There are always a lot of events, music festivals, and other festivities taking place in Cancun, and it’s great when these coincide with your planned vacation. There are also some fantastic annual cultural festivals that are worth taking part in if you can. They’ll give you a taste of Mexican culture and traditions, and will make memories that will stay with you for many years to come.
Here are some of the most popular annual festivals that take place in and around Cancun.
There are two main jazz festivals in the Mexican Riviera each year:
Taking place at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, the All-Inclusive Cancun Jazz Festival lasts 3 days and has been setting the jazz scene alight since its inception in 2015. Exclusively for guests of the hotel, this is very much a resort festival, but for fans of jazz, it’s an important event in the annual festival calendar. This year’s event line-up includes Chaka Khan, Isley Bros, Smokey Robinson, and Herbie Hancock.
If local festivals are more your thing, then the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival would be our recommendation. A free event taking place over several days in late November, this Playa del Carmen-based beach festival has been running since 2003 making it the most established jazz event in the region. You can sign up for information on the 2021 festival, which is taking place from 25-27 November, here.
Carnaval – or Carnival in English – takes place all over the world, usually sometime in late February or early March. In Cancun, it’s a big deal, with fiestas and 5 days of parades that include inventive floats full of partying locals, wearing brightly colored costumes and masks. This is an upbeat and exciting atmosphere for vacationers and a great introduction to festivals in Mexico.
Spring Equinox at Chichen Itza
Happening on or around 20 March each year is spring equinox, the day the sun shines directly on the equator, and when the length of the day and night are (almost) equal. On this day in Chichen Itza, one of the region’s many Mayan ruins, something special happens.
The main temple at this famous site is dedicated to the god Kukulkan, the feathered serpent God. And on spring equinox, the sun shines a shadow directly onto the temple in the shape of a serpent. This is an unforgettable sight that’s equally popular with Mexicans and tourists and is well worth witnessing if you can.
Whale Shark Festival
Whale sharks are important for Isla Mujeres, and they gather here in huge numbers each summer to feed on this rich plankton-filled part of the ocean. Proving the point, there is even a monument to whale sharks mid-way down the island (Monumento Tiburon Ballena). So it’s no surprise that there’s also an annual festival on the island that’s dedicated to these mighty creatures.
Taking place in July each year, the island celebrates the whale sharks’ migration with parties and dancing, delicious local foods, and the opportunity to swim with these gentle giants. Also, it’s a timely opportunity to remind people of the importance of marine conservation, without which these beautiful creatures could be lost.
Dia de los Muertos
Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is probably Mexico’s most famous festival. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between family members still living and those who have passed, and it’s a festival steeped in tradition and emotion. It’s a bright and colorful affair, with altars set up to honor family members. And the Yucatan does things in its own way, incorporating the Mayan ‘Halan Pixán’, or ‘Food for the Souls’ into its traditions by offering up regional foods and tequila to their dead.
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