You’re going to eat well in Tulum. The Yucatan beach town’s restaurant and bar scene runs the gamut from upscale to mom-and-pop to beachside café. Menus are just as diverse, and full of flavor. Get ready to chow down on fresh seafood ceviches, rich molé sauces, slow-cooked pork and maybe even a roasted grasshopper or two.
Here are all the places we had a chance to dine when we visited in May. They’re listed with links so you can look at menus, make a note of addresses or just ogle the food pics.
Where to Go for Dinner
Located in Tulum Town, this unassuming gem serves up modern spins on traditional Mexican fare. The chef and owner, Claudia Perez, hides out in the kitchen whipping up flavorful recipes that fed her ancestors for centuries. The meal starts with a complimentary appetizer basket, with breads, garlic butter, pungent cheeses and, yes, crispy grasshoppers crumbled on orange slices. Wash it down with a tamarind margarita if it’s on the menu. For dinner, order anything with one of Perez’s signature molé sauces. I had a fish dish with white almond molé that was out of this world.
We stopped by mezcal bar Gitano to have a drink before dinner, but the menu looked so good we decided to stay. The cocktails were divine, yes, but the food was our favorite part. I had mouthwatering, slow-cooked pork tacos. Like many other restaurants in the area, the dining room is carved right into the jungle. The only shelter from the sky is palm trees, which are strung with Edison lamp bulbs, antique chandeliers and even a disco ball or two.
We got tipped off about Cenzontle aka Jardin Secreto by a couple we met at breakfast one morning. It was an excellent, gorgeous space on the “jungle side,”‘ decorated with mismatched tables and chairs, antique lamps and an army of gnome figurines. Dinner was great. Our best dish was BBQ pork ribs resting on a bed of sweet potato purée. The wine was delicious, too. We opted for Malbec, which complemented the robust flavors in the pork.
Arca is a design lovers dream come true. Dim lights hang from palm trees, the wooden bar is adorned with an awesome, funky-shaped mirror, and ’70s soul tunes groove on the speakers as you dine under the stars. The service was great. Our waiter was friendly and open to offering suggestions. Our best plate was the suckling baby pig. For dessert we had the brie panna cotta with almond crust and passionfruit. We paired it with a glass of sweet wine, per a recommendation from our waiter. Try it.
This place is so romantic. It’s on the beach side, and you have to traverse your way through a lovely, candle-lit garden before making it to the dining room. Specializing in Italian food, expect hearty portions of pasta, and fish dishes straight from the sea. Dinner started with an overflowing bread basket filled with pickled cauliflower, a couple cheeses and a garlic butter spread. I had a white fish that was cooked in sea water, olive oil and lemon. The wine was good, and the servers very friendly. The atmosphere may be the best part: dimly lit, and the breeze from the ocean keeps you cool.
Restaurare is another jewel of a restaurant on the jungle side of beach road. The open-air kitchen serves up traditional Mayan food that is 100 percent vegan, so don’t come looking for slow-cooked pork or fish tacos. I opted for a bowl of seasonal veggies swimming in a dark, chocolate-y molé sauce. It was divine. To keep the mosquitos away, the staff brought out a homemade, all-natural repellent that we rubbed on our arms and legs. It did the trick—and left us nice and moisturized.
Mezzanine is a swanky spot attached to a hotel and perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. You’re doing it right if you get here in time for the sunset. This is one of the few spots in town to get Thai food, which is nice if you need a break from the Mexican fare. I had a curry that was spicy, flavorful, and beautifully prepared. The drinks were good, too. I started with a mezcal negroni (recommended!) and finished up with a glass of red wine at dinner.
Great Spots for Breakfast and Lunch
We loved Raw Love. It’s a discreet little hippie-dippy café within the grounds of the hotel Ahau Tulum. You sit outside surrounding a kitchen cabana that’s buzzing with the sounds of blenders, knives chopping fruits and machetes cracking fresh coconuts. Go here for refreshing, soul-filling grub that’s packed with vitamins, antioxidants and all that other healthy stuff you crave after a night of drinking and heavy meal-ing. The acai bowl is dynamite. It’s a smoothie blended with acai, coconut milk and banana and topped with pepitas, almonds, sunflower seeds, blueberries and bananas. For some pep to get you through the day, order the Train Wreck. It’s a heart-racing blend of espresso, yerba matte, cacao and coconut milk.
A local favorite, this hip pizza joint in the heart of Tulum Town serves up a full menu of thin-crust pies. We had a seafood pizza without cheese, and a couple margaritas. Great for lunch or dinner—and, given its location on a mainstream in town, an ideal spot for tipsy people-watching
This cafe and bar is part of a hotel on the jungle side of the beach road. They put a lot of TLC into their coffee drinks, and their breakfast portions—everything from eggs to pancakes to smoothies—are hefty. It’s also a nice place to pop in during the day for a frosty cerveza when you need reprieve from the sun.
Zamas is one of the more popular hotels in town. Their colorful restaurant overlooks the ocean, and serves up a filling breakfast throughout the morning and afternoon. Their coffee is some of the best we found while in Tulum. I loved my macchiato.
Here are some articles we found helpful in our search for good food in Tulum: