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Oceanfront Vacation Rentals in the heart of the Riviera Maya

Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Not available for dinner

Riviera Maya Dining Guide (Akumal-centric)


It's no secret: I enjoy a good meal!  I feel the restaurants of the Riviera Maya can hold their own against most Caribbean destinations.  I'm no food critic - just an opinionated end user.  A wide variety of cuisine and price can be found very close to "home".  Here is where I feel the folks staying at All-Inclusive Resorts really miss the boat.  Not only are freshly prepared, ala carte dishes much better than "sat in the sun too long" or "same sauce, different meat" buffets, but sampling the local fare affords the opportunity to mingle with Locals and Expatriates alike.  We prefer to get our culture first hand, not from "Fiesta Night" at the A/I Resort...

While I'm on my soapbox, a brief word about meals in Mexico.  Unlike in the States, where drive-through meals are wolfed down during rush hour commutes, meals in Mexico are much more civilized.  They are meant to be enjoyed, not rushed.  So, don’t pop in to a restaurant if you expect to be somewhere else in 15 minutes.  Buy some snacks instead.  Besides, you’re in paradise – what’s your hurry?

Your servers will generally not leave empty plates or glasses in front of you for long.  They may ask you “¿Finito?” or “¿Terminado?”, which means “Are you done?” before clearing your plate.  Note that it is considered impolite for your server to bring you the restaurant check before you ask for it.  This often leads to confusion amongst U.S. visitors.  Simply get your server’s (or another server’s) attention and ask “¿La cuenta, por favor?” [lah coo-wayn-tah, pour fah-vore], which means “The check, please?”.  Tipping is on a par with the U.S. and calculating percentages works the same in Pesos as it does in Dollars.

Make it a point to try the fresh fish while you're in paradise.  Typical offerings are Grouper, Red Snapper, Boquinete (Hogfish, but don't let that name put you off - it's wonderful!), Atun (Tuna) and Dorado (Mahi Mahi).  Even diehard carnivores and fish stick haters are impressed when they taste the real thing.  When I say "fresh", I mean FRESH!  "Swim with 'em in the morning, eat 'em at night" is my motto!  We have seen fishermen bringing coolers of the day's catch to restaurants, negotiating with the chef and, within 5-10 minutes, the fish has been on our plates.  THAT'S FRESH!

Langosta (lobster), Cangrejo (crab), Pulpo (octopus) and Caracol (conch) are caught locally.  Camerones (shrimp) usually come from the Gulf, but are still better than we get in the States (inland, anyway).  Carne (beef) dishes will typically disappoint, as the cattle graze and the meat is cut differently than in the States.  Any exceptions to this will be noted in the reviews.  Puerco / Carnitas (pork) and Pollo (chicken) are plentiful and tasty.  Strict vegetarians may have trouble finding food not prepared in lard.  Local fruits and vegetables are great (fresh squeezed orange juice every day!) and are rinsed in an iodine solution by the restaurateurs to avoid any unpleasantness.

The following are restaurants that we or our friends recommend.  They are listed in alphabetical order.  The date (month/year) indicates the most recent visit.   Got any hot restaurant tips to share?  Email us at: 

Quick links:  Akumal | Playa del Carmen | Puerto Aventuras | Tulum 


*Haven't booked your accommodations yet?  Always Akumal offers unique one, two and three bedroom condos and villas.

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Akumal Area Restaurants:

La Buena Vida (01/01)  - on the south end of Half Moon Bay. We haven't patronized this establishment since the owner (Vista del Mar Properties, d.b.a. Akumal Dive Adventures) brought boats and buoys onto the previously boat-free zone of Half Moon Bay.  For those who are interested, you can read all about it here.   At last visit, the menu too closely resembled Lol-Ha's and the prices were climbing beyond the quality of the food.  Still, we miss enjoying a cold one in the bar swings and look forward to the day we can return - and view the bay without the boats and buoys.  If anything changes, it will be posted both here and at the above link.

La Cueva del Pescador (Cave of the Fishes) - (12/02) – right next door to Turtle Bay.  They are open for lunch and dinner and almost always have a crowd.  Seafood is the specialty here.  The grilled fish of the day is always excellently prepared. Carlos Danú, the owner, has been a professional fisherman in Akumal since 1982 and still offers his services for half and full day charters, in addition to snorkeling and sight seeing trips (inquire at the restaurant or contact us for more info).  He’ll even prepare the fish you catch at his restaurant!  Carlos' son, Alím is pulling more management duty these days and he and the rest of the staff are friendly and accommodating.  Tell them all that Dave and Colette say "Hola"!  As time goes on, we find we take more meals at La Cueva del Pescador than at any other establishment. Might have something to do with the fact that my Cuba Libres come with a glass of ice containing a generous pour of rum and a bottle of Coke on the side...  Watch for signs indicating live entertainment, as Carlos sometimes has musicians from Veracruz perform at the restaurant (typically, on high season weekend nights). 

Lol-Ha - (12/02) - just to the south of the entrance into town, on the beach.  Definitely a favorite and often imitated.  This is Lol-Ha's second incarnation, the first having been burned down by “Americans with fireworks”.  Breakfasts are wonderful.  Lunch duties shift to the beach bar & grille (good pizza, burgers...and killer Margaritas!).  Dinners are fantastic.  Try the Shrimp wrapped in bacon, the Mango Chicken, Pok Chuk or the Shrimp or Lobster Flambe, prepared tableside.  Extremely professional staff.

Lol-ha seasonally features a Mexican Dance show with buffet dinner.  Reservations are recommended, as is this show (different regions may be featured on different nights).

Loncheria Akumalito – (12/02)  - Open air counter outside the main gate (next to Super Chomak grocery).  Inexpensive breakfasts and lunches.  Reasonably quick service.  Many of the Akumal business' workers dine here.

La Lunita - (09/98) - midway up Half Moon Bay.  Open for breakfast and dinner.  Some folks rave about this place.  We have given it a couple of tries, but haven’t been that impressed.  It is conveniently located with respect to our condos, and is on the beach.

Que Onda - (12/02) - Italian cuisine for Dinner.  Occasionally open for breakfast.  Some inconsistencies in the service, but the staff is trying very hard.  We've always had good luck, others haven't reported the same.  The Ceviche (marinated fish) comes highly recommended.  The pastas we've had were very good.  The “Fillet Mignon” was more like “Thin Tenderloin tips in mushroom sauce”, but still very tasty.  The menu is ala carte and the extras  can add up.  Oh, and don't get the Tiramisu too close to an open flame!

Turtle Bay - (12/02) - just inside the archway at Akumal Bay.  Open for breakfast and lunch.  This restaurant has quickly become everyone’s favorite eatery.  It offers great bakery (come early for the best selection – but leave a cinnamon roll for me!) and breakfasts as well as deli sandwiches and fresh fruit smoothies at lunch.  During the high season, Turtle Bay also serves dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.

South of Akumal:

Pizza Leos - (12/02) - in Ciudad Chemuyil.  Great (and inexpensive) pizzas.  Took a few visits before we realized the menu had another side.  Add Lasagna and a gigantic Shrimp Salad to our list of Leo's favorites.

Restaurante Oscar y Lalo - (12/02) - on Bahias de Punta Solimon.  Look for the sign on the east side of the highway, then follow the dirt road a long way (long enough to wonder if it was a good idea....don't worry - it was), then turn at the sign to "La Playa".  In one place, you can swim in a Caribbean bay, a lagoon and a cenote.  Oscar and Lalo used to run the wonderful restaurant at Playa Chemuyil, until that former State Park got abruptly "sold" to Fiesta Americana Resorts and closed to the public.  This idyllic spot is actually world famous.  The Corona beer commercial where the guy skips the beeping pager across the water was shot nearby, as was the movie "Blue Lagoon", years previous.

Casa Cenote - (12/01) - on Tankah bay.  Before the bay got wired for electricity, this restaurant, run by an Expatriate from Texas, was only open during daylight hours.  The Sunday Barbeque is a favorite (served roughly around noon).  The cenote behind the restaurant makes for a refreshing snorkel and we saw a giant grouper while snorkeling the bay.  Watch out for the whirlpools in front of the restaurant - they actually connect to the cenote.  Last I heard, Casa Cenote was "charging" for parking in their lot.  I assume they validate?

Want to prepare your own Meals to Remember at your condo?

Akumal has two convenience stores located just outside the archway, Super Chomak and Mini Super Las Palmas (formerly El Pueblo).  Both have decent selections of food and beverages.  Super Chomak, reportedly, now has an ATM.

Half Moon Bay also has The Corner Store (operated by Vista del Mar Properties, see the review of La Buena Vida restaurant) and La Caleta.  Both are quite small, but are very handy for that emergency Cristal (a local soft drink) or Helado (Ice Cream).

For larger grocery (or hard goods) runs, a trip to Chedraui or San Francisco de Asis Markets in Playa del Carmen might be in order.  The prices and selection are much better.  Bring a cooler to prevent spoilage, if you or your condo has one.

Akumal hosts a Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays (verify this when you get to town), outside the archway, near the basketball courts.

In December of 2002, a group of fishermen in a small pickup came by the condos, selling freshly caught shrimp (from Campeche) for $13 U.S. per kilo.  Colette boiled them up and we kept them in the fridge for snacks.  Good stuff!  I hope those fishermen continue to make Half Moon Bay a stop on their route.

Pueblo Tulum has traditional merchants along the boulevard: one selling fish, one chicken, one pork, etc..

If you have favorite spices, you might want to bring them.  It's difficult to keep them stocked in the condos.


*Haven't booked your accommodations yet?  Always Akumal offers unique one, two and three bedroom condos and villas.

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Playa del Carmen Restaurants:


We don't spend as much time in Playa as we once did.  It's getting too busy and too developed for our tastes.  But, we often have to go to pay taxes, arrange Satellite TV service, shop for supplies, etc..  When we do, we might frequent the following:

The Blue Parrot (06/01) - north of Calle 12, on the beach.  The hopping night-spot in PDC is also the best place for breakfast.  Tables are right on the sand.  The view is great:  Beach, cruise ships, people…  One time, our waiter, Pedro, gave us Spanish lessons in exchange for English lessons.  They also have a sushi bar (Boshido) that opens at 1:00pm.  Brunch (on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays), is also a treat.  Service has been a bit less than stellar on our last two visits, though.

D’gabi (01/00) - Calle 12 - almost to the beach.  Open for dinner only.  Italian cuisine.  Pizza is a specialty.

El Chino (01/00) – Calle 4 at Ave 15.  A CompuServe Travel Forum member told me that she had one of the best meals of her life at this restaurant.  It’s listed here on that basis, but I’m still waiting for details or to get there personally…


*Haven't booked your accommodations yet?  Always Akumal offers unique one, two and three bedroom condos and villas.

Email today for more info:    


Puerto Aventuras Restaurants:


Requiem for Papaya Republic: - No listing of Puerto Aventuras restaurants would be complete without honorable mention of one of the area's all time best.  Papaya Republic, tucked between a beautiful beach and "fragrant" mangrove served unique dishes that kept us coming back for more.  Fans of the Soap Opera "Days of Our Lives" may have seen it used as a backdrop for a storyline.  On our first visit, I dubbed this place “Gilligan’s Restaurant”.  The furnishings were rustic, the waiters chaotic (by design) and the food was outstanding.  The Clam Soup,  the Shrimp to Peel, the Calamari in Gary Sauce, the Tenderloin Tips in Sherry Sauce, the Jumbo Shrimp in White Wine Sauce, the graceful and powerful Dobermans that patrolled the property, responding solely to hand signals by their master - we miss them all.  Our last meal at Papaya Republic was in January of 2000.  At that time, the jungle had been bulldozed and the mangrove was on its way to being filled in.  By our September of 2000 visit, the restaurant was closed and giant ReMax signs were plastered to the roof.  In our denial, we hoped it would reopen during the next high season.  Our January of 2001 visit brought us a cold dose of reality - Papaya Republic would not return.  A condominium complex now sits on that stretch of beach, as Phase II of Puerto Aventura's Marina expansion continues.  To our knowledge, the owner and chef have not surfaced elsewhere (sigh).

Café Ole International - (12/02) - Close to Omni Beach Club Hotel.  Good breakfasts.  Try the shrimp tostadas for lunch.  We usually stop here for a meal and then exchange dollars at the nearby Cambios.

Richards Quarterdeck - (04/96) - Near the Dive Museum and Dolphin Discovery - Expensive, but good dinners, especially steaks.  Probably the only salad bar you’ll see on this trip.  Richard is an ex-pat from Chicago who will tell you his life story and philosophize at the drop of a hat.  Though it's been quite awhile since we've eaten there, we continue to hear good reports.


*Haven't booked your accommodations yet?  Always Akumal offers unique one, two and three bedroom condos and villas.

Email today for more info:  

Tulum Area Restaurants:


Tony & Simone's (12/02)  - Head into Pueblo Tulum, take a right where the boulevard begins and, as our friend, Jay (who introduced us to this place), says; "it's about 30 potholes down on the right!".  This off-the-beaten path restaurant is run by Italian Expatriates.  Carmela, the wonderfully quirky hostess, sets the mood from the moment she greets you.  The Quattro Fromage and any of the seafood dishes are recommended.  Come to think of it, I've not heard a complaint about anything on the menu.  Have a glass of wine and enjoy your leisurely dinner.  Might want to bring a little mosquito repellent if you sit by the lily pond.

Breaking from alphabetical order here, as geographic sorting is more logical:

Zamas - (04/02) – in Tulum's Punta Piedra area.  Take a left on the Boca Paila road at the intersection where the road to Coba exits to the left.  Continue on this road until it "Tees".  Take the right fork, heading south, and it's the last cabana resort on the right before a bay cuts into view and the pavement ends.  Interesting (in a good way) menu.  Not your run of the mill cantina.  We've had lunch here on several occasions.  All have been good.  Have never been nearby at dinnertime but, one of these days...

Maya Tulum - (10/00) - (formerly known as Osho Tulum)  continue past Zamas and the bay until the pavement ends.  A hundred yards or so down you will find a parking lot on the right and the resort (with some parking) on the left side of the road.  Maya Tulum is a holistic retreat.  The large and airy, round restaurant (open to the public) serves healthy cuisine and can be a welcome break from the heavier entrees offered elsewhere.  .

Ana y Jose - (12/01) - continue past Zamas and Maya Tulum.  The road can be brutal depending on the season.  Drive slowly and zigzag your way around the Volkswagen-sized potholes.  The location is the feature here, the food is secondary.  Have a burger and beer for lunch and spend some time on that long, wide sandy beach or bodysurfing in the waves (swim suits more or less optional).

Playa Paraiso – (04/02)  - Remember the spot where the road "Tees"?  Well, take a left there instead and head north.  Watch the resort signs on the right.  Playa Paraiso also has a round restaurant, but this one serves more traditional dishes.  Another lovely beach, visited by both locals and tourists.  We only ate there once, but will definitely be back.

El Mirador - continuing along the north fork, there is a driveway somewhere before the road is blocked by boulders (foot traffic can access the Mayan ruins at Tulum from this approach).  The restaurant is perched way up the hill, overlooking the often "Bohemian" beach at Don Armando's & Camping Santa Fe and across to the ruins.  A friend of ours likes this place a lot.  We tried to eat there once, but it was an incredibly windy day and we would have had trouble keeping the plates on the table.  It's on our list to try next time.





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