There are quite a few festivals in Playa del Carmen throughout the year. A good website to get up-to-date information on events is: www.RivieraMayaEvents.com.
BPM electronic music festival
There are numerous electronic music festivals at Mamitas beach throughout the year, but the biggest is the BPM festival which runs from New Year’s eve to January for almost two weeks (note: the town is really busy during this time). I haven’t been as it’s not really my thing, so check out the above website for more info on dates, line-up and tickets.
The Riviera Maya Film festival
For me, the stand out festival which tourists may not hear about is the Riviera Maya Film festival. In 2014 it was held in March.
In 2013 it was held in April
It features a wide range of international films from different genres. Last year we saw a French animation, a Chinese gangster flick and a French black comedy which we squeezed into the final two days because I had trouble finding accurate information about it. I was kicking myself that we didn’t go earlier to see some local Mexican films. I’m so pleased it’s being held earlier this year and I will be making sure I claim my seat!
Subtitles are in both English and Spanish which was one thing I had trouble getting information on, and the best part of the whole thing is that it is completely FREE! GRATIS! The Playa del Carmen leg of the festival takes place in the old cinema in the ‘Plaza de Pelicanos’ mall on Avenida 10 near Calle 10.
Premiers, special screenings and the finale screening, complete with ‘Red carpet’ style appearances by some of the actors and directors took place on the beach at the end of Avenida Juarez. There are also screenings and events held on the beach in Tulum, Puerto Morelos and Cancun.
This year the festival is staring on March 9, 2014, and I am very excited to be able to make the most of it. This year I am ready, and looking forward to a week long film marathon!
Festival of Life and Death at Xcaret
From October 29 to November 4, Xcaret eco theme park, 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen holds a festival to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
We went in 2012 and found it to be a wonderful experience. You can purchase an evening ticket for around US$60, which is less than the cost of a full day pass and gives you access to the park from 4pm. If you can prove you are a resident, tickets are much cheaper (around $25). They have a range of cultural displays unique to the day of the dead as well as children’s activities and face painting.
There are some wonderful theatrical and dance performances held in beautiful amphitheaters, including the superb ‘Mexico Espectacular’ show depicting the cultural history of Mexico through music and dance. It begins at 6:30 pm but get there early to secure a seat.
I think this show is worth the ticket price in itself (and is performed all year round, not just for the festival) as the venue, lighting, costumes and performers are truly world class. You can read about my experience of the 2012 festival here.
The Riviera Maya Jazz festival
Another popular FREE event in Playa del Carmen, the Jazz festival is held on Mamitas beach on the last weekend in November.
It runs over three evenings beginning on Thursday, culminating in the headlining act on Saturday night. The festival features a range of artists from over Mexico as well as some international acts. In 2013, the headliner was Earth, Wind and Fire. Bring a chair or something to sit on.
In the Square…
There seems to always be something happening in the town’s main square throughout the year, from a Oaxacan food and handicrafts market to numerous fairs with rides and food stalls (Mexicans love a good feria). It’s a lively part of town where you can attend some good local events, eat elotes (corn cob with cheese and chili) and sweet crepes slathered in la lechera (condensed milk).
The square is located on Avenida 20 between Calle 8 and 10.
On the evening of September 15, there is a large celebration in the square for Mexican Independence Day (which is the 16th). A huge crowd gathers in the hours before midnight to chant ‘Viva Mexico!’ and watch live performances by musicians and dancers.