One of my favorite things about visiting another country is having the opportunity to experience the local culture. Yet, when it comes to resort areas, it can be difficult to obtain a cultural experience. I recently visited Barcelo Maya Grand Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, a mega all-inclusive resort with five resorts in one complex (I stayed in Barcelo Maya Caribe).
To be honest, I was a bit curious about how I would like the resort atmosphere at Barcelo. I knew beforehand that it was going to be a big resort and that might dampen my ability to connect with the Mexican culture, and yet, I was very surprised by what I found during my stay — diverse opportunities to dive into Mexican culture.
Here are four ways in which Barcelo Maya Grand Resort helped me to have a culturally-fulfilling beach vacation:
Festival Gourmet Barcelo
Every year around September, Barcelo Maya Grand Resort hosts the Festival Gourmet Barcelo, a food festival that features popular Mexican chefs or chefs who reside in Mexico. I was lucky enough to be visiting Barcelo Maya Grand Resort during the festival and was thus able to participate in the culinary affair.
It involved nightly dinners by a variety of chefs — some who have won Iron Chefs, some with Michelin stars, and others who are considered traditional chefs of Mexican cuisine. It was a great affair that involved five-course meals with drink and wine pairings. Many of the dishes were modern takes on Mexican cuisines or used local Mexican ingredients. They were all artfully displayed and painstakingly prepared. Some dishes were of course better than others, and some were just down-right exciting and creative.
As Americans, we often believe that we “know” what Mexican food is but the reality is, we only know a minute aspect of the cuisine. Mexico has a thriving and evolving culinary scene that is experimental and bold and I’m so glad I was able to experience this at Barcelo Maya Grand Resort.
Mexico Independence Day celebrations
Mexican Independence Day is September 15th and 16th and it was then that I was visiting Barcelo Maya Grand Resort. As a beloved national holiday, the resort did a fantastic job with the celebration, allowing guests who were both foreign and national to participate in different ways. There was a small parade throughout the resort with horses and dancers. They also put on a large dance and concert in the Maya Mall. I loved the band, music, and variety of food and drinks available in Plaza Mexicana in honor of Mexico Independence Day. It was a fun and lively time and I know that I wasn’t the only guests having a blast, celebrating such a beautiful holiday of the Mexican people.
Grand Opera Gala
One of the best aspects of the Mexican Independence Day celebrations was a fantastic concert and opera that the resort hosted — the Grand Opera Gala. Set in the resort’s large theater, I witnessed a wonderful show with a talented symphony and performances by four different opera singers, all from different areas of the world like Spain, Mexico, among others. Each opera singer performed solo pieces, and then proceeded to do duets with each other, until finally, all four joined in to sing two different songs. Many of the performances were familiar to my infantile knowledge of opera, so it was a quite engaging and joyful experience.
As an artist and culture-fanatic, I was thoroughly impressed by how Barcelo Maya Grand Resort incorporpated Mexican art into the decor of their resorts. I loved the Mayan sculptures placed throughout the property. Though they might seem a bit kitschy, I really appreciated that they had name plates that allowed me to do a quick Google search of the Mayan god or figure and learn a bit about their background and part in Mexico’s Mayan history.
Though I didn’t stay in Barcelo Maya Palace, the newest and most upscale resort in the complex, I was able to take a tour of the area. It had my favorite Mexican artwork by far. I was told that the larger-than-life paintings in their lobby, public spaces, and restaurants, were done by local Mexican artists, and portrayed traditional Mexican lifestyles and cultural aspects. They were beautiful to behold and take in and I found myself drawn to many of the pieces.
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Have you ever visited a resort, hotel, or place that surprised you by their commitment to culture and history? Tell us about it below!