We certainly had our share of beach fails this summer in Mexico, but we also had some real wins as well.
We chose to spend our first month in Playa del Carmen for two reasons: The beach is an easy place to relax and I was finishing my final semester of grad school and wanted to stay put for a while.
Well, we arrived to a pretty big surprise: Playa had lost its beach. Due to an increase in algae bloom in the Caribbean this summer (thanks, Climate Change), the entire coast of Quintana Roo (especially from Cancun to Tulum) was covered in seaweed. In fact, in the past three months, 1,000 tons of sargassum seaweed have been cleared from the sea and another 29,000 tons have been cleared from the beaches.
The problem with waiting to clear the seaweed until it hits the beach is that it washes in afresh every day and according to those who actually went swimming with it, sargassum can be pretty itchy!
Instead, we chose to head to Cozumel for our beach days. The east side of the island faced the same problem as the rest of Quintana Roo, but the west side was sheltered. We looked up photos and reviews of some of the best beach clubs on the island and chose Mr. Sanchos for our day of relaxation.
We took the first Ultramar Ferry out of Playa that morning (and got to skip one of two long lines, thanks to purchasing our tickets online). The ferry takes about 30 minutes and we were happy to have upgraded to the first class lounge. Upon arriving in Cozumel, it was incredibly easy to find a taxi to take us to the beach club.
We arrived at Mr. Sanchos around 9:00 am and only one other family had beaten us to the beach. Cruise ships hadn’t started up yet and so we had the choice of paying $80 USD/person for their all-inclusive food and drink pass or simply paying as we went. We chose the second option, since there weren’t many vegetarian options on the menu and neither of us are big fans of sugary beach drinks.
We didn’t have another person join us on the “pay-as-you-go” side for another two hours. It was incredibly relaxing and an absolutely perfect beach day. By the time we were ready to catch the ferry around 3:00 pm, the beach was pretty packed, but we enjoyed the quiet time we’d had. Plus, all of our drinks and food cost less than $40 USD, so we felt like we’d saved a lot of money.
We took my sister back to Mr. Sanchos just two weeks later and had a completely different experience. We arrived closer to 11:00 am, but the real difference was that the cruises were back. Gone was the pay-as-you-go option, but we were happy to splurge this time.
Also gone, the relaxing beach vibe. Mr. Sanchos was in full party mode and it was fun to see the difference. We took advantage of the swim up bar, ordered a lifetime supply of cheese quesadillas, and sang along to the early 90s country music that sometimes played over the loud speaker.
Sometimes you can have it all: A relaxing beach + a party!
Another surprising beach win took place on a different day, after we left Isla Contoy. My last post was about our disappointment in the “hike” we went on in the national park that overshadowed the lovely beach setting.
However, after Isla Contoy and a quick snorkel in a nearby coral reef, we headed to Isla Mujeres. Not originally on our trip schedule, there’s no way to get to Contoy without making a stop at Mujeres. We weren’t really interested – the morning had been such a disaster that all we wanted was to head back to our Airbnb, but then we definitely would have missed out.
Isla Mujeres is a BLAST. The exact opposite of Isla Contoy – there’s food, parties, and even a yatch section off the coast of the island.
We arrived famished after our “lunch” of white rice, iceberg lettuce, and salsa – gross. So we quickly set off to find a real meal.
Our first stop was closed (despite advertising dinner specials) and we were afraid that our afternoon would turn out just as disappointing our morning had. However, our next stop, Aroma Isla, turned out to be worth the wait. Chandler ordered some tacos and I dug into a delicious bowl of ramen – some fresh-made juice finished off the meal.
Happy and full, we wandered around the beach/island until is was time to go. Our only complaint was that after over three hours on Isla Contoy, we had less than 90 minutes on Isla Mujeres. Had our schedules allowed, we definitely would have made our way back to the island since the same ferry company that took us to Cozumel also made runs to Mujeres.
That said, I was definitely ferry-ed out and happy to be sticking to dry land. It’s going to be quite a while before another vacation of ours includes a beach (and certainly no boats!).