Best Tacos in Cozumel? Order Like a Local

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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 downtown 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 2022)

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’ve been out of the COVID-19 lockdown for several months now, 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), Taco T (Av. 30 right at the corner of Transversal), 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 island favorites like restaurant Kondesa. 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.

Tacos Arabe in Cozumel

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 Guisados are Great for Whole Family

Another type of taco experience I learned about on the Taco Chronicles show is that of tacos guisados.

Guisados refers to a good selection of taco fillings presented in traditional brown clay casserole dishes, known in Mexico as cazuelas.

Directly translated as stews or casseroles, the term guisados can really just refer to the buffet- or pot-luck- style of the service.

Guisados tacos can be anything from slow roasted pork with red sauce (my favorite), cochinita pibil (see above), various mole dishes, chicken tinga, nopales, scrambled eggs with rajas del poblano, or even hard boiled eggs.

One local Cozumel taco restaurant aptly named Los Guisados features this style of eating – and trust me, the various guisados at Los Guisados are delicious, indeed.

Cozumel restaurant Guisados featuring blue-corn tortillas and traditional guisados fillings.
Tacos Guisados in Cozumel

As you walk in, you’ll see the daily selections and make your orders, then go find a seat. Soon, your tacos served on their signature house blue-corn tortillas will be served at just $30MXN a pop (that’s about a buck and a half, each).

Try this place, you wont be sorry. (located on calle Benito Juarez between Avs. 10 and 15)

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.  

Click here next for more local Cozumel vegan and vegetarian restaurant options.

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.

Baja Fish Tacos – the Best I’ve Ever Had

While not a very common offering on this coast of Mexico, Baja California style fish tacos are definitely at home in a coastal, beachy locale like Cozumel.

And the very best of the very best? You’ll find them at one of my personal go-to spots for homemade Mexican food, the adorable Colores y Sabores cafe in downtown Cozumel (on Calle 5, right down the block from the International Hospital).

Fresh baja-style fish tacos on mexican pottery dish in Cozumel.
Made-to-order baja fish tacos with killer slaw and house sauces

I ordered these on a whim, and ended up with the best cripsy fish tacos I’ve ever had in my LIFE.

The order is also huge, so perhaps plan to split it with a friend, and share some other great things on the Colores y Sabores (colors and flavors) menu – I also highly recommend their delicious chiles relleños.


Inventive Tacos from a Modern Cozumel Spot

Finally, another great vegetarian taco at one of my personal favorites, Kondesa restaurant.

Kondesa 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. Just like at their other joint, La Clasica (see above), that means a the tacos they include on their dinner menu are filled with inspired combinations and draped with fresh homemade salsas.

Find the taco sampler on the appetizer menu, and order up the cauliflower tacos with molé sauce. OMG, yum.

(And if you’re not familiar with the Mexican culinary masterpiece that is molé sauce, start with this related post, here, and hunt some down while you’re here!).

I try to eat less meat these days, and honestly, this unique cauliflower taco opened up a whole new world of ideas for my home kitchen, and also lead me to the wonderful Guerrilla Tacos cookbook (Amazon link) for even more inspiration and out-of-the-box taco ideas.

So when you get home from your vacation, maybe start adding some cauliflower, nopal, or mushroom tacos to the mix.

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.