How to Read Your Way Through the Yucatan This Summer

Daydreaming of an exciting, Mexican escape from the winter that just won’t end?

Take a virtual tour of the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula by reading our list of fantastic books set in the area and showcase the region’s cultural, culinary, geographic, and natural richness. We hope they will inspire you to plan an adventure of your own.

Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano

Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano is a smart, paranormal, young adult thriller about John “Smoke” Conlan, who is serving time for two murders he may or may not have committed.

Smoke isn’t like his fellow inmates at a dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado known as the Y. A near-death experience left him with the ability to shed his physical body at will. When the lights go out at the Y, Smoke travels freely outside of its concrete walls and gathers information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds.

Will Smoke reveal the true killer and clear his name before the thin threads holding his body and soul together snap? Smoke’s journey takes him to Paamul, a hidden beach community just 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and 25 minutes north of Tulum.

Cosimano is an award-winning author of several acclaimed young adult novels who lives in the Riviera Maya with her husband and two sons. Holding Smoke was an International Thriller Award nominee and a Bram Stoker Award finalist.

Tears of a Jaguar by A.J. Hartley

Museum curator Deborah Miller trades Atlanta’s urban jungle for Ek Balam, a Mayan archeological site known for its carved figures, in Tears of a Jaguar, an adult thriller, by A.J. Hartley.

While overseeing Ek Balam’s excavation, Miller finds a collection of rough-cut rubies hidden from the world for generations. Determined to retrieve the jewels after they are stolen, Miller traces their complex history across four centuries and two continents, from Mexico to northern England. Along the way, Miller must fend off archaeologists, occultists, and a shrewd arms dealer, who will stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the rubies for themselves.

Hartley is an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author who writes historical fiction, mystery/thrillers, fantasy, and young adult novels. He traveled extensively to Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Merida, and Uxmal to research Tears of a Jaguar.

Caribbean by James A. Michener

James A. Michener is an author who made the big small and the small big. In more than 40 books, he captured the sweeping scope of history and geography in generational stories of families while incorporating historical research and facts. His classic, historical novel, Caribbean, is no exception.

Beginning with the 1310 conquest of the Arawaks by cannibals to fictional journey of two Cuban refugees who return to the Island and meet Fidel Castro, Michener blends fact and fiction. He packs 700 years of history “into a tale teeming with revolution and romance, authentic characters and thunderous destinies.”

A story chronicling the classical Maya period in Mexico, beginning around 250 AD, is the only chapter in the book set in Mexico. However, the inclusion of the Yucatecan Mayan underscores Mexico’s geographic, cultural, and historical place among the glittering islands of the Caribbean.

Yucatan Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species of the Yucatan Peninsula by James Kavanaugh

Yucatan Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species of the Yucatan Peninsula by James Kavanaugh is much less a book than a handy guide to the region’s bird species. It contains 140 full-color illustrations as well as a map. 

The Yucatan Peninsula is home to 543 species of birds, representing half of all bird species spotted in Mexico. Whether you are a novice or veteran enthusiast, the Riviera Maya is a great place to bird-watch.

Loco Gringo recommends Muyil, near the Sian Ka’an biosphere, as a great place for birdwatching. Local tour guides will walk you through Mayan ruins, across the jungle, and up an observation tower, where depending on the time of year, you can identify more than 50 species of birds.

Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by Chef David Sterling

Photo courtesy of Los Dos Cooking School 

Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary ExpeditionChef David Sterling takes you on a gastronomic tour of the Peninsula. Sterling, an internationally-recognized authority on Yucatecan cuisine, founder of Los Dos Cooking School in Merida, and friend of Loco Gringo, sadly passed away in 2016.

Traversing thousands of miles, he sampled “the people’s food” at bakeries, chicharronerías, street vendors, home restaurants, and cantinas in Mérida, Campeche, and Valladolid.

The book provides an inside look at regional food traditions — from jungle towns where Mayan descendants craft generations’ old-recipes with simple, homegrown ingredients to coastal towns where seafood reigns supreme.

Appealing to professional and novice cooks, Sterling also delivered more than 275 authentic and tested recipes. You’ll also find tips on building a Yucatecan pantry, basic cooking techniques, and substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients.

Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition is a love letter to the region’s people and places sure to inspire you long after you return home.

Contact Paulina, our concierge, for more information about how you can travel, taste, and tour the Yucatan and Riviera Maya found in the abovementioned books. 



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