Tulum’s foodie scene is growing to cater for an increasingly discerning international crowd that regularly descends upon this popular Caribbean beachside town, though that’s not to say there aren’t still plenty of hidden, local favourites available. Here’s your essential guide to eating in Tulum, from high-end restaurants to quaint, beach-side hotspots.
Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
The flagship restaurant of iconic Tulum hotel favourite Zamas, Que Fresco! is the ideal spot to grab a coastal lunch or dinner in this idyllic holiday destination (although some swear by getting there early for breakfast). Not only will you be treated to supreme quality fresh food – Mayan flavours and local, seasonally sourced produce dominate the dishes at Que Fresco! – you’ll also be able to enjoy some truly beautiful vistas over the Tulum coastline.
Originally founded by a local fishing collective, El Camello Jr is now one of the best, and arguably most authentic, places to eat in the town. Even so, it’s now widely known in both local and international circles, and this perennially popular spot is famed for its generous and super fresh ceviche and seafood dishes. Order fish tacos to ease yourself in, and bring at least basic Spanish, as English isn’t spoken.
If you want an authentic spot to grab a quick on-the-go meal, but seafood just doesn’t float your boat, then you can’t go wrong with La Chiapaneca. This is the essential place if you want to enjoy some authentic (and incredibly cheap) tacos al pastor in Tulum, often considered the best in town. Alongside their trademark spit-roasted meats, you can also get a handful of other local treats.
Hailed as Tulum’s latest up-and-coming beachside eatery is the remarkably off-the-grid Chamicos – which has no fixed address, phone number or website. However, tracking down this no-frills spot is definitely worth the effort, as you’ll be rewarded with freshly grilled fish and a wealth of ceviche dishes, all made from seafood caught that same day. The hours are tricky to pin down and you must pay cash, but it’ll make for a meal to remember.
Moving away from the more local Mexican fare and into top-notch, hotel quality dining now with the fabulous beachside Italian restaurant Posada Margherita. You may wonder why we’re recommending Italian cuisine in Mexico, but after tasting the freshly prepared pastas and pizzas on offer here, you’ll wonder no more. As with most other spots in Tulum, the seafood additions are all freshly-caught and flavoursome and the shabby-chic vibe makes it a truly romantic spot. Take cash.
Gitano is not only one of Tulum’s best bars (known for a reliably extensive and innovative mezcal and cocktail menu), it’s also one of the best restaurants in the area. Situated in what feels like the heart of the jungle, the laidback ambiance is complemented by a lush décor, topped with twinkling lights and internationally inspired, yet firmly Mexican, cuisine. Take, for example, the Moroccan sauce that accompanies the traditional tacos or the basil guacamole.
Solar-powered, candle-lit Hartwood is Tulum’s hipster paradise, and that says a lot. The brainchild of American chef Eric Werner, it’s become the must-visit dining destination in Tulum and it’s easy to see why. Known for its first come, first served policy and limited reservation system, Hartwood specialises in a seasonal menu that changes daily, runs out quickly and relies on quality, local produce from both land and sea, including anything from mahi mahi to jicama.
Vegan food, or just great cuisine in general, doesn’t get better than at Restaurare. This internationally-inspired restaurant offers up a wealth of seasonal, meat-free and Mayan vegan options in typically seafood-heavy Tulum. Its location is just as natural as the delicious food – located on the region’s jungle side, the atmosphere can only be described as lush, all palm trees and cool breezes, with an open-air kitchen and a semi-regularly rotated menu.
If you tire of Mexican dining in Tulum, there’s no shortage of international fare to get stuck into and some of the best comes courtesy of Mezzanine and its Thai fusion cuisine. A hotel restaurant, Mezzanine boasts some truly spectacular views (although it can get a bit windy in the evening), and a daily margarita offer of an afternoon. Enjoy the chicken tequila dumplings or tuck into refreshing Thai curries instead.
Finally, if you want a more do-it-yourself dining experience, El Tábano is ideal. Seat yourself at the table of your choice in this palapa-covered patio and browse the chalkboard menu for the deals of the day. With a quick-to-sell-out, seasonal menu specialising in modern Mexican cuisine with a twist, you should get there early to take advantage of what they have to offer, and make sure to peruse the extensive Mexican wine list too.