The 18 Essential Tulum Restaurants

Where to find wood-fired mariscos, mezcal, and modernist cuisine in the jungles of Tulum

 Photo: Gimas / Shutterstock

It’s nearly impossible to stroll down the sandy, palm tree–populated road that connects Tulum’s Hotel Zone — the area’s eco-chic properties scattered along the street that separates lush jungle from turquoise ocean — without catching rustic signage peeking behind leaves advertising yoga and fresh juice. Those are just early suggestions of the wellness-centered ethos and bohemian vibe that have earned the beachy resort town a following.

About an hour and a half drive south from Cancún, along the Yucatán Peninsula coast and at the tip of the Riviera Maya, Tulum is paradise of ingredient-driven, wood-fired cooking heavily influenced by its crystal waters and tropical environs. Here, there’s no power grid; instead, hospitality projects run on generators or solar power, which explains many restaurants’ intensely simple approach to cooking, both in the hotel zone and in downtown Tulum.

Here now, and in geographic order, Eater contributor Kat Odell offers an overview of dining in what has become an epicenter of hipster tourism. A catalog that embraces regional specialties like cochinita pibil and ingredients from corn to cacao, below, the 18 places that define dining in Tulum, Mexico.

December 2017 Update

As always, some places must leave the list to make room for others. Here are the highlights:

  • Since La Tropicana is no more, in comes the refreshed Arca, now under control of a former Noma chef.
  • The rustic cookery of a World’s 50 Best Chef at MurMur is standing in for La Cocina de Corina.
  • Local stalwarts El Camello and El Canaston are retired for new tacos finds: Taqueria Don Beto and Taqueria El Arbolito.

Price per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 200 pesos (less than USD $10)
$$ = 200 – 380 pesos (USD $10 to USD $20)
$$$ = 380 – 570 pesos (USD $20 to USD $30)
$$$$ = More than 570 pesos (more than USD $30)

1 Chamicos

More of a locals’ secret, Chamicos is about a 25-minute drive north from town, plopped on Soliman Bay. This entirely unfussy and unpretentious daytime beach shack sports plastic lawn furniture and offers up massive plates of cheap, super-fresh, locally caught mariscos, some prepped over a wood-fired grill. After the meal, grab a crisp, icy Corona, and take a siesta in one of the scattered hammocks. [$]

A meal at Chamicos
 Photo: Chamicos / Facebook
Unnamed Rd
Quintana Roo, Mexico

2 Taqueria Don Beto

Although Taqueria Honorio is where everyone will say to eat cochinita pibil tacos (this list included), for a more hidden gem that’s just as great, albeit a touch greasier, head down the block to Don Beto. This typical, no-frills taco and torta place is where one will find the local policia ordering cochinita pibil slipped into their vessel of choice by bare-handed ladies who pull the citrus- and spice-laced slow-roasted pork from a metal vat layered with banana leaves. While many do order the cochinita torta, the bread can be quite dry and flavorless, so tacos are really the way to go. Pro tip: If less fatty meat is desired, just ask. [$]

Cochinita pibil tacos from Taqueria Don Beto
 Photo: Taqueria Don Beto / Facebook
Carr. Tulum – Cancún 121
Chacalal, Q.R., Mexico

3 Don Cafeto

One of Tulum’s oldest restaurants, Avenida Tulum stalwart Don Cafeto offers a quintessential Mexican dining experience: large portions of good quesadillas, fajitas, tacos, and other Mexican staples at low prices. But insiders know that the meal to have here is breakfast. Follow the locals’ lead and order the open-air restaurant’s Mayan breakfast, which includes fried eggs over tortillas, topped with cheese, salsa, peas, and ham. Pro tip: Don Cafeto is also near Ki’ Bok, which serves the best coffee in the city. [$$]

Mayan breakfast from Don Cafeto
 Photo: Don Cafeto / Facebook
Av. Tulum 64
Centro, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
01 984 871 2207

4 Taqueria Honorio

Locals will say that Tulum’s best breakfast tacos can be found about a 10-minute drive from the hotel strip at Taquería Honorio, a divey, sort of makeshift place with serious cochinita pibil — a fragrant regional Yucatán pork dish that’s slow cooked with orange, achiote, and other spices like cumin, cinnamon, and allspice. In plain view, cooks throw wads of masa onto flat tops, yielding thick, rustic tacos which they slap with proteins (pork or beef). Keep in mind, though, that this is a breakfast spot, and the day is done at 1:30 p.m. [$]

Tacos from Taqueria Honorio
 Photo: Taqueria Honorio /Facebook
Satélite Sur Tulum Q.R. Mexico
Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
+52 984 134 8731

5 Campanella Cremerie

In Tulum, find a rainbow of paletas (try Flor de Michoacan a rainbow of fruity ice pops) and sugar-free, vegan ice cream (try the retro Las Bolas de Posture), but for the city’s best scoops, Campanella Cremerie is the move. Part coffee house, part gelateria, Campanella offers a medley of gelato and sorbet in flavors like dulce de leche, pineapple-basil, and yogurt with strawberries. Beyond cups and cones there’s a whole list of composed ice cream bowls, a slew of waffles decorated with fruit, coconut, and nuts, and a couple of savory sandwiches. [$]

Outside of Campanella Cremerie
 Photo: Campanella Cremerie / Facebook
Avenida Tulum
Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
01 984 871 2992

6 Antojitos la Chiapaneca

When in Mexico, spit-roasted meat is a must. And the tacos al pastor from streetside-seller Antojitos La Chiapaneca might just be the best in town. Thanks to its short menu of tacos at seven to 10 pesos a pop (about 50 cents), in addition to a few other inexpensive Yucatán snacks, this cheap eats stop in Tulum Pueblo fills up quickly and stays open late — until midnight every day except Monday. [$]

Interior of Antojitos la Chaipaneca
 Photo: Jay Joslin / Flickr
Av. Tulum
Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

7 Taqueria El Arbolito

When cruising down to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, those in the know break to eat excellent guisados breakfast tacos and scalding mugs of cafe de olla (Mexican cinnamon-spiced coffee) at El Arbolito. And while that drive is a bit far for Tulum dwellers, the silver lining is that El Arbolito commands a second location directly in pueblo. Drop in before 3 p.m. daily for tacos pressed to order, filled with stewed chicken in mole, chicken in salsa verde, eggs in salsa roja, and El Arbolito’s most famous: chicharrón prensado(pressed pork) and lomitos (pork tenderloin) in a red sauce made from guajillo chiles. [$]

Tacos from Taqueria El Arbolito
 Photo: Taqueria El Arbolito / Facebook
Calle Sol Ote. 5
Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

8 Mezzanine

Should you need a break from tacos and tostadas, consider Mezzanine, located within a hotel of the same name. Skip the Mexican breakfast, and instead opt for the fusion-ish Thai fare that’s on offer during lunch and dinner, like chicken tequila dumplings, plus more traditional plates of chicken satay and pad Thai. Perched on a deck overlooking the beach, expect a killer ocean view, and two-for-one margaritas daily from 1-4 p.m. [$$$-$$$$]

 Photo: Mezzanine / Facebook
Hotel Zone
77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
044 984 131 1596

9 Kitchen Table

Fans of Hartwood’s minimalist wood-fired cookery will want to explore Kitchen Table, which follows a similar culinary directive. Located further down the hotel zone across from Mezzanine, one large palapa shields a smattering of wooden tables at which diners sample a concise list of five simply grilled local proteins from the land and sea. Start with the excellent huitlacoche quesadilla plus a seasonal fruit cocktail, then move on to charred octopus and beef. [$$$]

The kitchen at Kitchen Table
 Photo: Kitchen Table / Facebook
Carretera Tulum a Boca Paila
Km 1.5, Ruinas, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
01 984 188 4924

10 El Tábano

There’s no host stand at El Tabano. Instead, patrons seat themselves at wooden tables in the rustic garden patio — a large palapa doesn’t do much to keep out the heat. Take note of the massive chalkboard by the kitchen which lists the day’s fare: contemporary Mexican with an exotic twist, made with seasonal and local ingredients. Serving from breakfast through dinner, dishes stay on the menu only as long as ingredients remain, meaning many plates sell out on a daily basis. Do check out the wine list, which is almost entirely devoted to Mexican-made bottles. [$$]

Interior of El Tabano
 Photo: El Tábano / Facebook
Carretera Tulum – Boca Paila Km. 7
Col. Tulum, 77780 Q.R., Mexico
044 984 134 8725

11 Posada Margherita

Posada Margherita, Tulum’s most famous Italian number, is situated within a beachside hotel of the same name. To fully soak in the unobstructed ocean view, try dropping by before sunset — whether for lunch or an early dinner. Try Posada’s great assortment of focaccias, served with Parmesan chunks and pickled cauliflower, save room for the housemade pasta, often dressed with local vegetables and seafood. Protip: Posada Margherita doesn’t accept credit cards, so pesos are required. [$$$]

Interior of Posada Margherita
 Photo: Posada Margherita
Km. 4.5
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila, Tulum, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
044 984 801 8493

12 Safari

Before opening Safari in 2015, owner Luis Aguilar commanded the kitchen at Manhattan taco chainlet Tacombi. Now back on home turf, Aguilar has opened an outdoor restaurant along the hotel-dotted beachside strip equipped with a vintage 1971 silver Airstream, which he uses as a kitchen. Here, the chef is serving a concise menu of what he calls “campfire food,” since most dishes which require heat are cooked on a small wood-fired pit beside the vehicle. While the menu might read a bit like Mexican fusion (think yuca truffle fries, creme brulee), the tacos here — like the pork pastro — are some of the best in the area. Alongside, opt for a variety of fresh juices (which can be spiked with mezcal), craft beer, and a slew of house cocktails. [$$]

 Photo: Courtesy of Safari
Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
+52 984 745 2340

13 Casa Jaguar

Rustic wood-fired proteins and veggies, along with ceviches and salads, are the name of the game at Casa Jaguar, a restaurant and bar with a jungle feel. Another bohemian-chic number, Casa Jaguar is prime grounds for pre- or post-dinner drinks. Just grab a stool and one of the house-special cocktails, or create a custom adventures simply by selecting ingredients readily displayed on the bar. Looking for more drinking action? Beat the beach and head into town, where Casa Jaguar management opened a newer bar, Todos Santos, which also offers an excellent selection of fresh fruit, mezcal-laced tipples. Grab a seat at the dimly-lit bar fading away under a cloud of burning palo santo, knock back one of the many mezcals behind the bar, or pick a drink flavored with coconut, guanabana, or mango. [$$$$]

Casa Jaguar
 Photo: Casa Jaguar / Facebook
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km 7.5
Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
+52 998 222 2749

14 Gitano

If in the mood for a night out defined by pretty people and creative cocktails, Gitano is it. The lush outdoor lounge takes on a magic feel with its canopy of twinkling lights, making it the ideal locale to see and be seen. Sure, there’s a full menu of fresh, modern Mexican plates like basil guacamole and truffle mushroom tacos, but what everyone is really here for is the bar’s fruit-forward cocktails — most of which incorporate Mexico’s signature smoky spirit, mezcal. There’s no shortage of local flavor from Kisses in the Car with mezcal, passion fruit, tangerine, and habanero or in the the house mojito remixed with mezcal, rum, hibiscus, and mint. [$$$$]

 Photo: Gitano / Facebook
Beach Road Km. 7
Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico

15 MurMur

At Diego Hernández Baquedano’s Valle de Guadalupe restaurant Corazón de Tierra, the chef plates manicured Baja cuisine that has earned him a spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. But his jungle abode, MurMur, takes a decidedly more rustic approach. Embracing the Yucatán’s indigenous ingredients, MurMur highlights simple, seasonal Mexican fare, like a soup of chicken and hoja santa, and grilled octopus in salsa verde. Don’t miss his unctuous Yucatan pork served with corn tortillas and a pumpkin-seed sauce — they’re the best pork tortillas in the hotel zone. [$$$$]

 Photo: MurMur
Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

16 Hartwood

If there’s one restaurant everyone has probably heard of in Tulum, it’s Hartwood. American chef and owner Eric Werner clocked hours at New York City restaurants Peasant and Vinegar Hill House prior to opening this earthy, wood-fired shrine to the flavors of Mexico with Mya Henry. It’s has commanded long lines since its debut in 2010 — for years, the only way to nab one of the shadowy, outdoor tables was to line up at 3 p.m. and make a reservation in person for later that night. But in the last few months, the restaurant has stepped up its reservation game, and now fish fans can secure a via email — if there’s room, of course. Every night, Hartwood displays a chalkboard that lists the evening’s dishes, most of which involve locally-caught seafood, either simply grilled or prepared as ceviche, plus beef and local vegetables. Remember, there’s only solar power here, which explains Werner’s grill-centric approach to cooking. [$$$$]

Chicken from Hartwood
 Photo: Hartwood / Facebook
Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km
77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

17 Arca

The most interesting and progressive food that’s happening in Tulum right now is at Arca, thanks to new partner and former Noma chef Jose Luis Hinostroza. Although Arca has been up and running since 2015, serving a somewhat expected menu of locally sourced plants and proteins, Hinostroza has upped the game with a drastically more dynamic bill of fare that still celebrates the restaurant’s wood-fired cooking and jungle locale. Standouts include a Fred Flintstone-sized bone filled with tamarind and pastilla-laced marrow, served with grilled bread and fermented with a sourdough starter made from pulque. For dessert, don’t miss cacao pods filled with chocolate mousse and toasted sesame milk. Fun fact: This is Tulum’s only restaurant with an immersion circulator and sous vide technology. [$$$$]

Grilled octopus with cascabel adobo, black olive and garlic cream, and roasted orange from Arca
 Photo: Arca / Facebook
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km. 7.6
77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
+52 983 110 7326

18 The Real Coconut at Sanará

Tulum offers no better wellness-centered breakfast than at the Real Coconut, a breezy bungalow at Sanará hotel perched directly on the beach. Here, owner Daniella Hunter serves bowls of coconut yogurt and a great rendition of ranchero eggs made with coconut-cassava tortilla chips. In fact, Hunter’s coconut chips have become so famous that she recently launched a line of them sold at some Whole Foods locations. While the menu is entirely devoid of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, but there are still proteins including fish and poultry, plus one of Tulum’s most intense juice and tonic menus, with hot and cold beverages ranging from house-made almond milk-spiked lattes to fermented coconut kefir. [$$]

A meal at The Real Coconut 
Photo: The Real Coconut
Quintana Roo, Mexico
01 310 933 6408



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