Tuesday, January 22, 2013

swamp gas? ...not exactly appetizing

Ok, so I would like to go into a little more about the foul smell we experience in Playa del Carmen this Christmas.  Smell has a powerful effect on peoples impression of places.  From "new car smell" to the food you eat to the house you buy.  Foul smells are powerful deterrents and I can't help but think that my foul impression of vacationing in Mexico has a lot to do with this smell.  It's kind of sad, but when something smells rotten it's extremely hard to enjoy yourself.  The same goes for my impressions of Hawaii.  One of my very favorite things about Hawaii is it's smell.  Especially the fragrant scent of plumeria trees blooming all around me.  It's deliciously intoxicating and whenever I even get a hint of a similar smell I'm transported in my mind to the tropical grounds of my favorite resort.  It's one of the many reasons I feel that Hawaii is magical.  It's hard to explain to people that don't have the Hawaii bug, but I usually just give up and say "Hawaii is Magical!".

So I've given Mexico a bit of a bad rap.  I've even wrote about this smell in my review of the resort we stayed at.  This smell is powerful!  There are many great things about Mexico, but I can't shake the rotten smell.  First of all, the smell is very strong and it is definitely a sulfur "rotten egg" smell, just about the worst smell that you can imagine.  I found that it was the strongest at or near the beach, which is probably the worst possible location for vacationing tourists like me.  I wanted to just sit back, relax, have a few beers and enjoy watching the waves crash on the shore.  It was near impossible to do this with your mind wandering about what in God's name could be creating such a foul smell?!  It's especially unnerving when you are trying so hard to pretend it doesn't exist (mind over matter mind over matter...) and you are swimming in the ocean watching trash float along beside you.  Second to getting sick, it was the main aspect of our trip that put a foul taste in my mouth. 

In my brief research (with little to no factual evidence) I've come across 2 possible sources of the smell.  Various internet sources attribute this smell to the mangrove forests or swamps.  Rotting vegetation in these situations mixed with high temperatures and moisture develop these gases aka "swamp gas".  Awesome!  The other scenario is that it's the overloaded sewer system in these overly developed resort areas that have grown too fast for the infrastructure that is supporting them.  Oh no!  I seriously hope it's not the latter. I even dabbled in researching this sewer system in this area and found very little information.  There are many travel forums regarding this topic and it's a bit of a sensitive issue.  Whatever it is, it's awful.  I would absolutely stay away from this area of Mexico for no other reason than the smell, I found it impossible to enjoy myself under those conditions.  There are several people who live in this area or travel there often who say that it doesn't bother them or they don't notice it.  So make your own opinion on this.  Disclaimer:  I am a bit of a delicate flower.  However, my husband agreed with me on this one.   

Have you ever experienced a foul smell like this when you've been vacationing?  If so, how did it affect your opinion of the place?

Side note:  there was one area we visited on this trip and it did not smell foul, and I subsequently enjoyed myself greatly.  Cozumel is beautiful!  If I do ever go back to Mexico, I'd go to Cozumel and never leave.  The water was crystal clear and with no foul smell and it WAS paradise.  If you are planning a trip to Cozumel visit Paradise Beach, we loved it there.  It was my second time to this beach and it's even better than it was the first time with the addition of a beautiful new swimming pool.  My Grandma even enjoyed drinking an adult beverage out of a coconut and it was gooood.

Paradise Beach, Cozumel <3


  1. I agree, you really can’t enjoy your vacation if there’s a foul smell hanging around the place. It just takes away the relaxing vibe. Lucky you, you found a place that’s totally like a paradise. =)

    Alison Spalding

  2. Whoa! That's quite a very frustrating experience, Jaelyte! I must agree with Alison, it's really not fun to be in a place with a haughty environment. Anyway, it's good that you found a place over there that made you enjoy your vacation.

    Darius Cartmell