The Best Restaurants in Cancun and the Riviera Maya
Collected by Laura Winfrey , AFAR Local Expert
While the eastern edge of the Yucatan Peninsula offers experiences a-plenty, it's easy to find yourself focused solely on the region's dining experiences. Scattered throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya, scores of restaurants and small eateries beckon, dishing up everything from gourmet fare to fast food. Dishes include everything from beachfront burritos to Le Chique's marvels of molecular gastronomy. No matter where you stay, eat around a variety of areas, from Cancun's hotel zone to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Local culinary expeditions in the area always pay off.
Calle 10 Margaritas 25, 22, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
One of Cancún’s oldest restaurants, La Habichuela was a 1970s original whose owner wanted a place to hang out with friends. It’s become an upscale dining room featuring local Mayan recipes alongside Mexican-Caribbean fare. The...
Av Uxmal, Mza 02 Lte 33, SM 3, Benito Juárez, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
What was once an abandoned house on one of downtown Cancún’s central avenues is now an outdoor garden for Mediterranean cuisine. Each night the small regular menu is complemented by a list of daily specials on the chalkboard, as well...
Av. Carlos Nader Mz 2 Lt 8, SM 3, 3, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
This iconic downtown restaurant was on historic Avenida Nader years before the neighborhood became hip. The focus here is on Italian dishes with creative twists, like the Van Gogh pizza topped with grilled shrimp and goat cheese, or the artisanal...
La Isla, Blvd. Kukulcan Km12.5, La Isla, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Inside La Isla Shopping Village in Cancún’s Hotel Zone, this sensual dinner spot occupies a beautifully lit tropical garden overlooking the lagoon. Over the years, it has become one of the city’s most renowned dining rooms,...
Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 9.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Expat owned and run, this spot brings California-style burritos to Mexico. The tiny outdoor restaurant—featuring only three long tables—routinely fills with an eclectic mix of locals, foreign residents, and tourists in search of a...
Av Yaxchilán 51 Mz 23 Lt 51 Sm 22, Centro, 22, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
This decades-old venue ranks as one of the best in Cancún for authentic tacos al pastor: marinated, spit-roasted pork in corn tortillas, topped with pineapple (ask for it con todo to get chopped onion and cilantro, or order a gringa...
km 19.4, Kukulkan, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Even though it’s right across the street from top Cancún resorts near the southern end of the Hotel Zone, the entrance to this open-air restaurant remains known only to locals plus a few in-the-know travelers. Walk down the wooden...
Calle Margaritas #25 Mz 20 SM 22, Centro, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Stepping into Labná is like stepping into a Yucatécan home. The vaulted ceiling, decorated with a pre-Hispanic mural, evokes the area's past. The specialty here is authentic—and excellent—Maya cuisine. Leading the list of...
Boulevard Punta Nizuc - Cancun Km 22.5, Nizuc, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
With just a few plastic tables beneath some palapas, this hidden gem on Cancún’s more natural southern side has an incredible location right at the mouth of the river that connects the Nichupté Lagoon to the Caribbean. The ...
Tankah 69 Mza 1 Lote 24 SMZA 26, 26, 77509 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Just a five-minute walk from the popular Market 28 souvenir zone downtown, Café con Gracia has earned a stellar reputation among 20-something locals for its refreshing frappés (choose from an extensive menu like mint, mango, bubble...
Calle Quinta Avenida, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Evincing a nautical but contemporary style, this open-air restaurant serves some of the best tostadas in Playa del Carmen. The signature delicacy is a crispy tortilla covered in any number of toppings, and at Las Hijas de la Tostada, expect them...
Calle 34, Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
This Playa del Carmen restaurant takes its name from a traditional Mexican dish known as aguachile: chili-marinated shrimp with lime juice, onion, and sometimes other ingredients that lend it a strong, spicy-citrus flavor. With its open-air...
Calle 10, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Since around 2000, this iconic Swedish-owned restaurant and bar, just steps off Playa’s always-packed 5th Avenue, serves up an eclectic mix of Asian-European fusion cuisine. The appetizers just might be the highlight, in iterations like a...
Calle 34 norte #128, Municipio de Solidaridad, Col.Gonzalo Guerrero, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Named for the bright-red paste made from numerous spices that’s used as a rub in southern Mexico (the intense color comes from the achiote seed), Axiote abides by a simple rule: It uses only Mexican ingredients in the dishes it prepares according...
Carretera Tulum a Boca Paila Km 8.2, Ejido Pino Suarez, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Embodying the city’s beach-chic vibe, this oceanside hotel restaurant and bar is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. La Zebra serves authentic Mexican dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, some from the Riviera Maya region and...
Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Hartwood prides itself on having no menu; instead, there are daily options based on whatever is available from nearby ranches and farms. Of course, that means locally sourced ingredients only, in the service of innovative, Mexican-inspired dishes....
Carretera, Boca Paila km 5.2, Manzana 10 Lote 16, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Mateo’s claims to have the best fish tacos on earth, and yes, they are pretty great! Set in the heart of Tulum’s coastal hotel strip, this big outdoor restaurant is one of the most popular in town for its easy location, eye-catching...
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km 10.5, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Once just a popular food truck in a temporary locale, Charly’s now has its own permanent location on Tulum’s hip hotel strip. Its chefs have managed to take traditional Mexican meat-based dishes and turn them into 100-percent vegan...
Calle 34 Norte Entre 5ta Y 10, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Loved by locals, this quaint, comfortable Playa del Carmen spot commits to food, ambience, and service, with dishes that highlight tastes from Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s most celebrated culinary regions. Dare to order some salty grasshoppers...
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