Last updated: February 2022
Even at their most basic, dining options along Mexico’s glistening Caribbean coastline are arguably above par: breakfast with an oceanfront view, freshly caught onboard lunch and candle-lit, beachfront dinners to name a few. But a rising crop of unique dining experiences are raising the bar even higher (some, literally!) from Cancun all the way through Tulum.
Here, we’ve compiled the top 10 best and most unique dining experiences you can have right now in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, from subterranean cave dining to cocktails in the sky to sunset dinner in the treetops – or even a Spanish galleon.
Buen provecho and salud!
Editor’s Note: Travel is complicated right now. While there are many factors that will result in your decision of whether or not to travel, this decision is ultimately your responsibility. Travel rules, restrictions and entry/exit requirements, as well as Covid policies, are subject to change frequently. Please check with both your home country’s official advisories as well as those of Mexico prior to traveling for up-to-date information.
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BUT FIRST – TRAVEL INSURANCE
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Sunset Dinner in the Treetops
Mexico’s Riviera Maya is just as synonymous with it’s sparkling coastline as it is with it’s mystifying jungle skyline. And in Tulum, you can experience this skyline in a uniquely immersive way: dining in the treetops in a private nest. In the Hotel Zone at Kin Toh by Azulik, avant garde Mayan-Mexican cuisine is offered in surreal nests accommodating couples to small groups. Nearby, Kanan‘s romantic, candle-lit nests are paired with elevated international fare. Both offer 360-degree views of the surrounding jungle and endless Caribbean sea.
Head a few kilometers inland and you’ll find Orchid House tucked into the upscale jungle neighborhood of Aldea Zama. Here, this hidden gem offers nest dining for breakfast, lunch or romantic sunset dinner – featuring a chef’s tasting menu accommodating meat to plant-based palates – all with panoramic, treetop views.
An Organic Farm-to-Table Experience in the Middle of the Jungle
Take a unique culinary journey at Koox Ich Kool: an organic Mayan farm located along the Ruta de los Cenotes offering an authentic farm-to-table dining experience. A gastronomic tour starts with the farm, gardens and surrounding jungle, where you’ll learn how a range of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown and harvested. You’ll also see and learn about the traditional Mayan pib oven, a fascinating underground cooking technique stretching back centuries. Next you can take a refreshing dip in the farm’s beautiful, and unique, swimming pool – it’s fed by fresh cenote water. During this time you can also enjoy poolside craft cocktails utilizing the farm’s own organic ingredients. All the while, Chef Karla Romo will be busy preparing a 6-course Mayan dinner from Koox Ich Kool’s own wealth of ingredients, in addition to organic meats from neighboring farms or a fresh catch of the day from the coast. Pairings of Mexican wines, artisanal beer and/or mezcal all complement the meal.
The gastronomic experience lasts around 6 hours and runs $130.00 USD per person. Fun Fact: “Koox Ich Cool” means let’s go to the garden.
Xcaret Mexico Espectacular Dinner Show
This one comes with a catch. You’ll have to purchase a ticket to Xcaret Park first: the award winning, eco-archaeological theme park immersing visitors in Mexico’s biodiversity and cultural heritage. Doesn’t sound so bad though, does it? Included in all park tickets is access to the nighttime Xcaret Espectacular Show (but not dinner itself, more on this below!) where 300+ on-stage performers take you on a whirlwind journey through the storied history of Mexico.
You have a few options when it comes to tickets to the park. Four to be exact, ranging from $44.99 (kids 5-11) and $89.99 (adults 12+) for Xcaret at Night to $123.00 (kids 5-11) and $191.00 (adults 12+) for Xcaret Total Admission. In all ticket tiers, children 4 years & under enter free.
Here’s what’s important to know – while access to the show is include in all park tickets, access to dinner during the show is not. No matter which ticket you purchase you will have to add dinner separately, which can only be done in-person upon arrival to the park. The cost is +$65.00 USD per person, and includes: a seven-course gourmet dinner, glass of sparkling wine, two glasses of red or white wine and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages during the show.
8-Course Tasting Menu with a Renowned Chef
In Tulum’s Hotel Zone, Chef Eleazar Bonilla of La Zebra not only churns out creative Mexican cuisine for the boutique property’s popular restaurant, but also for small groups up to 8 in the exclusive Chef’s Table dining room. The culinary event offers an 8-course tasting menu taking diners on a palate-pleasing journey throughout Bonilla’s native Mexico, all paired with signature cocktails, Mexican wine and/or local artisanal beer. The intimate, candle-lit space happens to open up to the kitchen, allowing guests to watch Bonilla in action.
There are two ways to reserve a seat at La Zebra’s Chef’s Table. Either via the open table offered Tuesdays and Fridays at $195.00 USD per person, or via a private table experience priced at $230.00 USD per person (2 guests) or $195.00 USD per person (6-8 guests). All bookings must be made in advance which you can do here.
Fine-Dining in an Underground Cave
Taking fine-dining to a lower level in an exceptional way, Playa Del Carmen’s Alux Restaurant serves up contemporary Mexican cuisine in an unforgettable setting: a magnificent underground cave filled with icicle-shaped stalagmites and stalactites, enchanting lighting and luxurious decor including hanging chandeliers. Pronounced “A-loosh,” the cavernous dining destination pays homage to the Mayan legend of the alux: mischievous, elf-like creatures who inhabit such underground spaces as caves and cenotes, appearing only at night to engage in mischief and mayhem.
Pre or post-dinner you can wander the magical, winding cavern at your leisure, where you may or may not spot an alux yourself. Reservations required, and you can specify if you’d like the main dining room or a private, romantic table deeper inside the cavern.
Traditional Mayan Cuisine in an Otherworldly Cenote
Taking cave dining one step further, head inland towards Valladolid and hidden in the jungle is the subterranean, otherworldly experience of Cenote Zazil Tunich. What is a cenote, you might ask? Pronounced “seh-notay,” these are naturally formed swimming holes you can find, and enjoy, all across Mexico’s sprawling Yucatán peninsula. These incredible sites are formed over hundreds of thousands of years by the gradual erosion, and eventual collapse, of limestone bedrock. There are literally thousands in the region and no two are exactly alike. Some cenotes are completely subterranean and enclosed, some completely open to the sky and some a mix of both. Held sacred by the ancient Mayans, these beautiful sites were thought to be portals to the underworld.
At Cenote Zazil Tunich, you can embark on a guided experience where you’ll learn fascinating information about the Mayan underworld, experience an authentic Mayan blessing ceremony, swim in one of the most awe-inspiring cenotes we’ve seen and enjoy a 3-course, traditional Mayan meal offered inside the cavernous cenote itself. From $2000 pesos (approx $100 USD) per couple to dine in the cenote, or $500 pesos (approx $25 USD) per person to dine above ground around a fire pit. Reservations are required and be sure to specify if you’d like the experience in English or Spanish.
Sunset Dinner on a Spanish Galleon
How about taking your sunset dinner out to the open sea – on a romantic Spanish Galleon? In Cancun, this dinner cruise offers just that. Enjoy a 3-course gourmet meal (your choice of Rib Eye, Lobster, Surf n’ Turf or Vegetarian) and an open bar while sailing around the shimmering Nichupté Lagoon. While soaking in the breathtaking sunset views, you’ll be further serenaded by the wafting sounds of live saxophone music. Pricing starts at $89.00 USD per person for the approximate 2 1/2 hour cruise. Reserve your spot on the Spanish Galleon Columbus here.
Sunset Dinner on a Private Yacht
Prefer to stretch your sea legs VIP-style? Exclusive use awaits aboard Riviera Maya Catamarans, offering fully private sunset dinner charters for you, your significant other or your group. The 3-hour charter sets sail out of Puerto Aventuras in the late afternoon, including premium open bar and a freshly prepared, jumbo shrimp and steak (or vegetarian) meal. Before dinner is served? You can even jump in the sparkling water and swim, snorkel or paddleboard. Pricing starts at $650.00 USD for 2 people up to $1800.00 USD for 8 people.
An Authentic Mexican Cooking Class
Take your culinary experience to the next level by preparing it too! At Rivera’s Kitchen Tulum, authentic, generational recipes are pulled from Chef and Mexico native Lily Espinosa Rivera’s own family cookbook. You’ll prepare dishes in the intimate setting of a Mexican-style home, first with an introduction to Mexico’s rich food culture and history. Learning how to make tortillas from scratch and using traditional utensils like the metate and molcajete are just part of the gastronomical experience, further complimented with freshly made agua de jamaica (hibiscus water), local craft beer and a guided mezcal tasting. The 3-hour experience runs $78.00 USD per person which you can reserve here.
Enchanting Thai Vibes on a Lagoon
While you’ll find a sprinkling of Thai restaurants throughout the Riviera Maya, the one that will truly transport you to beautiful Southeast Asia is Cancun’s aptly named, Thai. Wander through the restaurant’s enchanting, outdoor grounds, complete with wooden walkways lined with swaying palms and glimmering lanterns, all before emerging to your lagoon-front table. For the most magical experience, time your reservation with sunset and request one of the private, over-water palapas (some equipped with daybeds). Lay back, relax and soak in the views as the sun slowly sets over the shimmering Nichupté lagoon – all while sipping your lychee craft cocktail and enjoying authentic Thai cuisine just as magnificent as the view.
BONUS: Pre-Dinner Drinks with a Sky High View
Even though dining itself isn’t offered at Tulum Tower, this soaring experience does offer margaritas and piña coladas – and that’s worthy enough to land on our list. After rising 36 meters / 118 feet into the sky with up to 15 other adventurous passengers, you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of lush jungle, sparkling ocean and even Tulum’s cliffside Mayan archaeological site as the Aerobar slowly rotates. All while sipping a cocktail(s) of your choice, of course. The approx 30 minute experience is offered from 11am – 6pm daily, starting at $1,085.00 pesos (approx $53.00 USD) per person. You can reserve your spot directly with Tulum Tower or through Airbnb.
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