Last updated: September 2023
Even at their most basic, dining options along Mexico’s glistening Caribbean coastline are arguably above par: breakfast with an oceanfront view, freshly caught onboard lunch and candle-lit, beachfront dinners to name a few. But a rising crop of unique dining experiences are raising the bar even higher (some, literally) from Cancun through Tulum and everywhere in between.
Here, we’ve compiled 12 best and most unique dining experiences you can enjoy right now in and around Mexico’s Riviera Maya, from subterranean cave dining to cocktails in the sky to sunset dinner in the treetops – or even a Spanish galleon.
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Best Dining Experiences in the Riviera Maya: Theatrical Dining Rooted in Maya Iconography
The only Cirque du Soleil experience in all of Mexico, JOYA first landed in the Riviera Maya in 2014. Since then, the resident show continues to amaze and amuse guests within the soaring 650-seat Cirque du Soleil Theater at Vidanta Riviera Maya, located 30 minutes south of Cancun.
Featuring thrilling acrobatics, music, dance and theatric arts, the 80-minute show follows the adventures of a rebellious teenage girl whisked away to a mysterious jungle in her grandfather’s fantastical world – a biologist on an unending quest to unearth the meaning of life. Joined by a mythical crew of half-human, half-animal cohorts, whimsical antics ensue. All, rooted in the symbolism of the ancient Maya.
Opt for the Dinner Experience to further enjoy a 3-course gourmet meal (choose from braised short rib, salmon filet or vegetarian), plus appetizers, beautifully presented desserts and champagne. Upgrade to VIP and the bubbly’s unlimited. Did we mention that JOYA is the only Cirque du Soleil production in the world offering a culinary program?
Pricing starts at approximately $133.00 USD to enjoy the Show Only, up to approximately $330.00 USD to go VIP. Reserve your Cirque du Soleil JOYA experience here.
Best Dining Experiences in the Riviera Maya: Take a Seat at The Traveler’s Table
Join fellow traveling foodies at this intimate dinner party taking place in Punta Venado: a hidden slice of coastline just south of Playa Del Carmen. The evening begins with sparkling sundowners on the beach followed by a Mayan Mojito cocktail-making class – all before gathering around a singular table housed underneath a soaring palapa roof.
Here, diners are taken on a culinary journey through 5 courses as created by Chef Eva Millán (a season 1 finalist of MasterChef Spain). Complete with wine pairings, each course pays homage to the region’s rich history. Think: ancient Maya times to the arrival of the Spanish to present day international influences, including those of Spain, Africa and the Middle East. An artisanal tequila and mezcal tasting rounds out the night.
A seat at The Traveler’s Table runs $149.00 per person, including roundtrip transportation from Playa Del Carmen area hotels.
Best Dining Experiences in Tulum: Sunset Dinner in the Treetops
Mexico’s Riviera Maya is just as synonymous with it’s sparkling coastline as it is with it’s mystifying jungle skyline. And in Tulum, you can experience this skyline in a uniquely immersive way: dining in the treetops in a private nest. In the Hotel Zone at Kin Toh by Azulik, avant garde Maya-Mexican cuisine is offered in surreal nests accommodating couples to small groups. Nearby, Kanan‘s romantic, candle-lit nests are paired with elevated international fare. Both offer 360-degree views of the surrounding jungle and endless Caribbean sea.
Head a few kilometers inland and you’ll find Orchid House tucked into the upscale jungle neighborhood of Aldea Zama. Here, this hidden gem offers nest dining for breakfast, lunch or romantic sunset dinner – featuring a chef’s tasting menu accommodating meat to plant-based palates – all with panoramic, treetop views.
Best Dining Experiences in the Riviera Maya: Xcaret Mexico Espectacular Dinner Show
This one comes with a catch. You’ll have to purchase a ticket to Xcaret Park first: the award winning, eco-archaeological theme park immersing visitors in Mexico’s biodiversity and cultural heritage. Doesn’t sound so bad though, does it? Included in all park tickets is access to the nighttime Xcaret Espectacular Show (but not dinner itself, more on this below) where 300+ on-stage performers take you on a whirlwind journey through the storied history of Mexico.
You have a few options when it comes to tickets to the park. Four to be exact, ranging from $82.00 (kids 5-11) and $109.00 (adults 12+) for Xcaret at Night to $171.00 (kids 5-11) and $208.00 (adults 12+) for Xcaret Total Admission. In all ticket tiers, children 4 years & under enter free.
Here’s what’s important to know – while access to the show is include in all park tickets, access to dinner during the show is not. No matter which ticket you purchase you will have to add dinner separately, which can only be done in-person upon arrival to the park. The cost is +$65.00 USD per person, and includes: a seven-course gourmet dinner, glass of sparkling wine, two glasses of red or white wine and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages during the show.
Best Dining Experiences in the Riviera Maya: An Organic Farm-to-Table Experience in the Middle of the Jungle
Take a unique culinary journey at Koox Ich Kool: an organic Maya farm located along the Ruta de los Cenotes offering an authentic farm-to-table dining experience. A gastronomic tour starts with the farm, gardens and surrounding jungle, where you’ll learn how a range of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown and harvested. You’ll also see and learn about the traditional Maya pib oven, a fascinating underground cooking technique stretching back centuries.
Next you can take a refreshing dip in the farm’s beautiful, and unique, swimming pool – it’s fed by fresh cenote water. During this time you can also enjoy poolside craft cocktails utilizing the farm’s own organic ingredients. All the while, Chef Karla Romo will be busy preparing a 6-course Maya dinner from Koox Ich Kool’s own wealth of ingredients, in addition to organic meats from neighboring farms or a fresh catch of the day from the coast. Pairings of Mexican wines, artisanal beer and/or mezcal all complement the meal.
The gastronomic experience lasts around 6 hours and runs $130.00 USD per person. Fun Fact: “Koox Ich Cool” means let’s go to the garden.
Best Dining Experiences in Playa Del Carmen: Fine-Dining in an Underground Cave
Taking fine-dining to a lower level in an exceptional way, Playa Del Carmen’s Alux Restaurant serves up contemporary Mexican cuisine in an unforgettable setting: a magnificent underground cave filled with icicle-shaped stalagmites and stalactites, enchanting lighting and luxurious decor including hanging chandeliers. Pronounced “A-loosh,” the cavernous dining destination pays homage to the Maya legend of the alux – mischievous, elf-like creatures who inhabit such underground spaces as caves and cenotes, appearing only at night to engage in mischief and mayhem.
Pre or post-dinner you can wander the magical, winding cavern at your leisure, where you may or may not spot an alux yourself. Reservations required, and you can specify if you’d like the main dining room or a private, romantic table deeper inside the cavern.
Best Dining Experiences in Cancun: An Immersive Journey Through Mexico’s History At a Five-Star Resort
Epicureans seeking a dose of sun, sand and spectacular dining need look no further than five star Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, an All-Inclusive Spa Resort – where unparalleled oceanfront views (from nearly every room) are paired with a bevy of fabulous dining options. Among them – Le Basilic, home to none other than a AAA Five Diamond French-Mediterranean menu, legendary Mexican eatery La Joya and three brand new culinary venues that just opened in August of 2023: Chianti, where the serenades of live tenors pair with rich Tuscan cuisine and a masterfully curated wine list, Torii, boasting an elegant sushi bar, eight Teppanyaki tables and a time-honored sake ritual, and Havanna, a sleek Argentinian steakhouse featuring nightly tango shows – that later transforms into a revelrous nightclub.
Plus, easily the most unique of the resort’s culinary offerings: The Table. Seating just 20 guests, this intimate dining experience takes epicureans on an immersive, multimedia journey through Mexico’s storied history. Vibrant, 360-degree projections spring to life across screen-wrapped walls and the table itself, transporting guests from prehistoric times to present day. Live performers and musicians (some of whom belong to Cancun’s esteemed Symphony Orchestra) further enrich the experience through captivating scenes and sound.
The theatrical experience is a veritable feast for both eyes and palate, where a 9-course tasting menu presents such rooted cuisine as a Blue Crab Chilpachole made with guajillo chili and burnt tortilla, Tzi’ik de Venado featuring a traditional venison salad and regional citrus jelly, Cacao Braised Short Rib served with vanilla poached lobster and beurre blanc, and a Five Spice “Churro” with sweet potato and milk cream cakes. Each dish arrives with a carefully curated beverage pairing, like ancestral tepache (made from fermented pineapple rind), a decadent tequila liqueur and made-in-Mexico wines from Valle de Guadalupe.
The Table is an exclusive experience for hotel guests only, offered Fridays and Sundays for +$150.00 per person (or +$75.00 per person if you’ve booked at the Infinite level). TIP: this experience is known to book up – be sure to reserve your seat at The Table well in advance.
Best Dining Experiences in Cancun: Sunset Dinner on a Spanish Galleon
How about taking your sunset dinner out to the open sea – on a romantic Spanish Galleon? In Cancun, this dinner cruise offers just that. Enjoy a 3-course gourmet meal (your choice of Rib Eye, Lobster, Surf n’ Turf or Vegetarian) and an open bar while sailing around the shimmering Nichupté Lagoon. While soaking in breathtaking sunset views, you’ll be further serenaded by the wafting sounds of live saxophone music.
Pricing starts at $89.00 USD per person for the approximate 2 1/2 hour cruise. Reserve your spot on the Spanish Galleon Columbus here.
Best Dining Experiences in Tulum: An Authentic Mexican Cooking Class
Take your culinary experience to the next level by preparing it too. At Rivera’s Kitchen Tulum, authentic, generational recipes are pulled from Chef and Mexico native Lily Espinosa Rivera’s own family cookbook. You’ll prepare dishes in the intimate setting of a Mexican-style home, first with an introduction to Mexico’s rich food culture and history.
Learning how to make tortillas from scratch and using traditional utensils like the metate and molcajete are just part of the gastronomical experience, further complimented with freshly made agua de jamaica (hibiscus water), local craft beer and a guided mezcal tasting.
The 3-hour experience runs $95.00 USD per person which you can reserve here.
Best Dining Experiences in Tulum: Cocktails & Bar Bites with a Sky High View
After rising 36 meters / 118 feet into the sky with up to 15 other adventurous passengers, you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of lush jungle, sparkling ocean and even Tulum’s cliffside Maya archaeological site at Tulum Tower. While the Aerobar slowly rotates, bar bites like guacamole, tacos, skewers and ceviche pair with freshly shaken margaritas, mezcalitas, piña coladas and of course – cold cerveza. All, accompanied by the beats of a live DJ setting the elevated mood.
The soaring experience lasts approximately 45 minutes, offered daily (except Tuesdays) from early afternoon through sunset. Pricing starts at approximately $60.00 USD per person. Reserve your airborne adventure here.
Best Dining Experiences in the Riviera Maya: Sunset Dinner on a Private Yacht
Prefer to stretch your sea legs VIP-style? Exclusive use awaits aboard Riviera Maya Catamarans, offering fully private sunset dinner charters for you, your significant other or your group. The 3-hour charter sets sail out of Puerto Aventuras in the late afternoon, including premium open bar and a freshly prepared, jumbo shrimp and steak (or vegetarian) meal. Before dinner is served? You can even jump in the sparkling water and swim, snorkel or paddleboard.
Pricing starts at $750.00 USD for 2 people up to $1800.00 USD for 8 people.
Best Dining Experiences in Tulum: Private 8-Course Chef’s Tasting
In Tulum’s Hotel Zone, Chef Eleazar Bonilla of La Zebra not only churns out creative Mexican cuisine for the boutique property’s popular restaurant, but also for small groups up to 8 in the exclusive Chef’s Table dining room. The culinary event offers an 8-course tasting menu taking diners on a palate-pleasing journey throughout Bonilla’s native Mexico, all paired with signature cocktails, Mexican wine and/or local artisanal beer. The intimate, candle-lit space happens to open up to the kitchen, allowing guests to watch Bonilla in action.
There are two ways to reserve a seat at La Zebra’s Chef’s Table. Either via the open table offered Tuesdays and Fridays at $4,095.00 pesos (approx $245.00 USD) per person, or via a private table experience priced at $4,830.00 pesos (approx $289.00 USD) per person. All bookings must be made in advance which you can do here.
Best Dining Experiences Near the Riviera Maya: Traditional Maya Cuisine in an Otherworldly Cenote
Taking cave dining one step further, head inland towards Valladolid and hidden in the jungle is the subterranean, otherworldly experience of Cenote Zazil Tunich. What is a cenote, you might ask? Pronounced “seh-notay,” these are naturally formed swimming holes you can find, and enjoy, all across Mexico’s sprawling Yucatán peninsula. These incredible sites are formed over hundreds of thousands of years by the gradual erosion, and eventual collapse, of limestone bedrock. There are literally thousands in the region and no two are exactly alike. Some cenotes are completely subterranean and enclosed, some completely open to the sky and some a mix of both. Held sacred by the ancient Maya, these beautiful sites were thought to be portals to the underworld.
At Cenote Zazil Tunich, you can embark on a guided experience where you’ll learn fascinating information about the Maya underworld, experience an authentic Maya blessing ceremony, swim in one of the most awe-inspiring cenotes we’ve seen and enjoy a 3-course, traditional Maya meal offered inside the cavernous cenote itself.
From $2,400.00 pesos (approx $143.00 USD) per couple to dine in the cenote, or $600.00 pesos (approx $36.00 USD) per person to dine above ground around a fire pit. Reservations are required and be sure to specify if you’d like the experience in English or Spanish.