Eat like a Local in Cancun and the Riviera Maya
Collected by Michelle da Silva Richmond, AFAR Local Expert
Beyond the first-class restaurants throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya, hole-in-the-wall eateries known mainly to locals and a few savvy travelers offer down-home Mexican food. Many specialize in Maya cuisine, with recipes handed down through generations. If you're willing to leave the tablecloths, fancy dishware, and elegant surroundings behind, you can eat like a local and experience a bit more of Cancun and Riviera Maya culture.
Joaquín Zetina Gasca, Q.R., Mexico
Sweet, sugary, colorful, flaky, rich, eggy bread. It comes on a bicycle. If you sit on a street corner in any of the pueblos along Mexico's Mayan Riviera coast, it will pass by. All you need to do is wait. Of course the tamales bike will pass by...
Benito Juárez, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico
I learned a great deal in Mexico: 1) 30 SPF does not cut it. 2) 50 SPF does not cut it. And 3) Aloe vera, cold shower, aloe vera, cold shower. Luckily for me, I also learned the best way to get your mind off of pain is delicious food, and freshly...
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
What combats humidity and sweltering air that feels like it's being expelled from a jet engine? Paletas! At less than a dollar and in a range of bright juicy flavors, these little Mexican popsicles offer a melty respite from the summer heat. Try...
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....
Av. Tulum 879, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Eating in Tulum's Pueblo is a more inexpensive way to load up on calories and enjoy some authentic Mexican cuisine. El Camello Jr, is a seafood restaurant located at the far south end of the main highway that runs through Tulum. It is a decent...
Av. Benito Juárez, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
While planning a solo trip to Mexico, one is generally warned, "Don't talk to strangers." The truth of the matter is that the "strangers," or locals as I like to call them, know all the details of what to do, and most importantly, what to eat. So...
Cll Punta Celis Edificio F Local 3A LT SNS, 77733 Puerto Aventuras, Q.R., Mexico
I slink into Acentos early in the morning and am greeted by a fresh plate of croissants and chocolate pastries, an exotic hardwood bookcase filled with wines, a wire basket full of fresh eggs, and mi amigo, Cacca Wacca. "Hola, Laura," he rings...
Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico
I've seen little ladies selling corn-on-a-stick from tables on street corners. It's rumored the corn is smothered in mayonnaise. Oh, how I've wanted to taste it. I'm no stranger to Mexican street food, but this made me a little nervous. Mayo and...
Boulevard Kukulcan Km 12.6, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
To satisfy your seafood cravings, El Fish Fritanga is a must-eat place, dubbed as "the place where locals eat." This hidden restaurant lies on the busy Kukulcan Boulevard in Cancun, nestled under some cocunut trees and overlooking a lagoon. Try...
Av 38 Norte Mz. 4 Lote 3, Zazil-ha, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
When visiting Playa del Carmen, La Cueva del Chango (Monkey's Cave) is an especially good choice for breakfast. Nestled in a jungle setting with Maya gods peeking through the patio décor, breakfast favorites include fresh papaya, huevos a la...
Av Yaxchilán 51 Mz 23 Lt 51 Sm 22, Centro, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
While the food at La Parrilla is hailed as some of the best in Cancun, it's the Mariachi band that will get you excited. The jovial group will play a song for you if you have some pesos handy. Located in the Cancun center, it's easy to get to with...
Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico
The fragrance of mangoes drifts across the square and pulls me in. Big mangoes, little mangoes. Red, green and yellow mangoes. I follow my nose on my tiptoes like Bugs Bunny falling in love. The market in Puerto Aventuras is only open on...
Carretera Federal 307 Cancún-Puerto Morelos, Mza. 01 Lote 1-02, 77580 Puerto Morelos, Benito Juárez, Q.R., Mexico
One of the newest - and most popular - attractions to hit these shores, "Xoximilco Cancun," is a floating fiesta, offering entertainment, colorful anecdotes, history, good food and drink - and three hours of sheer delight. Thanks to the...
MZA 4 LTE 7, Calle Quinta Avenida, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
The 33 main dishes served at Mi Pueblo are drawn from the culinary favorites of 33 cities throughout Mexico. Locals and tourists alike frequent this place for delicious homemade Mexican food. Leading the list are corcholatas callejeras, sweet...
Quinta Avenida 17 Mz. 27 Lote 14, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
It may look like an ordinary 5a Avenida restaurant from the outside, but once inside Aldea Corazón, you're transported to an intimate jungle enclave - complete with small cenote and Maya ruins. It's the perfect rendezvous place after a busy day of...
Mercado 28, Locales 90 - 100, SMZA 28, 28, 77509 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
One of Cancun's best casual eateries, El Cejas is located in downtown Cancun's popular Mercado 28 Farmer's Market. The seafood is fresh, the clientele is lively and onsite entertainment is provided by strolling minstrels crooning Mexican...
5ta Av. s/n esq. Calle 22 Norte Local 1 y 2, Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Yaxché specializes in Maya and Yucatecan cuisine. The décor recalls a Maya palace and the food is award-winning – and delicious. Try the nohuc, lemon seasoned prawns on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes accompanied by grilled vegetables, followed by...
México 307, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Secluded and service-oriented are the adjectives that best describe Rosewood Mayakoba, a resort in Playa del Carmen that opened in 2008. At 1,600 acres, the resort is expansive, offering plenty of room for guests to feel that they have their own...
Prolongacion Yaxchilán 2-01 Local 101 Mz 1, SM 17, 77500 Benito Juárez, Q.R., Mexico
One of Cancun's newest restaurants, Julia Mia (My Julia) serves Mexican nouvelle cuisine, with traditional favorites at affordable prices. This downtown restaurant is definitely worth a trip from the Hotel Zone. Julia Mia reflects the belief of...
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 local favorites...
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