Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead
Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Mexico City's Historic Center Offers Prime Parade Viewing
With its colonial architecture, vibrant culture, and central location, Mexico City's Historic Center provides an unbeatable spot for Día de Muertos festivities. Wander the area’s cobblestone streets to view elaborately decorated altars honoring deceased loved ones. The decorative ofrendas overflow with marigolds, photos, candles, favorite foods and drinks of those being remembered. You’ll see edible skulls and skeletons made of sugar and chocolate. Incense drifts through the air at these memorials found in homes, businesses and public plazas.
To view the costumes and floats of the Día de Muertos parade, book lodging right on the parade route itself. The procession begins at Paseo de la Reforma and passes along 5 de Mayo street. Stay at any of the area’s beautiful historic hotels, like the majestic Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. Its prime location offers views over the famous Zócalo plaza. Watch the parade right from the wrought-iron balcony of your room. Then step outside to get an up-close look and photographs.
Another excellent place to lodge for Día de Muertos is along Calle Madero, the pedestrian street famous for its shops and restaurants. Boutique hotels like Casa González and Casa San Ildefonso put you in the middle of the action. Wake up on the holiday itself and look out your window to see locals dressed in costume making their way to celebrations. Stop to admire the flower-strewn altars that line the street. Then join in by purchasing sugar skulls and decorative items from the pop-up marketplace.
What else is in this post?
- Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Mexico City's Historic Center Offers Prime Parade Viewing
- Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Oaxaca is the Birthplace of Día de Muertos Traditions
- Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Sample Traditional Pan de Muerto in Puebla's Bakeries
- Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Sleep Steps from La Calavera Catrina in San Miguel de Allende
- Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Merida's main Plaza Grande Overflows with Marigold Petals
- Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Top Tulum Hotels for Relaxing Beaches After Partying
- Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Experience Indigenous Traditions in Maya Villages Near Valladolid
Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Oaxaca is the Birthplace of Día de Muertos Traditions
Of all the places in Mexico that celebrate Día de Muertos, none is more important than Oaxaca. This colorful colonial city is considered the birthplace of modern Day of the Dead traditions. When the Spanish conquered the region in the 1500s, they encountered indigenous groups honoring deceased ancestors. The holiday blended with All Souls’ Day, a related Catholic observance. Oaxaca is home to Mexico's most stunning Día de Muertos altars, parades, and customs.
Visiting during this holiday offers a deep dive into the roots of the celebration. You'll find Oaxaca's cemeteries covered in traditional yellow cempasúchil flowers. The scent fills the air as families decorate grave sites and leave offerings for spirits. At homes, businesses, and public squares, ofrendas display photos of loved ones who've passed. Their favorite foods and belongings adorn these memorials. While taking in the sights, don't forget to sample Oaxaca's delicious pan de muerto. This sweet egg bread gets shaped into round loaves decorated with bone-like designs.
Around the zócalo main square, dancers wearing feathered headdresses move to the beat of drums. Others don costumes and masks representing La Calaca, the iconic elegant skeleton lady of Día de Muertos. If you visit in mid-October, you'll catch the incredible Noche de Ánimas parade. It depicts the return of departed souls bearing candles. You'll also find artisans selling handcrafted alebrijes, the fantastical folk art animals placed on altars.
Stay in Oaxaca's centro to fully experience the history and atmosphere. The Quinta Real hotel comprises two Colonial mansions facing the zócalo. Its restaurant, Áurum, even offers a regional Day of the Dead tasting menu. Casa Oaxaca provides an intimate boutique experience in a converted 18th century building. And the Hotel Parador San Miguel puts you steps from the main plaza. Stroll out each day to see a new aspect of the celebrations.
Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Sample Traditional Pan de Muerto in Puebla's Bakeries
The scent of freshly baked breads draws you down the cobblestone streets of Puebla on Día de Muertos. This colonial city, located just 70 miles from Mexico City, offers some of the country's best opportunities to try pan de muerto. These traditional sweet bread rolls get crafted into the shape of human bones or full skeletons. Their significance ties back centuries to when the indigenous honored their dead with offerings of bread. For the best place to sample authentic pan de muerto, head to one of Puebla's many bakeries.
Start your day at the century-old Panadería de Santa Clara. At their original location near the zócalo main plaza, you'll find locals lined up to buy still-warm pan de muerto. The shelves overflow with rows of the holiday rolls ranging from simple to elaborately decorated. Opt for the classic bone-shaped version rolled in sugar or more ornate breads topped with crosses or whole skeletons. Don't miss their moist spiced pumpkin version either.
Next, walk over to Café Las Flores in the historic center. Take a seat on the charming patio draped in strands of marigolds. Order a Mexican hot chocolate and a piece of their pan de muerto. The orange and vanilla scented bread comes shaped into round wreaths dotted with sugar skulls. The cranberries and sesame seeds on top add taste and texture. It's the perfect accompaniment to the thick, cinnamon-infused chocolate.
Make your way to the Helen Bakery next. They add a modern twist to the traditional pan de muerto with interesting flavors. You'll find options like Oaxacan cheese, chipotle, and even some made with mezcal. The striking black rolls coated in orange sugar will catch your eye. Don't miss their stunning catrina skeleton bread sculpture either. It's almost too pretty to eat.
End your Puebla baking crawl at the antique Espoleta Bakery. Run by the same family for over 60 years, their techniques maintain indigenous roots. Watch the bakers shape dough into figure eights representing the never-ending cycle of life and death. You can even take a workshop to learn how to make your own pan de muerto from scratch. Before leaving, pick up some bread to go for snacking or the perfect Día de Muertos ofrenda gift.
Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Sleep Steps from La Calavera Catrina in San Miguel de Allende
Of all the skeletal icons associated with Día de Muertos, none is more elegant than La Calavera Catrina. Usually depicted as a female skeleton dressed in extravagant hat and gown, she symbolizes the mixing of European and indigenous cultures. In San Miguel de Allende, you’ll find this iconic dame front and center during celebrations. That’s because the very creator of La Catrina called this charming colonial city home.
The man behind the original early 1900s zinc etching was printmaker and cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada. He lived in downtown San Miguel de Allende towards the end of his life. His satirical works critiquing society immortalized the figure of La Catrina. For the ultimate Día de Muertos experience, stay steps from Posada’s former residence and workshop near the main plaza.
The Hotel Posada Carmina sits on the same street where Posada lived and worked. Its roof terrace looks out over the Baroque Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel church he attended. Stroll just minutes on foot to see his tomb inside a chapel echomurales adorned in his signature Calaveras designs.
Beyond the historic ties, Hotel Posada Carmina puts you in the heart of San Miguel's Day of the Dead celebrations. Wake up to the sound of music as dancers and giant puppets make their way to the Jardín Principal. Vibrant marigold carpets get created to lead spirits to the main altar. You can watch or even lend a hand arranging the cempasúchil flowers. The scent of copal incense fills the air during indigenous blessings honoring those who've passed.
When hunger strikes, the hotel’s terrace restaurant serves up regional fare like puffy sopaipillas fritters and mole poblano. End your evenings sipping mezcal cocktails under strings of papel picado banners. From the roof, glimpse the illuminated domes of the Parroquia church, an iconic San Miguel landmark.
Beyond Día de Muertos itself, Hotel Posada Carmina offers easy walking access to San Miguel's galleries. Browse paintings and illustrations honoring Posada's Catrina. The gallerias also display colorful handcrafted ceramics and alebrijes statuettes used on altars. Don't miss seeing the impressive mojigangas, giant puppets dancing through the streets during parades.
Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Merida's main Plaza Grande Overflows with Marigold Petals
Of all of Mexico’s Día de Muertos celebrations, few rival the magic of Mérida’s. Over half a million orange cempasúchil blossoms transform the city’s main Plaza Grande into a sea of marigold petals. Their pungent scent fills the air as indigenous blessing ceremonies remember those who’ve passed. No wonder National Geographic named Mérida one of the world’s top destinations for Day of the Dead.
Throughout the days leading up to November 1st and 2nd, Mérida locals craft elaborate ofrendas to welcome spirits back home. Walk through any neighborhood to see streetside altars overflowing with photos, candles, papel picado banners, and the deceased’s favorite foods. Plazas and cemeteries also get decorated with flowers and gifts for visiting souls.
But it’s the city’s main square where Día de Muertos celebrations hit their peak. Plaza Grande provides Mérida’s gathering point for indigenous cultural events. The Zócalo comes alive as dancers in feathered headdresses move to the beat of live drums and marimbas. Others don traditional outfits like the Huasteco dress with colorful embroidery. You’ll see many dressed as Catrinas, with faces painted like skulls and costumes of flowers, lace, and wide-brimmed hats.
Adding to the atmosphere are artisans selling their wares in the square. Handmade ceramic alebrijes statuettes get purchased to adorn family altars. Intricate hammered tin luminarias and colorful enamelware offer more decorative Day of the Dead options. You’ll find wooden cat masks, embroidered textiles, and woven hammocks in vibrant patterns.
While browsing, don’t forget to snack on street food favorites like cochinita pibil tacos, sopa de lima soup, and chaya tamales steamed in banana leaves. Wash it down with a glass of aromatic xtabentún anise liqueur. If you need a break from the action, grab a table at one of the restaurants lining the square. Their open-air terraces let you rest your feet while enjoying the views.
As October 31st arrives, several sacred altars get constructed in Plaza Grande. Incense burns as shamans perform rituals from Mayan, Yucatecan, and mestizo indigenous cultures. They wear elaborate headdresses with quetzal feathers during the blessings. Marigolds get scattered on the ground to form a pathway welcoming souls.
Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Top Tulum Hotels for Relaxing Beaches After Partying
After partying until the wee hours in Tulum's beachside bars and nightclubs, you'll want to relax and recover in a comfortable oasis. Tulum offers some of the best beaches in Mexico, with pristine turquoise waters and powdery white sand. Luckily, you'll find beachfront hotels ranging from boho-chic to ultra-luxury. Here are the top options to maximize your Tulum vacation time on the beach after a night out.
The beachfront Ahau Tulum turns relaxation into an art form. After dancing under the moonlight, indulge in a beachside palm leaf massage. Feel the tension melt away as you listen to the waves. The spa staff use natural local oils, herbs, and healing techniques passed down through generations. Back in your stylish suite, unwind on a swinging hammock on the private terrace overlooking the Caribbean. The fresh seafood at the Nü restaurant will reenergize you. And the infinity pool offers the perfect spot for an afternoon siesta.
At the boutique Casa Violeta, boho tropical decor sets the vibe for quality beach time. Each morning, complimentary yoga sessions rejuvenate mind and body. The attentive staff will prepare healthy fruit bowls and smoothies that can be enjoyed on your room's outdoor patio. A dip in the picturesque plunge pool also revives tired muscles. Then take your beach towel and chilled drink down the path to the unspoiled shore. The comfy loungers and balinesas set the stage for a relaxed beach day. You'll find water sports equipment available for those seeking adventure.
For luxury right on the sand, Be Tulum resort pampers from sunrise to sunset. After a night out, sleep in thanks to soundproofed walls and blackout curtains. Wake up and order room service waffles drizzled in cajeta caramel. Have breakfast delivered to your private terrace overlooking the palm tree dotted beach. Later, luxuriate with a massage in a beachfront palapa hut. The skilled therapists incorporate hot stone, aromatherapy, and stretching techniques into each treatment. In the evenings, sip top-shelf mezcal cocktails beachside while live musicians perform. End your night gazing up as fire dancers light up the beach.
At the adults-only Hotel Nueva Vida de Ramiro, swap nights of partying for mornings of serenity. Practise paddleboarding, kayaking, or snorkelling in the azure waters. For the utmost relaxation, reserve a beachfront temazcal sweat lodge session. Led by an onsite shaman, the ritual cleanses body and mind. Complete your beach day by chilling in a swinging hammock with a mango margarita listening to the waves. Then join the daily beach bonfire under the stars.
Skeletons, Sugar Skulls and Food Galore: Top Lodging Picks for Day of the Dead - Experience Indigenous Traditions in Maya Villages Near Valladolid
Of all the Maya sites in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, Chichén Itzá stands as the most well-known. Tour buses full of visitors flood this ancient city daily to climb its pyramids and explore the iconic El Castillo and observatory. But just 45 minutes from the crowds lies a Yucatán secret - traditional Maya villages actively preserving their heritage. Here you can experience indigenous culture firsthand by lodging in town, learning ancient practices, and witnessing time-honored rituals. It provides the insight into Maya life you can't get from ruins alone.
Base yourself in Valladolid, the area's main hub, at the boutique Casa San Roque hotel. Its rooftop terrace overlooks the central plaza and 16th century San Servasio Church. From there, take a taxi west just 15 minutes to the village of X'Cumpich. At the family-run Hotel Maya Balam, wake to roosters crowing and the smell of handmade tortillas. Follow the stone path past banana trees to their temazcal sweat lodge. Here a Maya shaman performs a purifying ritual of meditation, chanting, and healing with medicinal plants.
Next, try your hand at harvesting honey at the onsite hive boxes. The bees pollinate the hotel's chemical-free garden providing produce for your farm-to-table breakfasts. Take a workshop in the ancient Maya technique of solar cooking.banana leaves protect food instead of plastic wrap. And the cooking takes place in underground stone pits, not gas stoves. Before leaving, stop by the hotel's textile museum displaying traditional Maya dress spanning centuries.
Just 2 miles down the road lies the village of Pac Chen. Here you'll find Maya families still living in the round stone and mud huts of their ancestors. Walk the dirt roads by homes with palm thatch roofs peeking over stone walls. Stop to chat with residents in the Yucatec Maya language. Smile and laugh even without understanding as they share stories passed down generations.
Outside most homes you'll find women cooking on open fires. Offer to lend a hand making corn tortillas from nixtamal dough patted by hand then cooked directly on the coals. Help roll out chaya spinach empanadas folded into half moons then filled with turkey, hard-boiled eggs, and pumpkin seeds. The skill required to prepare these dishes without modern appliances will amaze you. And the flavor of foods still made entirely by hand surpasses any restaurant.