The laid-back village of Tulum, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, draws visitors from all walks of life, from yoga devotees to nature lovers, nudists and gastronomes. This little beachside town has it all. Whether you decide to stay in the slightly scruffy but lively main town, situated along the highway, or in the chilled-out hotel zone, along a stretch of wild jungle and pristine beachfront, there are plenty of excellent eating out options, from casual beachside snack stalls to big-night-out romantic restaurants.
In Tulum Town:
- Don Cafeto
The Category: Budget/Café
The Mood: Iconic streetfront café that has been a fixture on the Tulum strip for almost twenty years. Visitors and locals alike flock here for deliciously hearty breakfasts, good strong coffee and the scene – the café, with its tables out on the sidewalk, offers great people watching.
The Food: Don Cafeto is all about classic Mexican dishes such as quesadillas, chile rellenos and tacos, and they’re also known for their excellent ceviche. Don’t miss the pickled chilies as a side dish.
Address: Avenida Tulum 64, Lote 12.
Hours: Daily from 7:00am to 11:00pm.
Reservations: Phone +52 984 871 2207 or visit the website
- La Nave
The Category: Budget/Pizzeria
The Mood: The Italian navy comes to Tulum: La Nave’s whimsical nautical theme is apparent through the open-air café/restaurant, from the model ships to the anchors, buoys and oceanic scenes painted on the tabletops. A raised deck and rope fence separates the dining area from the street for those who prefer to be a little removed from the sidewalk action.
The Food: The star player at La Nave is the wonderful wood-fired Italian brick oven, from which emerges wondrous thin-crust pizzas and crusty European-style bread, a rarity on the Mexican coast, where over-processed, tasteless bread is the norm. There’s also an espresso machine, so latte aficionados will be kept happy. Try one of the authentic Italian pizzas, with simple toppings like mushrooms, olives and serrano ham, and wash it down with a red wine from Chile, Italy or France.
Address: Avenida Tulum 570.
Hours: Daily from 8:00am to 11:00pm.
Reservations: Phone +52 984 871 2592
Read a review of La Nave
In the Hotel Zone:
- Ana y Jose
The Category: Elegant Beachside Restaurant
The Mood: Located within Ana y Jose resort in the hotel zone, this is an ideal choice for a special night out in Tulum, dining under the stars with the crash of the waves as soundtrack. There’s a main palapa-style dining room with thatched roof and a terrace with water views.
The Food: The dishes are inventive and emphasize how deliciously healthy Mexican food can be. Not surprisingly given its location, there’s an emphasis on freshly-caught seafood and fish, prepared simply so that the main flavors shine. Try the shrimp quesadillas, the red snapper tartare with capers, onion, lime juice and balsamic, or go all out and order the grilled lobster flambeed with tequila.
Address: Carretera Tulum-Bocapaila, Km 7, Zona Hotalera Tulum
Hours: Daily from 7:00am to 11:00pm.
Reservations: Phone +52 998 880 6022 or visit website
- Casa Banana
The Category: Romantic South American Grill
The Mood: This two-level open-air restaurant is attached to the excellent eco-resort just across the road, La Nueva Vida de Ramiro. Sit on the terrace beneath a huge shady tree hung with lanterns, or the restaurant area on the upper level, next to the bar. Tables are lit with candles and at the front of the restaurant there’s a huge, open-flame grill like the kind found throughout South America.
The Food: Casa Banana is a carnivore’s paradise: prime cuts of meat are always sizzling on the flames, ready to be heaped onto plates along with wedges of hand-made bread rubbed with oil and charred on the grill. Try the outstanding house-made chorizo or make your selection from the daily-changing seafood haul. There are also fresh, delicious salads for smaller appetites. The wine list is also excellent.
Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km 8.5, Zona Hotalera Tulum
Hours: Open daily from 7:30am to 9:30pm
Reservations: Phone +52 984 877 8512 or visit the website
Read a review of Casa Banana
- La Zebra
The Category: Gourmet Mexican Dining
The Mood: Situated within La Zebra resort, this is another ultra-romantic option in the beach zone. The palapa-style restaurant is set within lush landscaping and lit with candles and softly glowing paper lanterns, with the soothing sound of the ocean as soundtrack.
The Food: The menu takes diners on a fascinating journey around Mexico, from the Oaxaca “stone soup,” a fragrant seafood dish prepared tableside, to a Tijuana-style taco, Veracruz chalupitas and tacos al pastor from Mexico City. Order a top-shelf tequila to accompany the feast.
Address: Carretera Tulum a Boca Paila Km 8.2, Zona Hotalera Tulum
Hours: Daily 8:00am to 11:00pm.
Reservations: Phone +52 984 115 4728 or visit website
The Category: Sand-between-the-toes Casual Café
The Mood: Fun, laid-back atmosphere at this café attached to the popular Zahra resort, which shares a clothing-optional beach with sister hotels Azulik and Copal. There’s a sand floor, simple wooden tables with umbrellas and a quirky bar with coconut shell lanterns serving juices and cervezas.
The Food: The menu is casual and kid-friendly, featuring fresh juices, pizzas, tacos, fajitas and freshly-caught fish. Breakfasts include Mexican favorites such as huevos motulenos, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, hot cakes and fresh fruit plates.
Address: Carretera Tulum-Ruinas Km 5, Zona Hotalera Tulum
Hours: Daily from 7am to 10:30pm.
Reservations: Toll Free US/Canada +1 866 471-3472 or visit website