Best Restaurants in Downtown Cancún

Downtown Cancun Restaurants: Taste What Lies beyond the Hotel Zone

Cancun's Hotel Zone is famous for its beautiful beaches, resorts, nightclubs and restaurants. However, at the northern end of the “HoZo” you'll find downtown Cancun, a city of more than 700,000 residents. Escape the Hotel Zone for an evening or two and make the trip downtown or you will miss some of the best and most charming restaurants that Cancun has to offer.

Both Du Mexique and Peter's on Bonampak Avenue are very close to the Hotel Zone entrance and are local favorites. Locando Paolo, an Italian restaurant also located on Bonampak, serves modern Italian cuisine with Mexican and Asian influences. Julia Mia, which sits across the street from Costco, serves up gourmet Mexican cuisine and lovely ambiance.

L'escargot is a small French restaurant hidden on a side street that some call one of the best restaurants they've ever visited. La Habichuela, a Cancun dining institution, features Yucatecan, Mexican, Caribbean and International food and has been open since 1977.

Hip Marakame is great at anytime of day, visit for breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks. For French or French fusion cuisine, visit Les Cepages or Du Mexique.

So venture out of the Hotel Zone and discover Cancun's amazing downtown restaurants. You won't be disappointed. 


In case you haven't heard, Brazil is known for its delicious steak. At Bovino (cow) Churrascaria (churrasco loosely translates to barbeque) delicious, high quality cuts of meat (baby beef, arrachera , Brazilian chorizo, pork ribs, Rio filet, lamb and many more) are prepared on a huge grill and served to patrons on skewers. For around 40 usd, diners have access to the salad bar and as much steak as they can eat. Drinks and desserts are offered at an extra cost. Bovino's has an extensive wine cellar, is very popular with locals and shows high-profile soccer (futbol) games.

Recommended for Downtown because: Bovino's Churrascaria is Cancun's preferred restaurant for Brazilian cuts of meat.

Susan's expert tip: Show up hungry beacause here you'll find all-you-can-eat cuts of meat and a salad bar.

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El Oasis Mariscos
Photo courtesy of El Oasis Mariscos

"Mariscos" means seafood in Spanish, and that is exactly what you will find at this downtown restaurant, the freshest seafood in town. Located conveniently right across the street from Costco (look for the giant palapa), the excellent service, authentic Mexican Caribbean open-air ambiance, cool artwork and twinkling lights complement the delicious seafood dishes they serve at very reasonable prices. The menu is huge and includes refreshing and creative cocktails. Try the tamarind margarita. El Oasis is kid-friendly and offers a great kid's menu (think fresh fish in the fish sticks).

Recommended for Downtown because: El Oasis offers excellent service and ambiance and the freshest seafood at reasonable prices.

Kristin's expert tip: Try the baked plantain with ice cream, caramel and nuts for dessert.

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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.

Recommended for Downtown because: Cocina de Autor is one of Cancun's secrets. This is one of the best restaurants in the city.

Kristin's expert tip: There is limited seating on the patio so if you wish to dine outdoors reservations are a must.

Read more about Cocina de Autor →

La Dolce Vita Centro
Photo courtesy of La Dolce Vita

This small, romantic Italian restaurant has long been a favorite spot for locals, but it is popular with tourists as well. Located right on the bus route, in downtown Cancun, it is just a few blocks away from the entrance to the Hotel Zone and is very easy to find. It's a great place for a nice lunch (they open at 1pm), a family gathering, a romantic dinner or even a marriage proposal. The restaurant only has seating for 80 people so it is definitely an intimate setting. Soft music plays in the background while you enjoy a superb meal and live "la dolce vita" (the sweet life).

Recommended for Downtown because: La Dolce Vita Centro is popular with both tourist and locals and has been open for many years.

Susan's expert tip: Don't spend money on a cab. Take any bus on the ocean side in the Hotel Zone, get off at the first stop downtown and walk 1/2 block south.

Read more about La Dolce Vita Centro →

Hidden in an upscale neighborhood in downtown Cancun, Marakame is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They even deliver. This indoor/outdoor restaurant is great for an event, like a baby shower or birthday, a family breakfast or a romantic dinner. Thursday-Saturday nights they feature live music outside under the twinkling lights in the trees. Marakame features an extensive menu of pasta, seafood, salads, pizza and a fully stocked bar. The ambiance is welcoming and relaxing. Leave your board shorts and flip flops at the hotel, this crowd is casual but fashionable. To arrive, take the bus, get off at the first stop downtown and then take a 25 peso taxi to the restaurant.

Recommended for Downtown because: You can't beat Marakame's ambiance, and they offer an extensive menu.

Kristin's expert tip: Visit on Friday or Saturday evening and sit in the garden, the live music starts at 10 pm.

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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.

Recommended for Downtown because: L'escargot is a hidden treasure. Exquisite French food is served in an intimate atmosphere.

Kristin's expert tip: Call ahead and ask which night they will have live music.

Read more about L'escargot →

French contemporary restaurant Les Cepages is located on Nichupte Avenue. 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.

Recommended for Downtown because: Les Cepages serves gourmet food at a fraction of Hotel Zone prices.

Kristin's expert tip: Make your reservation online if you are worried about attempting to speak Spanish over the telephone. A reservation form is available on the restaurant's website.

Read more about Les Cepages →

This Italian fusion restaurant has been open since 1989, an eternity in Cancun. The fare can be described as Italian with a Mexican Caribbean influence. The service is impeccable, attentive yet unobtrusive, and the chef always comes out of the kitchen to greet customers and ask if they are enjoying their meal. If you have a taste for something, just ask, the kitchen is very accommodating. This is a great setting to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. If you arrive at 8 pm, you'll wonder where all of the customers are, but by 10 pm Locanda Paolo will be full.

Recommended for Downtown because: Locanda Paolo is an outstanding Italian restaurant where the chef always greets his guests.

Kristin's expert tip: Dress to impress, no shorts or flip-flops here.

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This cozy restaurant in downtown Cancun is a quaint, European style eatery that locals and tourists visit over and over. The restaurant is run by a family, the owner Peter, his wife Claudia, their son Eder. Dishes include shrimp, fish, veal, beef and pasta, desserts, 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 Restaurante by getting off at the first stop downtown and walking just a few blocks to their location on Bonampak. If you are celebrating a special occasion be sure to mention it when making a reservation.

Recommended for Downtown because: Peter's is a beloved Cancun restaurant. Owner Peter and his wife, son and staff really value every customer.

Kristin's expert tip: Be sure to make reservations as the charming dining room has only 8 tables.

Read more about Peter's Restaurante →

La Habichuela has been a fixture in Cancun for over 40 years and is located in what was once owner Armando Pezzotti's home. The delightful ambiance which includes Mayan sculptures, trees, plants and twinkling lights can be enjoyed in the open air garden or from the indoor section. Offering high quality food made with the finest ingredients and superb service, the restaurant's signature dish is Cocobichuela, a mixture of lobster, shrimp, rice, curry sauce and tropical fruits, all served in a coconut shell. No meal at La Habichuela is complete without the Chichen Itza dessert and Mayan coffee.

Recommended for Downtown because: La Habichula is always excellent. This is a Cancun dining institution.

Kristin's expert tip: The garden area is lovely. Request a table in that section.

Read more about La Habichuela →


Meet 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....  More About Kristin