Tulum, once a small village with a few cabaña “hotels” sitting on some of the most spectacular beaches in the Mexican Caribbean, is now the hottest vacation destination in the world. What was once a place that was primarily frequented by backpackers is now the place to visit for NYC fashion types and celebrities.
With these changes, a “restaurant renaissance” has taken place in Tulum. You can still find a good taco stand, but you can also find a range of cosmopolitan eateries serving food from all over the world, always with that Tulum touch. Below you’ll find ten that will surprise and delight even those with the most discerning palates.
If you haven’t heard about Hartwood, you may have had your head buried in the sand for the last couple of years. Owners Eric Werner and Mya Henry left New York City in 2010 for a different kind of life. Following their passion, they opened Hartwood, an off-the-grid, sustainable, organic restaurant where the menu changes daily, based on what the Earth provides. Only local ingredients are used. Solar panels power their lights and music.
Hartwood is only open Wednesday to Sunday 6 – 10 p.m. for dinner and they are closed during low season (September and October). They welcome both walk-ins and reservations, but if you really want to dine in this enchanting establishment, make a reservation.
Arca is giving well-known Hartwood a run for its money and it is right next door. This rustic, open-air restaurant in the jungle, lit with candles and twinkling lights, serves Mexican cuisine using fresh local ingredients. If you’re dining with children, they are happy to create something kid-friendly. On the adult end, one of Arca's specialties is creative, unique cocktails.
What’s that smell you ask? Copal, a natural tree resin burned to keep away mosquitoes and used ceremonially by the ancient Maya civilization. Arca is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. They only take reservations for parties of eight or more. Pay attention to your bill, the gratuity is added automatically.
Dine with your toes in the sand at Ziggy’s, located right on Tulum’s white sand, aqua blue, Caribbean beach. This hip, funky, friendly restaurant and beach club serves everything from breakfast to dinner to cocktails and everything in between. They also feature live music every single day. Their special nights are not to be missed, including Tequila Night, Lobster and Seafood Grill, Coco Loco and Ceviche Class, Mexican Wine Tasting and a Cocktail and Bonfire party. There is a lot going on here and it’s all good.
If you want to spend the day at the beach club, get there early or you won’t get a chair.
La Zebra is where your Tulum dreams will come true. This gorgeous beachside restaurant — casual and welcoming but at the same time stylish and chic — serves authentic Mexican breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Patrons dine in an open-air palapa-roof ambiance, with the Caribbean wind blowing in their hair. Chef Eleazar Bonilla worked his way up from being a dishwasher in a local resort, to head chef of La Zebra.
The restaurant offers both open and private 8-, 10- & 12-course tasting menu Chef’s Table dinners paired with signature cocktails and local artisanal beers. La Zebra is also a hotel.
El Tabano (named for the Mexican horsefly) is a hip and fashionable Mexican restaurant that serves original dishes inspired by European cuisine. Here, the ever-changing fresh, healthy menu is written on a chalkboard, and the open kitchen allows diners to see their food being prepared.
El Tabano is not on the beach, meaning it is a little less pricey than many other restaurants. The candlelit, eclectic, jungle feel and live music makes for an inviting ambiance. Don’t miss the “Pollo Rojo” (chicken in red sauce), the guacamole with pumpkin seeds and oats, and the Passion Fruit Mojito.
Due to the jungle location, they always have bug spray on hand for their patrons.
The name of this restaurant, located on the jungle side in Tulum’s “hotel zone” on the grounds of hotel Ahau Tulum, says it all. Hoping to eat healthy, at least part of the time, while on vacation? Raw Love serves imaginative and delicious raw, organic vegetarian and vegan food, including smoothies, bowls and dreamy desserts, like Mayan chocolate cake. They even have gluten-free options.
You’ll dine with your feet in the sand at this outdoor rustic eatery. Don’t forget to bring your bug spray.
Tired of tacos? Craving pizza? Pizzeria Manglar, owned by an Italian, is located in Tulum Pueblo (the town of Tulum, located inland from the Beach Road), away from the busy street. Sit in this tranquil garden (indoor seating is also available) and enjoy mouthwatering, wood-fired, inexpensive (120 MXN, less than 7 USD) pizza made from scratch. Cocktails, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages are available, as well as pasta and salads. There are many options for vegetarians here.
Feel like staying in? Delivery is available. Pizzeria Manglar often features live music. They are closed Tuesdays.
Unico is one of the few restaurants on this list that is located in Tulum Pueblo. The restaurant's international menu is great for those ready to take a break from Mexican food, and the semi-open kitchen allows patrons to watch their meal being prepared. During happy hour margaritas are two-for-one.
Unico will add 3% to your bill for if you pay with a credit card.
La Coqueta is a charming little open-air bar-restaurant located in Tulum Pueblo, right on the corner of the intersection with the road that leads to the beach. It’s not exactly fancy, but it is decorated in a fun, quirky way and this is definitely an authentic Mexican restaurant. La Coqueta is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. It’s much cheaper than any restaurant in the hotel zone and they offer free WiFi.
Try the huevos rancheros for breakfast, the shrimp tacos for lunch and the fajitas or a burrito for dinner. Then wash it all down with an ice cold agua fresca (similar to juice but lighter) or Mexican beer.
Cenzontle loves to play around with traditional Mexican flavors and recipes, and other well-known dishes from around the globe. Vegetarian options are available, but the ribs and the “catch of the day” are favorites of many guests. The open-air, relaxing, candlelit atmosphere (with creatively placed living room lamps in the garden) is Tulum just as you imagined it. Their cocktails are primarily created using muddled fresh fruit — try one with mezcal.
Service is accommodating and warm. Cenzontle is located on the jungle side in Tulum’s “hotel zone” and is open daily for dinner. They only accept cash and are happy to take reservations.