Living in Cancun for 7 years doesn’t necessarily make me an authority in food affairs also because I haven’t tried all of them as you can imagine. However it still makes me in the position to offer a general overview on the culinary offer of the city. Also I have decided to include those restaurants that I haven’t tried myself but for which I have collected reviews and recommendations from trusted friends, who have actually helped me a lot in building this list.
I deliberately wanted to trust many different opinions in order to keep my suggestions here as objective as possible and keep the distance from my very Italian background and taste (and with no like for spicy food)
You will see how Cancun offers a variety of international experience for every taste and pockets so I have made a sort of index divided by categories hoping that you will find it useful.
Of course should you have any suggestion, appreciation or disagreement, you can leave it in the comments below and it will be greatly appreciated.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
ZONA HOTELERA – YOUR HIGH END CULINARY EXPERIENCE
A disclaimer first, I haven’t been there, BUT, I needed to include this restaurant on the list after reading that it is probably the best restaurant in Cancun, if you are fond of grilled meat and lobster as they are their specialities although they have a rich menu suitable for everyone. It’s also one of the most expensive but worth every penny. My trusted friends who have been there have confirmed all that you hear about it. It’s located on the lagoon side with a beautiful view on the water if you sit on the deck or an elegant dining room inside.
Ritz Carlton opens its doors to the fine palate public who wish to try its pluri rewarded AAA 5 Diamond restaurant .
It doesn’t really need further explanation. Beside the luxurious and sophisticated menu you will find an elegant atmosphere and live entertainment. Your dinner in the opulent dining room reminiscent of a classic English Jazz club, will be preceded by an interesting Tequila tasting. Reservation required.
“Avant-garde Mediterranean food, beautifully executed. Fantino features an innovative menu that works with the purity of ingredients and their natural flavors to create award-winning cuisine for food lovers and fine dining enthusiasts alike.” Quote from Hotel. This is the Ritz Carlton signature restaurant. It requires reservations.
The best Peruvian experience in Mexico in the region I would dare say. This fine restaurant is located in the premises of the hotel NIZUC in a tranquil and elegant atmosphere facing the turquoise sea. It’s only open for Lunch.
Mirroring the precious elegant style of the resort , this beautiful corner is the luxury version of a Balinese Tiki hut, made with fresh wooden furniture with seatings that are facing the fancy infinity pool overlooking the sea. The plate choice, served in elegantly decorated presentation, specialises in grilled meat cuts, fish and seafood. Here you can find the full menu.
Definitely an experience that you will never forget.
I had my best pat thai in years, in the most romantic atmosphere on the wooden deck of the elegant asian decorated restaurant, facing the brightly lit reflecting pool. As you may have noticed, NIZUC is my favourite place to hang out and it also offers an incredible culinary variety, even more than I have listed. You can explore further clicking here.
Mexican cuisine in a lovely setting either on the lagoon in the Hotel area or in down town Cancun in Parque de las palapas. It’s a very elegant atmosphere and the food is delicious offering a variety of choice of Mexican flavours with an international touch.
Another great Thai restaurant in a beautiful setting, very suitable for a romantic dinner in the little overwater palapas, on the lagoon but also a fun dinner with friends and family. You will find it within the premises of the Shopping center La Isla.
Just beside the Thai restaurant (see right above) is the Indian one. Respecting the same sophisticated decoration, also offers a variety of delicious indian cuisine. For the spicy food lovers, this is the place.
I am sure the old saying “when in Rome do as the romans do”, is very appropriate when it comes to food choice and coming on a vacation in Mexico will imply having an overdose of chilaquiles, tacos, quesadillas and everything you get at your fancy Mexican restaurant in your hometown. What I have noticed is that the majority of the time you get disappointed because the original version is always different, and, allow me to disappoint you, the authentic one is here in Mexico. Bear in mind that Mexican cuisine is very different from region to region and in fact you will see some “Cocina Yucateca” restaurant where they serve typical dishes from the neighbouring region of Yucatan. I have never seen Quintana roo cuisine, probably because it has been internationalised with time, thanks to the huge increase of tourism. Here below what I would suggest, if you wish to try some local plates, the real stuff!
It’s a chain of seafood restaurants that you can find also in Playa del Carmen and Tulum, although the one in Cancun is my favourite. I find it really cozy and beside the colourful, laid-back place I really love the food choice there, any kind of tacos, figurinas, and different kind of seafood made in many different ways.
Just like the one in the “Zona Hotelera”, the restaurant in down town offers Mexican options in a very cozy and bucolic atmosphere and yet elegant. It is situated in Parque de las Palapas, one of the most animated area where locals love to gather and hang out in town. Especially in the week end it is very crowded. You will definitely have the feeling you are living like a local.
I haven’t been there but I am including it in my list since a few Mexican colleagues have told me it is a very traditional and local place of comida yucateca so you might want to try it.
The first time I was looking for it, I couldn’t find it. The second time I decided to go with somebody who had been there already. It’s not a classical restaurant, it’s called Urban cuisine. It’s literally like going in a private home. You need to ring a bell and tell your name. So make sure you have reserved your table in advance. The atmosphere is very laid back and somewhat wilfully shabby. I loved the garden and the homy feeling. To be honest the food was great and either if you are a vegan or a meat lover you will not be disappointed. A little of everything to make everybody happy. More than anything I love the concept of merging food an art, in fact they very often organise exposition of local artist and music events. Please refer to their FB page for the latest news.
It’s a French-Mexican gourmet restaurant, newly open, very elegant and formal. I haven’t been there yet, but I have heard great things from my friends so I thought I would include it. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts!
They have 2 places in town, one on the Avenida Coba’ and one on the Bonampak in plaza Las Americas. This second one is the newest and my favourite. It’s huge, very nicely decorated and with an outdoor lounge with comfortable sofa, which you will enjoy when the sun goes down and its not too hot. The menu offer is huge. They have delicious Mexican dishes: the cheese or mushroom soup served on a bread cup are my favourites; and they have a great pastry choice. If you are a chocolate lover you absolutely need to try La bomba a multilayer chocolate half ball shaped, that melts in your mouth. So if you go for lunch or dinner, you will absolutely need to leave space for dessert!
It’s the new easy-chic and I love it. There are 2 plazas now in Cancun where you can find a parking lot on the side of a open space surrounded by fancy coloured tracks selling their own food from many different cuisines: grilled meat, vegetarian, pizza ( this is never missing), thai, bugers, and so on. Desert place and a bar. Tables in the middle and music to create the ambience. I really love the experience: cheap, laid back and always my rescue when my fridge is empty.
-THE NEW COOL –
Situated very close to what is called km 0 the very end of the Avenida Kukulcan , in down town Cancun it has recently become a lively hip street full of fancy little restaurants and bars. It is actually my favourite place to hang out with such a variety of choice. Here is what I have tried but there is much more:
SIRENA MORENA (MY FAVOURITE OVERALL)
I have to say, truly and honestly, that as an ex strict raw-vegan and forever vegan lover, this is the place I have been looking for during all my time in Cancun. Not only it has a great choice of vegan plates and healthy beverages but what beats it all is the cozy and warm atmosphere and the lovely staff. We have vegan restaurants in Cancun but they lack the personal touch and homey feeling which is something that this place has in abundance. I am actually adding this piece of writing to this post while sipping my cinnamon flavoured coffe in the lovely porch, looking at the rain coming down. I love to sit and work here and get tempted by their delicious snacks and drinks. Even if you are not a vegan devotee I am sure you will enjoy coming here, anyway. Let me know please, I would love to hear your thoughts!
It offers a very sophisticated international menu with an attention to details in service and presentation, but most of all to taste. It’s a very little restaurant with delicate and fancy decorations. The owners are a lovely couples who put their passion on food and wine into creating this little gem. You will be positively impressed.
I love this place and went back there several time. The menu is not super rich but it has exactly what i love. Octopus and seafood in different ways. It’s not the only thing , though, meats and other delicacies are also in the menu. It’s half Mexican I would say. Laid back and moderate prices.
This one is the HIP place of the moment. The trendiest of the area and probably the whole Cancun. They manage to brand themselves as the cool spot to be. And in fact for good reasons: fancy atmosphere, good music, delicious international cuisine with a huge choice and interesting presentations. A good selection of wine as well. Suitable for a great dinner and hang out with friends. Service and plates decorations are remarkable too.
EL TIGRE Y EL TORO
Although the food didn’t particularly impress me, it is a place where I would go back, for the cozy atmosphere and the bucolic setting in this little pebbly garden. Service is great as well.
This is definitely my favourite place in terms of setting and decoration. It is in fact built within the ruins of an old house. The decorations includes trees and plants hanging from the ancient walls, everything meticulously arranged in details. The food is also quite peculiar. It has an Italian imprint but with international touches. Service is great too. It is definitely an experience you will be happy to try.
Its a lovely terrace on the Avenida Nader where you can sip you glass of wine from a wide choice while eating tapas, Spanish style. It’s delicious and with a merry atmosphere. During weekends they also have live music sometimes. You can check out when making the reservations. Indoor sittings available, also.
It’s the new kid on the block and where you can find the best pizza in Cancun. It is located in a cute small corner on Avenida las Torres, far from the touristy area, with a lovely terrace nicely decorated with plants and wooden objects. It has a very cozy atmosphere and this is where locals love to go and chill during the weekend family dinners or lunch or to have a quick office break during the week end. Wholeheartedly suggested.
Same owner as Don Corleone, but offering other delicious Italian options. My favourites ever: Gnocchi. Now that I am writing about it, it actually reminds me that it’s been a while since I have been there. They are so delicious, like the ones my mum does. They have many many other options. The menu is rich in flavours and it will be difficult to make up your mind. Vegan friendly also . Closed on Monday. oh… Tiramisú is to die for!
A very formal environment located in the hotel zone in Cancun. It is one of the most demanded and talked about, not only for the excellent food but for the elegant ambiance and the lovely location on the lagoon. I confess I haven’t been there but I needed to include it in here for the sake of information and because of the great review I get from friends and acquaintances.
An Italian franchise that you would find also in Playa del Carmen, run by Uruguayan (LOL), yes it is possible. It’s a nice, coloured atmosphere, with great food options. Great salads and pasta dishes. Suitable for every taste and needs. The tiramisu here is a must.. you know now I have a special love for this desert… I am Italian, sorry 🙂
As you can imagine, there are many more Italian options, but this is where I would go as an Italian, if you know what I mean. 🙂
PUERTO JUAREZ – LOCAL FLAVOURS
This area is so dear to me, since I have lived there for a few months on a beach front apartment and it sits in one of the best memories of my life, of course for the view I had when I was home. It’s not a place where you actually pass by, unless you are taking the ferry to Isla Mujeres, or you are staying in one of those hotels along the cost. They have built a few 5 stars Resorts at the end of the road on a virgin beach and it is still developing tremendously fast.
Here I have found a few lovely restaurants, where you can have the best and freshest fish ever, directly from the sea. So you cannot get it wrong. In fact the area has always been known as a fishing village before the development of Cancun has absorbed it into the same town. Nevertheless fishing has remained an important activity here.
If you are staying in an apartment and feel like cooking here is where you can find the best fresh fish for your banquet. But if you are looking for an authentic restaurant, here is my choice:
We can say this is an iconic place in the area and probably in the entire Cancun. They opened long time ago as a fish market, one of the biggest in the area as they had their own fishing boats. From there it comes the brilliant idea to open a restaurant on the upper level of the shop. But it is not a common one. They pride themselves for offering a special menu that you wouldn’t find anywhere else, other than your home. In fact you can basically make up your own plate, choosing your favourite ingredients, deciding how much fish you want and how you want it to be cooked. The waiters are always ready to suggest their best recipes, though or guide you through different options. Their location facing the water make it a real plus. They have recently opened a second location in Isla Mujeres which I haven’t seen personally yet but considering the quality of food here and adding the sunset view, for sure it will make it a great dinner option. By the way, the restaurant in Cancun is only open from 1 to 7 pm, while the one in Isla Mujeres untill 11pm. Due to the popularity, it is always super busy so you are kindly suggested to make your reservation by phone or on their FB page.
It is a cute tiny restaurant on the road side, almost in front of the ferry. I should be ashamed to say that during my time living in the area I have never noticed it, but that’s the truth. I have tried it once and beside the great service and the familiar atmosphere the food is outstanding. Their speciality is anything on the grill from fish to different kinds of cuts. I had the octopus, my forever favourite, and it was really great.
Located further north, this restaurant has the privilege to be located on an beautiful and tranquil stretch of beach. The restaurant is not pretentious, very laid back and the food is average good, from fish, to seafood and meat, quesadillas and various Mexican specialities. The setting is definitely what give them the most scores.
Located on the beach within the premises of the Residential Amara, it is a family owned little restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious seafood meal or just appreciate the lovely ambiance while sipping your drinks. I am sure you will be tempted to try the rich menu, though! It’s open from lunch through dinner. During certain nights you will also find a pleasant live music to entertain the guests.
CAFES Y TAKEAWAY
SIRENA MORENA (MY FAVOURITE)
This is definitely my favourite coffe’/bar and vegan restaurant of all the time. Best coffe’ and vegan choice and super cozy ambiance. Please check in the Avenida Nader section on this post to read my review. 🙂
ROOSTER – They have 2 cafes, one on the trendy avenida Nader, its very small but cute and cozy, with a lovely breezy rooftop. I love to go there and sip my soy chai latte or a healthier natural juice. They offer delicious breakfast, salads and hearty sandwiches for lunch. The other place is bigger and very comfortable and it is located on the Av Suyaxchen close to Mercado 28. So if you decide to have a walk around the colourful souvenirs, that’s a great place to stop by for a coffe.
DOLCEAMATA LA CREPERIA – It’s a lovely little spot specialised in crepes salted sweet and with many different fillings – it is also located in Plaza Bonita, just outside Mercado 28, if you wish to have a sweet stop during your shopping time.
I love this place and the art that displays. The lights are hanging from the wall with flashy red cables carefully wrapped around a tube. The wooden tables and chairs are all different and creatively assembled. I love to go there and work on my blog when I can. The staff is lovely and the owner is always around to make sure everything is into place. They offer heart-feeding deserts and great empanadas, an Argentinian speciality which is a half-moon shaped pizza-bread filled with different kind of food, from veggies to meats. They also have a variety of juices and coffe’. WIFI is very good and included. It’s located just below IBIS hotel and beside the restaurant PIOLA, on agenda Tulum, the heart of Cancun.
It is another among my favourites because I used to go there and for painting class. I didn’t learn because I lasted only a couple of months but received a lot of great tips and had lots of fun. I love the concept to merge art with coffe and tea, they are in fact tea lovers and have great quality choices. Also they have a general library where you can pick and exchange your book, or an art library where you can just go there and read them while sipping your drink. It’s the only project in Cancun that brings art to the people kids and adults alike; they organise art events, conferences and workshops.
It is situated at the back of the IBIS hotel behind avenida Tulum. closed on Sunday.
It’s a french restaurant and coffe’ bar… very french: in the decorations and in the delicious pastry. The croissants are the best in Cancun, to me. They have a huge space inside and one lovely garden at the back. Their menu is huge and with a variety of choice. Ideal for a delicious breakfast, lunch, or a casual snack. Beware WI FI is not always working, to my disappointment.
It’s a cute little coffe’ shop specialised in decorating your cappuccino with funny and sweet drawings. There is a quiet and cozy atmosphere either inside or outside, if it is not hot. The few times I went WIFI was good. The food isn’t any special and not much choice but for a quick bite it will do.
STARBUCKS – well, it’s Starbucks, I don’t have to add anything else. There are 2 POS in the city and another 3 along the hotel zone. I have to say I love Starbucks and the concept. I always find a cozy atmosphere and great to work. I am not sure why, but it is the only place where even if it is crowded I am able to focus and get things done. Well, food is not the best quality and we all know, but chai latte with soy milk will remain my best treat!
EMPANADAS A great snack to take away. I Love empanadas. This little place is located in Plaza Nichupte’ and you can either order them to take away or eat there even though it is very small and you can only sit at a bar. They don’t have WIFI.
Well, we arrived to the end. This is my choice and I hope it comes handy. I will be adding on more when I try more. In the meantime ENJOY and please if you have a minute to spare let me know your thoughts or suggestion. I would love to hear from you. It took me a while to write all this and I will be infinitely grateful if you could share it among your friends . You only need to click on one of the below social media icon of your choice. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!
NIGHTLIFE IN CANCUN
I have to say it is not really my thing to go out at night as I am a morning person and I don’t drink, or very rarely I can have a glass of wine. But I thought I would have added a few iconic places that I know about and are worth mentioning.
COCOBONGO – talking about iconic places, this is one indeed. Their shows are incredible. They have different performances representing music celebrities of all times, such as Madonna, Freddy Mercury, Michel Jackson, and many more. For sure it’s worth going at least once. I love the music of the 80s as well.
MANDALA – I’ve never been there to be honest. But I am just including the place for the sake of information because I know it is one of the top ranked places to go. I would suggest that just a week before you check on their page about their different nights and rates. They have different kind of pass and rates. ENJOY!
EL RINCON DEL VINO I like this place, is small and cozy, with a little terrace and live music. You can also have dinner if you like Spanish style tapas. A place for a tranquil nights in good company.
I have mentioned it in the restaurants in Cancun but I just found out they are also very active with night entertainment, Offering alternative music and dance floor. They have different events and guests DJ playing, so you should check on their FB page about their weekly program.
Well, for the moment the list ends here, but I promise I will investigate further to give you more information.. so check back later…
Quick note – The header picture is Ramona Restaurant – Photo Courtesy of NIZUC Resort & Spa