ↓

The Cancun Sun Community FB group has all the latest travel news, conversations and tourism Q&A’s for the Mexican Caribbean


Subscribe to our Latest Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Cancun Sun’s latest breaking news affecting travelers, straight to your inbox.


Saturday 19th of August 2023

A great and innovative way to convert sargassum into "Beach sand"