After a dream vacation, it’s natural to want to take something home with you, something special that will remind you of your Caribbean vacation for years to come.
A tacky T-shirt is probably not that special something.
Shopping for souvenirs in Cancun can be a tricky business. You don’t want to end up with something that was actually made in China. But don’t worry: there are many items that you can purchase that reflect the culture, warmth and traditions of Mexico.
Traditional clothing is a hippy chic souvenir — Photo courtesy of Martha Silva
Items of clothing can be lovely souvenirs, and we don’t mean huge sombreros.
For women and girls, traditional Mexican embroidered dresses and blouses are the perfect hippy chic souvenir. For men and boys, a guayabera (a formal wedding shirt) looks spiffy with dressy shorts or pants.
Gift shops or markets are good places to buy traditional clothing.
If you like to drink, forgo the tequila this time and pick up a bottle of xtabentún, an anise liqueur produced on the Yucatan Peninsula from anise seed and fermented honey from the nectar of xtabentún flowers. Rum is then added to the anise and honey mixture.
Xtabentun is often used in that flaming Mayan coffee that visitors to Cancun enjoy so much, or it can be served straight, cold or with ice and honey. Most liquor or grocery stores carry xtabentún.
Mexico is famous for its silver. A silver ring, bracelet, necklace or a pair of earrings are souvenirs that you will have for the rest of your life.
Just be sure to look for the 925 and MEX stamps. You can buy silver at jewelry stores, gift shops, markets and sometimes right on the beach.
"Alebrijes" were born in artist Pablo Linares' hallucinations — Photo courtesy of Eduardo Robles Pacheco
Bet you didn’t know that chocolate was invented by the Mayans and their predecessors, the Olmecs. The Mayans even called cacao (cocoa) the "food of the gods."
Since Cancun is in the heart of ancient Mayan territory, it’s the perfect place to try real chocolate. At Ah Cacao in Plaza La Isla, you can buy chocolate bars; chocolate-coated coffee beans; cocoa beans and cocoa powder; Mexican hot chocolate; and even chocolate soap, body oil and lotion.
For art-lovers, alebrijes – brightly colored Oaxacan-Mexican sculptures of mystical creatures – make a superb souvenir. Originally made of papier-mâché, they're now usually carved from wood. The artist Pedro Linares created the very first alebrije after hallucinations caused by a very high fever.
Alebrijes can be found at gift shops or the markets.
For centuries, beekeepers on the Yucatan Peninsula, the region where Cancun is located, have harvested honey. Honey was used as a sweetener and antibiotic.
You can buy honey produced in the region at Walmart and other groceries stores. Be sure to check the label to make sure it's from this area.
Real Talavera is from the state of Puebla — Photo courtesy of Russ Bowling
Talavera is a type of maiolica pottery. Authentic talavera only comes from the city of Puebla and three surrounding communities, because that's where the clay used to produce it is found. The most popular pottery is blue, but other colors are used as well. Buy talavera tiles and add a little Mexican flavor to your kitchen at home.
If you want to be sure you're buying authentic talavera pieces, look for imperfect work, as it's all produced by hand. You should also be able to see brushstrokes, and the piece should be bright and glossy. It should feel heavy and durable, not light. Lastly, look for the artist's signature, as well as a DO4 certification number.
Talavera can be purchased in gift shops or a market.
Vanilla is a popular souvenir, but you have to be very careful if you want to be sure you are buying real vanilla. Check the label. The only ingredients should be vanilla beans and alcohol.
Vanilla can be purchased in gift shops, a market or grocery stores.
Skip the shot glasses and magnets next time, and buy a souvenir that captures the essence of Mexico.