Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Filed under: Local Events - by Louise Hennessy

Since the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival is about to celebrate its 14th edition, we can safely say that this event has become a big hit, for jazz lovers and jazz rookies alike…

An event that we had heard about from a number of sources, we had always seemed to miss it, or not realise that that it was going on until that particular weekend was almost over, and our why- bother-then attitude meant we would have to wait till the following year. And could we honestly say that we had the faintest clue about jazz anyway? However, with the introduction of the occasional not-so-jazz acts, such as Natalia Lafourcade, we decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Jazz Festival

Gabriel Espinosa – photo credit Fernando Aceves


Playa Mamitas on a normal day or night is used to movement. We cannot remember a time when we haven’t met people milling up and down the street which gives access to this popular beach; however, at Jazz fest time the crowd tends to mix up, and you get people of all shapes and sizes, ages and races, more so than with any other festival here (of which there are plenty). This was the first point in its favour.

Padding across the beach around the beach club and bars of Mamitas we were met by the sight of a large stage to our left, casting dim light upon the hundreds of bodies settled down on the sand in small groups or couples. The older crowd had come prepared with their fold-up chairs  and picnic baskets, and the odd baby fast asleep in its pram , lulled by the rhythms which filled the air; the party crowd had come less prepared,  and had improvised with bottles of wine, beer and a sarong to sit on. The common denominator was, however, the respectful atmosphere. Even for the younger crowd, this was a laid-back night out, one  where, even if they didn’t understand what they were listening to, it was to be enjoyed, contemplated and did not require a hangover the following morning to say they had had a  top evening out.

Jazz festival

Phil Perry – Photo Credit Fernando Aceves

The good thing about a beach is that it generally extends for a good way, thus you can always find a spot to sit down. The sand was cool and the breeze soft, and with the added sound of the tide going out and the demure moonlight, we had the perfect combination to sit back and unwind after a day of relentless sun.

The acts at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival themselves stayed on stage for a good while each, giving us plenty of time to form our inexpert opinion on their sound. With three main acts per night, our introduction to jazz came in the form of Aguamala, Wayne Shorter and John Scofield, and we realised that although we cannot honestly say what ‘good’ jazz is, we were certainly able to form our own preferences, based on how much we were likely to talk during their music instead of giving it our full attention.


Torus – photo credit Fernando Aceves


It is safe to say therefore, that you don’t necessarily need to be a jazz fan to thoroughly get into the swing of the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival and soak up the ambiance of contentment.

What’s more, it’s all for free…

Our tip: take something to sit on; that sand can get quite cold after a while.

Your concierge can give you info about the whereabouts of the annual Riviera Maya Jazz Festival, which this year, will take place from 1st – 3rd December.

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