Many Cancun visitors skip the restaurants of downtown Cancun, either relying on resort dining, or convenient Hotel Zone favorites. But you may be surprised at the quality of food on offer in Cancun’s main town. Quietly cultivating a scene all of its own, not only are there authentic Mexican restaurants where you can sample the country’s most famous dishes but also international flavors you may not expect to find outside the main tourist zone.
Here are 5 of the best restaurants in downtown Cancun.
Located right next to the most popular of downtown Cancun’s parks, Parque las Palapas (one of the many places worth visiting downtown) you’ll find La Habichuela. It’s one of Cancun’s most longstanding restaurants and is equally popular with locals and visitors.
Request a garden table to enjoy the restaurant’s ornate dining area, filled with decorative tables and chairs, and a recreation of traditional Mayan architecture. Surrounded by tropical plants and intimate lighting, this is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner-a-deux.
La Habicheula’s menu focuses on traditional Yucatecan food, including succulent cochinita pibil (pibil pork), and fresh fish, plus the restaurant’s most famous – and unique – dish, ‘Cocochibuela’, which is hollowed coconut shell, filled with shrimp and lobster curry, rice, and tropical fruit.
Check out more at: La Habichuela
El Socio Naiz Taquería
Taquerías are commonplace in Cancun, but for tacos with a little something extra, try El Socio Naiz. With branches in Cancun and Puerto Morelos, this unpretentious purveyor of tacos uses blue and white corn, as well as bright pink beetroots to color its tortillas, then fills them with mouthwatering fillings and serves them up on a wooden paddle.
The setting is simple, with unusual artwork adorning the walls and daily lines hinting at the restaurant’s popularity. Try the waka waka, El Socio’s own version of guacamole, or the pork and octopus surf ‘n’ turf tacos.
Check out more at: El Socio Naiz Taqueria
La Dolce Vita Downtown
If your resort’s Italian restaurant feels a little lackluster, why not step out and try this little gem in downtown Cancun? La Dolce Vita is a family-run restaurant, open for nearly 40 years, that appeals to locals and visitors looking for some truly delicious Italian cuisine.
The pasta dishes are homemade and packed with flavor, and the wine list is international and reasonably priced. Try the popular house special, Boquinete Dolce Vita, which is succulent pastry-encased snapper served with shrimp and mushrooms, and lobster sauce. Dishes aren’t cheap, running around 30 USD for mains, but with its quaint and comfortable surroundings, great service, and exquisite food, it’s well worth it.
Check out more at: La Dolce Vita Downtown
This French restaurant is easily enough to tempt you from your Hotel Zone resort to sample some of Chef Luna’s excellent contemporary cuisine. Featuring a simple, elegant interior in an inauspicious-looking strip mall near Kabah Urban Park, Les Cepages is a pleasant surprise for patrons who step inside.
You can choose from a wide range of French and international wines, alongside the inventive and beautifully presented plates. Expect French classics like duck a l’orange, foie gras, and beef filet, as well as a great range of seafood options, naturally.
Check out more at: Les Cepages
This treehouse-style restaurant is found in one of Cancun’s fancier neighborhoods and is equally suitable for celebrating a special occasion or enjoying a leisurely Sunday brunch. It’s set across multiple levels, with a palapa roof and an indoor-outdoor vibe. Enjoy the airy atmosphere during the day or experience the enchantment at night when the restaurant is lit by strings of fairy lights.
The menu strikes a clever balance between Mexican classics such as empanadas, tacos, and tostadas while giving a nod to international flavors, with a range of pizza and pasta options available.
Prices are significantly lower here than in the hotel zone and although there’s no dress code, if you aim for smart casual, you’ll fit right in.
Check out more at: Restaurante Marakame
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