Restaurants in Riviera Maya
The region's culinary scene is centered on resort restaurants, many of which deliver sure-to-please American fare. But some upstart chefs—at the hotels and in the towns of Playa del Carmen and Tulum—are finding inventive ways to interpret traditional Mexican dishes. Happily, most restaurants in the Riviera Maya are close to the sea and afford great views. Another perk: Even the best restaurants in Rivera Maya are rather affordable. Here's where to dig in:
Playa del Carmen's La Cueva del Chango (translation: the Monkey's Cave) serves authentic Mexican meals in the garden. It's a gem among Riviera Maya restaurants. Try the cascabel-chile encrusted tuna with fresh-squeezed juice.
Founded by a local fishermen's cooperative, El Camello serves just-off-the-boat fish in Tulum.
Facing Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen, Cocina 38 has a playful menu featuring specialties such as tuna tartare with mescal foam.
El Sol, part of the Maroma Mayan Riviera Resort in Playa del Carmen, fuses Mexican and Mediterranean influences in dishes such as shrimp empanadas with ancho-chile sauce.
A local institution in Playa del Carmen, Super Carnes is a small, open-air restaurant known for its grilled steak. The unassuming space is decorated with plastic furniture, and although the restaurant plays to tourists with piñatas and mariachi music, the food is authentically Mexican.
Meaning “the monkey cave,” La Cueva del Chango is an immersive dining experience. The restaurant is designed to resemble a cave, complete with small waterways, lush tropical foliage, and a pair of resident spider monkeys.
Part of the Hotel Villa Rolandi on Isla Mujeres, this upscale restaurant serves Swiss-Italian fare amid panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea. Beginning with a private yacht transfer from Cancún, the dining experience at Casa Rolandi is considered the most romantic on the island.
Located at the Maroma Mayan Riviera Resort, this beachfront restaurant fuses the Mediterranean tapas concept with authentic Maya and Creole flavors.
Located at the Hotel Esencia on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Sal y Fuego specializes in Meso-American-style cuisine. Many of the ingredients that go into the restaurant's most popular dishes include exotic spices and tropical produce grown on the hotel's own grounds.
To find this restaurant, walk through the Cinco Soles shops to the colonial building's interior courtyard. Once you're in, relax with lightly battered mahimahi tacos and a cold Mexican beer or a tequila—there are more than 200 varieties.
The bar and restaurant on the ninth floor of the new Hotel Wynston has panoramic views of the harbor, the town center, and the sea. In addition to the usual spirits, the bar stocks an extensive wine list to complement the restaurant's Mediterranean-Asian–fusion menu.
The restaurant's open-air dining room is enhanced by the glimmer of fireflies (cocay in Mayan). The menu blends Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Mexican flavors to create dishes like pork loin with apple brandy sauce and chile poblano.
This, intimate, open-walled Italian restaurant forgoes menus and sticks with a consistent rotation of a handful of pastas made in-house and two to three dishes built around fish caught that day. Each meal begins with an antipasto platter that includes bruschetta, focaccia, and cauliflower.
Close to San Miguel's central square, the palapa restaurant is justly renowned for traditional Mayan food with complex, rich sauces. Standouts: shrimp chiles rellenos, chicken in red mole sauce, and grilled barracuda.
At the most intriguing place to dine in Playa del Carmen, chef Ramón Lizaola has tapped a time-tested resource—his mother, who handed down methods for preparing impossible-to-pronounce Mayan dishes redolent with achiote, pumpkin seeds, sour orange, and xcatic peppers.
This nautically themed seafood spot is just a few blocks from San Miguel's oceanfront. Capi specializes in tangy but smooth ceviche, and a spicy huachinango (red snapper) in an adobo of achiote sauce.
Wiggle your toes in the sand while taking a bite of Tic Kin Xic, the catch of the day, at this outdoor beach restaurant, or savor grilled seafood while ensconced in one of two private lookout towers with views of Half Moon Bay.
Chef Sergio Leoni serves Italian classics—seafood risotto, grilled sea bass and fennel—in a stylish setting, with formal service (an especially solicitous waitstaff, a surfeit of white linen).
Up-and-coming chef John Gray and his Mexican mother-in-law opened this 36-seat waterside restaurant. Locals gather for Sunday dinners of fresh fish, ribs, and vegetables, grilled on the barbecue.