As a surprise, my younger sister planned a vacation for the two of us to explore Mexico together. It was the first visit to the country for both of us and as such we wanted to see some of the world-renowned historical sites, while also squeezing in plenty of beach side relaxation. We happened to visit during the traditional celebration of Dia de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) and the celebration included monuments for the deceased with brightly colored altars and offerings. On the way to Chichen Itza and the Cenote, we were also able to visit a Mayan village that still practices traditional ways of making clothing, food, and crafts, and sells everything in an open marketplace.
The Occidental Grand Xcaret, where we stayed, was a massive resort nestled right into the rocky shoreline. During our stay we enjoyed traditional Mexican foods as well as Mediterranean and American cuisine. The resort even featured five different pools and swimming areas, one of which was an entirely unique ocean-fed pool with a natural sand bottom. It was pure heaven!
Playa del Carmen and the surrounding cities are a spectacular mixture of culture, language, vibrant colors and, of course, excellent food. By far my favorite memory is of visiting a small neighboring village outside of town. Across from the city square there was a large stone church, dating back to the 1800s, adorned with colorful tissue flags in honor of Dia de Los Muertos. The area proved to be the absolute best spot for observing life away from the tourist center. It was here where I felt as though I had a peek into a candid moment of the local life. With each day of the trip, I was able to take in the relaxed culture of Mexico, enjoy the sprawling landscape, and document the entire experience on film.
Occidental Grand Xcaret
Carretera Federal Chetumal-Puerto Juarez Km. 282, #307, 77710 Solidaridad
Quintana Roo, Mexico
- The infamous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are the perfect escape when you’ve had enough poolside sunshine!
- If you’re looking for a day trip to explore the area, we suggest stopping by the underground caves at Cenote Xkeken.
Laurelyn is a fine art wedding photographer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is interested in all things travel and outdoors, local farmers markets, and antique hunting, in addition to film photography.