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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
- Aldea Corazon.
- La Perla Pixan.
- Dona Paula Restaurant (authentic homemade food).
- Taqueria Billy the Kid.
- El Fogon
- Restaurante Nativo
- El Gran Taco (apparently the very best tacos in the whole city).