The best shopping in Mexico is seldom at the big resorts. Sure, you’ll find upscale beach cover-ups there, funky tee-shirts, chic sandals and designer jewelry (at near-U.S. prices). And those items are all fun.
But if you want something that you can’t easily find back home, consider getting off the beaten track a bit. Just a bit farther afield, you can find items that really say Mexico. Shopping in Mexico off the beaten path is bargain-priced…and often is not even in stores. Here are some suggestions on things to buy, and where:
Where to find the best hats
Durable hats made of natural fiber are popular headgear in Mexico, just as they are in many tropical parts of Latin America. In the Yucatán Peninsula, where hats come in handy, you can buy them at resorts, from street vendors, and from shops in cities like Mérida (look in Mérida’s historic center, on streets like 59th or 60th).
If you want to go straight to the source, though, rent a car and drive south from Mérida to the little town of Bécal. It’s just over the border in Campeche State. In Bécal nearly every house has a cave out back—natural or man-made—where locals sit in the cool, moist air to weave jipi-japi palm fiber into hats and handbags. Just stop at whichever house appeals to you—wares are displayed out front. You can get a durable, well-made hat of medium quality for $8 to $10. For $30 or $40 you can get a high-quality, finely-woven hat that might run $100 in Mérida and even more in a resort.
The ultimate hot-weather shirt, guayaberas are loose, cool and made from natural fibers. They’re standard wear in the Yucatán for almost every occasion. They serve nicely in anyplace with a hot climate, including Florida and the U.S.’s southern stretches. Originally men’s wear, the guayabera now comes in ladies’ models, too.
Mérida is a great place to buy guayaberas. You’ll find guayaberas in stores all over Mérida’s historic center. Guayaberas Jack, with a store right on the corner off the main square, is one popular store. Guayaberas are also sold in markets, such as the Sunday morning market in Mérida’s main square.
If you like Southwestern style, you’ll love Mexican rugs. Two excellent cities in which to buy them are Oaxaca, in southeast Mexico, and San Cristóbal de las Casas, in Chiapas. Both of these well-preserved colonial cities are on the tourist circuit (and have lively expat communities, too).
In Oaxaca, check stores in the historic center around Santo Domingo Church—a great area for window-shopping. For lower prices (and more adventure) go straight to the weavers’ villages of Teotitlán del Valle and Santa Ana del Valle, just a short drive outside Oaxaca. There are several weaving families there, as well as local weaving cooperatives.
In San Cristóbal de las Casas, rugs of all sizes and quality are sold in markets around town. For the highest quality, though, go to the cooperative store Sna Jolobil. It’s in an arcade beside the market in Santo Domingo square.
Of course, there are plenty of other locally-made items available all over Mexico….giving you scope for lots of excursions to find the best shopping in Mexico.
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