Any foodie visiting Mexico will no doubt be drawn to the celebrated eateries of Puebla, Oaxaca and, of course, Mexico City. But for those looking to stray a little off the beaten track, Tulum has proven in recent years that its restaurants are among the best in the country.
While most travelers visit Tulum to lounge on the powdery white shores and explore the area’s beautifully preserved Mayan ruins, the coastal town also boasts a vibrant fine dining scene. Back in 2017, Rene Redzepi chose Tulum as the destination for his fourth Noma pop-up, cementing its status as a must-visit for discerning gourmands.
Over the next five years, a steady stream of talented chefs set out to make their mark on the town. Local, seasonal produce is very much the star of the show here, cooked over wood-fired ovens and served by candlelight in the Yucatan jungle. These are the best restaurants in Tulum.
Moro at Habitas
Kicking off our list of the best restaurants in Tulum is Moro – a stylish yet decidedly laid-back eatery on the ground floor of the exclusive boutique hotel, Habitas. Situated mere steps from the Caribbean Ocean in the Yucatan jungle, floor-to-ceiling windows immerse diners in the lush greenery outside. Dotted with casual wooden tables, patterned rugs and pretty lanterns, the restaurant is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two.
Talented head chef Horacio Dardano has created a menu inspired by Spanish and Moroccan cuisine that makes full use of Tulum’s seasonal produce and spices. Most of the dishes are lovingly prepared in the wood-fired oven. Highlights include iron-skillet octopus drizzled with a sweet pepper sauce and served with grilled vegetables, black gomasio (sesame salt) and a passion fruit emulsion, and succulent Campeche shrimp dotted with black mustard caviar, citrus oil and fresh herbs.
There’s also a wonderful selection of veg-focused dishes, Mexican beers and craft cocktails. ‘Sunset’ deserves a special mention – the heady mix of mezcal, fresh lime and homemade red pepper syrup is deliciously refreshing.
If you’re looking for somewhere that serves authentic Mexican cuisine with modern flair, Macario is your place. The restaurant itself has a brilliant ambiance with its glowing amber-hued bar and moodily lit tables.
Dishes here pack a punch. These are plates of food designed to be eaten and enjoyed instead of gawped at. Kick off the meal with a selection of appetizers for the table (the stuffed zucchini flowers and avocado toast-ada are particularly good).
You can’t go wrong with the mains but if you’re struggling to choose, the soft shell crab tacos with a fresh coriander aioli are well worth trying, as is the mustard butter salmon marinated in a spicy ‘zarandeada’ sauce and served with grilled baby bok choy.
There’s also an impressive selection of quality meat dishes including juicy beef barbacoa slow cooked for 12 hours in a maguey leaf and prime filet shank flamed with Mexican corn whiskey and served with a generous dollop of roasted garlic butter.
Next, we head to NU – another enchanting eatery set within the jungle. The open-air, candle-lit restaurant is an unforgettable setting for whiling an evening under the stars.
Sustainability is front and center at NU, with the team employing a zero-waste cooking philosophy and sourcing many of their ingredients from Mestiza de Indias – an organic, regenerative farm in the Yucatan Peninsula that uses ancient Mayan farming techniques to recover endemic species from winged beans to African cucumbers.
Consulting chef Benjamin Coe has put his stamp on the restaurant, effortlessly blending modern and traditional Mexican cuisine to create vibrant dishes that are big on flavor. There’s a wide variety of sharing dishes to choose from, which are brought to the table as and when they’re ready, straight from the slow-burning fire.
Standout plates include chorizo spiced cauliflower with grapefruit and almond cream, oyster mushroom tempura served with an addictive porcini broth, and Caribbean fresh fish with creamed Yuca and a spicy Vasca sauce. Make sure you leave room for dessert – the barbecued pineapple almond cake with whipped cream and caramelized white chocolate is simply bliss.
At Arca, guests come for the classic mezcal cocktails and stay for the delicious array of elegant small plates. If you’ve noticed a pattern emerging in our roundup of Tulum’s best restaurants, you’d be correct. Like Moro and NU, the eatery is located within the jungle, with casual wooden tables letting the food speak for itself.
Open-fire cooking is also integral to the menu, and diners can watch the talented team of chefs preparing their meals. The ever-changing dishes are hyper-seasonal and feature lots of vegetables sourced only from the very best local farmers.
There’s also plenty of seafood, fresh from the Caribbean Ocean. The delicate scallop crudo sprinkled with a zinging coconut salsa and pickled onion flowers is a real treat, as is the buttery soft shell crab with Amaranth tempura and a Chaya emulsion. As for meat lovers, the decadent suckling pig roulade drizzled in chorizo sauce with a Chicharron and peanut crumble, served on a bed of fresh Chayote salad is one to tick off your food bucket list.
Our list of the best restaurants in Tulum would not be complete without mentioning Hartwood. Situated near the forest on a coastal road by the sea, you’ll need to book early to stand a chance of securing a table at this much-loved eatery.
Husband and wife ex-New Yorkers Myra Henry and Eric Werner set up Hartwood back in 2010 and quickly made a name for themselves with their rustic, flavorful dishes that expertly blend Yucatan-style food with American cooking.
The menu changes daily, depending on what local ingredients they can get their hands on. Expect plenty of seafood, salads and wonderful fresh veg, with everything cooked on the woodburning oven and grill.
Henry and Werner have taken the utmost care to minimize the environmental impact of their restaurant, powering the property entirely with solar energy and creating organic compost which is used to regenerate the surrounding mangroves.
Last up on our list of the best restaurants in Tulum is Meze. Situated in a beautiful white stone hacienda surrounded by swaying palm trees, the eatery serves (you guessed it) delicious Greek mezze dishes.
Raised in the countryside outside Athens, executive chef Alexandros Gkoutsi has created an impressive menu inspired by his grandmother’s traditional recipes, cooked over a fire in the open kitchen. The result is nothing short of delicious.
Pick a few starters for the table before diving into the mains. The salt-baked catch of the day is always a crowd-pleaser, as is the Aegean ribs smoked for 12 hours and served with a sticky thyme and ginger marmalade.
There’s also a bar overflowing with different mezcals, and expert mixologists on-hand to whip up an array of signature cocktails made with locally grown seasonal fruit and herbs.
This article was originally published on Elite Traveler.