June 17, 2024

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Luxurious resorts, a delectable cuisine that feels a lot richer and more flavorful than the watered-down version you get in the States, and hospitality like no other: it’s no wonder Mexico remains undefeated as the leading destination for Americans going abroad this summer.

Aerial View Of Isla Mujeres, Mexican Caribbean, Mexico, Latin America.jpg

There is one issue facing visitors in the short to medium-term, however.

The Mexican Caribbean, home to the popular vacation spots of Cancun and Tulum, is currently battling the biggest surge in sargassum in years.

As creative as authorities get in their attempts to divert its course, landfall this season is unavoidable, and if you’re visiting Cancun soon, you’re likely to see a significant amount of seaweed spoiling the typically-pristine white sands.

Sargassum removal in Tulum, MexicoSargassum removal in Tulum, Mexico

Luckily, there are two islands off the Caribbean Coast of Mexico that remain largely protected from sargassum, where the accumulation risk is significantly smaller:

Isla Holbox

Located some 37 miles north of Cancun, Hotbox is a tiny car-free island part of a wider nature preserve called Yum Balan, and separated from the mainland by a shallow body of water inhabited mostly by pink flamingos and pelicans.

As you can imagine, it is the personification of idyllic, with sugary white sands lapped by warm, teal-colored waters, tall palm trees providing shade, and quaint, laid-back coastal settlements where a youth hostel culture has thrived.

woman sitting on a wooden swing in front of the Caribbean Sea on Holbox Islandwoman sitting on a wooden swing in front of the Caribbean Sea on Holbox Island

It is perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of Cancun, as development on the island is far more limited, and every accommodation provider, including boutique hotels, must adhere to strict protocols to protect the marine life, and it’s relatively affordable to visit:

With one-night stays in local guesthouses starting from an affordable $72, it offers the best value for money compared to overpriced Cancun or Tulum in summer, and at the peak of sargassum season, which we’re in the middle of, it is (mostly) left untarnished.

Flamingos in the oceanFlamingos in the ocean

That is due to the island’s geographical features, as it is surrounded by sand dunes and mangroves acting as a nature-made barrier against the algae; this does not mean sargassum-free, but you should expect far less seaweed to accumulate on the shoreline compared to the mainland.

It also helps that Holbox is quite compact, measuring only 1.2 miles in width and 26 miles in length, so efforts to maintain the sargassum-less look of popular beaches like Punta Coco tends to be more successful, as cleaning gets concentrated on critical sites.

beach bed in isla holbox, Mexicobeach bed in isla holbox, Mexico

The easiest way to get to Holbox from Cancun is taking a local ADO bus from the central bus station to Chiquilá, a coastal town in the north of Quintana Roo hosting ferry connections at a travel distance of only 25 minutes (boats leave every hour).

Isla Mujeres

A short half-hour ferry from Cancun, Isla Mujeres offers some peace and calm away from the hustle and bustle of the Caribbean metropolis: a tropical island only about 22,000 people reside in permanently, it’s dotted with boutique hotels, quaint fishing towns and nature reserves.

People walking along Isla Mujeres beach in the Mexican CaribbeanPeople walking along Isla Mujeres beach in the Mexican Caribbean

It feels a lot more exclusive than Cancun, as room capacity is more limited and development is curbed as a result of the protected status the island enjoys; in other words, there’s only so many guests who can be hosted at any given time, contrary to the jam-packed mainland.

Isla Mujeres is also home to Playa Norte, a strip of virgin-white sand on the north of the island hugged by crystalline waters that has, time and again, ranked among some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Mexico.

Beautiful Turquoise Water In Playa Norte, A Beach In The Northern End Of Isla Mujeres, Off The Mayan Riviera, On The Caribbean Coast Of Mexico, Latin AmericaBeautiful Turquoise Water In Playa Norte, A Beach In The Northern End Of Isla Mujeres, Off The Mayan Riviera, On The Caribbean Coast Of Mexico, Latin America

It is the leading attraction on the island due to its well-rated beachfront restaurants, tourist-friendly facilities, the friendliness of staff towards American guests, and the varied selection of activities visitors can take part in, from snorkeling amid the colorful coral reefs to paddle boarding.

As it lies just off the Cancun mainland, one of the worst-affected areas, you’d expect Isla Mujeres to be overwhelmed by sargassum this season, especially when it sits between the Mayan Riviera and the open sea.

Playa Norte Seen From The Water In Isla Mujeres, Caribbean Sea, MexicoPlaya Norte Seen From The Water In Isla Mujeres, Caribbean Sea, Mexico

Interestingly, that’s not the case at all, as some of the beaches here either see far less, or even no sargassum irrespective of season: Isla Mujeres is notoriously sargassum-free for the better part of the year, and similarly to Hotbox, the limited number of beaches makes cleaning up much easier.

Mujeres is mostly undisturbed by the phenomenon due to its unique geographical location: sargassum comes from the southeast and gets stuck on the east side of the Cancun peninsula, sometimes bypassing the island altogether.

Whenever you’re visiting, there’s a good chance it’s perfectly-clean beaches you’ll see, as opposed to piling banks of smelly algae, and that is particularly true in Playa Norte, where currents do not typically carry seaweed.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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