The Riviera Maya in Mexico is visited by over 25 M people a year. While many tourists stay in all-inclusive resorts an increasing number of visitors are staying in vacation rental accommodation. While vacation home renters will often prepare some of their own meals and food, who doesn’t like to eat out? This blog post shares 10 of the Best Mayan Riviera Restaurants near Akumal. As well, we reveal an intimate secret about each restaurant.
As an added benefit we are giving away a foodie 5 meal package worth $4000 Pesos (~$200 USD). Enter our draw to win 5 meals for 2, at 5 of the best restaurants in the Mayan Riviera. What better way to enjoy your vacation than finding those special moments to relish in the local fresh produce and ingredients at a great restaurant. After all who wants to eat the same buffet food at an all-inclusive every day!
So read on, find your favourites, and add them to your travel wish-list.
A local institution in the heart of Akumal is the Turtle Bay Café. Established in 1997 the Turtle Bay Café is owned by Bartley and Jennifer Smith. This Riviera Maya restaurant exudes a funky inspiring fun atmosphere. Located in a beautiful setting in the center of the small ‘village’ of Akumal. You can peruse the wares and crafts of local vendors and relax for a fabulous meal.
Open from 7 am to 10 pm serving lunch and dinner, the Turtle Bay Café’s specialty is breakfast. From Mexican to North American favourites this is the place for that special breakfast or brunch. All the food is freshly made (including tortillas and the ice cream) using the finest ingredients.
The laid back atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. A great place to hang out and relax over breakfast with the family or over a specialty coffee with friends. Also, the Turtle Bay Bakery produces its bread, sticky buns, scones, cinnamon rolls, and other great baked goods. As well as baked goods, the breakfast selection includes local favourites Chilliquilles, Huevos Rancheros and a Breakfast Burrito.
While there are great local Mexican favourites on the menu, the selection of North American style breakfasts is second to none. Besides the pancake stack and French toast, there are several varieties of eggs benedict, omelettes and even Mayan steak and eggs. Also, there are lighter and vegetarian breakfast options as well as kids' meals. My personal favourite though is the Turtle Bay Skillet. Consisting of house potatoes, poblano chilli, tomatoes, avocado, 2 eggs, herbed cream cheese and toast. It provides the perfect blend of fresh local ingredients in a North American style breakfast with a Mexican twist.
At the Turtle Bay Café bar, you’ll likely see a few bottles of Cueva Vodka. Jennifer and Bartley set out to make locally distilled artisanal vodka. The distillery is located in the jungle (across the highway from Ocean Breeze Akumal). As vodka aficionados will tell you the most important ingredient in making a great vodka is the quality of the water you use. At Akumal Distilling Company they use only the best freshwater from a cenote deep in the Mayan jungle.
Not content to stop at vodka (2 varieties produced currently) they now also produce 2 types of rum and are soon to begin gin production. What more encouragement do you need to visit one of the funkiest restaurants in Akumal?
Open: 7 AM – 10 PM
Serves: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Location: Akumal Bay. Go through the ‘arches’ into Akumal Bay. On the left is a pathway leading to restaurants, and local vendors selling wares and crafts. At the end of this walkway is the Turtle Bay Café.
Located in Half Moon Bay, North Akumal, La Buena Vida is a comfortable beachside Mayan Riviera restaurant and bar. You can choose to hang out in the rope swing bar seats or take a table overlooking the beach and the Caribbean ocean. Or, move upstairs into an enclosed palapa area to take an elevated view. After your afternoon lunch, or mid-day cocktail you can take a nap in one of several hammocks.
Yet, La Buena Vida isn’t just a beach bar, it also has an extensive menu. Open from 8 AM to 10 PM, it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The lunch and dinner menu features a wide variety of items. Firstly there's an extensive list of tacos, burritos and other Mexican menu items. Then you also have a choice of several burgers, sandwiches, pasta dishes, fish and seafood, chicken, meat, and pizza!
Someone is always present at this restaurant in Akumal – no matter what the time of day. At the back of the bar are two life-sized Day of the Dead skeletons. Seated at the bar, their backs to an altar of candles they keep watch over the restaurant, morning, noon and night.
Open: 8 AM – 10 PM
Serves: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Location: Half Moon Bay, North Akumal. Drive through the Akumal arch and continue on past all the parking. Drive for 1.3 km further until you get to some local artisan stores on the left and the right is La Buena Vida.
The best value pizza goes to one of the newest Mayan Riviera restaurants, Edgar’s Café in Sirenis. Edgar’s is a modest café that serves the most amazing pizza at very affordable prices. For as little as $115 pesos ($5) you can get a large pizza. The price, however, is not reflective of the fabulous quality of the pizza you are about to enjoy.
Trained in Italy and in Italian restaurants throughout Central America the owner and host is Edgar Yanez. Chef Edgar uses only traditional Italian recipes for the homemade sauce and dough. Combined with classic ingredients he produces a selection of 9 pizzas for you to enjoy. On the menu are also calzone and grilled sandwiches too.
However, it is the pizza that you want to sample. While they are all excellent, my personal favourite is the vegetarian. Fresh local produce, perfectly prepared.
Edgar’s café is a low-key modest place that excels in providing a comforting ambiance. Owner-operator Edgar is an engaging and customer-oriented host who knows each person by name. Freely chatting with you over a cappuccino or espresso.
While visiting Edgar’s in person is treat in itself, you can order over the phone as they deliver within the Sirenis Community.
The secrets behind the pizza lie in 3 things: the homemade dough, the sauce, and using classic fresh ingredients. Edgar uses only authentic recipes to prepare both the dough and sauce. The recipes hailing from the Reggio Emilia region in the north of Italy near Bologna. Where Edgar worked and trained as a chef.
Open: 10 AM – 10 PM, daily except Monday’s
Serves: Lunch & Dinner
Location: Enter the Sirenis Community and take a left around the island/roundabout. Follow the road and on the left, park near the Oxxo store. In Chac Mall, Edgar’s Café is on the side (towards the Grande Sirenis Resort tennis courts), round the corner from the Oxxo store.
The best beachside restaurant in Akumal Bay is the Lol-Ha Restaurant and Snack Bar. Established in the ’80s, and as the name suggests Lol-Ha consists of both a snack bar and a restaurant. Created in the late '80s, first was what is now the round palapa bar at the Lol-Ha Snack Bar. At that time the entire staff consisted of one bartender and a young man to help clean up. As time went by the bar grew in popularity and expanded to a snack bar with a larger palapa. More recently the property next door to the snack bar was developed into a restaurant as well.
On the beach at Akumal Bay, Lol-Ha has the best view of Akumal Bay, the beach and the activities along this spectacular Caribbean Bay. Choose between the more elegant Mayan Riviera restaurant or the beach vibe at the snack bar. Either way, the food is great. Enjoying lunch at the beachside palapa bar, you come as you are – bathing suit and all, to dine with your toes in the sand.
Are you a seafood lover with kids? No problem the snack bar caters to both. As well you can enjoy a wide selection of cocktails and beer while you mingle at the bar. It's a great opportunity to meet other visitors. Or get a quiet table for two.
The menu includes authentic local dishes, prepared by hand by Mayan cooks. As well, there are Mexican favourites, fish and seafood dishes, and possibly the best burgers in Akumal. The house specialty, the Lol-Ha Burger, stuffed with Poblano peppers and cheese, topped with avocado and bacon. Hmmm…….
Besides the elegant dining at Lol-Ha Restaurant, there are several tasting events held throughout the year. These include tequila, mezcal, and wine tastings. The tastings offer a sampling flight, paired with great food. And they come with knowledgeable information from local aficionados. A great way to spend a fun evening dinner with friends, learning a little about your favourite drinks.
In 1958, Pablo Bush Romero founded the town of Akumal. A Mexican businessman, he was an avid scuba diver. As well as a writer, photographer, explorer, historian and archeologist. He established Akumal as a community for scuba divers. Because of the unique bay, its double-barrier coral reef, and abundant marine life.
Pablo Bush Romero established a 60-room hotel complex in the bay. It was the first hotel in Akumal, and the first 40 rooms were bungalow style, with thatched roofs, and ceiling fans. There was a small round palapa bar on the beach, and a thatched roof restaurant facing the beautiful main bay of Akumal.
Laura Bush Wolfe returned to her home in 1984 to help in running the hotel her father established. She also helped create the first Lol-Ha bar and snack bar. Later expanding the snack bar and creating the restaurant next to it.
Open: 7 AM – 10 PM High Season, 11:30 AM – 9 PM Low Season
Serves: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Location: Akumal Bay. Go through the ‘arches’ into Akumal Bay. Enter through the Hotel Akumal Caribe entrance. Or if driving take an immediate right past the Oxxo. The attendant will direct you to a free parking spot at the restaurant around the back.
In 1997 Carlos Danu founded another great restaurant in Akumal, La Cueva Del Pescador. Created as a ‘cave’ the restaurant is set in a tropical setting with a definite marine theme. Nets, buoys, spotlights, fishing rods, and even a small boat decorate the restaurant. The restaurant has a nautical theme and a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, with attentive service.
While La Cueva Del Pescador has a full and varied menu, its specialty is, as you might expect from the name, fish. Yet, not only do they serve fish, but they can take you out fishing to catch your dinner. Then you return as they prepare it for your meal. The walls of the restaurant have many pictures of customers, with their catch and then their prepared meal.
Fishing off the coast in the Caribbean gives you the chance to catch many types of fish. Including dorado, bonito, tuna, mackerel, and wahoo. Sometimes even blue and white marlin, and sailfish if you are lucky. The chef prepares the fish in a variety of ways. Such as grilled in garlic butter and breaded. Or prepared in a mushroom cream sauce, Veracruz style. Other options include stuffed with seafood, or even as ceviche!
As well as preparing your catch La Cueva Del Pescador offers a wide range of other menu items. These include seafood, salads, sandwiches and tacos for lunch. For dinner, selections also include brochetas, lobster, octopus, squid, steak and chicken dishes.
In October 1995 a rare and erratic tropical cyclone hit the Gulf of Mexico and the Riviera Maya. Hurricane Roxanne dropped heavy rainfall in many areas of Mexico. Some areas reported over 25 inches (640 mm) of precipitation. The heavy rainfall led to extensive flooding. And destroyed crops, washed-out roads, and damaged at least 40,000 homes in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Significant coastal flooding also occurred, as the storm surges lasted for a week. It also caused water to travel inland for hundreds of yards. Hurricane Roxanne resulted in $1.5 billion US of damage. In Akumal, this led to many palm trees downed. At the time, planning for the Riviera Maya restaurant, La Cueva Del Pescador, was underway. Rather than waste the wood, local craftsmen made the tables, chairs and other furniture for the restaurant. Many of the marine items adorning the walls of the restaurant came from the debris of the hurricane. So, when you visit La Cueva Del Pescador pay special attention to the wooden chair that you are sitting on and where it came from!
Open: Noon – 9 PM
Serves: Lunch & Dinner
Location: Akumal Bay. Go through the ‘arches’ into Akumal Bay. On the left is a pathway leading to restaurants, and local vendors selling wares and crafts. La Cueva Del Pescador is the first restaurant you will come to under the palms trees.
The Jungle Fish restaurant located at Jade Bay, South Akumal is in the Tao Residential area. Jungle Fish is open from 11 am to 6 pm daily. As well as the restaurant you also have access to the beach club facilities. These include the pool, shower facilities, sunbeds, and hammocks. And you are a few steps away from the beautiful Caribbean ocean of Jade Bay.
Jungle Fish’s specialties are its seafood and fresh fish, including lobster. The Tacos de Camarones are excellent and one of my favourites. The service is first-rate as well. Definitely worth stopping here for a relaxing few hours over lunchtime.
The service at the Jungle Fish restaurant makes you feel like you’re a welcome family member. In part that’s because the restaurant is a family affair run by 4 brothers!
Chamicos is halfway between Akumal and Tulum. After taking the exit off the highway you drive for another 15 minutes or so along a bumpy winding road, past several villas. At the end of the road lies Chamicos.
Chamicos is a hidden away beach club located on Soliman Bay, Riviera Maya. No hustle and bustle here. Just a white sand beach, turquoise Caribbean water, and Chamicos. Nestled among the palm trees are tables and chairs mixed with hammocks between the trees. This is the stuff of desert island paradises, but with great local fare and beverages. A great place to hang out if you want to get away from the crowded beaches full of tourists. Chamicos is a place where a few locals hang out with a few visitors and its great for families too.
As well as swaying in the hammocks, you can swim and snorkel in the calm, protected bay, or kayak around instead. As for the menu the ceviche, tacos and fresh fish are all great and all very reasonably priced.
What happens if you end up having too much cerveza to drive back? Or you don’t fancy the long walk back to the highway to take a Collectivo? Well, you’re in luck. Chamicos has several tents on the beach tucked away under the palm trees which you could rent for the night. An evening looking up at the stars and the ocean lit up by moonlight. It could be a perfect end to a perfect day.
Open: 10 AM – 6 PM
Location: Driving south from Akumal, about 15 mins along the highway you’ll see a retourno to Hotel Jashita. Head down the rock/gravel (un-named) road off the highway. Continue past the hotel for about another 3km. You’ll drive past several villas along the way but if you drive far enough, in the end, you’ll come to Chamicos.
La Taverna, in the heart of Akumal, is a fabulous place to linger over dinner. While a great venue for families, it's also great for groups. And it has enough space to find you a secluded table for a romantic dinner as well. After years of family vacations to Akumal, the Lombardi Family opened Taverna Akumal in 2015. One of the 18 restaurants owned by the Lombardi's, mostly located in the United States. They continued their tradition here. Providing people with a warm and inviting neighbourhood restaurant.
In Italy, a taverna is a special place where patrons become friends and family. In Akumal, it is no different. La Taverna’s Mayan Riviera restaurant sits upstairs in a large open-air palapa. A comforting, friendly atmosphere to enjoy the superb authentic Italian cooking.
While authentic Italian food inspires the menu, there are also creative fusion dishes. These are where Italy meets Mexico or North America to create a fabulous new recipe. An example are the avocado fries! Battered, deep-fried avocado’s with a tangy dipping sauce is a must to try as an appetizer. And a unique take fusing Italian and North American tastes.
The rest of the menu also consists of marvellous risottos and pasta. One of the most popular pasta dishes is Tagliolini Gamberi E Zucchini. Consisting of homemade Tagliolini pasta tossed with shrimp and Italian zucchini in a butter white wine sauce. Also on the menu are homemade pizzas, fish, seafood, chicken, and meat. All using only the freshest seasonal ingredients prepared using traditional methods.
At La Taverna, the ambience is friendly and welcoming, and the food is fantastic. But remember, in peak season you’ll need to reserve ahead.
One of the most popular dishes at La Taverna and my personal favourite is the Risotto Ai Frutti Di Mare. A risotto made with saffron butter, parmesan, with clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp. But what’s La Taverna’s secret for making such a fabulous risotto? Well according to their head chef, Leo, the secret of a great risotto is the Mantecatura. This is the stage when the rice is almost done cooking, having absorbed the majority of the stock. Now is the time to turn off the heat. Then add the final ingredients, butter, Parmigiano cheese, parsley. And stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. This renders the risotto creamy and smooth. Finally, before serving the risotto, let it rest for a minute or so before serving.
Try it, and then go to La Taverna to compare your risotto with theirs!
Open: 4 PM – 10 PM
Price: $$ - $$$
Location: Go through the ‘arches’ into Akumal Bay. On the left is a pathway leading to restaurants, and local vendors selling wares and crafts. La Taverna is on the left.
A little tired of the regular tourist haunts? Looking for a more local, low-key authentic experience? Then Tequilaville is the place and the best local pueblo bar and restaurant in the Mayan Riviera. Across the highway, over the bridge from the beach, you will find Akumal Pueblo. Driving or walking up the small hill after the highway is a small innocuous bar and restaurant. This is Tequilaville.
Frequented by local Mexicans and ex-pat residents, but rarely by visiting tourists. They're usually across the highway at the beach restaurants. Tequilaville has a low-key homely atmosphere, excellent Mexican food and very affordable prices. Try the empanadas’ – you have a choice of chicken, meat or seafood. All are fantastic.
Each year staff at Tequilaville collect Christmas toys and money, to donate at their annual Children's Christmas Party. The gifts are given at the restaurant on Christmas Eve to local children who are in need. Each year they collect and give out nearly 600 gifts to children to help them enjoy the holiday season.
Open: Noon – 9 pm Tuesdays - Sundays
Serves: Lunch, Dinner
Location: Instead of turning towards the coast to go to Akumal beach, head the other side of the highway towards Akumal Pueblo. Tequilaville is on the right-hand side.
From the outside, La Lunita looks a surprising location for one of the best restaurants in the Yucatan Peninsula. However, don’t let the undistinguished façade put you off. While located on the 1st floor of La Tortuga Condo Building, La Lunita is the best Mayan Riviera restaurant for a romantic dinner. It has a spectacular view of the Caribbean ocean, on the edge of the white sand beach. And it has some of the best food you will find anywhere.
Established in 1993 by Annette Bartsch, La Lunita is in Half Moon Bay, north of Akumal Bay. As the name suggests there is no better restaurant to have a fabulous meal on the beach. Imagine dining next to the ocean, listening to the waves, under a moonlight sky.
La Lunita serves Mexican contemporary cuisine with seafood their specialty. Respecting traditional cooking techniques they serve food with a contemporary, modern twist. Fabulous menu items include a wonderful selection of ceviche, lobster, and lots of fish and seafood. La Lunita served me the best-seared tuna I’ve had and the octopus is also incredible.
If you are in the Akumal area in lobster season (August to March) you might want to head to La Lunita for ‘Lobster Friday’. Little known beyond the locals, La Lunita features a weekly lobster menu (in season). The menu includes fresh lobster tail, tequila and lobster spaghetti, and a nigiri sushi plate with Tulum lobster. As well as fresh whole lobster.
Open: 1:30 PM – 11 PM
Serves: Lunch & Dinner
Location: Half Moon Bay, North Akumal. Drive through the Akumal arch and continue on past all the parking. Take a left and drive for a couple more minutes past La Buena Vida. Drive until you reach a sign for La Tortuga Condo Building on the right. La Lunita is here, enter through the front of the apartment building and take a right.
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As a visitor, you have a lot of great Mayan Riviera restaurant choices. You could start with a great breakfast at the Turtle Bay Café. Then after a day on the beach, you can relax beachside at Lol-Ha Restaurant and Snack Bar. Or go to La Cueva Del Pescador for a fabulous selection of fresh fish. For dinner, you have lots of choices but none better than La Taverna for the best Italian food in the Mayan Riviera.
Are you inspired yet to explore and enjoy these fabulous restaurants? We hope so. If so, perhaps you can find additional secrets for each restaurant? Let us know and we can consider those for a revised edition! We’d love to hear about them, and about other favourite restaurants, you might discover while exploring.
All the restaurants covered in this article are within 25 minutes of Ocean Breeze Akumal in the heart of the Mayan Riviera. Most are within 10 minutes or less. A map of the locations of the restaurants is here.
About Our Blog
Exploring The Riviera Maya is Ocean Breeze Akumal's Blog. Here we explore the diversity of Mexico's best tourism destination to highlight the best beaches, cenotes, restaurants, attractions, Mayan ruins, etc., etc. We provide information to help you explore this spectacular part of the world and give you tips and tricks that only the locals know. Helping to give you the vacation experience of a lifetime.
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