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Attack of the Killer Seaweed in Tulum, Mexico

Two young lovers on the trip of a lifetime arrive at Tulum beach in an overpriced taxi. Little did they know there is a killer on the loose, feeding on the innocent expectations of naive tourists. The couple get settled into their tent (it costs over $30 a night!), which is precariously close to the evil force residing just across the road. They slowly venture closer to the beach while the decaying brown and orange monster patiently waits to kill something they’d held dear for so long. And then they see it, seaweed strewn across the beach for as far as the eye can see. Their expectations for a beach paradise were murdered by the seaweed in Tulum. They would never be the same again.

Lots of seaweed in Tulum, Mexico

OK, maybe that was a bit overdramatic, but we had such high hopes for the beaches in Tulum. I’d seen photos of incredibly blue water and bright white sand, and that just isn’t the reality at the moment. I asked the owner of our tent hotel and he said it’s been like this for quite a while now – the mysterious seaweed monster that everybody wishes they could kill just isn’t going away (this was in April, but apparently it’s still just as bad and the problem is far wider than just Tulum). Luckily there are two other attractions in Tulum that are pretty amazing; maybe this horror story will have a happy ending after all.

Cenote Calavera

Have you seen a cenote before? They are amazing little flooded sinkholes/caves that are full of the clearest water you’ll ever see. They are great places to swim, and Cenote Calavera is probably my favourite one in Mexico (there are apparently over 7000 of them). You walk through what looks like a guy’s backyard to get to the cenote, which, if you’re lucky, you’ll have all to yourself. Cenote Calavera is also a well known dive site, alternatively known as the Temple of Doom. There are plenty of other cenotes near Tulum, so consider visiting a few if you’re sick of the seaweed!l

Further reading: Cenote Calavera: A Spectacular Swimming Spot in Tulum, Mexico

Sick of the seaweed in Tulum, Mexico? Check out Cenote Calavera

Mayan Ruins of Tulum

There are ancient pyramids and ruins scattered throughout Mexico, but the proximity to the clear blue Caribbean Sea really sets the Tulum ruins apart. Sure, the seaweed problem in Tulum has robbed the beaches of some of their beauty, but seeing ancient ruins on cliffs above a white sand beach is a pretty incredible sight. The ruins themselves are fairly small and unimpressive compared to sites like Chichen Itza and Uxmal, but these Mayans obviously knew then what real estate agents know now – it’s all about location!

Further reading: The Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza

Sick of the seaweed in Tulum? Check out the Mayan ruins!The Mayan ruins, a great way to escape the seaweed in Tulum, Mexico

So, has the seaweed in Tulum really ruined the beaches?

Not really. The beaches certainly aren’t as pristine as they once were (well, as they were in photos anyway, but that’s a different story), but the sand is still white and the water is still blue. We didn’t swim because the water was quite rough and there was a lot of seaweed in there, but we did see people swimming and they seemed to enjoy it. The attractions in Tulum make it a worthwhile stop while travelling though Mexico anyway, so as long as you lower your expectations slightly then you should enjoy your time there.

Further reading: Check out this live webcam feed to keep updated on Tulum’s seaweed situation.

Seaweed in Tulum - the beaches are full of it!People swimming with the seaweed in Tulum, Mexico

Have you ever been to a beach that you’d seen amazing photos of, and it turned out to be a bit disappointing? Have you seen the seaweed Tulum in the last month or 2 (and has the situation improved?) Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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  1. July 4, 2015 at 7:59 am — Reply

    Had exactly the same “murderous” experience at the beach in Caye Caulker. The seaweed looks remarkably similar.

    • July 4, 2015 at 10:18 am — Reply

      It’s annoying isn’t it! I’ve heard it’s a bit of a problem in that whole region, hopefully it improves soon.

  2. ronnie ann herman
    July 7, 2015 at 1:26 am — Reply

    PLEASE let me know when, and if, the seaweed disaster improves!
    I want to return in March but may need to consider another destination. How sad…

    • July 8, 2015 at 10:58 am — Reply

      I don’t think anyone really knows! I put a link to a live webcam feed above, keep an eye on it from time to time, hopefully it’ll improve.

  3. Bentley
    July 26, 2015 at 11:15 pm — Reply

    I was there from July 11th to July 21st and the seaweed destroyed the beaches , it was so bad you couldn’t get to the beach unless you wanted to trek through 30 feet of seaweed just to get to the water, and it spanned miles along the coast line… As far as you can see. The only 2 places I saw that they did seaweed control was in front of the presidente hotel in cancun and north of cancun in the isles . Playa / Cozumel / tulum / and most of cancun was ruined unless your not a fan of the beach. Not sure if there’s a season to go but from what I’ve been reading it doesn’t matter when you go, but the summer months are the worse . (Western Hemisphere summer )

    • July 27, 2015 at 10:13 am — Reply

      That’s bad news! Hopefully it clears up soon – it’s still a great place to visit but maybe not if beaches are you main priority.

  4. July 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm — Reply

    Hi Jon,
    I live in Tulum in winter, usually Jan to Apr.
    Last year the big invasion started in mid march and has not stop ever since.
    I’ve been spending time in Tulum for the past 15 years and it’s the first time I witnessed something like this. Kinda awful ! Global warming at his best…

    • July 28, 2015 at 1:47 am — Reply

      Hey Frederico, thanks for the info! One theory I heard is that this much seaweed is actually a sign of a healthy ocean – who knows though!

  5. August 31, 2015 at 10:39 pm — Reply

    Just to let you know, I was there mid-August and they are still having problems with the seaweed, with no signs of it going anytime soon. Such a shame! A little bit of seaweed is good but too much has harmful effects on the wildlife and tourism industry.

    Love the blog by the way.

    • September 1, 2015 at 12:08 pm — Reply

      Cheers Maire! It is a shame, those beaches would be amazing without the seaweed!

  6. David
    October 29, 2015 at 1:19 am — Reply

    Heads up, but I just got back from Tulum (Oct 2015) and not only are the beaches ruined, but the water isn’t good, either–the characieristic aqua is gone, replaced by a dark reddish/purplish/blackish cloud of stinky nastiness. Doesn’t look to be improving from what I learned from locals–I’m guessing you should stay away until well into 2016 and maybe even all of 2016. What a pity!

  7. Min Lee
    March 29, 2017 at 9:33 pm — Reply

    It’s 2017 now and Tulum beach is perfect! Seaweed invasion happened in 2015 to early 2016 due to biggest El Nino year, and by now it’s all cleared up, back to how magical Tulum beach always had been. Thanks for the travel story, I really enjoyed reading them, just wanted to leave heads up on Tulum beach because we live there part time of the year and loving this eco-chic little town so much. 🙂

    • March 30, 2017 at 4:16 am — Reply

      Thanks so much for the update Min Lee, I’ll make a mention of it in the post. Glad to see Tulum is back to its best!

      • Chris Miller
        April 26, 2017 at 3:38 pm — Reply

        I was there in Tulum in the mid of April 2017 and unfortunately I have to say that seaweed is back again. It looks like the photos above 🙁
        Anyway… Nice place though, if you don’t look too much at the seaweed.

        • April 26, 2017 at 3:53 pm — Reply

          Thanks for the update Chris — pity that it’s back but you’re right, it’s still an awesome place.

  8. Robert
    February 25, 2018 at 9:05 am — Reply

    Update Feb. 2018: Lots of seaweed!

    • February 26, 2018 at 11:40 am — Reply

      Hey Robert, that’s a shame to hear but thanks for the update!

  9. Sigrun Cecilia
    February 25, 2018 at 11:09 am — Reply

    We are in tulum staying at a hotel by the beach right now and we are so dissappointed, its even worse Tham in your photos. Seaweed on the beach I could be OK with but its a lot everywhere in the ocean it was Almost painful to swim in with the rough sea. We saved our last week in Mexico for Tulum and we regret it now unfortunately.

    • February 26, 2018 at 11:39 am — Reply

      That’s really annoying, I know the feeling. Thanks for giving me an update on the situation there!

  10. Claus Dam
    July 2, 2018 at 2:27 am — Reply

    My wife and I arrived here and after reading your story, we thought to ourselves…”was this written about us?” Seaweed is a thick 1-1.5 feet deep layer at the water front at about 8-10 wide. Water is a reddish brown… it looks like a dirty beach, it’s honeslty heartbreaking. Tulum is magical, but until this settles (if it ever does), you don’t come for the beaches; sadly. Let’s keep this going in case this improve. Cheers

    • July 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm — Reply

      Hi Claus, that’s a real shame. Thanks for the update though, and hopefully it gets better one day!

  11. Jim
    August 25, 2019 at 7:11 am — Reply

    We are in Tulum now (August 2019) and the seaweed is still covering the beach. The hotel has a machine they pull that attempts to clean it up, but a new layer is back the next day. I suspect it bas more to do with untreated sewage. There is a huge community of primitive hotels (rental shacks) all behind Tulum. They used to protect the beaches here as eco zones, but no more. The dive shop says the coral reef is now covered with live seaweed.

  12. Jim
    August 25, 2019 at 7:16 am — Reply

    Adding a bit more…Look at the ocean current around the Yucatan. It flows north, hugging the shore, right past the slum behind Tulum, up to Tulum and right up the Mayan Riviera.

    • August 26, 2019 at 4:10 am — Reply

      It sucks that this seems to be an ongoing problem — thanks for the update Jim!

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