Best Tacos in Cozumel? Order Like a Local

You are currently viewing Best Tacos in Cozumel? Order Like a Local

The taco craze has taken over worldwide. Awesome taco joints in Cozumel are definitely part of the action. Like you, I’m always looking out for where the locals go to get the best tacos in Cozumel. 

There are about 100 or more answers to “where to get the best taco in Cozumel?” – and they are all right!

I think the better questions to guide your taco quest are:

  • What’s the best local taco to order in Cozumel?
  • What’s Cozumel’s most popular taco?
  • Which tacos are most traditional to the region?
  • What’s the most unusual taco you can find in Cozumel?
  • Where can I get a good vegetarian taco option?

Then the answers start to get a little more interesting and a lot more mouth-watering.

Cozumel is known for delicious food, and that definitely includes great local tacos. A handful of popular favorite taco joints top a very long list of “must try” places. In order to separate good tacos from great ones, it helps to know where to go, but moreso which type of local tacos to order so you get the full authentic Mexican taco experience.

There aren’t really any bad tacos, so if you’re walking around Cozumel a place looks (and smells!) good to you? Go for it. Give them a chance – you’ll probably find your new favorite taco spot. 

If you want to try some of Cozumel’s current favorite taco joints, and especially to know what kind of taco to order once you get there – read on.  

Cozumel’s Reigning Taco Champs (as of July 2021)

Even in the best of times, restaurants can ebb and flow, and our favorite lineup can change over time. Unfortunately, some things probably will change in the next many months. 

We’re coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown as I write this, and so far, many have survived it.  So…fingers crossed. 

But there are many Cozumel taco giants that have been on the top of the list year after year. Some are able to work a bit through these troubles, and some are likely not.  But we hope and pray all of these places, and good places all across the island, reopen soon and strong.

So when you come to visit, be sure to seek out some on this list, and congratulate them with a nice big order.  

Reigning Taco Champions – Loved by the Locals

Diego’s (65 Av, right across from the airport)

El Pique (Corner of 30 Ave and the Transversal Road) 

Mr. Taco (Transversal just west of 65 Ave)

El Chino Molinaro (Calle 1 at 20 Ave)

Los Nopales (30 Av at Calle 19 S)

Chilangos (30 Av near Calle 3)

Los Sera (30 Av and Calle 5)

Colores y Sabores (Calle 5, just off Melgar) 

El Foco (Av 5 near Calle 7) 

Taquería El Mexicano (Av. 20 and Juarez)

And really – so many, many more.  

New and Noteworthy Tacos in Cozumel

I’ve definitely fallen for some newcomers like El Ñero (30 Av at Salas), Cuatro Taco (Calle 3 between Melgar and Av 5), and La Clasica (Av. 5 N between 4th and 6th Streets).  

El Ñero is kind of a mini-chain with other locations in Tulum, Cancun, Playa, and Merida, and now Cozumel.  This place has great tacos and great prices, and if you’ve watched the excellent Taco Chronicles show on Netflix, you’ll be happy to hear that El Ñero is one of the few places here with the suadero taco (but they don’t have the traditional ‘sombrero’-style pan. I was bummed.)

La Clasica cantina (bar) in Cozumel with nice mix of classic Mexican tiles and woodwork with modern design and atmosphere.
La Clasica in Cozumel

La Clasica is another small, modern joint run by the same team as Cuatro Taco. Modeled on an old-school classic Mexican cantina, La Clasica offers a great menu of elevated botanas (Mexican snacks) like tostadas, burritos, and esquites. But their braised pork shank tacos and beef barbacoa tacos are sinfully good.

These tacos cost a tad more than true street tacos, but they are also stuffed to the brim and drool-worthy. Not to mention being served up in a cool little bar with cool music and a great atmosphere – the extra couple of bucks are well worth it.

Order Tacos Like a Local Cozumeleño

Busy taqueria lunch counter in Cozumel's municipal market.
El Mercado in Cozumel

Look, we all have our favorites, and they’re all well-deserving. 

Maybe we can just agree that there are TONS of good taco joints on this island, and they get better every day.   

No matter which taqueria you go to, the real question is: 

What’s your order?  

Knowing what to order is key, and if you want to experience the best tacos in a “local” place, you should try ordering the local or regional favorites.  Or something special to that restaurant.  Or something kinda…out there, that you could never get back home.  

Tacos al Pastor – Mexican Classic in Cozumel

This combination of spicy roasted pork, with fresh cilantro, minced onions, and sweet juicy pineapple is a Mexican classic and a divine combination. It’s a must to try it here, especially if you haven’t had it back home. 

Tacos al Pastor has an interesting evolution, stemming from large waves of immigration from Lebanon and other Arab countries. This influx to Mexico started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Over time, the Lebanese style of cooking shwarma on a vertical spit was morphed into the Mexicans’ penchant for pork (instead of lamb) on a vertical spit – now known in Mexico as the trompo.  

Over time, Tacos al Pastor has become a staple and a favorite throughout Mexico.

Meanwhile, there are still Tacos Arabe, as well – carrying on more traditional meat and spices, and bread ‘wrap’ more like naan than tortilla – different and delicious. More reminiscent of shwarma. Try these, too!

My big favorite for these is Taco-T (30 Av at the Transversal) a new standout for tacos arabe.

At Taco-T the menu is small focused on their delicious shawarma-like vertically roasted meat on Arabic bread taco (similar to pita or naan). You can also order your tacos on a typical corn tortilla and easily have it Mexican style, as well. Delish.

Coincidentally, since we’ve been in Covid lockdown here, I’m catching up on my chef shows, and just saw much of this history referenced in a cool ‘Tacos’ episode of David Chang’s Ugly Delicious (season 1, ep. 2).  Check out that show on Netflix, and read more here at the Eater blog.  

Cochinita Pibil – The Cozumel Sunday Special 

A specialty from the Yucatan region, cochinita pibil, is a Sunday tradition in Cozumel.  

Made by slow roasting suckling pig with sour orange, achiote, and other spices, cochinita is typically served family-style and used to make tacos or tortas (sandwiches), with the pulled juicy meat and several typical garnishes, like pickled onion, radish, and different salsas.  

Just load up a big tray of cochinita, and put out a stack of tortillas and fixings, and watch everyone go to town.  Delicious.  

Driving around town on Sunday mornings, you’ll see long lines forming at the best places in town.  Stop the car and go there! 

Finding Tacos Suadero in Cozumel

The excellent show The Taco Chronicles on Netflix opened my eyes to even more special taco styles in various regions of Mexico.

One Mexican taco variety that really captured my attention was the taco suadero featured in an early episode and described as a favorite in Mexico City and a taco you might order when you really, really want to treat yourself.

Well, say no more! I started scouring reviews and local social media for the best place to try this big little taco, and while I’m sure I haven’t found them all (yet), I think I found the best and most popular at the cool hole-in-the-wall Taqueria El Mexicano (Salas between 15 and 20).

El Mexicano has two small locations nearly side by side, but if you’re aiming for suadero, look for the traditional pan that “must” be used to cook it (according to the documentary series): el sombrero pan.

Classic sombrero shaped pan used to prepare suadero tacos by cooking up various meats in a broth.

The El Mexicano locale with the busy sombrero pan got my attention, and soon I was trying my first bonafide suadero taco, and it was certainly worth its $20 pesos (1 buck) price tag.

Tacos de la Cabeza, la Lengua y la Tripa

Another local custom is to prepare and eat tacos de la cabeza (cow’s head, and all that implies), de lengua (beef tongue) and tripa de res (beef tripe, or stomach).  

Nearly any taqueria here in Cozumel will have these on the menu – check them out.  

While distasteful to some, these orders have a lot of nutritional value, and people who like these orders really like them as succulent delicacies – so give them a shot! 

For one thing, respecting and using these parts of our animals is less wasteful, and shows logic, respect for the animal, and the appreciation of resources.  

tacos nopales

Cozumel’s Nopal Tacos

One of the first vegetarian tacos I’ve had here is also one of the most traditional. 

Nopal, or the large pads of the prickly-pear Opuntia cactus, is a staple in Mexican cuisine, often used as a vegetable side, or as a thickener in sauces and stews.  The nopal pads are scraped of their spines, and then usually sliced or diced for various dishes – often combined with scrambled eggs, meats, and sometimes as the main star of a taco.  

A fresh, bright but mild-flavored green with some tooth to it – the texture is kind of like green beans or peppers. Nopal and ‘nopales’ (the plural form) are good sources of fiber, vitamin C, and various minerals, and often said to help regulate cholesterol and blood sugar. 

Naturally, “Nopales” Grill on 30 Av. features these great nopal tacos, but you’ll also see them on other restaurants’ menus, for sure. 

Inexpensive, whole-food, plant-based goodness.  And obviously a Mexican and local specialty.  

Cozumel Foodie Must: Huitlacoche Tacos

This is a fascinating Mexican ingredient I never knew about, even after years on the island.  Huitlacoche in Spanish translates loosely to corn smut or a fungal growth on corn.  

According to the wonderful foodie website, The Spruce Eats

Huitlacoche dates back to the Aztecs who enjoyed the naturally-occurring corn fungus as part of their diet. They would use the corn and the attached fungus in tamales and stews. Many Native American tribes also consumed the fungus and viewed it as a delicacy. Interestingly, huitlacoche has one of the highest protein contents of all the mushroom family and more protein than corn itself. In addition, the fungus is very high in the amino acid lysine, which is almost nonexistent in corn.

So…that might sound gross.  But just keep thinking “mushrooms”, and try it!  As The Spruce notes, huitlacoche is sometimes referred to lovingly as “Mexican truffle.” Sounds better already!

It’s a neat flavor, quite mild, and often just blends right in with the other elements of a dish.  

I’ve had it in several tacos (especially at the lovely La Bendicion cafe on Av. 10) which are really good (UPDATE: La Bendición is currently closed due to hard times of Covid; we’re holding out hope they reemerge somewhere – stay tuned). 

I was recently out to dinner with local friends who turned me on to my new favorite pizza with Huitlacoche at Fratelli’s – see here for more, in our post all about Cozumel’s best pizzas.  

And speaking of mushroom-related tacos, check out this next favorite contender, below.

Chile Relleño Tacos from a Modern Cozumel Spot

Finally, another great vegetarian taco at one of my personal favorites, Cuatro Taco

No, Cuatro Taco is not the most “old school” place on the island, but often that’s jealousy talking.  These Mexican chefs make Mexican food steeped in tradition, but with modern culinary knowledge. At Cuatro Taco that means a cool taco joint with fresh homemade salsas, delicious tacos, cold drinks, and a cool vibe.  

Their tacos chile relleño (stuffed chile) is one of a kind – “off the chain” as someone on their review site said, and I agree.  

Try one as part of their signature ‘cuatro tacos special’ (choice of 4 tacos, with a drink – it’s an awesome deal and another of our suggestions to help you spend time in Cozumel without blowing the budget.)

Cuatro Taco’s “house” homemade pineapple spicy salsa is worth the trip, alone.  Just do it.  

Finally, if you’re vegetarian or just a big mushroom lover, as I mentioned above this place also has one just for you!  Be sure to try their unique portobello mushroom taco with a savory coconut crema – delicious! 

I try to eat less meat these days, and honestly, this unique mushroom taco opened up a whole new world of ideas for my home kitchen. 

So when you get home from your vacation, maybe start adding some mushroom tacos to the mix. Or really raise your “local ingredients” game by using this fun and informative link to learn how to grow your own mushrooms at home.  

Enjoy your tacos! And when you’ve had your fill, check out some other local eats using our Cozumel Eaters’ Guide, or an actively fine-tuned list of the best pizzas on the island.

Rachel

Rachel runs and writes CozInfo.com when she's not diving, taking underwater photos, or trying a new local restaurant. After decades of project managing some mighty fine exhibition design projects in NYC, she took an adult gap year to pursue her divemaster training in Cozumel...and never made it back.