Tulum, Mexico is a small beach town located about two hours south of Cancun, along the Gulf of Mexico in the beautiful Mayan Riviera.
If you love food but are traveling on a budget, fear not! Tulum has an abundance of cheap local eateries to choose from, where you will find traditional and authentic Mexican cuisine being served.
Here are my budget-friendly favourite places to eat in Tulum:
El Rincon Chiapaneco:
Calle Jupiter Sur, just south of the main avenue (across the street from the ADO bus terminal)
El Rincon Chiapaneco is simple, open-air, local eatery that serves cheap and tasty authentic Mexican food. This place is always packed with locals, which is a good sign!
The red awning over the street-side tables must attract the sun’s heat, because it is absolutely scorching hot sitting underneath it! But don’t worry, the taste of the food will make it worth it.
I returned here multiple times during my solo trip to Mexico and sampled the guacamole, tacos and panuchos as well as aguas frescas. They also served many other Mexican foods, such as chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, salbutes, sopes and more. During one of my visits, there was a local musician singing and playing guitar, which created a lovely and relaxing atmosphere. The staff only speak Spanish which makes visiting here a great opportunity to practice your language skills! If you can’t speak Spanish, you can just point to whatever you want on the menu and I am sure they will understand.
My guacamole platter with chips was 35 pesos, tacos and panuchos were 8-10 pesos each, and aguas frescas were 13 pesos.
All of my meals here ended up costing under $5 CAD and everything was very satisfying!
La Hoja Verde:
Calle Beta Sur just south of the main avenue.
La Hoja Verde serves healthy cuisine with vegetarian options, and is a great option for those getting tired of eating tacos all the time.
I enjoyed my meal! I ate here once and ordered a delicious smoothie and salad for 185 pesos. The restaurant has cute decor and the seating is outside on a patio that opens up to the street. The service was prompt and friendly.
Calle Sol between Calles Jupiter and Alfa.
Loncheria Mati is a local family-owned restaurant that is frequented by local families. They serve cheap and tasty traditional Mexican food. This place has an authentic Mexican feel, from the plastic tables and chairs to the retro television playing Spanish music videos and movies, to the menu which is hand-written on colourful poster paper and posted on the wall.
I have eaten here multiple times and every time I visited, I was the only Caucasian tourist around. It was a really neat experience to get off the beaten tourist path and immerse myself in the local culture and language.
All of the staff only speak Spanish, which is a great learning opportunity for you!
They are only open for lunch.
Calle Sol (south of the main avenue) between Calles Alfa and Jupiter.
Located along Calle Sol are a variety of no-name cheap and local eateries serving authentic Mexican cuisine, like tacos, empanadas, salbutes, panuchos, sopes, and tostadas. They also serve licuados (smoothies) and aguas frescas (sugary fruit water drinks) in a variety of flavours including sandia (watermelon), melon, pina (pineapple), mango, fresa (strawberry), jamaica, horchata (milky rice, cinnamon and vanilla flavoured drink), platano (banana), and more.
These places are family-run and are very simple and casual, with their menus either painted directly on the wall or hand-written with marker on a poster board, an old television playing Spanish music videos or movies and plastic Coca Cola tables and chairs. I loved visiting these places because they were so authentic! I was always the only tourist there and the rest of the place would be packed with locals. Nobody spoke English. Immersing myself in this environment, ordering food in Spanish and observing the local life around me, was an adventure and a good challenge!
Calle Centauro Sur, just south of the main avenue.
La Malquerida is a great restaurant to visit for dinner. You can choose to sit inside or outdoors in front of the restaurant looking out onto the street. They have an extensive menu and serve a wide variety of moderately-priced traditional Mexican food and drinks. The atmosphere was lovely in the evening.
The service is professional and friendly and you are given a free shot of tequila at the end of your meal.
They are only open in the evenings.
El Camello Jr:
Corner of Avenida Tulum (main avenue) and Calle Luna Sur.
El Camello Jr. is a well-known and popular seafood restaurant located on the outskirts of the town of Tulum. It is a simple restaurant and doesn’t look like anything special when you are walking towards it, but you definitely not regret coming here.
They serve a wide selection of fresh and local seafood as well as other traditional Mexican foods. Everything is moderately-priced. This place is always packed with locals and tourists alike.
The service was fantastic.
Batey Mojito Bar:
Calle Centauro just south of the main avenue (across the street from La Malquerida restaurant).
Batey Mojito Bar is a bustling place in the evenings and well into the nighttime, and is packed with people, as the locals mingle with the travelers.
They serve delicious mojitos in a variety of flavours, among other many other drinks and some food as well. The first thing you will notice about this place, is the bright and colourfully painted retro VW Beetle parked in front of the bar at all times. The bar staff have retrofitted this car with a sugar cane juicer, and they use the freshly pressed sugar cane juice in their mojitos! How unique and creative is that?!
This place has a fun and easy going atmosphere with good live music. It is very easy to strike up a conversation with anyone and meet lots of people here.
If you stay at Mama’s Home Hostel, the owner Jose will likely invite all of the guests to a night out at Batey. That is how I ended up there and I had a great time!
Antojitos La Chiapaneca:
Avenida Tulum between Calles Jupiter and Acuario Norte.
Antojitos La Chiapaneca doesn’t look like anything special during the day, but after they open their doors at 6 PM nightly, it becomes a hub of local activity! It is a small, casual and authentic eatery that serves the cheapest tacos in Tulum (at 7 pesos each) as well as other delicious Mexican “snacks” like panuchos, sopes, and salbutes. Make sure to try the tacos al pastor!
This place is popular with local families and is packed at night. The service was excellent and the staff were friendly. The staff only speak Spanish which makes for a great opportunity to practice!
The restaurant features a self-serve salsa and topping bar complete with bowls of spicy and mild salsa, cabbage, onions, cilantro and lime slices. The place has a very authentic Mexican feel with the simple chairs and tables and old television playing classic Spanish movies.
Loncheria El Aguacate:
Corner of Calle Orion and Calle Sol.
Loncheria El Aguacate is a small and adorable local restaurant in a quiet neighbourhood serving traditional Mexican foods as well as a variety of healthy options like salads and fresh juices.
The service was friendly. I recommend trying one of their juices!
Cabanas Restaurant & Bar:
Boca Paila Road just south of the Tulum Ruins.
Cabanas Restaurant and Bar is located along the beautiful tree-lined road running parallel to the beach.
The tables for the restaurant are situated on large rocks directly on the beach itself with an amazing view of the ocean!
They serve a variety of moderately-priced cuisine and the service was friendly.
Calle Sol between Calles Jupiter and Alfa Sur; Calle Osiris just south of the main avenue; the main avenue near Calle Luna Sur (right before El Camello Jr.)
I love visiting local markets both at home and when I travel.
Tulum has a few great local markets in town! They are all offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including some exotic ones that I had never seen before. There are an abundance of bananas, plantains, papayas, watermelon, pineapples, guavas, mameys, tomatoes, red onions, avocados, limes, mangoes, carrots, bell peppers, lettuce, apples, oranges, beans, many different types of chilies and more.
The markets are a great place to purchase cheap, fresh and local ingredients to cook your own meals at your hostel or other accommodation.
Corner of Calle Osiris and Calle Sol (there are also many fruit carts on many random corners throughout Tulum)
There are fruit carts situated on various street corners throughout the town of Tulum. The one that I visited most frequently was operated by a local woman and her family. None of them spoke any English, but I still enjoyed interacting with them as best I could.
On my walk every morning, I would pay her a visit and purchase some freshly sliced fruit by the bucket for only 25 pesos. She sold pineapple, watermelon, mango and papaya. She also squeezed fresh lime juice on top of the fruit, which was so delicious!
Paleteria y Neveria:
Calle Sol by Calle Osiris.
Paleteria and Neveria translates to popsicle and ice cream shop in English, and that is exactly what they sell! There are places like this all over Tulum.
I have frequented this place multiple times during my travels. They serve fruit and cream-based popsicles and fresh ice cream in a variety of delicious and exotic flavours including elote (sweet corn), coconut, mamey (native fruit to southern Mexico), among others.
Have you eaten at any of these places in Tulum? Do you have any restaurant recommendations that serve traditional Mexican food and have an authentic atmosphere?
Let me know in the comments!