Tulum has long been an escape in the Yucatan Peninsula, but its popularity has been surging in recent years. Unlike the larger cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Tulum is further off the beaten track and still attracts slightly more adventurous and experienced travelers. Tulum is trendy, with Instagram-worthy macrame swings and chic boutiques along the busy roads throughout town and along the beach.
Below are the must-try dishes and restaurants in Tulum, a foodie enclave on the southern end of the Riviera Maya in Mexico.
Tulum Cuisine Guide
Today, Tulum has expanded far beyond its origins as a quiet outpost along the Riviera Maya. This longtime destination for yoga enthusiasts has grown into its own scene. Travelers of all ages will find hip restaurants and adventurous bars that seem to be trying to keep pace with their trendy clientele.
About Tulum cuisine
Travelers will find both traditional and modern cuisines throughout Tulum. Many dishes are Mayan in origin. For example, many menus include cochinita pibil, a traditional style of barbecue pork. The pork is cooked with orange juice and achiote, a spice made from the seeds of a local shrub.
The modern dishes and menus cater to a variety of dietary restrictions. Unlike many other destinations in Mexico, most restaurants will have vegetarian and vegan options available and clearly listed on the menu. From grain-free coconut tacos to spicy habanero margaritas made with mezcal, the cuisine is typically approachable yet upscale.
What to try in Tulum
Restaurants in Tulum tend to feature fresh ingredients, stylish presentations, and trendy menu items. Most eateries tend to have menus with either local or international cuisines, so be sure to try both while in Tulum. Visitors can find local dishes in taquerias, traditional restaurants, and roadside stands serving tacos or other quick meals.
It would be a shame to visit Tulum as a meat eater and not try tacos al pastor, made with spit-roasted, seasoned pork and served with onions, cilantro, and lime. Alternatively, vegetarians and vegans may seek out tacos made with rajas, strips of roasted poblano peppers, or nopales, strips of cooked cactus. Depending on the restaurant, these tacos may or may not be paired with cheese.
Tacos are available on menus throughout Tulum, from small trucks to upscale dining establishments. Seek out the affordable and tasty taco trucks throughout Tulum Pueblo, especially the trucks with a small swarm of people waiting to order. A good rule of thumb is that the busiest spots usually have the best tacos.
Fresh fruit plates
One of the best and healthiest breakfast options in Tulum is a plate of fresh, seasonal fruit. Choose a restaurant that is busy, appears clean, and has good reviews to avoid food safety concerns. Seek out fresh, tropical fruits like figs, papayas, pineapples, and coconuts.
Salsas and chili sauces
Although it’s possible to find spicy food in the Yucatan Peninsula, most of the dishes will be mildly hot with rich and complex flavors. There are many types of popular chilis in Tulum, so be sure to try a variety of fresh and bright salsas. Guacamole is also available on many menus, and it’s always a crowd favorite.
Visitors will see seafood on menus throughout Tulum – unsurprising, because there are fishing boats anchored just off the shore along the beach. Try a fresh ceviche, grilled fish, or crispy fish tacos, preferably when they’re made fresh. Take care at eateries near the beach and never eat raw fish that has been sitting in the sun.
Tulum is known for being a foodie haven and center for yoga enthusiasts. Accordingly, the area is full of trendy and healthy foods and restaurants reminiscent of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Try a healthy smoothie made with coconut and dates, a freshly made acai bowl, or a chia pudding from one of many health-conscious restaurants in Tulum.
If there are health food trends on TikTok or Instagram, chances are they’ll be available to try somewhere in Tulum.
Restaurants to try
Tulum is split into two main areas, the town of Tulum and the beach zone, known locally as the “hotel zone.” There are great restaurants with tasty food and innovative menus in both areas of Tulum. However, travelers will quickly note that there are much higher prices at the establishments along the beach.
Here are a few restaurants to try in each area.
Tulum Pueblo / The Town of Tulum
In town, diners find plenty of locals and tourists alike in the much more affordable restaurants and shops. There are a few restaurants scattered throughout the town, but the majority of the popular spots are located along the main road, Chetumal/México 307. Travelers can walk, bike, or drive through Tulum Pueblo, depending on the location of their hotel.
Taqueria La Chiapaneca
There are traditional taquerias located across town of Tulum. One notable spot is Taqueria La Chiapaneca, a favorite of many locals and tourists. There’s often a line outside, and inside there are tables full of people devouring plates with tacos, empanadas, sopes, and many other dishes piled high with avocado, lettuce, and cheese.
In addition to tacos and other favorites, be sure to try a panucho – a local favorite made by stuffing corn tortillas with black beans and other fillings. Travelers can mix and match from the menu, so it’s possible to try a little bit of everything. Don’t be deterred by the line outside, it moves quickly.
Set in the town of Tulum is a small burrito hut that serves tasty yet traditional Tex Mex style burritos wrapped in banana leaves. This restaurant is budget friendly, caters to a variety of dietary needs, and serves consistently tasty foods made with high quality ingredients.
Try a vegetarian or chicken burrito, served with plenty of fresh salsas, and an order of guacamole. Like many restaurants in Tulum, there is an assortment of tasty and fresh juices and smoothies on the menu, pressed or blended fresh to order.
Zona Hotelera / The Hotel Zone
Along the beach there are much more expensive resorts and restaurants that cater almost exclusively to foreign visitors. Travelers who choose a hotel in town can usually park in the hotels’ parking lots so long as they dine at the restaurant. Ask the parking lot attendant upon arrival for further instructions.
The Real Coconut
Located inside the beautiful Sanara Hotel, the Real Coconut is a grain free and dairy free restaurant with innovative and health-conscious cuisine. The smoothies are exceptional, typically made with dates, coconut milk, and bananas to create a cool and creamy base.
Also notable are the coconut tortillas, either served as soft shell tacos or cut and fried into perfect tortilla chips. The restaurant’s owner, Daniella Hunter, has since published a cookbook that divulges many of the restaurant’s secrets for exceptional diet-conscious fare.
Diners can often enjoy live music while looking out over the beach. Go around sunset for the best views or early in the morning to pair with a yoga class in the nearby studio.
Zamas Beach Restaurant
Zamas is a relatively unassuming hotel in the Zona Hotelera with a quiet beachside restaurant. Visitors can pull up a colored chair and look out over the ocean for a sunset meal and cocktail. The menu contains traditional Tulum favorites, and the cocktails are always refreshing.
Zamas Beach Restaurant is the perfect place to spend a quieter afternoon or evening set back from the hustle and bustle of the Zona Hotelera. Bring bug spray or plan to sit in a windier spot; the mosquitos can be formidable on that section of beach.
What to do when visiting Tulum
While visiting Tulum, and between tasty meals, be sure to visit some of the area’s best attractions. Go for a swim in a cenote, explore a famous set of Mayan ruins, and enjoy the beautiful beaches. For a little self-care while traveling, try a relaxing sound bath at Sanara Hotel – home to the Real Coconut – or Holistika.
For travelers with a rugged car or adventurous spirit, head to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere is home to a floating river, the Muyil Ruins, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. The roads into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere can be unreliable, a tour is recommended for visitors who don’t have experience navigating challenging roads.
Don’t be afraid to ask hotel staff about upcoming special events throughout Tulum.