The Top Restaurants in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Photo of Alex Robinson
6 September 2021

The food scene in this Riviera Maya resort town serves up everything from gourmet Yucatán and Mayan-influenced dishes to simple but satisfying fried fish tacos.

Without high-rise hotels or busy roads, Playa del Carmen is the Riviera Maya’s relaxed alternative to Cancún. The beach is just as white and fluffy, it’s shaded with swaying palms and lapped by a glassy clear turquoise Caribbean Sea, with the Cancún airport only a little over an hour’s drive away. Playa, as locals call it, has a lively social scene, with plenty of bars and clubs and a slew of restaurants, many of them with a sea view.

Porfirio’s

Restaurant, Mexican
Map View
A block from the beach on a lively street, Porfirio’s offers upmarket contemporary Mexican dining in an elegant open-sided salon (with wicker chairs and handsome hardwood tables) accompanied by serenading mariachis. The menu is bewilderingly huge, but franchise favorites include the tacos de canasta (tacos with pork crackling, potatoes, black beans and chicken marinated in guajillo pepper and tomato) and molcajete mar y tierra (ribeye steak, shrimp and pork sausage served with prickly pear and flaming mezcal).

La Cueva del Chango

Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
Map View

With wooden tables set in tranquil tropical gardens dotted with elfin cottages and romantically hanging lambent lights in the evening, La Cueva feels a world away from Playa’s heat and hustle. Dining is from breakfast until dinner, with a menu of reinvented Mexican standards and plenty of veggie options: huevos rancheros come with twin fried eggs, avocado and crispy tortilla, and bell peppers are stuffed with pistachios, sautéed shrimp and cream cheese, served in tomato sauce and accompanied by fresh mango.

Axiote

Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
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Award-winning resort chef Xavier Pérez Stone’s solo venture has served Yucatecán Maya dishes with a gourmet touch (and concessionary Mexican favorites) to loyal locals for well over a decade. Food is dished out in an airy palm-roofed al fresco dining area with an open-plan kitchen, a short walk from Mamita’s Beach. There’s ribeye and tacos on the menu, but the kitchen’s specialities are all local – like pork with spicy Yucatán sauce, guacamole with field grasshoppers and Mexican rabbit with guajillo chili.

Oh Lala!

Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
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With only nine tables and personable, personal service from the wait staff and owners Mikaela and George, Oh Lala! offers intimate dining with French bistro panache and Mexican ingredients. Opt for the hors-d’oeuvre degustation (with a chef-recommended white Bordeaux) and follow it with the tuna steak or the filet béarnaise and the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate mousse. Book ahead in the high season.

Aldea Corazón

Restaurant, Mexican
Map View
Diners at Aldea Corazón are literally eating to the music of the rainforest. The restaurant sits in a lush jungle garden trilling with birds and cicadas. There’s even a cenote, a waterfall and sacred cave on site. The Mexican food is authentic and fabulous – Yucatecán lime soup, spicy Veracruz-style fish, pumpkin flower tamales and corn ice cream – and there’s even plenty for vegans and vegetarians.

C-Grill

Restaurant, Mexican
Map View
C-Grill, in the Thompson Hyatt hotel, offers Playa’s finest dining with a view – with a menu of contemporary Mexican food from multi-award-winning chef Daniel Manzano Flores. With the Caribbean Sea at your feet, a balmy breeze and first-class food and drinks menus, this is a location to savor. Come in the late afternoon for sundowner cocktails (the margaritas are divine), then order Daniel’s pescado entero – a full fish prepared to diners’ tastes in his signature sauce.

Harry’s

Restaurant, Bar, Mexican, $$$
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With its elegant, glass-fronted dining room, luxe wooden furnishings and understated service, Harry’s Steakhouse offers an upscale Miami dining experience in downtown Playa. The menu is broad and varied – with tacos, pastas and salads, but it’s really all about the oysters (from the raw bar) and the steaks: prime cuts of Akaushi Kobe, Australian Black Onyx and New York dry-aged beef, served with bottles from one of the best wine lists in Quintana Roo.

La Tarraya

Restaurant, Mexican
Map View

You don’t have to pay a premium to eat on the beach. La Tarraya has been serving food with the same simple formula since backpackers first arrived here in the 1970s. The no-frills laminated menu offers the breaded catch of the day with tomato, onion and avocado salad as well as tacos and lobster in season, accompanied by ice-cold Dos Equis beer served at simple wooden tables with plastic chairs on the best stretch of sand in Playa.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the top resorts in Playa del Carmen, or opt instead for one of the best hotels for every traveler. Don’t miss the top things to see and do in, including the most beautiful beaches. Make sure you try the top bars in Playa del Carmen, too.

These recommendations were updated on September 6, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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