Updated December 2016
You won't eat badly. In fact, you'll likely eat some of the most memorable food of your life. You really can't go wrong, but here's where to go to make it super right.
You'll recognize this delicious little taco spot by its open-fire cooking pit and gleaming Airstream. If you recognize the man serving up the tasty, smoke-inflected dishes, too, there's a reason: He's Luis Aguilar from Manhattan's popular Tacombi.
Hartwood is famous in Tulum and beyond—and not for nothing. The food (and atmosphere) is so rustically-dazzling that you'll probably want to eat here at least twice. Chef Eric Werner—who worked at Peasant in New York before making the move with his family to the Yucatan to open Hartwood—serves only local, sustainable ingredients. Everything is cooked using classical techniques over an open flame or in a wood burning stove. Arrive before 6pm to put your name on the list and plan accordingly: This spot is always (always!) busy, and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Everybody's talking about Arca, the new kid on the jungle road. What are they saying? That it's the place to go if you can't get a table at Hartwood, or, even more shockingly, that it is the new Hartwood. While we wouldn't go that far, we will say that it is an enticing new option with a similar aesthetic (wood tables, candle light) and a similar ethos (local, sustainable produce, wood-fired cooking). The presentation and food, however, feels a bit more fine dining. Think: intricately plated portions sprinkled with delicate flower petals, drizzled emulsions, and puffed seeds.
That exclamation point in the name is no accident—this place deserves enthusiasm! It's long been of our first stops in Tulum and never disappoints. Expect authentic, creative Yucatan fare along with super friendly service in a lively jungle atmosphere. Get whatever's served with red pumpkin seed sauce.
We dream about the lobster pasta, homemade bread, and fresh-caught fish cooked in sea water all day long, and so will you. And the setting — with its white-washed walls, Mediterranean vibes, and ocean view — is just as gorgeous as the food. You can go for dinner, when it's super crowded, but lunchtime might be more fun: You'll have a clear view of the beach and plenty of time to stuff yourself with focaccia.
The dishes can be hit or miss, but Jaguar is worth a visit just for its mystical jungle aesthetic: wind-chimes, candles, hanging vines, and a big wood-burning hearth. Sitting at the big concrete bar and drinking mezcal-and-juice cocktails out of a big stainless steel mugs and snacking on house-made flatbread and grilled local fish while listening to chilled-out tunes is kind of the best.
Cenzontle Jardin Secreto
This (relative) newcomer to Tulum's jungle road might just give the old standbys a run for their money. Owned and operated by a warm-hearted Mexico City transplant named Ivan, Cenzontle boasts an inventive menu (coconut shrimp, chipotle portobella stew, vanilla pork ribs) and a super romantic garden setting.
Taqueria La Eufemia
The sign that says "Best F-ing Tacos" is not lying. Go here at the beginning of your trip, on your first day if possible. If you don't, you'll be sad you missed out on the chance to eat La Eufemia's baja fish tacos every day. They're that good: battered and deep fried, smothered in fresh cabbage, and dressed with whatever yummy homemade salsa you want. Plus, they're about 35 pesos a pop, and the little beach stand they come from is as good a place to people watch as any.
La Eufermia's Facebook
Gitano has come a long way from its first few months as a sexy jungle bar with a cool neon sign and a disco ball hanging from the trees. Now it's a sexy jungle restaurant, too, complete with a lively scene and a long wait time. The menu bills itself as "modern Mexican" and includes everything from wood-roasted cauliflower to basil guacamole to truffle mushroom tacos.
The Real Coconut
This airy spot on the beach at Sanara Hotel is great option when you're craving something detox-y or want to make amends for last night's debauchery. Though everything on the menu is grain, gluten, dairy, and sugar free, it's far from boring. Think: coconut-flour quesadillas with melty coconut cheese and pico de gallo, grilled local sardines with fresh herbs, and heaping "plant bows" spiked with house-made hemp plaintain falafel and tahini.
Sometimes you just want a straightforward pizza, a glass of red wine, and a simple bowl of pasta. On those nights, head to to La Onda. It's a hidden gem, and not pretentious at all. The chef knows his stuff, the staff is as nice as can be, and the owner Matteo is real deal Italian. We go for the penne arrabiata and stay for the very relaxed scene.
la onda's trip advisor
A local favorite on the main road in Tulum pueblo, Don Cafeto serves tasty classics in a no-frills setting. On your table you'll find a tiny bowl of hot pickled vegetables. If you're sensitive to heat, proceed with caution.
don cafeto's facebook
El Caballo Blanco
A lively spot on the main drag in Tulum pueblo with regular live music and a funny Caribbean-meets-Germany aesthetic. Though the menu is head-scratchingly diverse (vegetable curry, fish tacos, schnitzel?), everything is super tasty and lovingly prepared.
el caballo blanco's facebook