Where to Eat on the Riviera Maya
Collected by Laura Winfrey, AFAR Local Expert
From tacos made with just three ingredients to a molecular dinner served in a resort dining room, from a cold beer on the beach to a mezcal-based cocktail with a chili-rimmed glass, you will not soon forget the bright tastes of the Riviera Maya.
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...
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...
La Isla, Boulevard Kukulkan 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,...
Av. Carlos Nader Mz 2 Lt 8, SM 3, 3, 77500 Cancún, QROO, 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...
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...
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...
Av. Bonampak lote 1 Local 9, SM4A, Zona Hotelera, 77533 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Downtown Cancún’s bullring is surrounded by local dives and restaurants, making the area a top nightlife destination for locals. Las de Guanatos is the most popular spot, famed for massive one-liter micheladas—beer mixed with varying...
Calle Margaritas 25, Centro, 22, 77500 Cancun, QROO, 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...
Carretera Cancun-Puerto Morelos km 27.5 Mz 37, Smz 12, 77580 Riviera Maya, Q.R., Mexico
Sleek contemporary design at this luxurious restaurant hints at innovative presentations within. Le Chique offers guests a single menu that can reach 30 carefully prepared courses of gasp-inducing molecular cuisine that takes inspiration from...
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...
Avenida Constituyentes X 5ta Avenida, Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, QROO, Mexico
If you’re looking for the perfect coffee shop to do some people-watching and savor local flavors, Ah Cacao has three open-air locations along Playa’s bustling 5th Avenue. Each venue offers outdoor seating where you can sip Mexican hot...
Calle 6 Norte, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Fusion, one of Playa del Carmen’s oldest and best-loved beach bars, has an indoor restaurant area, but it’s most famous for its outdoor lounge, right on the sand, under palm trees, and hard by the Caribbean. Fusion’s central...
1 Avenida Norte Mz 63 Lt 1, Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
In Mexico, the word caguama refers to a 32-ounce bottle of beer, so caguamería means a place that sells them. This spot’s extravagant name roughly translates to “The Very Fine Big-Beer Bar on the Corner,” but to keep it...
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-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 recipes while...
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 lantern-lit...
Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico
Disco ball, lounge, jungle, and cuisine all come together at this trendy restaurant located on Tulum’s main hotel-zone avenue. The venue is renowned for its eclectic style that blends unusual lighting, a lush outdoor setting, and live DJ...
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 ...
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