Head to a local street market in Puerto Vallarta for unique gift ideas. // © 2015 Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
Feature image (above): Mexico is filled with inexpensive yet authentic souvenir options. // © Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau
Mexico offers myriad opportunities to fill those carry-ons with souvenirs and gifts for friends and family. But enough with the giant sombreros and last-minute airport trinkets; savvy shoppers know that Mexico offers many unique and authentic gifts that reflect the creativity, artistry and culture of its various regions.
Here are a few suggestions to check off a vacation shopping list in some of Mexico’s best-loved beach destinations.
Big shopping malls such as Kukulcan Plaza and La Isla cater to upscale international tastes, with a variety of international name brands. But for attractively priced and locally authentic treasures, head downtown. Mercado 28, a large flea market, has dozens of vendors with goods made from various fabrics and leather as well as silver jewelry — and it’s cheaper than what you would pay in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.
For store-quality clothing with a Mexican touch, head to Plaza Las Americas, a shopping mall that includes a storefront of Ay Guey, a youthful Mexican clothing brand. Also worth checking out is Museo Maya de Cancun, a Mayan museum that is adjacent to a set of pre-Hispanic ruins and has a small gift shop offering high-quality decorative items with cultural flavor.
The charming town of San Jose del Cabo is a rewarding place to wander for interesting gifts, thanks to a thriving arts scene in the gallery district. Art walks, held every Thursday evening from October through June, are a good way for visitors to get acquainted with local shops.
Among the noteworthy places to visit is Paquime Gallery, which stocks Mata Ortiz pottery (an art form with roots in a village in Chihuahua), Huichol Indian artifacts and neo-Zapotec “alebrijes” (modern interpretations of colorful animals carved from wood). Contemporary and modern art pieces are also easy to find here; head to Movimiento Art Gallery and Desertica Art Gallery.
Nicknamed Pearl of the Pacific, Mazatlan is lined with broad beaches along its popular Zona Dorada, the Golden Zone, where most hotels are located. You’ll also find several interesting shopping options here, close to the biggest hotels.
There’s Rubio Jewellers, located in the Costa de Oro Hotel, which features sterling silver, gold amethyst and tanzanite pieces, among others. Michael Gallery stocks jewelry as well as art and handicrafts from a variety of regions in Mexico. Last but not least, be sure to visit Mazatlan Art Gallery, which sells sculpture of bronze, ceramic and fiberglass, with styles ranging from traditional Mexican to contemporary.
Also, if you like the beach, you may also want to take a peek into the giant Sea Shell City museum, a fun store with — you guessed it — lots of seashells.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is known for its laid-back vibe, and that easygoing attitude extends to shopping. At this Caribbean coastal town, expect lots of small-scale, interesting and quite stylish venues. Original Mexican artwork is among the finds at Riviera Art Gallery. Biuriful is the place for stylish men’s and women’s fashion, while Prison Art is an especially unique retailer that sells handbags and accessories featuring the designs of prison tattoo artists who are under rehabilitation.
In this popular Pacific coast destination, visitors can load up on handcrafted silver, opal and turquoise jewelry at shops along the waterfront boulevard called El Malecon. Municipal Market, near the Cuale River, is also good for browsing handmade jewelry and clothing. Plus, every Saturday, the Old Town Farmers Market offers handmade crafts and art in addition to the expected variety of fresh produce and ready-to-eat food.