There is more to the Riviera Maya than powdery-soft beaches and warm, tropical waters.
While we love the beach, a delightful array of music, art, theater, and spectacular cultural activities are waiting to be explored in the Riviera Maya and Yucatan.
Hallmarks of Mexican culture such as Dia de los Muertos and the country’s extraordinary food traditions have been recognized by UNESCO as important to global heritage and culture.
What makes this area culturally distinctive is that it’s a unique mixture of Mayan and immigrant cultures. It’s why you can find traditional folk dances at Xcaret and street murals painted by respected artists from around the world in Akumal.
Here are our top 10 cultural experiences in the Riviera Maya.
- Three days of sand, sea, and jazz – an unbeatable combination you can find at the Riviera Maya Jazz festival. Headliners include Nora Jones, Bobby McFerrin, and Bebel Gilberto just to name a few.
- The Akumal Arts Festival and Residency brings together more than 70 respected artists, musicians and performers from around the world with residents for a weekend of workshops, live events, and painting.
- The Playa del Carmen Theater (Teatro de la Ciudad de Playa del Carmen) is the permanent home to the Quintana Roo symphony orchestra, as well as artists, poets, actors and other members of the local arts community.
- La Joya Cirque du Soleil, located in La Vidanta Hotel in Playa del Carmen, dazzles audiences from around the world with a combination of unique culinary experiences and performing arts in an intimate theater setting to engage the audience’s five senses. Joya draws on Mexican history and heritage by telling the story of an alchemist and his granddaughter embarking on a quest to discover the secrets of life.
- The Merida Theatre (José Peón Contreras) is home to the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra and visiting, international musicians. This theater not only has cultural roots in the city but deep historical roots. Build in the late 1800’s the theater is not only an architectural masterpiece but part of Merida’s art community history.
- Community Tours take you deeper into the heart of local neighborhoods, places you can’t find on a tourist brochure. Participate in local food tastings and experience local crafts through the eyes of a Mayan. Learn about a special stingless bee whose honey has long been produced for human and commercial use.
- Cultural Centers throughout the Riviera Maya sponsor classes and workshops to help visitors to the area learn more about local communities. Find a favorite activity or check out the events each cultural center offers throughout the year.
- Learn about Mexico one bite at a time through the cooking schools in the region. Cooking experiences such as Lina’s Mexican Kitchen in Tulum, the Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Morelos, and private cooking classes at your vacation home by Chef Daveed are just a few of our favorite ways to learn how to make traditional Mexican dishes.
- Casa de los Venados in Valladolid houses the most extensive private collection of Mexican folk art in the country. The 18,000-square foot home is open to the public, doubles as a museum and is one of the top museums in Valladolid. There, you can see more than 3,000 pieces of folk art created by some of the greatest artists in Mexico.
- Some of the best nightly performances happen in the city and village town square, also known as the “zocalo.” Every city in Mexico, no matter how big or small has one. Here, you can find local artists performing unannounced and without fanfare. Part of Mexico’s night culture is to visit with friends in the Zocalo while watching local artists and performers. Take a walk to the local zocalo and discover new performances any night of the week.
Inspired to experience the vibrant culture of the Riviera Maya and Yucatan for yourself? Contact Paulina, our concierge, to get tickets to local events. You can also contact our reservations team to help you find a great vacation rental during your stay.
Featured images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil and the Akumal Arts Festival and Residency.