Christmas in the Caribbean

Christmas in the Caribbean

Cancun for Christmas

Swap winter boots for flip-flops, and instead of scarves, pack your favourite swimming costume for Christmas in Cancun. With sand so white it could easily be mistaken for snow, it's one of the busiest times of the year on Mexico's Mayan coast. So as well as the sea, the atmosphere is also warm. It's time for posadas and family parties, but here it's also the best time of the year weather-wise to enjoy the beaches, the coral reef, and of course visits to impressive archaeological sites. Come to Cancun and explore the Riviera Maya in all its Christmas splendor.

Early December: Valladolid

In Mexico, there is a particular way of naming the december holiday season: "el puente Guadalupe-Reyes" (the Guadalupe-Reyes bridge). It is obviously a joke, but based on reality. The truth is that from 12 December, the day of the Empress of America, the dark-haired Virgin of Guadalupe, the celebrations do not stop.

The traditional Mexican posadas also begin around this time. The most traditional ones consist of a group of friends or neighbours (some dressed as the Holy Family, with the pregnant Virgin Mary) who go asking for a posada through the doors of their neighbourhood, until they arrive at the door designated for the celebration, where the owners make sure that all those who ask for posada receive some sweets and a cup of ponche (a delicious hot drink, typical of Christmas, which is made by cooking fresh fruits, nuts and spices for a long time, and can be drunk with "piquete", a few "gotitas" of some aguardiente).

In the city of Cancun you may come across an inn, but for a more intimate experience, head to Valladolid, a small colonial town in the interior of the Yucatan peninsula. You can combine the tour with your must-see visit to Chichen Itza, a 45-minute drive from Valladolid.

Last minute shopping

You'll probably have to buy your Christmas presents in Cancun (unless you've had the foresight to travel with them). With some of the best shopping centres in the country, there's no shortage of opportunities to get them in Cancun.

For typically Mexican gifts and souvenirs, we suggest Mercado 28 downtown, but you'll also find Mexican crafts and design in some of the shops in the Plaza Las Americas shopping centre. Both of these places can be covered with an organised shopping tour in Cancun. The other great place for Christmas shopping is Plaza Kukulkan, with a spectacular domed ceiling, and free nightly performances from 20-31 December. Take the opportunity to savour some of Mexico's traditional Christmas dishes. In many restaurants and hotels you'll have the option of trying them, and even in street food stalls (in the stew taco stalls) you'll find Christmas options.

The most typical Christmas Eve dinner dish in Mexican homes is bacalao a la vizcaĆ­na, a delicious stew with (among many other ingredients) cinnamon, olives and peeled almonds. Baked turkey has also spread due to the American influence. Another typical seasonal dish is romeritos, a kind of Mexican spinach prepared with mole. If you go on a street food tour in Cancun, there is bound to be a stall where you can try them.

Where to dine on December 24th in Cancun?

If you are wondering where to dine on the night of December 24th, let me tell you that you have many options. From fancy restaurants with breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea to more relaxed options on the beach, the choice depends on your style and budget. If you're looking for fine dining, try the Benazuza Restaurant at the Grand Oasis Sens Hotel, which offers a tasting menu with innovative dishes and a sophisticated atmosphere. If you prefer something more casual, La Palapa Belga Restaurant in downtown Cancun is a good option, with fresh seafood options and an oceanfront location.

Or if it's beachside dining you're after, don't miss Marakame Restaurant at the Casa Magna Marriott Hotel, which offers Mexican and Caribbean cuisine in an open-air setting. Whatever your choice, get ready to enjoy an unforgettable Christmas dinner in Cancun!

New Year's Eve

It's up to you: if you are looking for a celebration with dinner and dancing, be proactive and organise yourself with time to investigate the options (many) and make your reservation in advance. You can spend New Year's Eve on a boat, in a nightclub, in a hotel, or on the beach.

Wherever you go, you can watch the fireworks over the city, eat your twelve grapes and toast to good luck in a light dress or even a swimming costume.

The Three Wise Men

Whether you're staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, on the night of January 5th you're bound to run into the Three Wise Men in one way or another. As in all Spanish-speaking countries, this is the night when presents arrive for well-behaved children. Organise your own Three Kings celebration by buying a rosca to eat with your coffee the next morning when you open the presents.

For the best Rosca de Reyes in Cancun, head to Tere Cazola's bakery (famous for its cheese brioche, by the way), or to the Porfirios restaurant, where you can choose between one filled with maple syrup or lemon cream. Mexican custom dictates that whoever gets the figurine hidden in the rosca pays for the tamales eaten on Candlemas Day (2 February).

Save on Christmas in Cancun

In addition to the beaches, the jungle (the cenotes!), the Mesoamerican reef, the rich Mayan culture and history, and the most spectacular sunsets of a lifetime, the Mexican Caribbean coast at Christmas is full of special events and traditions, so there are even more reasons to visit Cancun at Christmas than at other times of the year.

Don't forget to do the sensible thing and travel with one of Go City's two passes for Cancun and the Riviera Maya, which will save on entrance fees to the region's main attractions - now that's a great Christmas present!