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From traditional Mexican food to notorious nightclubs: 14 best places to eat and drink in Cancun

May 31, 2021
12 min read
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Cancun is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico — and for good reason. The city has white-sand beaches, sparkling blue waters and plenty of places where you can stay on points.

The hotel zone in Cancun is known for its nightlife, and the resorts that line the beaches offer their own restaurants and bars, making it easy to never leave the property. But there's far more to Cancun than just what you'll find at your hotel or resort. No matter what kind of experience you want — from classic Mexican staple foods to international cuisines — Cancun is sure to have a slice of what you're looking for.

Related: Tulum and Cancun could go into ‘imminent’ lockdown — even as travelers are flocking there

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Yes, there are plenty of American chains scattered throughout the city, and you can find good food at pretty much any resort you stay at. But what's the fun in that? Here are some of the best places to check out if you do decide to explore away from your resort.

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Best restaurants in Cancun

Cancun may be known for its nightlife scene, but there are also some excellent restaurants you should hit up while you're in town. The city has something for everyone, so we pulled together a list of some of the top places to eat based on what you're looking for.

If you want a seaside dinner: Lorenzillo's

Lorenzillo. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

As someone raised in a landlocked state in the U.S. where "catch of the day" means lake crappie, I always go out of my way to check out as many seafood places as I can when I'm visiting a coastal destination. If you're a fan of lobster, you should make it a point to try out Lorenzillo's. It's one of the best places down the coast in the Riviera Maya to get lobster, and it's also been a Cancun mainstay for more than 30 years.

Lorenzillo's has a proprietary lobster farm, and you can get the crustacean served pretty much any way you can think of. You can also expect to splurge a little on a meal at Lorenzillo's — but if the reviews are anything to go by, it's definitely worth it.

If you want cheap eats and good drinks: The Surfin Burrito

The Surfin Burrito. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Of course, sometimes you are more in the mood for quick eats and strong drinks. And if that's the case, you should try The Surfin' Burrito. This small spot was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and is open 24 hours a day — making it the perfect spot to hit up after you've wrapped up a night out and want some food and one last drink before heading back to your resort.

It's not authentic Mexican food — you'll find mostly Cali-style favorites like fish tacos and build-your-own burritos — but the atmosphere is relaxed and the drinks are strong. Seating is limited and your order can take a while to get to your table, but you can also get all food and drinks to-go or delivered.

If you want brunch: Marakamé Café

The Marakamé Café. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

After you've spent a Saturday night on the town in Cancun, you'll likely sleep in past breakfast the following morning. And that's when Sunday brunch at Marakamé Café is a godsend.

This spot in downtown Cancun has a relaxed vibe with outdoor tables surrounded by greenery. The brunch menu is filled with classic Mexican dishes such as barbacoa, quesadillas and pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread). Between the fresh air, excellent food and nearby live music, it's a great place to chill after an exciting night out.

If you want Italian food: La Troje

La Troje. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Cancun isn't only known for seafood and Mexican cuisine. La Troje is a Mediterranean eatery that serves everything from pizza to pasta to crepes and even fondues. This is more of a locals spot than a tourist haven, but the family-owned and operated restaurant has excellent food.

It's located near Plaza Las Americas in downtown Cancun, so it's a great place to stop for dinner after shopping.

If you want a true tourist experience: Porfirio's

Porfirio's. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Sometimes more touristy spots get a bad rap from frequent travelers in favor of more authentic experiences and local fare. But sometimes, leaning into some of the more cheesy tourist spots leads to incredible memories.

If you do want to check out a tourist staple in Cancun, check out Porfirio's. The restaurant services Mexican staples such as elote (street-style grilled corn) and tamales, but you can also order more adventurous fare such as chapulines (fried grasshoppers). Dinner is accompanied by mariachi performers that dance between the tables.

This is also a great spot for families with kids because the restaurant offers kid-sized portions and has a play section especially for children, Porfirio’s Club de Niños.

If you want authentic local fare: El Galeón del Caribe

El Galeón del Caribe. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Amidst the sea of places like Señor Frog's and Coco Bongos in Cancun's hotel zone, you'll find El Galeón del Caribe — a local-style restaurant that offers a more authentic experience. The fish tacos are the most popular thing on the menu (though you'll want to order three or four per person), and you can expect friendly and casual service.

The restaurant is open from noon to around seven-ish each night, and it accepts cash only.

If you want a fun-filled night with the kids: try a pirate cruise

The Captain Hook. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

How often do you get the opportunity to eat dinner on a pirate ship? If you have kids, you might want to check out one of the evening pirate cruises offered by multiple places in Cancun, such as Jolly Roger or Captain Hook.

Dinner tours typically include live music, pirate performances, fireworks, dinner and drinks. You will have to purchase tickets in advance because capacity is limited, but it could be a great experience for you and your kids — especially if any of them love pirates.

If you want to try out underrated eats: hostel restaurants

(Photo courtesy of Natura Restaurante)

While you're in Cancun, don't be afraid to stop at one of the hostels dotted along the main hotel zone for lunch and a drink. My friend and I explored one afternoon and stopped at a hostel restaurant called Natura Restaurante on our way back to the resort, and it was easily one of the best meals we had while in Mexico (plus, it was cheap) and it was a nice escape from the afternoon sun on our walk.

If you're a solo traveler or in a small group of friends, a rooftop hostel bar or the patio dining at the place we stopped could be the perfect way to spend the afternoon or evening meeting fellow travelers.

Best bars in Cancun

Cancun is famous for its nightlife scene. Where you're in the hotel zone or in downtown, you can find a different bar or nightclub on just about every corner.

Unfortunately, a lot of local places had to permanently close because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still plenty of places to grab drinks. Here are a few of the top spots, no matter what kind of vibe you're after — from popular nightclubs to more relaxed cocktail bars.

If you want a lively nightclub: Coco Bongo

The Coco Bongo. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Coco Bongo is a notorious nightclub in the heart of the hotel zone. Tickets are expensive but come with unlimited domestic drinks from 10:30 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. The club is easily the most popular in Cancun, so when travel is back in full swing, expect long lines and nights filled with partiers.

This is a far cry from a relaxed bar setting where you go to have a drink or two with friends. Coco Bongo is more like a nightly festival rather than your typical bar or nightclub experience. But if you're looking to spend a night watching wild performances (think: acrobats swinging from trapezes), listening to celebrity musician impersonators, participating in congo lines and dancing to the DJ as balloons, confetti and soap bubbles fall from above? You've found your spot.

If you want to sample local brews: Puerto Júarez Brewery

Puerto Juarez Brewery. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Nightclubs can be fun, but sometimes you're in the mood for a cold beer and a more relaxed vibe. If you're interested in trying out local beers, you should hit up Puerto Júarez Brewery. It's located in the small town of Puerto Júarez, just outside of Cancun. The town itself is a fishing area with ferries that will take you to the nearby Isla Mujeres (a popular place to take a day trip from Cancun), making it the perfect stop after a day spent at once of the beaches on the island.

Every beer variety is handcrafted in small batches, and the brewery itself has a great open-air space to pop open a bottle and relax with friends. But keep in mind that the brewery is currently only open Thursday to Saturday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

If you want to try a local favorite: Las de Guanatos Toros

Las de Guanatos Toros. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

This bar has multiple locations in downtown Cancun, but the most popular is in Plaza Toros, near the bullring. You can listen (or salsa dance) to live music on the weekends out on the terrace, or you can stop by for a beer while you watch major soccer matches on one of their TV screens.

You might be there for the drinks and sports bar atmosphere, but make sure to try one of the Guadalajara-style tortas ahogadas — a shredded pork sandwich topped with onions and smothered in sauces. Then wash it down with a michelada — a one-liter drink that marries a bloody mary with Mexican beer.

If you want to go dancing: Grand Mambo Café

The Grand Mambo Cafe. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Break out your dancing shoes for this one. Grand Mambo Café is a must-visit for anyone in the mood for dancing salsa, sumbia or bachata — and it's one of the only spots in Cancun where you can find live salsa music. It's more about the atmosphere than the drinks here, and it's less expensive than many of the nightclubs in Cancun's hotel zone.

But keep in mind that live music won't start until at least 11 p.m. If you enjoy being in bed by midnight, this probably isn't the spot for you.

If you want drinks after dinner: La Playita Restaurante

La Playita Restaurante. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

La Playita is more a restaurant than a bar, but it's a great place to do a night out with dinner and drinks if you don't feel like hopping from place to place. It's been around for more than 13 years and is known for its seafood and drinks. On Saturdays, you can also enjoy live music while you hang out with family or friends.

The prices here are moderate, so it won't cost you an arm and a leg to spend an evening eating and drinking.

If you want tropical cocktails: Amarula con Acento Tropical

The Amarula con Acento Tropical. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Amarula con Acento Tropical has more of an eclectic vibe — the entrance is only identified by a doorway and a neon sign, and the bar itself feels like an old Cancun house rather than a hip bar. But the drinks are great with signature cocktails that all have a topical twist. Many of the drinks are made with unique Mexican ingredients such as hibiscus, chili peppers and regional fruits.

Live music lineups on the weekends regularly feature great DJs that play interesting mixes. It's definitely not the typical Cancun vibe, but if you want a different kind of night out, you should definitely check out this sultry bar and its phenomenal cocktails.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.