Where to Eat in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

En route to Tulum, you will pass through the bustling city of Playa Del Carmen. This city has become a increasingly popular tourist destination over the last decade and with that came plenty of options for food! We only spent a few days there and found it incredibly difficult to choose just a few places to eat each day. 

Here are our top picks!

Grilled Octopus at El Muelle

Grilled Octopus at El Muelle

LUNCH/DINNER

Las Hijas De la Tostadas (12pm-12am)

I can’t say enough about this place. Just about everything we had here was a culinary experience. I loved it so much that I wrote an entire review on it. Check it out here!

El Muelle (5pm-11:30pm)

This charming restaurant sits humbly on a corner, among the lights and crowds of 5th Avenue. It’s a great place to go for a casual romantic dinner. The vibe here finds a delightful niche between sophisticated Italian restaurant and a care-free maritime eatery. They’ve done a great job of combining distressed wood decor with fancy candles and complimentary bread. 

Their specialty is seafood and they do it well! The fish is caught fresh each day and tastes exceptional. We ordered the seared red tuna steak, and the grilled octopus and have zero regrets about it. 

Blue Lobster (11am-11pm)

If you’re looking for a classy place to eat, try this one. The service here is top notch. The usual assortment of dishes you’d expect to find at a high-class restaurant, like steak and lobster, decorate their menu. But as we were walking by, one particular item on the menu caught our eyes and drew us in. 

As we were seated, they brought out a comically giant menu on a wooden board. It was so big they had to rest it on a chair and prop it up. We already knew what we wanted: the Seafood Feast. 

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This dish comes with everything! Grilled lobster, fish fillet, shrimp, mussels, salmon, tuna, and calamari; all served on a bed of rice and vegetables. Combine this with the complimentary bread and you’ve got more than enough food for two (probably three if you’re not stuffing your face like we were). Every single element of this dish was delicious and worth the nearly 1000 pesos. 

If you want to kick up the romance another level, there will be plenty of gestures from mariachi bands looking to play for you. We find it uncomfortable but if that’s your thing, what better place to do it than a dim-lit, classy restaurant, overlooking a giant platter of sea creatures? 

Or steak, if you’re not into sea creatures. The server brought us a special Irish cream drink at the end, on the house, that really solidified our positive opinions. 

Aca Los Tacos (10am-12am)

The food in Playa Del Carmen, at least on 5th Avenue, was typically very expensive. This isn’t unusual for tourist zones, of course, but we had had our fun acting like people who regularly spend 1000 pesos on a single dinner. 

It was time we got back to our roots so we ventured beyond 5th Avenue seeking some plastic chairs on a roadside. 

Aca Los Tacos came to us by accident, actually. We were headed for somewhere called ‘Dona Paula Restaurant,’ that allegedly serves some traditional homemade dishes that one cannot miss out on. Well, we did miss out, because it was closed by the time we got there.

But just down the street there were two restaurants under the same roof but serving different food. We tried both, with drastically opposite results.

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On one side is Restaurant El Cahuama and of all the food we had in this city, I can honestly say this was the worst of it. The service was awful too. 

But on the other side was Aca Los Tacos. They serve 7 peso tacos that were superb! Partnered with their table sauces and raw onions, these tacos reminded us why we prefer these side-of-the-road makeshift restaurants to their more traditional counterpart. They aren’t catering to tourists here so the spice is as it should be and the cooking methods are far more authentic. 

Just make sure you choose the right side! 

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DESSERT

Aldo’s (9:30am-12am)

This is a chain that you can find several of up and down 5th Avenue. Beyond their staple ice cream, there’s a full menu of dessert options — everything from cake to donuts to ice cream cookie sandwiches.

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I went all out and got the sandwich. It was deceivingly huge! We had this right after our dinner at Blue Lobster. Needless to say, I felt so full by the end of it that I’m going to make a point and say you can share this between two people! There is plenty of delectable ice cream and cookie to go around.

Artik Pop (10am-10pm)

If you aren’t paying attention, you will surely miss this tiny frozen yogurt cart. Inside the frozen sticks of fruit-flavoured yogurt is an additional touch of artisanal flavouring. Most have an obvious slice of fruit while other flavours disguise themselves within. 

It’s a great snack on a hot day between meals! We found the ones without the fruit slices to be better.

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Santa Clara (No posted hours)

Another chain, but much smaller than Aldo's. It’s a quaint little hole-in-the-wall ice cream parlour and cafe. The staff were super helpful with offering suggestions, which we were grateful for because everything sounded yummy!

I got the mint chocolate chip and Linda got the chai tea flavour. 

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DRINKS

Las Hijas de la Tostadas (12pm-12am)

Yes, they’re back again! If you read the article, you already know how good their drinks are. If not, check it out!

Kitxen (5pm-2am)

For the longest time, I called it ‘Kitten’ but Linda kindly corrected me that it’s actually ‘Kitchen’. This is a really cool bar if you like live music, hip servers and cheap drinks. I wouldn’t say that the drinks themselves are particularly out-of-this-world amazing. They are very easy to drink but the vibe of this place is unbeatable. The staff are super friendly and funny, efficient with replacing your drinks, and the live music was wonderful. 

Not to mention, the open air concept means you can people watch to your heart’s content. 

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Ah Cacao (7am-11:30pm)

If you’re not looking for alcoholic drinks, this chain is an excellent option. They offer a wide variety of coffee or tea options, as well as sweet frappuccinos. 

I recommend the frozen hot chocolate with java chips and whipped cream. 

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PLACES THAT WERE RECOMMENDED TO US

Our time and budgets were no match for the multitude of highly-recommended restaurants in Playa Del Carmen. We sadly had to leave behind a handful of potentially delicious dishes. If you’ve got more time than we did, let us know which ones you enjoyed!

  • La Cueva del Chango (great for breakfast).
  • Axiote.
  • Aldea Corazon.
  • La Perla Pixan.
  • Dona Paula Restaurant (authentic homemade food).
  • Carboncitos.
  • Taqueria Billy the Kid.
  • El Fogon
  • Restaurante Nativo
  • El Gran Taco (apparently the very best tacos in the whole city). 

Where to Eat in Tulum: Lots to Taco 'Bout

BREAKFAST

Taqueria Honorio (6am-2pm)

We made this restaurant our second home while in Tulum. The kitchen opens before 6am and from that moment on for the rest of the day, hungry diners are anxious to get their hands on these tacos. You can order individual items rather than full meals so it’s perfect for a quick snack or a full lunch; but their hours make it the place to go for breakfast. 

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They offer tacos, quesadillas, tostadas and tostas as their main dishes; flan, and cream cheese empanadas for dessert. We tried nearly everything on the menu and our favourites were the Relleno Negro de Nevo (turkey) and the Carne Asada (pork) tacos. The Jamaica and melon drinks are good too. 

If you’re stopping in for breakfast, we suggest getting the tosta version for it’s ‘eat-on-the-go’ option. This was a key attribute in the time we raced the sunrise to the beach at 5am. 

If you’re sitting in, you should have a little bit of everything. But good luck getting your hands on the empanadas — we never got to try them because they apparently sell out faster than you can get there. 

El Canaston (9am-2:30pm)

If you want a tangible way to understand the essence of Tulum, El Canaston is where you need to be. The vibe here is so laid back that you feel relaxed as soon as you step into their open-air, stone-floored establishment. You order from the food stand and seat yourself at any table. There is a salsa station available with pickled peppers as well.

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An essential stop for vegetarians, they allegedly offer some of the best tacos in town. Unfortunately, we had arrived late in the afternoon so we were bound by their “once it’s gone, it’s gone” mentality and had to choose between the leftovers. But even these were great so I’d bet the reviews speak the truth about the rest. 

If you want a chill vibe, fresh-pressed juice and some casual-yet-awesome tacos — check this place out. 

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Lunch

Burrito Amor (8am-10pm)

Aside from the two restaurants above, finding quality lunchtime food is a bit of a challenge as most don’t open until 5pm everyday. Unless you’re down with sitting in shady tourist-trap bars and eating crappy pizza, take a slight detour to Burrito Amor. I talk about this place a lot but to me, they’ve established themselves in an oft-ignored niche in Tulum: open all day, serves a great variety of food appropriate for all hours, and tops it off with some great decor and passionate staff. 

The burritos are good but the salads are even better. I wrote more about it here and here!

El Camello Jr. (10:30am-9pm)

I’ll be honest — I really don’t know how I feel about this restaurant. Every review we read about it calls it the best seafood place in town but we definitely didn’t see it that way. There are some seriously unfortunate meals on their menu (do NOT order the Octopus el Guajillo or the fish tacos). 

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However, there are some great items on the menu too. The ceviche was tasty (but even the small is huge and you’d be wise to order it in a group). The seafood soup was great. The Squid al Mojo de Ajo was superb. Their shrimp cocktail looked SO good but it also looked so big that we didn’t think we could finish it.

So while I do suggest you give it a shot, I caution you to choose wisely.

Side note: they get bonus points for standing up for the sea turtles and refusing to offer straws with their drinks. For that I will always stand behind them, despite their guajillo sauce.

We make a point of carrying reusable straws with us wherever we go. These stainless steel ones have been amazing!

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Dinner

Antojittos La Chaipaneca (5pm-1am)

Okay, so you can’t skip this one. At just 7 pesos per taco, it’s like Taqueria Honorio, but the spicier night time version. You can order any version of meat-on-tortilla you could ever want. There are the essentials like Empanadas, Tacos, Quesadillas, and Tostadas. There are also unique options that I didn’t see anywhere else: Salbutes (a layer of beans spread), Panuchos (cold), and my favourite Sopes (the tortilla was more like naan bread). 

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When your food arrives, there’s a salsa station near the entrance with fresh cilantro, cabbage, onions and two choices of sauces. The red one is seriously spicy. It all comes together for one of the best taco experiences in Tulum. 

It’s also there for you until 1:00am, if you desperately need a taco after a night on the town.

Orange you glad I brought you here?

Orange you glad I brought you here?

Los Aguachiles (1pm-9pm)

This is a small chain restaurant. Admittedly, we didn’t get the opportunity to try it in Tulum because it was closed every time we tried but we managed to find it in Cancun. The variety of options and quality of ingredients they offer makes it worth mentioning. 

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After spending far too long trying to decide what to choose from their extensive menu, we went with the Pulpo Asoleado (fried octopus in a buffalo-style sauce) and three tostadas (octopus, shrimp and tuna). The octopus, served with beans and rice, was amazing. Crispy around the edges and tender toward the centre.

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The tostadas were good. They were notably fresh, above all else; the seafood was beautifully prepared. Although the flavours left something to be desired, the table came set with a plethora of sauce options to suit your preferences.

While it is open for lunch, to me it has more of a ‘nice dinner’ feel to it. 

DESSERT

Pasteleria Loncho (no hours posted)

This little corner shop is one block south of the main street. If your sweet tooth is calling, this is the place for you. For as little as $15 pesos, you can enjoy a variety of generously portioned treats. They offer pre-sliced or custom cakes, tarts and other similarly delicious items. Just note that they only speak Spanish so you may need to do a lot of pointing. 

Panaderia Bakery on their sign/Pan Del Carmen on google (6am-11pm)

If it’s not cake you want, this bakery has everything else. They offer a huge assortment of various types of baked goods — savoury or sweet. Anything from fresh bread to donuts. 

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When you enter, grab the big red tray and a pair of tongs. As you circle the serve-yourself displays, you simply grab the item with your tongs and lay on the tray. When you’re finished, set the tray at the cash register and they’ll pack them up for you.

The thing I loved most about this place is that they encourage you to eat it right away. There is an outdoor patio where you can sit and satisfy your cravings. 

Thirsty? Check out the 5 Must Try Drinks in Tulum

Craving something that doesn’t involve tacos? We’ve got you covered.