There are those who come to the Caribbean to relax. There are those who come to party, those who come to dive, those who come to shop, and those who come to work (rare, but they do exist). Many times, if these sun- worshipping, margarita-drinking, water-loving, crafts-seeking or over-working folks are fortunate enough, they catch a local event that changes their vacation from nice – to a cultural experience that they remember forever. In hopes of not leaving a potential life-changing event to chance, this post should help you time your visit to the Maya Riviera so you can partake in some of the annual treats that the area has to offer.
This week in February (23rd to 27th) Mayakoba (managed by Fairmont Hotels) hosts Mexico’s only PGA Tour event, the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Daily entrance fees range from $10 to $150 U.S. and is one of the areas biggest annual occurrences.
If golf is not your thing, and you’re in the Riviera right now, you’re in for a real treat because it’s carnaval time. Get ready to party (local-style) during the Mardi-Gras of Latin America. Here, the town that does it best is Cozumel, but the first week of March has towns, (including Playa and Tulum), all across Quintana Roo and Yucatan, living it up until the grand finale – Fat Tuesday, on March 8th.
Immediately following carnaval, for those of you who aren’t strict Catholics, the First Mexican Wine Festival will start on Ash Wednesday, on March 9th. It will include four days of workshops, conferences, and wine-tasting in various locations around town.
International Obscura Day takes place on April 9th. This year’s local event will be hosted by yours truly, and it will take place in Akumal, in the daytime, and in Playa del Carmen, at night. In Playa, it will include an evening of conversation, exploration, and cocktails – with award-winning, Mexican architect, Alejandro Alarcon (at Reina Roja Hotel) and local designers and artists. In Akumal, there will be a Mayan celebration of food preparation (as well as a Mayan breakfast and lunch at La Lunita Restaurant), a guided nature walk with biologist and author – David Nuñez, snorkeling in the bay and the Yal-ku Lagoon, and visits to a cenote and the art studio of Mexican painter Enrique Alcaraz.
During the month of May (from the 20th to the 22nd), in Tulum, the Green Ideas Expo takes place, offering local artist works, exhibits, and conferences, as well as ecologically-sound products for sale.
Of course, the summer months are fairly quiet – if you don’t count the thousands of Mexican tourists that flock to area’s beaches. If you happen to be in the area during these months, be sure to check out Playa’s Calle 12, where the all-night, dance parties happen. Another memorable experience to be had, during the month of June, is summer solstice. There are yearly gatherings and festivals for the celebration of the geometrical Mayan wonder that aligns itself perfectly with the sun, to create equal light and darkness on the pyramid at Chichen Itzá (about two and one-half hours away).
If you miss summer solstice at Chichen, you can still catch the fall equinox, which is even more spectacular, in September. Indeed, fall is a splendid time to visit this area. Crowds are few, prices are low, and the weather is usually perfect. This is also the time to see freshly-hatched marine turtles. Also in the fall (October), is The Festival de la Tortuga Marina – in Akumal and Tulum. This is an unforgettable family experience. The Akumal Ecological Center usually publishes the festival’s details in the summertime.
Late November brings with it two of the biggest events of the year: Taste of Playa and Riviera Maya Jazz Festival. The first starts on November 20th, and it features hundreds of chefs and restaurants. The latter is pure magic – international jazz musicians gathered to play in front of the Caribbean Sea. Thousands of music lovers and accidental tourists flock to these shores to enjoy the cool sounds of different guest musicians each year – starting on Thanksgiving Day.
December also brings tidings of music and joy, albeit with a different style of music. In Playa there is a yearly custom that has caught on like wildfire: The BPM Festival. It is an electronic extravaganza, and hipsters all over the world are hailing it as “the place to be” for New Year’s Eve. On the beach and in the clubs and bars all over town, international disc jockeys, fans, artists, dancers and party-goers join forces for ten days of all-day-and-night-partying and the laying down of the beats. The year’s last affair begins on December 31st, so don’t forget.
Photo Courtesy of Lena Hyde