From beaches to jungles, Tulum’s food scene is as much steeped in the offerings of its natural, unspoiled surroundings as it is in organic ingredients from local farms and markets. In the Riviera Maya, Tulum is where travellers come to experience world-class dining in unpretentious outdoor atmospheres, grab a plate of authentic Mexican tacos on the street, and try Mayan-inspired dishes with a glass of mezcal. Here’s our look at the best restaurants in Tulum.
Restaurant Address: Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
A flagship in Tulum’s restaurant scene, Hartwood fired up its outdoor pit oven in 2010 when husband and wife, Eric Werner and Mya Henry, left the New York minute restaurant life behind in Brooklyn for the pastoral jungles of the Yucatan. A restaurant that is truly one with its surroundings, Hartwood opt for solar panels to power its operation, and source ingredients from local farms, markets, and the nearby ocean for its freestyle menu. There are no fixed entrees here, but expect fresh catch-of-day wood-fire grill seafood, gambas mayas, and artfully made ensalada de jicama drizzled with light cactus fruit dressing.
Restaurant Address: Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, Q.R., Mexico
Not unlike the disco ball hanging over its main reception, Gitano’s jungly and palm-draped dining halls reveal a bar-restaurant that is part kitsch, part grandiose, and all style. Elevating classic Mexican with a modern spin, from sashimi and avocado tostadas to slow-roasted pork belly with sweet and sour pineapples, Gitano’s menu comfortably rests on the golden mean between rustic and contemporary. Add its eclectic Oaxacan mezcal list to the mix, and you’ll find the bar surprising you with delicate cocktails made from seasonal fruits, herbs, and spices.
Restaurant Address: Av. Boca Paila, Tulum, Km 7.6, Tulum 77780, Q.R., Mexico
A touch of elegance is all a resort town could ever ask for. In truth, it’s simpler said than done. Somehow Arca has managed to master refining the casual part of Mexican cuisine with just enough style without overreaching. With a menu that starts with the usual suspects of Mexican dishes like grilled octopus, suckling pig, and prawn ceviche, thrown in with a hint of Asian and Mayan spices, heirlooms, and pickled garnishes, and out comes entrees resembling modern art on a plate. Look for this upscale dining experience in a retro-chic but laidback jungle setting near the Boco Paila hotel strip by Tulum’s coast.
El Camello Jr.
Restaurant Address: Carretera Chetumal-Cancun Locales 1 y 2 Lte 3 Mza 40, Centro, 77600 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Known as “Camellito” by the locals — and you’ll find many locals here – this unassuming Tulum classic is packed with diners ordering its famous shrimp ceviche by the minute. What began as a local fishing collective’s hangout to pool catch of the day now buzzes with locals and tourists hoping for a taste of authentic Tulum. Dispelling the myth large portions are signs of bad food, El Camello Jr. serves up generous mounds of rice, mole, and prawns to go with grilled lobsters and fried fish. Tacos are a house specialty, especially fish tacos and marinated guajillo octopus tacos topped liberally with sliced avocados and chopped lettuce. Search for this local gem by the edge of Tulum’s downtown.
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Restaurant Address: Av. Tulum S/N Col. Centro Manzana 6 77780 Quintana Roo Mexico
Only open at night, Antojitos La Chiapaneca is famous for one specific thing: rotisserie spit taco al pastor. A hole-in-the-wall eatery near the edge of Tulum’s downtown, this no-frills taco joint is as local as it gets. Stand in the long line, wait for a table, and pull up its no-nonsense menu. Choose from either beef, pork, or chicken al pastor to go with taco or torta. Then, take your pick of condiments from the molcajete stone bowls in the centre of the restaurant, ranging from salsa, guacamole, limes, lettuce, and onions.
Dig in, and taste the charred, succulent, chilli and spice marinated meat that has been roasting all day long until finally hitting the plate. Antojitos La Chiapaneca also offers a small selection of classic Mexican treats like Horchata, Panucho, and Empanada. Search for this roadside eatery near the edge of Tulum’s main town.
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