Dia De Los Muertos: Authentic Celebrations in Mexico

Celebrated each year on November 2nd, Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that involves the honoring of those who have passed on.

Although this may seem like a grim basis for a holiday, the Day of the Dead is every bit as cheery as Halloween. The two holidays nearly coincide and are increasingly celebrated together throughout Mexico.

Dia de Los Muertos began as a personal holiday largely celebrated at home, but has since expanded to include local churches, parks, museums and even resorts. Today, you can join in on the festivities and witness intricate altar displays, sugar skulls and weavings from local artisans.

The festival’s largest celebrations tend to take place in Oaxaca and Mexico City, but alternative options in and around the nation’s finest all-inclusive beach resorts are detailed below:

Xcaret Theme Park

A popular Riviera Maya theme park easily accessible to those staying in Cancun, Xcaret is known for its emphasis on eco-archeology. You can stop by any time of the year and enjoy swimming with the dolphins, rafting down Paradise River and exploring the trails of the park’s spooky Mexican cemetery. The best time to visit Xcaret is during Dia de Los Muertos, when the park puts on one of the most entertaining and tourist-friendly celebrations in all of Mexico.

During this special day, you can enjoy all of the standard Xcaret attractions, as well as performances and visual displays from local artists, cemetery tours, special workshops and altar viewings.

Hanal Pixan at El Rey

Another option if you are staying in or near Cancun is the Hanal Pixan observance at the Mayan ruins of El Rey. Similar to Dia de Los Muertos, Hanal Pixan is a Mayan variation of the holiday.

If you partake in the peaceful celebration at El Rey, you can expect to eat chicken tamales wrapped in banana leaves and drink homemade wine, which is believed to purify the soul. Additionally, you may be able to join the other attendees (most of whom are locals) for a special candle light ceremony.

Museo de Cozumel

The Museo de Cozumel provides an excellent overview of Cozumel’s unique history. During Dia de Los Muertos, the museum features a small exhibit dedicated to this special day. Its colorful altar mimics those seen in many churches and private homes, complete with several skulls and skeletons.

Dia de Los Muertos Festival in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta throws one of the best Dia de Los Muertos celebrations outside of Oaxaco. Every year, the Asociación Vallarta Centro joins forces with the Vallarta Centro Hotels Association, the Municipal Markets Administration and the City of Puerto Vallarta to put on a grand celebration that includes displays of paper mâché figures known as catrinas, parades, fireworks and local cuisine.

For a more traditional take on the holiday, stop by the 5 de Diciembre cemetery during the evening, when the families of those buried in the cemetery visit loved ones who have passed on. Although you are allowed to take part in these moments of reverence, it is vital to keep quiet and treat the locals in the cemetery with respect.

Experience this tradition in person. Find a Mexico travel specialist to plan your getaway.