Cancun’s Disappearing Beach

Contributing editor Charles Kulander offers a reminder to the delegates gathered at the COP 16 climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico this week.

Photo: Cancun Sand WallAs delegates from 193 nations convene at COP 16, the 16th annual climate change conference now meeting in Cancun, local environmentalists point to a pressing sustainability issue right on their doorstep: Ever since hotels have replaced Cancun’s dune-and-mangrove eco-system, Mexico’s most famous beach has been on life support.

Less than a year after its receding shoreline received a $74 million infusion of sand that extended the beach the length of a football field, two-thirds of it has disappeared. Left behind is a four- to six-foot sand cliff that nesting turtles cannot breach. (Or many people, for that matter.) Environmentalists also point to ecological disaster at the underwater dredge site near Cozumel island, and the threat to the Meso-American reef yards offshore. Hoteliers argue that life is a beach, and not having one would cripple an industry that provides ten percent of Mexico’s GDP. (And given last year’s triple whammy of swine flu, drug violence, and recession, Mexico is in desperate need of some hard cash.) This sand wall stands as a visual reminder of the obstacles that need to be breached in any discussion about environmental preservation and economic development. COP 16 delegates, please take note.

Read More: The COP 16 conference runs from November 29-December 10, 2010. To learn more about how the world’s coastlines are faring, read Traveler’s annual Destinations Rated guide in our current issue.  

[COP 16]


  1. Reysar
    February 10, 2011, 2:09 pm

    well i went to New Year’s eve and i stayed at the Dorado Seaside and it’s one of the best holidays i have had in my entire life i must say that the party was awesome they even have a chapel inside the hotel and i had my transportation arranged by Lomas Travel and they are the representatives of my travel agency the one i use to travel Funjet so i had no doubt and they do what they promised me great time awesome food romantic rooms what else can you ask!!

  2. Felicity
    February 1, 2011, 10:14 am

    Last November, my wife and I stayed at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya in Riviera Maya. All by itself, this resort would meet all your requirements…great beach, GREAT pool with lazy river, wave pool and multiple pool sections, great restaurant choices and of course room hammocks. In addition it is located in a complex of other Iberostar resorts so you have an even wider variety of pools and restaurants to choose from. Staying at the Maya includes more inclusive access to the spa than from the other Iberostar resorts.
    Felicity- Flights CancunMexico Destinations

  3. Pamzuzu
    January 26, 2011, 11:23 pm

    I feel bad for Cancun because it is a great vacation destination. I was there on December 2010 and honestly they are doing a great job with the rehabilitation of the beach. I had good time and seems like things are getting normal again for Cancun :)