If you’re seeking the best local restaurants in Cancun, you’re in for a gastronomic treat. Venture beyond the tourist traps of the Zona Hotelera, and you’ll find Cancun has a smorgasbord of authentic Mexican eateries to try, with tempting options to cater to most budgets and tastes.

    In this list, we sidestep the typical tourist haunts to bring you the top local restaurants in the city, from unpretentious open-air food courts to upscale digs offering silver service. Get ready to savour real Mexican flavours prepared by native Cancun chefs – often with a distinct regional twist.

    1

    Parque de las Palapas

    A buzzing outdoor food court in the heart of central Cancun

    Parque de las Palapas is the perfect place to rub shoulders with locals as you scoff down authentic Mexican fare. This lively open-air food court houses a slew of hawkers, each offering a unique take on the country’s celebrated cuisine. From tacos to tamales and torta ahogada (salsa-drowned sandwich), you’ll find it all here – and at rock-bottom prices.

    Most vendors start serving early, and local families enjoy kid-friendly activities throughout the day. At night, Parque de las Palapas comes alive as live musicians take the stage and Mariachi bands meander around the crowd. Grab some tequila to wash down your quesadillas and watch the action unfold. 

    Location: 77500, Tulipanes LB, 22, Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

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    photo by Shinya Suzuki (CC BY 2.0) modified

    2

    Restaurante Marakame

    A well-known restaurant serving superb grilled meats

    Restaurante Marakame is a Cancun landmark that lures hungry locals in search of a good value meal. The mid-range restaurant features a charming terrace where patrons enjoy succulent grilled meats. Of course, you’ll also find all your usual Mexican favourites on the menu – tacos, burritos, and more. If you’re feeling famished first thing in the morning, order the hearty breakfast buffet.

    While Restaurante Marakame does fantastic Mexican food, it’s equally popular among the locals for its well-priced international fare. The pizzas, steaks, and desserts are divine – plus much, much cheaper than those touristy restaurants in the Zona Hotelera.

    Location: Av. Xpujil Sur, 19, 77505 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Monday–Friday from 8 am to 11 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 9 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +52 998 887 1010

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    3

    Restaurante La Habichuela

    An upmarket place to sample refined Mexican cuisine

    Restaurante La Habichuela is a Cancun institution and is the spot to go for an upmarket Mexican feast. The long-standing favourite has been serving Mexican and Caribbean classics for 4 decades, earning a legendary reputation among the local crowd. Seafood is the core focus here – give their signature dish, cocobichula (lobster and shrimp curry served in a coconut), a try.

    If it’s not too hot, opt to dine in the tree-lined patio, where fairy lights and wrought-iron chairs set an elegant scene. Although pricier than most of the other great local restaurants in Cancun, its refined regional cuisine is well worth the splurge.

    Location: Calle 10 Margaritas 25-Mz 20, 22, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 12.30 pm to 11.30 pm, Sunday from 12.30 pm to 10.30 pm

    Phone: +52 998 884 3158

    Map

    photo by Jeremy T. Hetzel (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    Restaurant Margely Mariscos

    A Cancun classic for cheap fresh seafood

    Restaurante Margely Mariscos serves some of the city’s best-value seafood plus a multitude of other mouthwatering Mexican treats. Located in the buzzing Mercado 28, this widely popular casual restaurant is a hit with local shoppers and vendors.

    If you don’t fancy sinking your teeth into seafood, the conchinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) and sopa de lima (lime soup) are divine. Portions tend to be on the larger side, so come hungry to get the bang for your buck. Either way, speedy service means you won’t wait long to get your fix.

    Location: 28, 77509 Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

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    5

    La Parrilla

    A lively food-and-booze hall in central Cancun

    La Parrilla has been serving authentic Mexican cuisine to its loyal local clientele since 1975. Every day, the sizeable salon-style dining hall packs out with hungry patrons, who come to enjoy the selection of tasty traditional Mexican dishes. Don’t miss their tacos al pastor, a refreshing blend of pineapple, pork, and salsa served in a handmade tortilla.

    The venue adopts a festive vibe at night, with mariachi bands taking the stage from 8 pm onwards. Delicious frozen margaritas made from one of 50 types of tequila ensure the celebrations continue well into the night.

    Location: 557C+C7 Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

    Open: Monday–Saturday from noon to 2 am, Sunday from noon to 1 am

    Phone: +52 998 287 8118

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    6

    El Rinconcito de Puebla

    Quality Mexican food at an agreeable price

    El Rinconcito de Puebla means the “people’s corner,” and this local Cancun restaurant lives up to its name. Superb smoothies, tasty tacos, and a marvellous menu del dia (lunch special) lure ravenous locals and the odd traveller to this unpretentious haunt. What’s more, the prices are entirely reasonable given the quality of the cuisine.

    Although all the dishes here are outstanding, the enchiladas are our pick of the bunch. Plus, most staff speak English, so you won’t have to learn charades when it comes time to order. Look for the bright-blue building just past Parque de las Palapas.

    Location: Tulipanes 32, 22, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from noon to 1 am

    Phone: +52 998 114 2355

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    7

    Taqueria Coapenitos

    For among the best tacos in town

    Taqueria Coapenitos is a hip Centro haunt specializing in tasty tacos – some say they’re the best in town. The casual mid-range eatery serves multiple mouthwatering tortilla-filled creations, each sold separately so you can sample a wide selection in one sitting. The pineapple pork tacos are among the most recommended.

    It’s a small, sociable locale, where the crew makes an effort to converse with the clientele. Locals pack the place out on weekends, dining ever-so-slowly as they chat over frozen margaritas and ice-cold beer. Head there early to secure a seat.

    Location: Av Carlos Nader 25, Bancos, 2, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from noon to 10 pm

    Phone: +52 998 415 4227

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    photo by JC PLE (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    Nebrina Gin & Cocina

    A lively gastropub for fancy food and gin cocktails

    Nebrina Gin & Cocina gives you 2 of life’s great pleasures in a single spot: hard liquor and delicious food. This buzzing open-air gastropub packs out with locals most nights, who come to sip top-shelf spirits and devour quality Mexican cuisine with close friends. For something a little daring, give the taratara de atun (tuna tartare on avocado) a try.

    Most of the mixology here revolves around gin, making it a must for anyone fond of the famous juniper berry-infused spirit. Some take it straight, but Nebrina’s signature margaritas are hard to beat. The venue is a fair hike from Centro but well worth the modest taxi fare.  

    Location: Av Huayacán SM 313, 77533, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 6 pm to 1 am, Sunday from 6 pm to midnight

    Phone: +52 998 109 0594

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    9

    La Buena Barra

    Upscale Mexican cuisine with Nichupte Lagoon views

    La Buena Barra is your best bet for upscale Mexican cuisine with a stunning waterfront view. Straddling the shores of Nichupte, this west-facing restaurant does a roaring trade each evening as the sun sets over the lagoon. An elegant ambience and refined yet authentic Mexican cuisine seal the deal – try the bone marrow with Mexican caviar or soft-shell crab tacos. 

    Although more touristic than most of the other great local restaurants in Cancun (it’s smack-dab in the middle of the Zona Hotelera), local diners do eat alongside visitors. Order one of their creative cocktails to sip on as you listen to saxophone tunes or smooth beats by a live DJ.

    Location: 6 de lado de la laguna, Blvd. Kukulcan KM 12, La Isla, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 1 pm to 11 pm

    Phone: +52 998 313 4211

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    10

    El Huerto del Edén

    The local spot for healthy Mexican food in Cancun

    El Huerto del Edén is a nutritious and delicious offering in downtown Cancun that health-conscious locals adore. A Garden of Eden-inspired patio and soothing tunes add to the ambience, while locally sourced ingredients and healthy Mexican recipes define the food.

    If you’ve grown tired of Mexican cuisine during your time in Cancun, you’ll find stacks of low-carb Western favourites like Hawaiian poke bowls and wraps for variety. There’s also a respectable vegetarian menu and a filling (but not fattening) breakfast to kickstart the day. The service is exceptional, too – they’ll even write a personalised message on your plate.

    Location: Av Yaxchilán 17-Manzana 2, Las Casas de Acueducto, 17, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 7 am to 7 pm, Friday–Saturday from 7 am to 8.30 pm

    Phone: +52 998 195 9535

    Map
    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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