Habitant’s Head Producer and Partner, Paulina Cubero, reveals four top production benefits to the Yucatán Peninsula
The Yucatán Peninsula’s microcosm of breath-taking locations, world-class hospitality, and well-established links to major cities have long made it a firm favourite of creative and art directors, as well as filmmakers and photographers.
In the 12 years I’ve been servicing the Mexican Caribbean, I’ve witnessed the destination blossom into a thriving hub with a growing reputation as the perfect backdrop for the advertising and fashion industries. Documentary crews regularly flock to the area to showcase the culinary delights of Yucatecan cuisine, widely acknowledged as one of the best in Mexico.
On top of gorgeous white sand beaches, atmospheric caves, exotic jungles and breath-taking sunrises, the peninsula specialises in delivering a boutique production experience like none other through its uniquely immersive services. I feel like I could speak forever about the benefits of one of my favourite shoot destinations but there are four key reasons everyone should know about shooting in the Yucatán Peninsula.
1. Natural Treasure-Trove
The sheer variety of different settings offered by the Mexican Caribbean never ceases to amaze me. The most famous are the picture-perfect white sand beaches. They have long made the area a fashion industry favourite and inspired Vogue to run a special feature last year in the Mayan fortress town of Tulum. Unique sea levels also surround the islands off the coast of the peninsula. The half-sunken pacific islands like Holbox are surrounded by low water levels that don’t rise above waist-level. The serene Caribbean Sea in these areas makes in-water shoots easy. What’s more, the spectacular sunrises and idyllic beaches attract a wide range of advertising for industries like beer, automotives, beauty, furniture, jewellery, fashion, apparel, and retail.
As well as exotic lush jungles and pink lagoons, the Yucatán Peninsula boasts visually striking cenotes that are unique to the region. These natural cave-like sinkholes, filled with clear, fresh water, provide an interesting opportunity to capture their surreal shapes and other-worldly quality. However, as much as these cenotes can provide some of the most striking photographs and footage, if you want to take full advantage of these natural wonders as a shoot location, it’s highly advisable to work with a production partner that has contacts who know the cenotes inside out, especially when exploring the deeper and more intricate caverns.
With a multitude of cenotes to choose from, an experienced local partner can help you discover even the lesser known structures that are usually off limits to the public. We’ve built strong ties with the local scuba-diving photographers over the years and, with a base close to the area, we’ve got easy access to specialist equipment, making a very challenging process very simple.
2. Architectural Assortment
Rivalling the peninsula’s natural bounties is the region’s outstanding architecture, which is equally as diverse in its offering. From colourful Spanish colonial structures to cutting-edge modern houses, the Mexican Caribbean is home to a plethora of highly-coveted styles. Large estates (called haciendas) with their rustic grandeur dating back to the 17th and 18th century make a great setting for fashion home catalogues. Productions for the tourism sector can even be granted special access to capture the ancient glory of the carefully preserved archaeological areas and ruins.
This area offers the opportunity to not only capture the stunning architecture on camera but also to live the experience first-hand. Many beautiful haciendas have been revived as boutique hotels, allowing you to enjoy historical splendour in modern comfort. Outside of the towns, striking contemporary architecture is popular both as luxury accommodation and as a shoot or film location. Being a local production company that’s familiar with the culture and regulations in this area allows us to secure the same high quality of hospitality and services for a fraction of the tourist price.
3. Convenient Connections
With fast and frequent transport links to major cities, this tropical paradise’s ease of access is a big draw for production crews. The three most visited destinations in the peninsula – Tulum, Cancun, and Merida - form what I call the ‘magic triangle’. With only a couple of hours’ drive separating them, it’s incredibly easy to hop between the three, but it’s important to work with experienced partners who can ensure that this is incorporated smoothly into your schedule.
Both local equipment and cast are readily available for hire in the area, but you have an even bigger pool of resources at your fingertips with Mexico City and Miami. Just two short hours away by plane, you’ll never be wanting even in high season. It’s not uncommon for productions to harness this useful network and travel around Mexico to shoot multiple locations around the country.
The Yucatán Peninsula’s proximity to New York is also a huge bonus for brands based in the area. It’s easy to reach with flights less than four hours. What’s more, with the dollar’s current favourable rate against the peso, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of this.
4. World-Class Hospitality with a Personal Touch
Excellent infrastructure makes the Mexican Caribbean an incredibly production-friendly destination. Its rocketing popularity, with producers and tourists alike, has made the peninsula well equipped to accommodate international expectations whilst preserving an authentic local feel.
Servicing the Mexican Caribbean as locals for over a decade now, we’ve gained vital insights and been able to fine-tune our production process. The locals live by a leisurely rhythm that embodies the tropical coastal charm. As production experts, we understand just how important efficiency is, so we’ll make sure you stay on schedule whilst still getting to enjoy the relaxed Caribbean spirit.
While the Yucatán Peninsula is certainly a popular destination, it’s important to bear in mind that the utmost effort has been invested into cultivating an exclusive experience for every guest. You’ll also find this personalised, boutique feel reflected in the way we do business. Whether you’re exploring the famous beaches, exotic jungles, surreal cenotes, or the array of architectural styles, we’ll be on hand throughout every step of the production process. Whatever your preference, our flexible bespoke itineraries will allow you to get the most out of this magical destination.
Paulina Cubero is Head Producer and Partner at Habitant
Habitant has been providing tailored film and shoot locations across Mexico, Chile, Argentina and the Caribbean for film and photography shoots for 12 years. It has partnered with clients including renowned photographer, Annie Leibovitz, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Nine West, Bloomingdales, Saks, Anthropologie, Free People, American Eagle, Boden, Macy´s, Net a Porter, Anne Taylor, Chico´s. Advertising clients include Nike, Johnnie Walker, Chevy, Nissan, Ford, L´Oréal, Dish Latino, Santander, Tecate, Tequila Cazadores, Adidas, Camel. Agencies include JWT, Publicis, Leo Burnet, Wing Latino, DRAFT, Publicis, Ogilvy, DRAFT FCB, Saatchi & Saatchi and more.
Below: Shoots that Habitant has serviced in the the Yucatán Peninsula