Tulum is a unique scene in that it has a very juxtaposed socio-cultural dynamic. The pueblo is home to the locals and is still very small, and more traditionally Mexican while the hotel zone is an eco-chic hipster paradise catering almost exclusively to tourism. Regardless of which Tulum you choose to spend more time in, they both have a lot to offer. Furthermore, they are within driving and biking distance so you could spend the day at the beach, then head into the pueblo around sunset for a bite to eat. Conversely, you could have breakfast in town and then head to the hotel zone for an incredible sunset happy hour. There are great options for eating, drinking and socializing in both Tulum pueblo and Tulum hotel zone. Here are a few of my favorite restaurants, cafes, and bars in Tulum.
The best spots to eat seafood in Tulum are Sabor del Mar and El Capitan. Sabor de Mar is a small family-owned seafood restaurant in Tulum pueblo that serves up beautifully presented gourmet fish and shellfish dishes such as tuna sashimi, seafood and shellfish medley “towers” topped with avocado and seaweed in a bed of beautifully spiced salsa or broth, and of course the crowd-pleaser, aguachile. For those of you who do not know what aguachile is, it is a Mexican style ceviche in which shellfish or fish is marinated/cooked in lime juice, cilantro and a puree of mixed chilies giving it a vibrant green color.
El Capitan is a local favorite on the highway that leads from the pueblo to the beach. It is without a doubt, the best ceviche spot in Tulum. Its an outdoor restaurant underneath a massive palapa with giant, family-sized portions of different varieties of ceviche, fish tacos, guacamole and home-made delicious tortilla chips and tostadas.
In the hotel zone of Tulum, there are a few very high-end, exclusive fine-dining restaurants that have taken modern and innovative twists on traditional Mexican dishes with a very aesthetic and artistic presentation of both food and venue. The most well-known and popular fine dining in Tulum is Hartwood. Hartwood has been written up with international praise for the originality of their menu which changes every day according to the fresh, local ingredients on-hand, and for its mission to showcase Mayan foods and “outdoor” cooking techniques using their fire powered outdoor grill and wood-burning oven. Hartwood is definitely pricey, but well worth the money for such a beautifully presented, amazing tasting meal in a very naturally aesthetic atmosphere.
Tulum pueblo is full of local “mom and pop” style comida corrida which is cheap and can be found anywhere in Mexico. Surprisingly, the best traditional Mexican food that I have tried is in the hotel zone closer to the beach. For tacos, Mateos is my favorite choice. It is a really fun outdoors eat park right in front of the beach and surrounded by shops and boutiques. There is also often live music or a DJ set that accompanies a delicious plate of tacos and a tasty margarita.
Puro Corazon has scrumptious Mexican dishes, but the real allure is the rooftop bar. Behind the restaurant, there is a tall tower that soars above the canopy of jungle that separates the beach from the pueblo. The top two levels of the tower house a bar and cocktail lounge where you are able to marvel at the incredible panorama of the jungle to the west and ocean to the east, not to mention some of the more spectacular sunsets you will ever witness.
El Tabano is probably my favorite traditional Mexican food restaurant in Tulum because it has an open kitchen full of female chefs and cooks as well as a daily menu that is written on chalk boards, and items are crossed out as they run out. The restaurant has a very traditional bustling outdoor market feel, but the seating and nightly entertainment is top quality, and the food itself is absolutely outstanding.
All of my favorite snack and dessert spots are in Tulum pueblo. Campanella is a café, gelato and dessert shop right on the main street of Tulum. Everything from coffee drinks to gelato to over-the-top waffle and ice-cream machinations; whatever you order is bound to be a treat!
Liquido y Solido is a juice and smoothie bar that also offers vegan and vegetarian plates. The smoothies are delicious and served in milkshake glasses often lined with fresh fruit and topped with granola. A favorite dish that is not often seen in Mexico is the stuffed jacket potato that is baked, stuffed with three different cheeses then drizzled with dressings of your choice and topped with sautéed spinach.
El Sudaca is an Argentinian pastry and empanada bar with the best tasting Argentinian delicacies in town including alfajores which are cookie sandwiches stuffed with dulce de leche, dulce de leche and fruit pies, sweet and savory oven-baked empanadas, and of course mate!
Whether you are staying in an eco-resort, glamping on the beach, or renting an Airbnb in the pueblo, you are sure to find delicious restaurants that satisfy a panoply of tastes. Restaurant options in Tulum are as colorful as their beautiful Caribbean beaches.
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