From Venezuelan staples to Mexican classics, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to eating in Cancún.
Cancún might not have the street food reputation of Mexico City or Oaxaca, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy traditional Mexican cuisine in Quintana Roo’s largest city. Throw in a wealth of international options and Cancún has a little something for travelers of all tastes and budgets when it comes to eating out. Whether you like acai bowls or arepas, street-style tacos or Mexican-French fusion, here’s where to eat when you want to try something beyond your resort’s breakfast buffet.
Given Cancún’s slew of American chain eateries, it’s easy to forget that this city is situated in a region with a rich culinary history—the Yucatán Peninsula. At Labná—named for an archaeological site in Yucatán—skip the hamburgers for traditional dishes that you won’t find everywhere, including papadzules (rolled or folded corn tortillas filled with boiled egg and topped with a pumpkinseed sauce), cochinita pibil (a richly seasoned, slow-roasted pork) and poc chuc (grilled pork served with a citrus marinade). Order off the menu in the evening or stop by Labná on a weekday for the lunchtime buffet and sample as much as you want.
Tacos are the ultimate drunk food, so after a night of bar-hopping with tourists and locals alike along the Ruta Nader, pay a visit to Socio Naiz. There, you’ll find tacos with un toque naiz (a gourmet touch) including Instagram-worthy pink-tortilla iterations. (There are blue and white corn tortillas on the menu too.) Stick with the classic tacos al pastor—spit-roasted pork tacos served with pineapple—or branch out and try one of Socio Naiz’s seasonal specials. Accompany it all with a michelada (typically spicy and tomato-ey beer cocktails), a carajillo, or a classic margarita.
El Rincón de Caracas
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Once you’re all taco-ed out, make your way to El Rincón de Caracas. This distinctly low-key spot with limited outdoor seating offers an affordable slice of Venezuelan food well off the Cancún tourist trail. Order the overstuffed reina pepiada arepa—a fried corn disc filled with chicken, mayonnaise, and avocado—or try the hallacas (meat or stew stuffed corn dough parcels wrapped in banana leaves and steamed) instead. There are also tequeños (cheese fingers) and tajadas (fried plantain and fresh cheese) on the menu, and the imported malt drinks are a must.
Fonda del Zancudo
String lights and shabby chic tables lend a laidback romantic charm to Fonda del Zancudo, where diners can take advantage of the temperate evening air and dine al fresco in the restaurant’s walled courtyard. Sip on creative cocktails (like an avocado martini), order from the daily specials chalkboard—options can range from tuna tartare to beef carpaccio—or opt for a locally sourced but European-inspired dish from the main menu at this centric spot, which is ideal for a quiet dinner with friends. Finish the evening with a mezcal for the road.
Lorenzillo’s has become a Cancún staple for one thing—lobster, lobster, and more lobster—which makes it a must-visit for fans of the beclawed sea creature. For over 35 years, this institution has been dishing up lobsters in the style of your choosing—boiled, buttered, bathed in a creamy white sauce—alongside several other seafood specialties such as salmon, tuna and shrimp. If you’re looking for just one blow-out dinner or a romantic evening while in Cancún, this waterfront restaurant is the place.
French-Mexican fusion never looked quite so good as at the Sonya Grimond-owned Du Mexique in the Cancún downtown. There are only seven tables so booking ahead is a must, but if you get your hands on one expect some of the most personal and attentive service in the city. And don’t be deceived by the size of Du Mexique because the flavors whipped up by head chef Benjamin Ferra y Castell are far from diminutive—rather, he combines local ingredients with French techniques to create a delightful ever-changing menu.
For some of Cancún’s best vegan food, venture no further than Sirena Morena on the Ruta Nader (a.k.a. Avenida Nader). Stop by for a filling breakfast of vegan pancake stacks topped with crushed nuts and fresh fruit or head over for a healthy lunch instead; generous serving sizes of vegan tacos, quinoa-and-veg bowls or even the avocado-topped rye bread will carry you through until dinner. On Thursdays, Sirena Morena also serves vegan pozole, so if you’ve been curious to try a meat and dairy-free version of the hearty Mexican favorite, be sure to drop in.
Ceviche might be more typically associated with Peru, but Pescaditos in Cancún has some of the city’s best and most abundant portions of the marinated raw fish dish. Enjoy alone or buy a plate for the table—it comes with sliced avocado and a bundle of crispy tostadas—and sample the ceviche alongside Pescaditos’ other seafood dishes such as shrimp skewers, fried fish bites, and prawn-stuffed chiles. Regardless, wash it all down with an ice-cold beer (or two) for the quintessential Cancún lunch.
A stalwart of Cancún’s dining scene, La Habichuela has been cooking up creative Caribbean and Mexican fare for over forty years. However, this atmospheric restaurant situated in the city’s downtown is perhaps best-known for its seafood dishes like amaranth crusted fish, tuna steaks, and the house special of curried lobster and shrimp accompanied by rice and fresh fruit served in a hollowed-out coconut. To make the most of the atmosphere, book a table in the softly lit garden area.
The Bowl Bar
If you can’t quite remember the last time you ate a vegetable, then vegetarian-friendly The Bowl Bar in downtown Cancún is the ideal place to tuck into a picture-perfect acai bowl or superfood smoothie pick-me-up. Whether you’re looking for a hearty ranchero bowl, filled with a rainbow of foodstuffs, a seared tuna steak salad, or a tropical fruit-topped yoghurt, you’ll be well-catered to at The Bowl Bar. Whatever you do, round out the meal with a banana bread muffin or chia pudding cup.