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May 26, 2009

We just returned from a week in the Mayan Riviera south of Cancun. We spent four days at the Riu Palace Riviera Maya in Playacar. Playacar is a privately developed section of Playa del Carmen just south of the city’s downtown area. The area includes single family homes, condominiums, and several all inclusive resorts along Playacar Beach. There is a golf course in the development. With the exception of the Royal Hideaway which is for adults only, all of the resorts are for family vacations. The resorts along the beach from north to south are:

- Riu Palace Riviera Maya
- Viva Wyndham Azteca
- Occidental Allegro Playacar
- Royal Hideaway
- Riu Playacar
- Viva Wyndham Maya
- Riu Palace Mexico
- Riu Yucatan
- Iberostar Tucan
- Sandos Playacar

In addition to the resorts along the beach there are two all inclusive resorts that are not directly on the beach: Riu Lipitia and Riu Tequila. Guests at these two resorts have access to the beach through other Riu properties that are on the beach.

Playacar Beach was essentially washed away by Hurricane Wilma, which struck the area on October 21 and 22, 2005. The resorts were left basically without any beach. The Mexican government and others have labored since then to reestablish the beach. By our inspection those efforts are proving largely successful. The beach in front of all of the resorts along Playacar Beach has been reestablished, except in front of the Royal Hideway and Allegro Playacar (both Occidental resorts) where there is very little beach. Structures at those two resorts are substantially closer to the water than at the other resorts, which may play a role in their difficulties reestablishing the beach.

I took a number of photos of the beach when we visited in May 2009. Those photos show a well established beach along the resort section of Playacar Beach. The photos also show that the “geotubes” are still in place to assist in reestablishing the beach. The geotubes look like huge beached whales; actually they are enormous sand bags designed to reverse beach erosion by reducing the sweeping effect of the waves and by reducing the power of the waves, which consequently tend to drop their sand and have less ability to wash sand away.

Based on a casual inspection, it’s unclear whether the geotubes are actually responsible for the beach improvement at the resorts. Standing on the beach and looking north of the area with geotubes, you can’t help but notice that the beach ends where the geotubes end. Conversely, standing on the beach and looking south of the area with geotubes, the beach looks just as good beyond the geotubes as it does where the geotubes are present. In any event, the beach restoration is amazing and the beach is again a wonderful asset to the resorts. The geotubes are bit unsightly, but they don’t really impinge upon enjoying the beach, the water, or watersports. In fact some people like to sit on the geotubes out in the water – as though they’re on a tiny little island – or use them as slides into the water.

Playacar Beach has been well restored at the Riu Palace Riviera Maya. The beach continues to the Playacar Reef Resort and the buildings beyond have no beach.

The geotubes on the Playacar Beach encourage beach formation. Swimming, wading, and watersports occur right around them.

The beach at the Viva Wyndham Azteca hosts volleyball on the beach.

The Allegro Playacar has very little beach.

The Royal Hideaway has very little beach and at one point provides a narrow path between a building and the water.

This is the beach at Riu Playacar. The building in the background is the Royal Hideaway.

The beach at the Viva Wyndham Maya has lots of sand and palapas.

There is a nice broad beach with palm trees at the Riu Palace Mexico.

Riu Yucatan also has a nice broad beach in front of the resort.

The Occidental Tucan has palapas on a broad beach.

The Sandos Playacar has volleyball on a nice broad beach.

South of the Playacar Beach the beach is also well restored and goes on for a long distance.

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