Cancun's Best Restaurants: Indulge Yourself at Foodie Spots in Hotel Zone, Downtown
By Kristin Busse
Cancún Local Expert
Cancun is a gastronomic delight for foodies and anyone else who enjoys a delicious meal. Countless restaurants serving all types of cuisine can be found in the famed Hotel Zone and in downtown Cancun. Surprisingly, there are only a few oceanfront restaurants in the HoZo (Hotel Zone) which are not located in a resort, but you’ll find an abundance of fine, waterfront eateries overlooking Nichupte Lagoon, which provides a spectaular view of Cancun's unparalleled sunsets.
In addition to many seafood restaurants and steakhouses you’ll also find eateries that specialize in Mexican, Italian, Thai, Indian, French, Yucatecan and even Belgian cuisine. There are a number of AAA Five-Diamond Award winning restaurants in Cancun, including The Club Grill and Fantino, both of which are located in The Ritz-Carlton Cancun.
Some of Cancun's restaurants, like La Habichuela, located in downtown Cancun next to Parque las Palapas (Palapas Park) have been open for many years and have a proven record of excellence. Others, like Les Cepages, also located downtown, have only been open for a few years but have quickly become extremely popular with both tourists and locals due to their superior service and delicious food. If you don't want to stray far from your resort, Puerto Madero, arguably one of Cancun's best and most popular restaurants, is an Argentinian steakhouse located in the Hotel Zone.
Escape the all inclusive resort one evening and discover Cancun's best restaurants.
10 Cocina de Autor
Cocina de Autor is hidden away in a residential neighborhood in downtown Cancun. A hotel concierge may not typically recommend this restaurant to guests, but this is one of the best dining establishments in all of Cancun. Chef Cristian Morales personally attends to guests and also acts as Sommelier. Entrees range from 20 to 50 USD. If you'd like to try a bit of everything, a degustation menu is available for about 65 USD/person. Morales' enticing Argentinean - Pre-hispanic Mexican dishes will please even the most discriminating foodie. A visit to elegant Cocina de Autor will be a highlight of your vacation. (998 251 9145)
9 Les Cepages
French contemporary restaurant Les Cepages just celebrated its 4th anniversary. They serve imaginative dishes made with the freshest, high-quality ingredients. This is fine dining at a much lower price than you will find in the Hotel Zone. Don't miss singature dish Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mint demi-glaze. They are open Monday from 6 to 11pm and Tuesday throught Saturday from 3 to 11pm and are closed Sundays. Due to the size of the dining space, reservations are suggested. To get there, take the R1 or R2 bus to the first stop downtown, then take a taxi to Plaza Nichupte on Nichupte Avenue. (998 802 1093)
This small French restaurant is tucked away on a quiet side street in downtown Cancun and is operated by a Parisian who arrived in Cancun some 30 years ago. Don't be surprised if she's sitting at the door waiting for you when you arrive. The menu is small but the fare is fresh and perfectly prepared. At night the garden area is filled with twinkling lights. The intimate setting is lush with tropical vegetation and is perfect for a romantic date or a quiet dinner with a friend. With an impeccably trained wait staff and french music, L'escargot makes for a delightful evening in Cancun. (998 887 6337)
7 La Palapa Belga
This open-air, thatched roof restaurant is small and wonderful. It's one of Cancun's hidden treasures. Located in Cancun's Hotel Zone but slightly off-the-beaten-path tucked inside a small hotel that sits on Nichupte Lagoon, this little gem can easily be overlooked. La Palapa Belga is well-known to locals, but is still relatively unknown to tourists. French and Belgian gourmet dishes are served up while you dine under the stars. The view of the lagoon is spectacular. The excellent service is only surpassed by the scrumptious cuisine. This place is not very large so be sure to make a reservation. Finish your meal with the heavenly creme brulee. (998-883-5454)
6 Peter's Restaurante
This cozy restaurant in downtown Cancun has only been open for a few years, yet it's one of Cancun's most popular eateries. The restaurant is staffed by a family, the owner Peter, his wife Claudia and their son Eder. Dishes include shrimp, fish, veal, beef, vegetarian and pasta and a small but good wine list. Prices are considerably lower than they would be for a restaurant of this caliber in the Hotel Zone. You can easily take the bus to Peter's by getting off at the first stop downtown and walking just a few blocks to their location on Bonampak. (998 251 9310)
5 Du Mexique
Du Mexique is another one of the amazing restaurants on Bonampak avenue in downtown Cancun. This is a lovely place to celebrate a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday. Located in what used to be a house, the divine ambiance, service and food make this restaurant stand out on the endless list of Cancun restaurants. Chef Alain Grimond and his wife Sonya prepare and serve the food themselves. The cuisine is an interesting combination of Mayan and French. Have an appetizer in the lounge or "sala", move to the 20 seat dining room for dinner, and have dessert on the patio. If you would like something special that you don't see on the menu, ask and if it's possible, they will prepare it for you. (998 884 5919)
4 Julia Mia
Julia Mia is Cancun's newest Mexican restaurant and is quickly becoming a local favorite. Owners Lupita and Irma Chavez, sisters from Guadalara, opened Julia Mia in June. The restaurant features contemporary Mexican food, but never forgets to incorporate traditional flavors and ingredients. The inspiration behind Julia Mia (My Julia) is a woman "that's not afraid of anything or anyone, she enjoys ilfe and her traditional Mexican drink, tequila, as well as the best selection of recipes from Mexico which integrate tastes and smells, always respecting and honoring each ingredient." Expect to be wowed by the tostadas, flautas, sopes, quesadillas, enchiladas, sea bass tacos, blue crab taquitos, roast corn soup, red pozole, chicken with mole, salmon al pastor, corn smut and goat cheese ravioli, garlic octopus fettuccini, and scrumptious desserts like flan, chocolate volcano, and chocolate truffles with mole and churros. Julia Mia is open daily from 1 pm to 12 am. (01 800 849 1343)
3 Harry's Prime Steakhouse and Raw Bar
Prime cuts of USDA beef, dry-aged beef and Kobe beef are served at this upscale, waterfront restaurant. Beef that is dry-aged has more flavor and is more tender than beef that has not undergone the dry-aging process. Kobe beef from Japan, Australia and USA is offered, as well as several Kosher steaks. Kobe beef hot dogs, burgers, sliders and even tacos are available for those that crave beef but are looking for something a little different. There is an extensive selection of wines to accompany the melt-in-your-mouth steaks. Portions are large. You might want to consider sharing an entre or side dishes. (998-840-6551)
2 Puerto Madero
Arguably Cancun's finest and certainly one of its most popular restaurants, Puerto Madero is named for the Buenos Aires port district that has risen to upscale trendiness in recent years. The decor has a stylishly industrial feel, much like the district itself. Argentinean cuisine is the specialty, as you might have deduced, they serve lots of fresh seafood and prime steaks grilled to your specifications but they also offer excellent pasta and salads. If you're watching your pocketbook, order a few appetizers and share them. Puerto Madero is the perfect restaurant for a big date or a special anniversary or birthday. Dress to impress. ((998) 885-2829, (998) 885-2830)
1 La Habichuela
La Habichuela has been a fixture in Cancun for over 30 years and is located in what was once owner Armando Pezzotti's home. The delightful ambiance which includes sculptures, trees, plants and twinkling lights can be enjoyed in the open air garden or from the lounge. You'll find high quality food made with the finest ingredients and supurb service at both La Habichuela and La Habichuela Sunset, located in the Hotel Zone. The restaurant's signature dish is Cocobichuela, a mixture of lobster, shrimp, rice, curry sauce and tropical fruits, all served in a coconut shell. Complete your meal with a delicious Flambé dessert and Mayan coffee. (998-884-3158)
About Kristin Busse
After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001. Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University. Chicago was her home for the next 9 years. Mexico has been good to Kristin, she became a mother and achieved her lifelong dream to become a professional singer. She loves to explore the area on the weekends with her 5 year old son, and she enjoys sharing her experiences and discoveries with others through writing and social media.
Read more about Kristin Busse here.