A good friend of ours did a fast, last minute trip down to the Riviera Maya. Traveling during the holidays seemed to be a challenge, condos were fully booked, small hotels were full, and a large villa for 20 people just seemed a bit overwhelming for a single traveler. Our spare room was even full, and so were the spare rooms of our local friends. The only option, which was the best option for this quick get away, was to book a stay at a local all inclusive resort, Bahia Principe. When you are served few traveling options, make the best of it, and our friend did just that.
‘When you feel you have lemons, make lemonade.’
Our friend is not a resort traveler, nor is our friend an all inclusive kinda gal. She felt she was served a bunch of lemons. Her friends thought she was crazy as they would have loved to have been provided with this ‘problem.’ But after thinking about warm weather, the beach, flip flops and beautiful summer dresses, her resort vacation started to feel good, in fact it started to feel great!
Having been to the Riviera Maya a number of times, day trips to the Mayan archeological sites had been done, Sian Ka’an biosphere done numerous times, and her cenote list was almost complete. She decided to make this trip a foodie vacation, visiting local restaurants close to the Bahia Principe. She had only one request, all the restaurants had to be accessible via public transportation. She did not want to rent a car, nor did she want to take a taxi. Good old public transport was her way of feeling like a traveler on her trip.
Here is the list we created of local restaurants that would have her eating locally even though she was staying at an all inclusive resort:
Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery – Akumal east of the highway
Lucy’s Ice Cream – Akumal east of the highway
El Taco Maya – Akumal Pueblo on the west side of the highway
Oscar y Lalo’s Restaurant – 307 Hwy south of the Bahia Principe Resort
La Palapa – Chemuyil
Antojitos Mexicanos La Picadita Jarocha – Tulum Pueblo
Flor de Michoacan – Tulum Pueblo
El Arbolito – Puerto Aventuras
Charlie’s Restaurant – Tulum Pueblo
This is the criteria for our choices:
Local, authentic restaurants run by families or locals who live in the Riviera Maya. The restaurant had to be easy to get to by collectivo (public mini buses that travel up and down the highway). Inexpensive.
We would have loved to have sent her to Chamico’s in Soliman Bay, or Hechizo’s on Km 9 on the Tulum Beach Road, but these favorites would have her traveling a bit farther than a drop off on Highway 307. These are reserved for the next trip!
The Bahia Principe Resort has its own restaurants, which are great for an all inclusive vacation. Alcohol included in your resort package is a nice bonus. These suggestions did not take away from these added vacation bonuses offered at the resort. She still had a few dinners and breakfasts at the resort. I mean why not. They were included.
But this list had a different purpose. It would immerse our friend into local culture, local flavors, and local experiences that would compliment her stay. None of the restaurants are more than 20minutes from the resort and none of these restaurants required her to dress up, make a fuss or require a reservation. These are literally t-shirt, shorts and flip flop places to eat – the focus is food not clothing!
Public vans called ‘collectivos’ travel up and down Highway 307 all day long. To visit any of these restaurants on our list, all you have to do is get to the only highway that runs north and south along the coast, and wave down one of the white vans. If you are heading north, make sure you are on the east side of the highway. If you are heading south, wave a van down on the west side of the highway.
Tell the driver where you want to be dropped off, in this case the name of the restaurant is your stop, and the driver will stop when you are at your destination. Maximum cost of a ride, 35 pesos /1.75 USD and in some cases even less.
Click on the link for each restaurant listed below to find out opening times and location. We have put our recommendations below so you order some of their best menu items.
Local? Oh this is local and the food at each restaurant is glorious. Fresh, authentic, cheap and perhaps some of the best food experiences you may just have while in the Riviera Maya!
Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery – try their locally distilled Cueva Vodka, or anything Mexican on the menu. There menu has a nice balance of local specialties and international favorites so go for the local specialties. Their baked good and ice cream rock it every time!
Lucy’s Ice Cream – This is part of the Turtle Bay Café. their focus is dessert, coffee and ice cream in case you just want light snack.
El Taco Maya – Great tacos! It is a toss up between the cochinita pibil tacos or the fish tacos.
Oscar y Lalo’s Restaurant – Ceviche or whole fried fish, hands down!
La Palapa – Try anything with shrimp with a personal favorite being their coconut shrimp
Antojitos Mexicanos La Picadita Jarocha – empanadas, salbutes, panuchos, or tacos. Take your pick.
Flor de Michoacan – This is a local ice cream and popsicle place so combine it with a trip to Chiapaneca. Fruit based frozen desserts that are to die for.
El Arbolito – Tacos, of any flavor. This taqueria has over 40 tacos to choose from. All of them are great! Skip the rice and just have tacos!
Charlie’s Restaurant – I say check out the specials of the day. All the food is great. You really can not go wrong.
Food and drinks are so inexpensive when you visit local restaurants it is a shame to stay in your resort just because you have ‘free food and drinks.’ Get out for lunch, breakfast or just tacos. You will be amazed at the local food quality and flavors found at some of the best family run restaurants.
Oh and our friend. She felt she had the best ‘lemonade’ ever with this local experience mixed in with her resort accommodations. The resort experience was nice for one trip, but she loves her private condo rental that has her in the heart of local communities.
Check out condo rentals in the Riviera Maya and start thinking about your local experience in the Riviera Maya.