If it’s one thing Riviera Maya, and its destination hot spots like Playa del Carmen, is known for is its stunning cerulean waters and sublime sandy shorelines. Which is why it’s no surprise that travelers and ex-pats alike set up base in Playa del Carmen, whether for a short-term visit or long-term stay. However, with its continued growth and large developments replacing those laid-back roots with upscale options, many find that Playa del Carmen is losing the charm that attracted them to the destination, to begin with. Also, if you visit between May-October, you may find the beaches lined with sargassum (aka seaweed), as this is the peak time for the plant to wash ashore.

A dreamy alternative: Isla Mujeres. This tiny island is just a 15-minute ferry ride away from Cancun. Isla Mujeres may only be five miles long and half a mile wide, but it boasts some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches, sans sargassum! Many of the beaches in Isla Mujeres rarely get hit with the amount of seaweed that can be found on other beaches in Riviera Maya. In addition to having seaweed-free beaches, Isla Mujeres is home to Playa Norte, one of the world’s best beaches. Located on the island’s northern end, Playa Norte is everything Caribbean paradises are made of—powder-soft, palm-fringed beaches with crystalline waters lapping the shores. The beach also recently received Blueflag status, one of the world’s most recognizable certification awards for beaches, marinas, and boats.