Danita Delimont / Alamy
Laura Winfree
October 21, 2014

At the mere mention of Cancun, the mind begins to conjure images of the white sand beaches, and the scent of briny ocean air.  We can taste the vibrant flavors of a Mexican meal; chili pepper, cumin, creamy queso fresca, and smell of fresh corn tortillas crisping on a mesquite tortilladora press. For the comprehensive Cancun experience, enjoy your meals at as many beachfront restaurants as possible. Where should you go when you want to enjoy an ocean-view and truly authentic cuisine? All-inclusive resorts occupy most Cancun beaches, and few of these restaurants are open to the general public. Fortunately, years spent seeking the very best places to refuel after a day under Cancun’s sun has revealed a handful of can’t-miss beach restaurants all located in the safe and convenient Hotel Zone.  Secure a table closest to the rolling surf for unparalleled vistas of the Caribbean Sea and the freshest seafood dishes in the Glistening City. 

Casitas

My first dinner at Casitas was an unforgettable Cancun culinary experience. In my opinion, it’s the most romantic beach restaurant in the city. Book one of their private, grass-roofed cabanas on the sand, and enjoy dinner just a few strides from the creeping tide. Located at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton resort, Casitas’ dishes are exceptional; try the Caribbean lobster aguachile with white beans and Temozon chorizo.  

Playa Tortugas

A popular choice for Cancun locals is Playa Tortugas, or Turtle Beach. It serves seafood and classic Mexican dishes at the main beach restaurant, set under a huge palapa. After lunch at this open-air eatery, visit the nearby bungee tower, or take a swim in the clear, shallow water. I’d recommend this spot on weekdays because the beach crowds swell quickly on weekends. 

Cocos and Grill

Choose a table under the palapa or sink your toes right into the sand. This restaurant and beach club draws patrons in with their authentic dishes and small private pool. Indulge in the flavorful Caribbean seafood, including carpaccios, crispy fish tacos, and the house specialty, pescado enamorado, or “fish in love,” made with brie and fresh fruit salsa.  

Chili’s Plaza Forum

While this American chain restaurant may not sound too exotic, it has one of the best oceanfront views in Cancun. Visit their Plaza Forum location (in the vibrant Punta Cancun area) and ask for a table on the terrace, where you’ll have a view of Playa Gaviota Azul: one of Cancun’s most popular public beaches. 

Puerto Madero

Argentinean cuisine takes center stage at this restaurant, though Mexican specialties are prepared with equal care. Tables look out over the lagoon and see directly across to downtown Cancun. Split the colossal seafood tower with a group, and save room for traditional alfajores (puff pastry cookies with caramel) or dorado de choclo, a Mexican corn cake with fresh cream and honey. 

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