Mexico Will Fine Hotels and Restaurants That Block Access to Public Beaches

A beach on a sunny day with people in Cancun, Mexico

Mexico is cracking down on hotels, clubs, and restaurants that claim the country’s public beaches as their own.

This week, Mexico’s Senate unanimously voted to fine property owners who try to restrict public access to beaches up to $47,000, the Associated Press reported. Businesses that repeatedly break the law could have their permits to operate on the beach revoked.

The Senate’s actions represent a win for Mexicans who have been protesting against businesses operating “private” beachfronts. In February, two Mexican tourists were arrested for refusing to leave a stretch of sand that a Playa del Carmen restaurant claimed was its private service area, the AP reported. Video of the couple being handcuffed and led away from the beach circulated on social media, sparking a fresh backlash against businesses claiming public beachfronts as their own.

Federal law in Mexico makes clear that such arrangements are illegal, and that the public cannot be denied access to beaches. Businesses are not allowed to build any permanent structures within 20 meters of high tide or block anyone from accessing the beach. Still, some hotels, restaurants, and clubs have become accustomed to marketing their private beachfront services and keeping the public out.

The pandemic further exacerbated conflicts between locals and beachfront businesses, and not just in Mexico. Sarasota Magazine recently wrote about residents who have been pushing back against residential communities claiming private access to parts of the beach that are legally public.

Mexico’s bill next goes to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for approval.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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