Mexico is a country of artisans. There are only a few other places where arts and crafts are such an integral part of the country’s culture and identity, produced and enjoyed by people from all classes and backgrounds. Many crafting techniques in Mexico date back hundreds and even thousands of years. The traditions have been influenced by colonizers as well as the passage of time, but the products are timeless and manage to be both ancient and precious at once. If you happen to be visiting Cancun on your trip to Mexico, this is a city where there are lots of places to purchase Mexican arts, crafts, and more. Read on to find out more about the top 10 souvenirs you can buy while visiting Cancun.
1. Leather goods
Mexico is known for producing some of the best leather in the world. Artisans trained in the craft of leather make saddles, boots, and belts for cowboys. Today, this handiwork translates into leather goods of all varieties, like purses, sandals, wallets, and more. Many Mexican leather products are decorated with patterns, so the items are all uniquely beautiful. It will be hard to find a store in Cancun that doesn’t sell leather goods, but be sure to stop by Plaza la Fiesta for an extensive amount of choices. Unlike many other stores and markets in Cancun, the prices at this large store are set, so you can’t bargain. However, the handicrafts in the store are such high quality that paying the full amount will be well worth your while.
Plaza la Fiesta
Address: Blvd. Kukulcan, Km 9, Zona Hotelera | Frente al Centro de Convenciones de Cancún, Cancun 77500, Mexico
Hours: 7:00 am to 11:00 pm
Website: Plaza la Fiesta
2. Local traditional clothing
Traditional Mexican clothing is unmistakable in its style. With influences from natives of the area and European colonizers, Mexican clothing has the perfect combination of fashion and function. It is made of durable materials that stand the test of time and adorned with colorful adornments like embroidery, beads, and lace. For women’s fashion, you may wish to take home a huipile, which is a blouse or tunic with intricate embroidered designs. For both women and men, a sombrero is another unique souvenir. These wide-brimmed hats usually have decorative designs. Purchase huipiles, sombreros, and more at Market 28, the city’s largest flea market.
Address: Av. Xel-ha Mz. 13, SM 28, Cancún, Quintana Roo 77501, Mexico
Hours: 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Website: Mercado 28
Ceramics in Mexico date back thousands of years and is the country’s most popular craft today. Mexican pottery varies depending on the region where it is made, and the many styles beautifully reflect the country’s diversity. Whether you choose an item made from the shiny black clay of Oaxaca or Talavera pottery, which can only be painted with six permitted colors, find a safe space in your suitcase to bring home some Mexican ceramics. Head over to La Isla, the city’s biggest shopping center, which is full of Mexican handicraft shops and international stores.
Address: Blvd. Kukulcan km 12.5, La Isla, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Hours: 10:00 am to 11:00 pm
Website: La Isla
4. Mayan jewelry
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Much of Mexican craftwork reflects the influence of the country’s natives. One such product is Mayan jewelry, which was first made over 5,000 years ago. These pieces are made from stones like jade and turquoise and metals like silver, copper, and gold. Mayan jewelry is not for those who favor understated fashion: its vibrant colors and chunky shapes make it very eye-catching. You can pick up Mayan jewelry at lots of stores around Cancun, but the Flamingo Mall is sure to have it. This is one of the oldest shopping centers in Cancun and has over 100 stores—many of which sell Mexican handicrafts and souvenirs.
Address: Blvd. Kukulcán Km.11.5 Hotel Zone Cancún Quintana Roo, México, P.C.77500
Hours: 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
Website: Flamingo Mall
Not only do Mexico’s crafts date back to the Mayan times - Xtabentun is a beverage with roots in the past too. This liqueur is made from anise seed, fermented honey, and rum. The honey comes from the nectar of the Xtabentun flower, which according to Mayan folklore was an intoxicating substance. If you’d like to find out whether the legends about Xtabentun are true, you’ll have to look for it: this liqueur is only produced in the Yucatan peninsula and difficult to find even in other parts of Mexico. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find Xtabentun at a liquor store located in Kukulcán Plaza.
Address: Blvd Kukulcan, Km 13, Zona Hotelera, Cancún, Quintana Roo 77500, Mexico
Hours: 8:00 am to 10:00 pm
Website: Kukulcán Plaza
6. Hand-painted margarita glasses
Another Mexican craft that dates back hundreds of years is glassblowing. Glassblowing was introduced by the Spanish colonizers in the 1500’s and the country has produced glass products ever since. One of the most popular pieces is the drinking glass, often marked by a blue rim around its edge. However, Mexican artisans also paint their glasses’ exteriors with colorful designs and patterns. One of the most popular drinks in Mexico is the margarita, so you’ll see painted margarita glasses all over Cancun. If you head to Plaza Las Americas, a large shopping mall in downtown Cancun, you might find some glasses and other items that are more reasonably priced than at shops in the Hotel Zone.
Plaza las Americas
Address: Dialogo Norte-Sur, Av. Tulum Sur, 7, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Hours: 10:00 am to 10:00pm
Website: Plaza las Americas
A garment that comes to mind when thinking of traditional Mexican products is the serape. These colorful shawls are typically hand woven by Mayan women on their personal looms. They feature different design patterns and fringed edges. The serape usually hangs to the knee and are often worn over the head like a poncho. You’ll have more luck locating a serape in a market than inside a mall in Cancun since villagers often sell their wares in the open air markets. Try Ki-Huic market to find this souvenir.
Address: Av Tulum 17, Cancún, Quintana Roo 77500, Mexico
Hours: 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
Though many of the souvenirs on this list are more decorative than practical, there is one Mexican souvenir that is both: a hammock! Hammocks originated in Mexico and were used for sleeping above the ground to protect oneself from predators. Mayan hammocks are hand woven on a loom, often in colorful patterns, and you’ll find other varieties made from sisal, cotton, and silk. To locate these handcrafted products, head back to Market 28 where independent artisans sell their goods.
Address: Av. Xel-ha Mz. 13, SM 28, Cancún, Quintana Roo 77500, Mexico
Hours: 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Website: Mercado 28
Now that you’ve acquired some margarita glasses, don’t forget the tequila to go in them! Tequila is a popular beverage around the world, but it is the national drink of Mexico. Liquor can only be called tequila if it’s made from the distilled blue agave spirits made in Mexico. You can buy tequila in any liquor store, but if you’re up for a special experience, head to the Tequila Factory, where you can take a tour to learn how tequila is made, try samples, and take home a bottle decorated with unique art designs.
Address: Carr. Cancún - Tulum, 77570 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Hours: 11 am to 6 pm
Website: Tequila Factory
10. Mexican lacquerware
If you still have any room left in your luggage, try to squeeze in a piece of Mexican lacquerware. This is a type of craft where wooden objects or gourds are coated and decorated with vibrant designs. The technique dates back to the days of the Mayans and Aztecs and is another key part of Mexican artisan culture. Today, lacquerware is only produced in three Mexican states, making it a souvenir you will find only in few other places in the world. You’ll be able to find these handcrafted products at Plaza Bonita, a charming section of Market 28 that looks like a little village.
Address: Avenida Xel-ha, Lote 1, 77509 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Hours: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Arts and crafts you won't find anywhere else
One of the things that make Mexican crafts so special is that they are only produced in certain parts of the country. You can probably find replicas of Mexican ceramics or Mayan jewelry in other parts of the world, but knowing you purchased your souvenir from the country where it was made is a great feeling! These products are unlike anything you’ll find outside of Mexico, and the thousands of years of tradition and the pride of the artisans behind them make them even more special.
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