Tulum has changed dramatically since I visited ten years ago. It was once a hippie village, created by a large Italian expat community and foreign investment. Today it is thriving and there are so many Tulum restaurants that it has become a foodie destination.
If Noma came here for a pop-up series then you know foodies are sure to follow.
Apart from the food, Tulum isn’t my favourite city in Mexico for traditional Mexican food. You can find little Mexican antojitos shops but much of the food feels very LA.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I love visiting places where there are healthy options and lots of cafes in Tulum have fantastic options.
Drinks in Mexico
Tulum is very instagrammable. Restaurants, hotels and cafes in Tulum know how to create the perfect instagram photo.
I have mixed feelings about this as it feels a bit less authentic.
I’ve heard similar complaints about Bali, with lots of people from Los Angeles spending their holiday posing more than experiencing.
So I encourage people to take their photos but also really try to enjoy the town and the surrounding area in Mayan Riviera.
The Basics of Tulum
Tulum is divided into two areas: the beach and the downtown core. There are pros and cons to staying at each area and there are great Tulum restaurants in both.
Unless you rent a bicycle you’ll likely need a cab to go from one area to the other – but that’s not the end of the world. Just make sure you ask your accommodation first what the going rate is so you can negotiate.
Best Tulum Restaurants on the Beach
One of the most popular places to stay is in the hotel zone on the beach. Many of the best restaurants are in Tulum hotels. However, you can visit the restaurant even if you aren’t staying there.
Hartwood remains to be the most popular restaurant in Tulum. It has been around since 2010 when the owners moved from New York and paved the way for many of the restaurants that now exist today in Tulum.
In fact, the decor was boho chic long before the remainder of Tulum decided to embrace its jungle vibe.
With focus leaving no footprint. Food is cooked in a wood fired oven and the menu changes daily depending on availability. Proud to be off the grid, the ingredients are organic and the dining room lights are solar powered.
It’s wise to book reservations a month in advance. Otherwise arrive at 3pm to put your name on the wait list. Grab a cocktail at a nearby bar and cross your fingers that a table will cancel that evening.
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila 7, Tulum Beach, Tulum
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I’ll be the first to avoid eating Italian food in Mexico, I’ve had far too many mediocre and strange experiences with it.
But Tulum does have a large Italian community and so Italian food in Tulum is much better than other cities.
It is one of the best places to eat in Tulum but the food is good, not great. I’m surprised at how many people rave about Posada Margarita.
I suspect the laid-back vibe sways reviews. This is the spot to get easy breezy food.
Posada Margarita is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Tulum. The caprese salad and focaccia are great options to begin with.
KM 4.5, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila, Tulum
Often described as fine dining tapas, Arca has gained a reputation of being one of the best Tulum restaurants.
Open for dinner only Tuesday through Sunday, the executive chef once worked at NOMA in Copenhagen.
This is evident in the hyper local “from fire to table” menu, which celebrates meat but has plenty of vegetarian options.
Av. Boca Paila, Tulum Beach, Tulum
Cenzontle aka Jardin Secreto
Beloved for its kitschy decor with mismatched furniture and antiques in the open-air dining room lit by candles.
Cenzontle is close to Hartwood in the hotel zone, and you’re more likely to get a reservation in the jungle-like garden.
Food here is modern Mexican. Cenzontle experiments with classic flavours while adding an international twist like menu favourites: duck carnitas and goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers.
Although the restaurant is a bit pricey, only cash is accepted.
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km 7.3 S/N, Tulum
Located on the Hotel Ahau beach. This is one of the few Tulum restaurants which is gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan – except for honey.
Best Vegetarian Vegan Playa del Carmen
The restaurant is in the sand and very casual, plenty of hammocks and swings to instagram while waiting for food. Acai bowls, raw pad thai and portobello receive rave reviews. Cash only.
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km 7. 5 | Hotel Ahau, Tulum
Matcha Mama is the OG of instagram marketing. Women line up to get their photos taken on the swing. The cafe is so popular a second cafe has opened in downtown Tulum.
Open every day from 8am-6pm, travelers can get their fix of smoothie bowls, cold brew coffee and ice cream bowls.
If you love the vibe they also sell bamboo straws, coconut bowls and tote bags to take home. Credit cards accepted.
15 470 Zona Hotelera, Tulum
Macondo at Nômade Hotel Tulum
Located in one of the most popular hotels in Tulum, Macondo focuses on holistic cuisine. The menu is primarily a vegetarian restaurant with a few fish and beef options.
In addition to a menu of juices and smoothies, there are several options for bottle water as well as cacao drinks.
Carretera Tulum – Cancún KM 10, Tulum Beach, Zona Hotelera, Tulum
Kin Toh at AZULIK Hotel
Without a doubt one of the most photogenic Tulum restaurants. A tree house in the jungle. It has an ethereal aesthetic with canopies and giant nets to lounge on.
Arrive well before sunset to have a drink at the bar and take photos then dine by candlelight.
The food is avant garde, a mix of Mayan Mexican dishes with an international influence. A popular splurge is the 4-course menu with wine pairings.
Vegan and other dietary restrictions are easily accommodated.
Carretera Tulum-Punta Allen KM 5, Zona Hotelera, Tulum
Moro at Habitas Hotel
One of the most popular restaurants in Tulum on the beach, you don’t need to be a guest to eat here. And if you spend $50 at the restaurant you can use the pool and beach facilities for the day.
This isn’t very difficult to achieve as items like vegan avocado toast is $11, with a few cocktails and appetizers you’ll easily spend it. Sundays are popular as there is live music.
Food is a blend of mediterranean dishes like hummus and Moroccan-style appetizers, with ingredients sourced locally and seasonally.
KM 4.5, Av. Boca Paila, Zona Hotelera, Tulum
Charly’s Vegan Tacos
Charly had a career in a number of renown restaurants in Mexico but left it to open a vegan taco truck in Tulum.
It’s the perfect combination of years of culinary experience, a commitment to veganism and his grandmother’s recipes.
Today it is one of the best Tulum restaurants and has opened a second location in Miami.
In addition to tacos there are salads, antojitos and large plates. The “guacamango”, elotes and cocktails draws in lots of omnivores. Credit cards accepted.Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km 10.5, Tulum Beach
If you’re looking for fusion, Casa Jaguar does Asian-Mexican food very well, all cooked outdoors in a wood oven.
Cocktails are so well regarded here that many people who dine at Hartwood often stop here first for a drink.
Served in a chic jungle setting, the mezcal cocktails are most popular but the drink list also includes international spirits.
Although the catch of the day in the wood fired oven is excellent, the ceviche appetizer and scallop crude is excellent.
Carretera Boca Paila Km 7.5, Tulum
While most people only see Gitano as a bar, it’s so much more than that.
A modern Mexican kitchen, it features the best of food around the country with quesadillas that use Oaxacan cheese, a grilled avocado dish, a variety of tacos and large plates.
At night there is live music or a DJ and a great dance floor. It gets busy so it’s best to make a reservation.
Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, Tulum
Best Restaurants in Tulum Town (Pueblo)
Not as instagram friendly as restaurants on the beach, the restaurants here have fantastic food, more authentic traditional Mexican options and are (for the most part) less expensive than on the beach.
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
One of the most popular restaurants in Tulum for authentic Mexican food at local prices. It’s so popular you may need to wait for a seat at one of the plastic tables.
No one comes to instagram the decor, everyone is here for the great food.
Tacos, tortas, empanadas, tostadas, panuchos and other Mexican antojitos. There’s something for everyone here and dinner may only cost a few dollars. Cash only.
Av. Tulum, Tulum Centro, Tulum
Many people don’t realize this but the burrito is actually an authentic Mexican dish. However, not quite the same style as burritos sold here.
However, that doesn’t stop Burrito Amor from being one of the most popular Tulum restaurants. A small dining room under the palapa on the main drag in Tulum, you cannot miss this spot – or the line-up of tourists waiting to eat here.
Many visitors who come here once often come back several times during their holiday in Tulum for delicious burritos at a reasonable price.
There are also great vegan and vegetarian burritos with cactus and chaya (Mayan spinach).
Av Tulum Pte Mz 3 Lote 5 Local 1, Av Tulum, Centro
Hands down, Ki’bok is known as the best coffee shop in the city. Serving premium, organic coffee from Mexico, the cafe also serves very reasonably priced food.
If you’re traveling solo this is the place to go to meet new friends.
It is open from 7am-9am during the week and 7am-5pm on the weekends. People love it so much they opened a rooftop bar called Ki’Bok At Night.
Calle Centauro Sur Mz 05 Lt 11, Centro, Tulum
With a decor that rivals Tulum restaurants on the beach, Humo is just off the main strip in town and is considered one of the nicest spots in the city.
If the low seating underneath the palapa isn’t suitable there is also more traditional seating.
While the prices may not be backpacker friendly, those willing to spend a bit more rave about its duck confit and octopus.
A sister restaurant to Raw Love, Humo offers many vegan options, including a vegan frappuccino.
It is open every day from 8:00am to 11:00pm and takes credit cards.
Av Carrillo Puerto-Tulum M-31, Lot 2, Tulum
El Camello Jr.
Truly a local spot, this Tulum restaurant was founded by a local fisherman. Locals love “Camelitos” for its extensive seafood menu including killer ceviche, grilled lobster and fresh fish.
Tacos reign here and yet cost a fraction of the price you’ll find in the hotel zone. Look for great fish, shrimp and octopus fillings with generous servings of avocado and lettuce.
It’s a bit off the main strip but well worth it to eat with a local favourite.
Carretera Chetumal-Cancun Locales 1 y 2 Lte 3 Mza 40, Centro, Tulum
Proving that downtown Tulum can also have fantastic outdoor dining space, Co.ConAmor is one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in Tulum.
It’s also popular with omnivores looking for healthy options, raw food and a wide variety of smoothies.
There are plenty of vegan and gluten-free options available and a shop selling vegan products. Wifi is strong here so it’s common to see digital nomads with their laptops working.
Open 7 days a week. Monday through Friday 10am-pm, Saturday and Sunday 12pm-8pm. Accepts credit cards.
Calle Polar Pte., Centro, Tulum
If you want to know where locals go you’ll find them all at Taquería Honorio. It is a great and affordable spot for authentic tacos and torta sandwiches.
Look for traditional favourites like cochinita pibil and carne aside along with vegetarian options. They are open for breakfast and lunch only. Cash only.
Satélite Sur Sm10 lote 3, Centro, Tulum
El Pollo Bronco
The first time I visited in 2010 I had horrible food in Tulum. In fact, I sadly had only have one place to share because I had eaten at so many mediocre Tulum restaurants.
One dish Mexico does very well is pollo asado. In Mexico you can buy whole rotisserie chickens by the pound or the portion.
This was recommended to me by a local and El Pollo Bronco is still popular today.
It’s a no frills joint but chicken is served with salsa, cabbage, rice, tortillas and pureed black beans.
Avenida Tulum s/n, Centro
How to Get to Tulum
There is no airport in Tulum so you’ll need to fly into nearby Cancun. From there you have a few options.
Private Taxi: The most expensive option but also the fastest at 90 minutes from Cancun airport to Tulum. Your Airbnb or hotel can arrange for you and will drop you at the door.
Airport Shuttle: Shared with 6-10 other people and will drop you to your door.
ADO Bus: Least expensive but also the longest. The current price is less than $14 and it will take you about 2 hours to reach the centre of Tulum. From the bus station it is easy to arrange a taxi.
Is Tulum Safe?
Canadians and Americans have been coming to Mexico for years without any issues. But the media seems to perpetuate a constant message that Mexico is not safe.
This really bothers me as I’ve spent a lot of time traveling solo throughout Mexico without any issue. But I do want to be frank. Mexico definitely has issues.
They have issues with drugs and violence and the border is a mess.
But tourists don’t see any of that.
The issue I have with media is that they will report murders or a shoot out in a popular tourist city like Playa del Carmen, but they don’t mention it was far outside the city no tourist would visit.
Indeed the drug cartel is present, but all of the issues are far away and amongst people involved in the drug trade.
I traveled to Playa del Carmen with my mother and aunt earlier this year. I would never take them to a country if I thought it was dangerous.
If you are not involved in drugs, prostitution or illegal gambling you are less likely to run into people who want to rob or hurt you.
Tulum is safe. But you can’t be foolish. Don’t head out to parties outside the city with strangers. Don’t go on the beach at night.
Don’t leave your valuables unattended or your purse on the back of your chair at a restaurant. You may be pick pocketed.
That happens everywhere.
I’ve been robbed several times. As someone who travels all the time it’s the luck of the draw. It’s why I recommend travel insurance.
More importantly, travel insurance protects you from a huge hospital bill if you trip on a pebble and break your leg – it happens!
I’ve used travel insurance many times and insurance isn’t as expensive as you think.
Map: Where to Eat in Tulum
Pin it For Later: Best Restaurants in Tulum
Hartwood (c) Alejandro de la Cruz, Arca (c) T.T Seng, Burrito Amor by Craig James, El Camello Jr (c) Lou Skejskal, Taqueria Honorio (c) Lou Skejskal, Nipa Hut Photo by Roberto Nickson , green juice Photo by Roberto Nickson , arial view of Tulum (c) Roberto Nickson , horizontal arial of Tulum (c) Photo by Spencer Watson
Nachos are some what like chilaquiles, not the other way around, hahaha. Also, salsas in Mexico are watery, they are made to be added to meals, not to dip a tortilla chip (tostada) into them. although they are usually pretty tasty 😛
I forgot to tell you that extra spicy chilaquiles are a very good hangover cure 🙂
You sound like you’re having a lot of fun! I envy the adventure you’re on…what happened to Mr. Bacon?
I agree: tulum is worst place to eat in mexico. overpriced and underwhelming. glad you found a little gem.
I was a fan of the tacos al pastor place across the street.
I would kill for a $4 meal now that I’m in Argentina 🙂
I usually get recommendations from locals when I don’t really know the food of an area yet.
I love going back and reading your early posts where you talk about not knowing Spanish … and now I’m hungry for some juicy chicken!!
The chicken looks absolutely delicious. It’s nearly impossible to find a good Mexican restaurant in South Korea.
I’ve always been quite fond of chicken on a stick. Looks yummy! 🙂
We have a problem. Is there any way you can ship this chicken to us? Please let me know as soon as possible. A.k.a : Looks delicious!
I definitely consider myself a bit of a foodie, so I can promise that the bars and restaurants featured in this article aren’t just trending hot spots.
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