Where To Eat & Drink In Cancun guide image

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Where To Eat & Drink In Cancun

Cotton candy with the check, fireworks and lobster tacos, and other ways to feel very on vacation in Cancun.

Around 2.4 million people visit Cancun each year. Sure, many of those visitors are on spring break or headed directly to an all-inclusive resort, but this popular party destination in the Yucatán Peninsula has a lot more to discover than just how many hangovers are humanly possible for one person to get at Señor Frog's. 

The scuba diving is top-notch, and there are plenty of guided tours and day trips to cenotes, nearby islands, and Mayan ruins. And of course, sitting on the white sandy beaches with a frozen drink in one hand and a taco in the other is an equally great way to spend a few days off of work.

No matter what you’re coming to Cancun for, one thing’s for sure: you’re not going to want to eat every single meal at your hotel, no matter how much you might love rubbery scrambled eggs or that one waiter who does incredible napkin art. And the good news is you have options. Here’s where to find crackly vanilla conchas, ice-cold horchata, phenomenal ceviche, and sceney dinner spots with great views of the lagoon. And of course, more than one restaurant where the waiters balance margaritas on their heads—this is Cancun, after all.



NICER, SIT-DOWN RESTAURANTS IN THE HOTEL ZONE


photo credit: Gavin Higgins

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Harry's

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Boulevard Kukulcán Km. 14.2 Zona Hotelera CP 77500, Cancún, Quintana Roo, Cancún
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You’ll definitely see at least one person with a martini in one hand and a cigar in the other at Harry’s, a steakhouse in the Hotel Zone that’s one of the best special occasion spots in Cancun. Expect to spend around $45 for rich dishes like a plate of beets with 24k gold, crab ravioli with ricotta and parmesan, or tacos with hunks of lobster, mango, chipotle, and tomato sauce. Save space for the pink cotton candy they give you with the check.


Rosa Negra is the type of Cancun restaurant that’s completely, wildly over the top—the menu has A5 kobe beef, turbot from Normandy, and giant plates of crab. But there are some solid plates once you cut through the excess: get the lobster tacos with fresh avocado, habanero-cucumber dressing, and pico de gallo, and any of the ceviches and tiraditos. Since this isn’t going to be a quiet meal, you might as well stick around for the 10pm show that features a fireworks grand finale that light up the lagoon.


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Mextreme is a great spot for a fun, lively dinner, but it’s much less swanky than the other restaurants in the Hotel Zone. They’re famous for their green chilaquiles—which we swear can cure a hangover—but you shouldn’t stop there: order the chicken enmoladas with a side of beans or a fried chimichanga stuffed with carrot, zucchini, and cauliflower. Add a margarita, which will likely come delivered by a waiter who’s balancing the pitcher on their head.


Puerto Madero is the perfect spot for a memorable sit-down dinner. Start with the fresh-baked bread with chimichurri, but don't take down the whole loaf—you'll want to save room for the melty eggplant lasagna, caesar salad, and a big plate of skirt steak or grilled octopus. Order a frozen mango margarita and keep an eye out for Pancho, the lagoon’s crocodile who often makes an appearance on their downstairs deck.


Marinero’s has a little something we like to call Big Pirate Boat Energy—there are anchor logos everywhere and an alarming amount of rope in the rowdy dining room. We’re confident Blackbeard would have greatly enjoyed the seafood-heavy menu and strawberry frozen margaritas (which, as you can probably guess, will also be brought to you via your waiter’s head). Marinero's is known for its marlin, and we like it in the burrito with fries or on toast with green salsa. 


You're in Cancun, and you need to have a mariachi experience. Porfirio's is the best place to do that. Go with a big group and order a spread of enchiladas verdes that come with cheese or chicken, flambé jumbo shrimp, grilled ribeye with mushrooms, and some lobster tacos.


Even if you tell yourself it’ll never happen to you, a sudden and intense craving for pasta might just hit while you’re in Mexico. When it does, get yourself to Nicoletta. Though there are a handful of Italian restaurants in Cancun, this one's the best. Go for a perfectly-leoparded margherita pizza, the spicy rigatoni, or the short rib served with zucchini spaghetti. The second floor is also a really nice place to sit and watch the sun set.


CASUAL HOTEL ZONE SPOTS


Los Chacalacos should be your go-to spot for a quick taco lunch, since they offer a ton of options and they’re all delicious. Get the bistec, chorizo, or vegetarian gringas, and pair them all with an ice-cold Corona. They have different locations around Cancun, but if you’re looking for lunch with a view, visit the one in the Hotel Zone. It’s not a bad place to hang out for a bit, but you can also take them back to your hotel room and eat them in bed while you watch a minimum of two House Hunters episodes.


Cancun Lighthouse is lying to us. Much to our disappointment, it looks nothing like an actual lighthouse, but that’s ok since it’s right on the lagoon where you can get juicy shrimp and refreshing drinks with a great view. It’s also right next to La Isla mall, so if you’re shopping for souvenirs, stop by and recharge with a frozen strawberry daiquiri and a shrimp burger or a vegetarian burrito and fries. Whatever you order, add a side of their excellent chipotle dressing—a luxury that you surely can’t get at most real lighthouses.


DOWNTOWN RESTAURANTS & BARS


You won’t find any better horchata in the city than the stuff at Flor de Lis. This place is ideal for a quiet breakfast or lunch: the service is consistently excellent, and the tacos de rajas poblanas, creamy swiss enchiladas, and green chilaquiles are always satisfying. Make sure to grab some cornbread or a vanilla concha on your way out.


La Casa de Los Abuelos means “the grandparent's house,” but this spot sort of feels a bit more like a Mexican diner with vintage photos and art on the walls. Head here before you hit the beach for a breakfast or lunch of flautas, sopes, and quesadillas. Get a gordita (or three), and explore the bakery menu of churros, cornbread, and tartlets.


The first thing you’ll see when you walk into Icaza is the beautiful big patio with a pool, and that’s exactly where you want to be. Swing by for a quick breakfast and order a mimosa and the green pozole or the enfrijoladas.


At some point in your trip, you’re going to desperately need something green. When that happens, grab a juice from La Organica. The juices and smoothies are the stars of the show, but La Organica also does a great vegan chickpea and carrot burger and plenty of other vegetable-heavy dishes. The airy dining room makes it a nice spot for an easy breakfast or a light lunch.


Somedays, you wake up and say, “I want a steak.” Others, it’s “I need a calzone.” But what about the days when it’s both? That’s when you go to Marakame. Their ribeye calzone has a crispy and light puff pastry that’s the perfect vehicle for the medium-rare cuts of beef, and they also have great margaritas, guacamole, and other types of pizza. We recommend reserving a table for dinner after 7pm when they usually have live music, but they also do an excellent buffet brunch with omelets and breakfast tacos.


Give yourself a moment of peace before the rest of your family flies in by having a lazy breakfast on the plant-filled patio at El Huerto del Eden. They even have their own waterfall that just might distract you from the fact that in a few hours, you'll have to see your cousin April who doesn't vote. We like it best earlier in the day when you can order Greek eggs or an almond muffin, but they also do a solid lunch, too.


We often daydream about opening up a place like Sirena Morena: a quiet cafe with a great patio and a small, curated goods store. Stop by for breakfast or lunch and order the chilaquiles or a vegan burger that’s so good it just might make you temporarily swear off beefy smash burgers. On your way out, swing by the shop for natural soaps, to-go juices, and healthy snacks you can take to the beach. This place works great for groups, as there’s plenty of room to spread out.


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