No, those kids aren’t playing on a beached whale. That’s a massive sandbag in the ocean in front of the Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa. It’s just one of dozens of humongous bags of sand found up and down the beach along the hotel strip known as Playacar just south of Playa del Carmen.
The hotels put them up to protect what little sandy beach is left in the area. Beach erosion has been problematic in the past few years. There were no sandbags when my family visited the same area in 2005 (in fact we were at the Iberostar Tucan next door to the Sandos property). Since then, a series of storms and ocean currents have wreaked havoc on the sand, and the natural reef/sandbar that had formerly protected area beaches has disappeared.
The sandbags are decidedly unsightly. And in front of some of the resorts in this Playacar area, lounge chairs are packed like sardines on what little beach is left. (The Sandos and the Iberostar had decent beach for chairs and palapas.)
It’s just sad that in a few short years the makeup of the Playacar beaches has changed so much! Thankfully, my marketing friend at the Riviera Maya Tourism Office tells me that government officials recently approved a “beach restoration project” that will pump some money into pumping sand from deeper spots in the ocean to restore beaches to their former glory (sans sandbags).
One bright spot is that kids do love playing on the massive sandbags. Of course, there are warning signs telling visitors that they are not to climb on them (ha!), but kids have a ball jumping off the massive “whales” into the ocean. Since the “whales’ block the big waves and strong currents, the ocean is a bit friendlier for young children, too.
That said, for two days on our vacation, a tropical storm must have been brewing off the coast somewhere. We had major winds and HUMONGOUS waves, and we (adults included) played and laughed in the giant waves in an area in front of the hotel that was not blocked by the sandbags. I have no idea what those strong currents did to the sandy beach, but we sure did have a ball.
Don’t let the sandbags and smaller strips of beach stop you from booking a hotel stay in the Playa del Carmen area. Sure, it’s not as enjoyable to gaze out into the turquoise and royal-blue ocean with those massive lumps in the way, but all-inclusive properties, hotel activities, archaeological ruins, tequila bars, snorkeling expeditions, ATV rides, ziplines, tropical breezes and lots of sunshine still beckon!
Here are a couple more photos of the “beached whales” in front of and just north of the Sandos Playacar Beach Resort & Spa: