Where to find the best tacos, tequila and other delicious Mexican foods in Tulum
Early 1990s: A day journey from a hotel in Playa del Carmen or Cancun was required to visit Tulum, a tranquil village on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, to see the ruins and stroll through the town. Nonetheless, Tulum was well on its way to becoming a popular tourist destination by the turn of the 20th century, first drawing hippies looking for yoga and meditation retreats, then celebrities, and finally developers. Foreign investors, hotel owners, Mexican restaurant chains, and chefs from all over the world soon followed, resulting in the development of an upscale tropical playground by the sea.
These days, you can throw a stone from your hotel and hit a trendy outdoor restaurant set on decomposed granite with a wood-fired oven cooking local, foraged ingredients — exactly the sort of restaurant you’d expect from a place with Tulum’s reputation. But over the past couple of years, new chefs from all over Mexico (often recruited by Mexico City restaurant groups) have increased competition and brought other regional cuisines and specialties to town. And there are even a few affordable stalwarts of old Tulum that have survived the area’s economic evolution.
Still, dining in Tulum is mostly expensive, and if you’re going to drop over $300 on dinner and drinks for two, you’d better make sure your meal is worth it. The best restaurants deliver all the magic, romance, and aesthetic promised by the beachside destination. They serve dishes elevated by the local flora and fauna and cook with techniques inherited from the Maya; that often includes recaudos (colorful herbal marinades), especially grilled octopus in a recaudo negro, a dish made iconic by chef Jose Luis Hinostroza’s Arca.
Inspired by the gastronomy of her home state of Puebla, chef Claudia Perez Rivas prepares moles and other regional dishes in an older style of Mexican haute cuisine that’s a rare treat these days. Her seasonal Pueblan classic, chiles en nogada, is perfectly balanced between savory meat, fruity picadillo, roasted poblano, and silky white walnut sauce. Local fish is plated similarly, but with a white mole thickened by almonds, and Perez prepares several moles with rolled chicken breast stuffed with local chaya as well. Enjoy all of it surrounded by the Mexican folk art that covers the white adobe walls, and be sure to get some of the signature mole pastes to take back home.
Carretera 109 Tulum Coba Km 2.5, Villas Tulum, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Doña Paty Tacos de Guisado
Add a stop to visit Doña Paty on your Tulum taco crawl for her tacos de guisados, Mexican stews ladled into fresh corn tortillas. The guisados change from day to day, but Doña Paty usually offers around 10 classics, like chicken meatball in salsa, ham and cheese croquettes, dark and smoky pork ribs in chile morita, chile strips and melted cheese, and chiles rellenos. And say yes when she asks if you want rice on the taco; it helps keep all the savory juices on the tortilla. Doña Paty also serves breakfasts like chilaquiles, huevos a la mexicana, and even fluffy pancakes.
Av. Yodzonot, Calle 19 Colonia Tumben Kaa, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Aca Tacos de Canasta
Among the street vendors on Avenida Satélite, look for a bright yellow banner, tan beach umbrella, and pair of bamboo tiki bars that serve as a taco stand. That’s where you’ll find the perfect midmorning snack: tacos de canasta (steamed tacos) filled with scrambled eggs with the spinachlike chaya, red mole with chicken, or chicharron prensado (intense pork marinated in adobo). As they steam, the tortillas absorb the flavors and colors of the fillings until they give off a sweaty, oily glow. Order five and a fresh squeezed juice to fuel up for shopping in downtown Tulum.
Tulum Centro, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Tacos y Tortas El Tio
There are plenty of vendors selling marquesitas (sweet and savory rolled crepes) and elotes around Avenida Satélite and Calle Géminis Norte in downtown Tulum where tourists gather at night. There are fewer taco stands in the area, but El Tio has been a long-time favorite for tacos al pastor and tortas of bright-orange, tender marinated pork dressed with chopped onions, cilantro, pineapple, and salsa. Bring a friend and split one of the fried-hash combos cooked on a flattop served with corn tortillas for making your own tacos; options include a matambre (poc chuc, al pastor, chorizo, ham, bacon, onion, tomato, chile poblano), alambre (pork chop, bacon, onions, chile poblano, cheese), or fortachon (pork chop, al pastor, chorizo, onion).
Tulum Centro, Col Huracanes, 77760 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
In a modest space, given a local flair with dark stained wooden furnishings under Tulum’s conical pendant lights, chefs Carolina Noya and Alonso Lara are doing amazing things with heirloom corn. Vibrant red, yellow, and blue corn tortillas made from 100 percent nixtamalized corn are filled with pork ribs or huitlacoche, served on artisanal ceramic plates alongside clay bowls of intense green and red salsa. Large multicolored quesadillas come with pungent epazote (using an Indigenous recipe from southern Mexico) or huitlacoche, while plump tamales come drowned in rich tomato or chile poblano sauce. The restaurant also features quesabirria, found here with adobo-dipped heirloom corn tortillas, blackened on a comal, and served on a broken clay plate.
Calle Andromeda oriente #87 MZ 05 LT08, entre centauro sur y satélite sur, Tulum Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
This trendy street stand became Tulum’s destination taqueria and a viral sensation during chef Rene Redzepi’s residency at Noma Mexico in 2017, when visiting foodies from the U.S. spilled over into Taqueria Honorio, filling Instagram with mouthwatering posts of Yucatán-style tortas de lechón (suckling pig), tacos de cochinita pibil (roasted marinated pork), and relleno negro de pavo (marinated turkey). These dishes offer a masterclass in recaudos of Maya cuisine: the acidic recaudo rojo on the cochinita pibil, the charred and smoky recaudo negro for the relleno negro, and the all-purpose spice blend, or recaudo blanco, that scents the slow roasted suckling pig. Join the crowd at this trendy street food stand and snack on the essential flavors and colors of the Yucatán.
Satélite Sur Tulum Q.R. Mexico, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
La Negra Tomasa
This spot is named after a song written by Cuban composer Guillermo Rodríguez Fiffe that was covered by Mexican rockers Caifanes in 1989, and like the song, this mod Sinaloan cevicheria is a little cumbia, a little rock and roll. Under the shade of salmon-colored umbrellas and a corrugated steel-panel roof, try the Torresona, a show-stopping Sinaloan seafood tower of raw and cooked shrimp, tuna, cooked octopus, and mahi-mahi formed in a ring mold with slices of purple onion, cucumber, and layers of fresh avocado, all bathed in lime juice and salsa negra. A variety of seafood tostadas, fiery aguachiles, and Sinaloan seafood tacos, like a gobernador stuffed with melted Gouda and grilled shrimp, are paired with cold beers and international cocktails such as Old Fashioneds, Aperol spritzes, and espresso martinis.
Andromeda Ote 14, Tulum Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Don’t let the name fool you. La Chiapaneca (the Chiapan) specializes in Yucatán-style tacos de al pastor and antojitos like panuchos (bean and meat-filled tortillas) and salbutes, a slightly puffed fried tortilla topped with chicken in recaudo rojo and vegetables. Try the gringa, which consists of al pastor with melted cheese in a flour tortilla. Like so many taquerias in town, there are vegetarian options too.
Calle Acuario Nte. 3, Tulum Centro, Tobiano, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
With delicious gelato, high-quality coffee made with beans from Veracruz, and waffles, Tulum’s most inviting cafe is a crowd favorite any time of day. There’s a juice bar and paninis for lunch, double espresso to pick you up in the afternoon before another fun-filled evening of food and drink, and sweet gelato to end an evening after dinner and a stroll. With seasonal flavors like Argentine caramel, lemon pie with toasted coconut, and Sicilian pistachio, there’s something for every palate, and it’s all better as an affogato.
Av. Tulum, Tulum Centro, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Grab a seat in the enchanting backyard garden of this downtown bar for a serious dive into the universe of Mexican spirits: mezcal, raicilla, sotol made from dasylirion wheeleri, and pox, a Mayan corn distillate from Chiapas. The menu has plenty of tacos, ceviches, and botanas to nosh on, while you sip refreshing agave cocktails, like one that combines pox and licor de damiana (or a bright, tangy gin tonic, if you prefer). Be sure to try a flight of mezcal or, better yet, multiple Mexican spirits.
Av. Tulum 21, Tulum Centro, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Sabor de Mar
For a taste of Mexican seafood in Tulum you can count on this Sinaloa-style mariscos restaurant downtown. The menu includes aguachiles, tostadas mixtas covered in fresh fish and seafood, and several kinds of torres de mariscos (Mexican seafood towers). The towers come decoratively stacked with layers of avocado fans, diced vegetables, and seafood drowned in rich sauces and lime juice. The Escuinapense tower, for example, is loaded with dry shrimp from the town of Escuinapa, Sinaloa, while the Mazatleca comes with aguachile, raw tuna, and cooked shrimp.
Calle Jupiter Manzana 5, Lote 17 Local 4 centro, Tulum Centro, 77760 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Rincon de Jade
Dining exclusively at restaurants with international influences and chefs can make you forget you’re in Mexico. A trip to the Mercado de Tulum will reorient you around local gastronomy, especially if you stop by the Rincon de Jade stall, where Keily Medina serves regional specialities like albondigas paired with fideos. Check out the chirmole de pollo (relleno negro), a dark stew blackened by recaudo negro with chicken and a hard boiled egg, or the frijol con puerco, a rich pork and bean stew full of epazote that’s best eaten with a raw habanero as a chaser to each bite. Then there’s the Sunday morning mondongo, the best hangover cure in town. Imagine a slow cooked menudo full of stomach, tripe, and other offal that’s soaked in Seville orange juice, then stained dark red by recaudo rojo (red achiote paste). If the mondongo doesn’t cure you, the raw habanero that comes on the side will make you forget all about your headache.
Calle Orión Sur, Tulum Centro, Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
In 2019, cooks Alejandro Hernandez and Francisca “Panchita” Caamal — who prepare Yucatán cuisine as well as some regional Mexican cuisines from other states — opened this stall outside the Mercado Publico Ca’axihil offering ornate, high-end chilaquiles and enfrijoladas dressed in artful, wavy strips of cream. The breakfasts are among the best in town, but locals line up for the lunch buffet that goes for 90 pesos (about $4.90), which consists of eight clay pots filled with hearty stews such as chicharrón en salsa roja, picadillo, and costillas en salsa verde with rice and beans. On the rotating menu of the day, you’ll find Yucateco classics like pollo en chimole and costilla en adobo, plus recipes from other regions, like a slurpable, spicy churipo (beef stew) from Michoacán.
Neptuno Ote., Tulum Centro, Centro, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
This open wood-fired kitchen dramatically set in the jungle was founded in 2015 by Portuguese chef Inacio Lamas after a decade of introspection. Small bites include the Ceviche KT, a wreath of raw fish, watermelon radish wedges, thin rings of chile serrano, and delicate ribbons of purple onion encircling a cenote-like pool of leche de tigre. There are also larger options, such as a tender braised pork belly with an earthy green pipian. Menus change depending on seasons and availability, with many dishes being “veganizable.”
km 6 Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila km 6, Tulum Beach, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Founded in 1998, Casa Banana offers an inviting patio covered with palm trees. In 2009 Argentine restaurateur and executive chef Santiago Levy reimagined the culinary program based on the traditions of an Argentine asado, cooking fine cuts of steak over fire, as well as seafood to suit the Tulum setting. Smoky, wood-fired asparagus with goat cheese and flaky empanadas precede classic cuts — an 18-ounce ribeye or a 16-ounce vacio (flap steak), for instance — and whole fish baked in a wood oven, simply accompanied with parsley, citrus, and roasted vegetables. Signature cocktails, such as the black Negroni and fernet julep, are inspired by Levy’s home country and act as liquid invitations to the asado.
Carr. Tulum-Boca Paila Km. 7.5, Tulum Beach, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
The vibe is the allure at this swank jungle getaway with an old-world feel that merges 17th century Mexican architecture, candlelit dinners, and overgrown palm trees and vines. The food is a blend of Mediterranean mezze, Mexican American tacos, and appetizers like quesadillas cut into acute triangles like the ones at American chain restaurants. Order a smoky, citrusy Gitano Swizzle or any of the delicious tropical mezcal cocktails, and snack away in this irresistibly hip setting.
Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico
If a clubby rainforest patio sounds like your kind of scene, head to Rosanegra, a wealthy playpen billed as a tribute to Latin America (that’s such a hit with Chilangos that they opened one in Mexico City’s upscale Polanco neighborhood). Soft light emanates from hanging bamboo coche lampshades, as beautiful patrons wave sparklers and dine on ceviche served in terrariums, A5 wagyu tacos with excessively sauce-dotted plates, and giant churro hoops shooting out of martini glasses. Order the millionaire, a surf-and-turf combo of a Hyogo Prefecture 8-ounce New York Kobe cut, paired with lobster tail imported from the Mediterranean or a Nigerian U2 Tiger Shrimp. If you’ve booked a Sea Villa at Azulik, you can afford this.
Carr. Tulum-Boca Paila 5-Km 7, Tulum Beach, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Maintaining respect for the community and environment, chef Eric Werner leads the team at one of Tulum’s most renowned restaurants as they forage in the surrounding areas, source ingredients from local markets, and cook freshly caught seafood over fire. The chef leaves local Mexican food culture in the hands of Tulum’s traditional cooks; he focuses on cooking in Mexico, rather than cooking Mexican cuisine. In reality, that translates to sea bream filets, Caribbean lobster, and arrachera cuts of Angus beef cooked on a wood-fired grill, served simply with bitter greens and roasted vegetables. Seated under simple white awnings on a gravel floor, the restaurant evokes a Tulum before the hype.
Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
With its campsite kitchen and cozy, evening-picnic atmosphere, Arca should be at the top of your list for its artful, microseasonal cuisine, complete with ingredients that taste as if they were picked just beyond the fan palms surrounding the outdoor space. It’s the flagship restaurant of Mexican-American chef Jose Luis Hinostroza, whose resume includes Alinea, El Celler de Can Roca, De Kromme Watergang, and Noma. Crispy, spinach-like chaya enhances the grassy flavors of grilled avocado and buffets soft-shell crab in amaranth tempura. Don’t miss Hinostroza’s grilled octopus in recaudo negro marinade, which has become part of the Tulum canon.
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km. 7.6, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Fashionable, modern Mexican fine dining is alive and well at Bal Nak, a lush outdoor restaurant where you feel like you’re at a backyard party in the jungle. Just look at the ceramic plates of almond mole served with duck breast, sweet and smoky mole of Oaxacan chilhuacle chilies paired with roast suckling pig and an hoja santa tamal, and chargrilled watermelon aguachile in a spicy guava sauce. Whatever you get, start with grilled chocolata clams and a beetroot cocktail.
Av. Boca Paila KM 7.5, Tulum Beach, 77766 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
This luxury steakhouse and raw bar by Grupo Anderson’s sources seafood and steaks internationally. Oysters arrive from the American East Coast, crab legs from Alaska, Kobe rib-eyes from Hyogo Prefecture, and corn-fed tomahawks from the American Midwest. Enjoy fresh Caribbean lobster tails and USDA prime cuts, braised in intense smoke from the restaurant’s Josper coal oven, and sip on refreshing mezcal and tequila cocktails on the stylish wooden deck.
Carr. Tulum-Boca Paila Km. 8.5, Tulum Beach, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Chef Jose Luis Hinostroza’s brasserie serves bar bites with ingredients from the Yucatán, paired with a fine list of biodynamic and natural wines from the peninsula, as well as a selection of robust orange wines from Italy. It’s the ideal predinner outing in a relaxed, elegant outdoor setting. Try the hamachi crudo on lemon verbena coconut flatbread, and a cheese board accompanied by a zapote negro compote with a chilled bottle of Bichi, a natural wine from Tecate.
Carr. Tulum-Boca Paila km 7.6, Tulum Beach, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Mexicali-born chef Luis Aguilar is cooking sustainably with fruits and vegetables from fair-trade farm Mestiza de Indias, fish and prawns from a local fisherman, and local meats and poultry from La Tiendita in Playa del Carmen. The result is a modern Caribbean menu at this romantic candlelit restaurant shrouded in greenery. Order a glass of Mexican wine from the Valle de Guadalupe to enjoy with a tart, nuanced fish crudo with shaved apple in a vivid green pool of citrus leaves and tomatillo. Or start with the wood-fired Campeche prawns in a spicy Tajín bearnaise. The marriage of Caribbean Sea and Mayan jungle sets the tone for main dishes like the roasted catch of the day, served atop creamed cassava in a pool of salsa of dried chilies, garnished with fried cassava strips.
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila KM 8.7, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico