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    Most of the laws that we live with regarding beach access in the Unites States, Canada and Mexico (as well as other parts of the world with coastlines) were established well before beach access for tourism became a major factor. These laws have changed little over the years, and tourism and private property rights have been tested as access to the coast has become increasingly popular.

    In the United States individuals and companies can own property on the coast down to a point above the ocean waters called the 'Mean High Tide Line'. This is a point on the sand (or rocks) where the high tide averages on an annualized basis. Land above that mean high tide level can be privately owned and restricted, and land below that high tide line is owned by the government and accessible to the public. Anyone who has walked the beaches below the million dollar homes in Malibu, California has seen the signs clarifying the location of the Mean High Tide Line on those great beaches.

    Mexico, however, is a whole different enchilada. Many years ago the Mexican government established a law that stipulated that no coastal land could be privately owned within 20 meters inland of the Mean High Tide Line. For those of you who aren't keen on the metric system, that's about 60 feet. For those of you keen on beach access, that means you have a right to walk on any beach in Mexico without any restrictions. That's pretty cool if you like exploring beaches, not quite so cool if you own beachfront property and want a little privacy.

    As with many laws in Mexico, this one also has a little twist. This 20 meters (60 feet) above the Mean High Tide Line (also known as the Federal Zone) can be leased by individuals or companies. Those who choose to lease this stretch of land (usually those who own the land behind the Mean High Tide Line) cannot obstruct public access to this property and cannot build permanent structures on this property.

    Over the years this beach access issue in Mexico's Federal Zone has gone through a few tests, including the leasing of the Federal Zone by individuals. Ultimately the courts have upheld the fact that vehicles can be prevented from accessing the Federal Zone, but individuals cannot. Since beaches are theoretically off limits in Mexico for vehicles anyway, this is not much of a restriction for most people who want beach access.

    What does all of this mean for the average Mexico visitor? Basically it's great news! This means that you can walk on, hang out on and take a nap on any beach in Mexico within this 20 meter zone. Even those beaches in front of the swankiest hotels and houses on the Mexican coastline. Pretty cool, huh?

    So how does this fit in with some of the hotels in Mexico where the owners really don't want the public stomping around? It's an interesting situation to be sure. Of course if you are on the beach of an all-inclusive hotel you are indeed able to walk on the beach in front of that hotel with no restrictions. But you can be pretty sure that if you try to swagger on up past the Federal Zone line into the private zone that you will probably be asked to leave the property. And they have every right to do so.

    Carlos Fiesta has tested this beach access concept in Cabo, Cancun and on the mainland Mexico many times. Each time he walked on the beaches in front of the regular and all-inclusive hotels he was watched but not stopped by resort personel. As long as he stayed in the Federal Zone.

    This law explains the fact that on any beach in Mexico you may be approached by vendors trying to sell you hats, jewelry, or even a minuature superman with a parachute. Even though the resort would probably rather keep these vendors at bay, these local people have every right to access the Federal Zone, just like you do.

    So pat yourself on the back for taking the time to read this section of Cancun Expo. You are now more informed about beach access in Mexico than 95% of the peolple who visit.


    Carlos Fiesta's Hot Tip

    Aside from all-inclusive resorts, most hotels in Mexico really don't care if you walk into the front lobby and onto the grounds to check out the facilities. This is a great way to preview hotels for yor next trip to that particular destination, and to take a dip in the ocean for a refreshing swim. These same hotels are also more than happy to sell you a margarita at thier ocean view bar. Cool!

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