Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula boasts dense jungles dotted with Mayan ruins and a charming Caribbean coastline. At the center of the action is Tulum, a once sleepy seaside town transformed over the past decade into an endlessly Instagrammed international destination for Coachella chillers and Brooklyn boho types. There’s a lot to do: yoga retreats, epic ziplines, cenotes to swim and dive in, and adventuring throughout the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. No matter how visitors choose to fill their days, they’re bound to develop an appetite. Luckily for them, Tulum has one of the richest restaurant scenes in the country. Here are the seven spots diners absolutely need to hit when they visit.
Mexican-American chef Jose Luis Hinostroza worked at a pair of three-Michelin-star restaurants, Alinea and El Celler de Can Roca, before his position as Noma’s chef de partie brought him to the Yucatan Peninsula in 2016 to help execute the award-winning restaurant’s pop-up. He fell in love with the region and chose to stay, taking over the kitchen of this wildly chic modern Mexican restaurant. Set in the jungle with green fronds arching over the partially al fresco dining room, clouds of mosquito-deterring copal resin mingle with the smoke from the wood fired grills in the open kitchen. Hinostroza utilizes his fine dining training and Redzepi’s passion for transformational techniques to put out dreamy dishes showcasing regional products and Mayan inspirations. Think a cracker of dehydrated scallops fried like a chicharron topped with fresh scallops; slow braised wild venison served on a charcoal grill with all the fixin’s to make your own tacos; and tempura battered soft shell crabs served in a “tortilla” made from a jungle leaf. A truly unforgettable experience.
Make a reservation at ARCA.
After meeting while working together in Mexico City and deciding to start this new venture in Tulum, the seven-member kitchen crew lead by chef Cesar Castañeda realized they were more of a brotherhood than a simple collection of cooks. So they got a heptagon tattoo symbolizing their deep bond. With a white pebbled floor that contrasts organically with the verdant jungle overhead and the rich brown woods of the bar and ceiling, the restaurant feels like it’s a part of the environment. Castañeda’s cuisine puts forward thinking spins on traditional preparations. A prime example is his pork stuffed chile tacos, which couldn’t be further from the usual carnitas or al pastor. Instead, ground and spiced pork belly is shoehorned into local xcatic chiles, a favorite on the Yucatan Peninsula. The (of course) handmade tortilla is filled out with organic tomato puree, aioli, and coriander.
Make a reservation at NÜ.
There are fewer restaurants more awe-inspiring than this one. Perched in the upper reaches of a hotel-wellness-center-museum handcrafted with local woods, the stunning structure rises out of the jungle like a psychedelic Ewok village. The best seats in the house are the open-air bird nests hovering over the jungle that give guests unfettered views of the radiant sunsets and the sweeping celestial vistas above. What’s happening on the plate is just as entrancing. A blend of Mayan and Mexican traditions melded to craft innovative cuisine that catches the eye and excites the palate. The best way to experience the visionary restaurant is to indulge in the eight-course tasting menu customized by the chef to highlight his favorite dishes of the moment.
Make a reservation at Kin Toh.
When you see the brilliantly azure doors, you know you’ve arrived. Nestled in downtown Tulum, this gem offers a sprawling taste of Turkey, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. Settle down at one of the long tables standing on pebbled ground surrounded by weathered gray stone walls. Begin by ordering for the table a colorful mezze platter featuring an array of small bites, such as hummus, falafel, tahini bean salad, and beetroot carpaccio. Mains are designed to be savored by the individual, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share. Travelers who follow vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets will be more than happy with a wide range of options.
Make a reservation at PASHA.
The oceanfront stunner offers thrills while you chill. As you look out over the rich blue of the Caribbean, consider the Medi-inspired menu. Eat light by ordering one of the salads, the simply grilled seafood, or a few small plates. Or allow yourself to indulge with one of the juicy burgers (the New Zealand lamb burger with mint yogurt is a standout), a Kobe steak, or a generous portion of pasta. To complement your meal, help you relax, and get you in a celebratory mood, there is a strong selection of Champagnes and shishas.
Make a reservation at Taboo.
Chef Mauricio Giovanini takes a worldly approach to his tapas inspired blockbuster. Begin with a selection of los chipá, cassava flour breads served with various dips, including one with cured sardines and olive tapenade, and another made with spiced coconut cream and mixed greens. Small plates take inspiration from the fields, pastures, and the sea, ranging from fire roasted onions with a bonito-grapefruit ponzu and beetroot tartare to grilled octopus and chicken thigh in lentil cream. Desserts show flair and innovation, especially plantain sour cream with sugar-coated corn and cajeta (goat’s milk caramel sauce).
Make a reservation at Ocumare.
Come hungry for decadent Latin American inspired surf ‘n’ turf. There’s an impressive selection of Wagyu and Kobe beef and stellar seafood options – including super colossal (yes, that’s official size category) Mexican octopus, Nigerian tiger shrimp, and Alaskan king crab. In the mood for something more casual? There’s a good selection of tacos packed with primo ingredients, like lobster, duck, and beef ribs. Save room for the over-the-top desserts, such as the showstopping chocolate sphere that is melted tableside with hot chocolate sauce to reveal a sweet surprise.
Make a reservation at Rosa Negra.