My early trips to Cozumel were 100% for diving. Once I moved here, my city foodie roots took hold and I had to go beyond the guidebook listings and find out where to eat in Cozumel’s best restaurants, for myself.
The Cozumel food scene is even better than I thought, and into 2022, it’s getting better every day.
Cozumel’s best restaurants include modern Mexican cuisine, high-quality Italian eateries, beach-front surf-and-turfs, Brazilian grill houses, and a few special new spots for vegetarian, bao, Indian food, and sushi. The island is also home to a wide range of excellent traditional Mexican restaurants, from established fine dining to drool-worthy street tacos and sweets.
When researching where to eat in Cozumel, you’ll find the island has an impressively diverse foodie scene, now including hip outdoor food courts, diet-specialty services (think vegan, keto, and paleo), and a wide variety of international cuisines, including Indonesian, Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, pizza, burgers, seafood, vegetarian, French pastries, artisan ice cream, fine chocolates, and more.
This overview of Cozumel’s best restaurants will give you a quick taste and some top picks of what and where to eat while you’re visiting.
You can enjoy lots of these suggestions on a budget, while others are more elevated sit-down establishments, very worthy of serious special occasions.
But all of them are delicious and charming.
Don’t miss our other specific posts on Cozumel’s best restaurants, including:
- Awesome regional Mexican classics – read this post
- Our favorite pizza places on the island – read here
- Best local tacos to order – read here
- Cool coffee spots – read here
- Great vegetarian and vegan options – read here
Cozumel’s Mouthwatering Mexican Food
You just can’t include every great Mexican restaurant in Cozumel. There are simply too many!
Cozumel’s Mexican Street Food
Turn down any street and follow your nose, and you’ll likely find a small kitchen turning out delicious tacos and tortas, huaraches, gorditas, empanadas, or fire-roasted meats.
You might prefer a super-fresh chilled ceviche made from today’s fresh catch and local limes.
Or maybe a freshly squeezed tropical juice, mango ice cream, carefully sourced cold-brew coffee, or hundreds of other tasty local favorites for a quick snack or something to pack up for the dive boat or your romantic sunset picnic.
A trip to Cozumel’s central Mercado Municipal will also prove to be an explosion of delicious homemade Mexican foods, as well as some more exotic favorites.
Fruit stands and spice shops rub elbows with butchers, fishmongers, tortilla makers, and deft cooks, quickly turning out lots of the food Cozumel is well-known for.
Try a torta stuffed with the Yucatan classic cochinita pibil, a plate of huevos divorciados for breakfast, handmade tamales, tostadas, pozole stew with pork and hominy, empanadas, hand-pressed tortillas, and lots more.
Vendors and purveyors are busy from early morning to mid-afternoon, serving locals and ex-pats who’ve come to get their fill.
Everyone also wants to know “where do the locals go for the best tacos”?!
Well, see below for some quick picks, and read this related post on ordering Cozumel’s best tacos).
Moving up the fancy chain from tacos, there are loads of excellent Mexican sit-down restaurants serving some fine plates of Yucatan Specialties from the region.
Short List: Top Recommended Mexican Restaurant Picks in Cozumel:
- Tacos: Los Guisados, La Clasica, El Pique, El Chino Marinero
- Grilled/Roasted Meat and Chicken: El Billy, Parri Pollo (30 Av. at Salas), Carnitas Diaz
- Ceviche: San Carlos, El Coctelito
- Traditional Mexican with soul: El Moro, Colores y Sabores, El Abuelo Gerardo
- New, hip (and delicious) Mexican: La Clasica, Kondesa, El Sereno
Best Italian Restaurants in Cozumel
Coming from New York City, and New Haven before that, it’s easy to be an Italian food snob.
I was a pessimist at first about what to eat in Cozumel, beyond the great Mexican food.
Turns out, I was way wrong to doubt, and I’m so happy I was!
First off, can we agree that Italian food is THE most universally loved cuisine? I mean, world-wide. No matter where you go, you can find a place for pasta and pizza. Maybe not the best ever, but…it’s usually there.
Well, it’s definitely here in Cozumel, and it is definitely NOT just average. Precisely the opposite.
The shortlist of good Italian food in Cozumel has to start with the leader of the pack, Guido’s.
Guido’s has been around since 1978 and has some of the most refined food and service on the island.
Often the choice for special occasions, Guido’s is the place. (reservations recommended)
Rolandi’s is a similarly classy joint with professional service and stellar pasta and pizza dishes. They also delight by having several show-stopping flaming desserts (think: bananas foster), so Rolandi’s is an excellent choice when you have a special birthday or another celebration you want to light up.
Choose the lovely candle-lit waterside dining section outside, and you’ve got some solid romance (but still reasonable prices) for any day of the week.
New and noteworthy! A relative newcomer that is has taken Cozumel’s restaurant scene by storm is K’ooben Laab. This charmer is a small and modest place, that opened with only a few seats, and has now expanded into a good sized fresh-air dining area on the second floor.
But there is nothing modest about the skill and quality of this homemade pasta and Italian food – it’s just incredible.
K’ooben Laab also has two of THE best salads on the island. Try the ensalada mixta or the ensalada caprese – I don’t know where they source their tomatoes for this classic, but they are incredibly ripe and delicious, you almost forget about the perfect dollop of fresh burrata on top.
You have to try this place – if only to take out one of their signature sourdough bread. But do yourself a favor, and stay for a plate of pasta or other special of the day. You won’t regret it! (find more info on K’ooben Laab here).
Cozumel’s Best Pizza
The pizza in Cozumel has also really improved in the last several years.
If you’re a pizza fanatic, check out our full post on the top 11+ best and most interesting pizza picks in Cozumel – here on the site.
Or simply choose from this shortlist of favorites, below, and you’ll be off to a great start.
Our Top Cozumel Pizza Picks:
Best International Restaurants in Cozumel
Moving on from Mexican and Italian, the choices keep going.
Diverse Cultural Food Picks in Cozumel:
- Lebanese – Arabian Taco
- Sushi – Cozumel Dreaming
- Indian – Hindu Food Service (opened new dine-in spot in July 2021!)
- Fried Chicken – Cozumel Fried Chicken
- Vegan/Vegetarian – La Cuisine Cozumel
- Argentinian – Del Sur Parrilla Argentina
- Lobster Sandwich – no other than the BEST one at Le Chef
Popular Cozumel Favorite: Buccanos
and Shi Fu Restaurants
I came to the conclusion that this unique restaurant just needs its own mini-section in this post.
Buccanos is a lovely beach club, by day. It’s a great choice for some swimming, sunbathing, and easy beginner snorkeling – all with a nice, fun menu, good drinks, and especially nice service, grounds, pool, and bathrooms, etc.
But at night?! Buccanos is a serious fine dining destination.
Buccanos has a great menu featuring lots of steak, shrimp, and lobster dishes, and now includes some of the incredible sushi creations the former Shi Fu was known for.
Definitely try Buccanos at Night, if you can – it’s one of the most popular and impressive modern new restaurants in Cozumel – perfect for a special occasion, as well.
Best Burgers in Cozumel
As you can imagine, like ‘best pizza’ on the island, the argument rages over Cozumel’s best burger.
Cozumel now has several places that make really good classic burgers and cheeseburgers, as well as some with fun Mexican toppings, and other nice foodie combos. Lots of beach bars and restaurants in town have upped their burger game, and brought the good quality beef, minimal fuss, fresh toppings, and respectable grill marks.
Good burgers in Cozumel used to be a little harder to come by, as local chefs often use a meat blend and season their patties to taste a bit more like meatloaf, and rarely seemed to get their grills hot enough to get that nice seared char on the outside.
They’re always good, but just not what us Yanks would crave when we were searching for that perfect crusty and juicy burger fix.
But that is changing!
Here are the crowd-sourced favorites in the current Cozumel burger scene.
Our Best Cozumel Burger Picks (as of 2021):
- Rock’n’Java **And don’t miss the best veggie burger in Cozumel, here, too! It’s delicious.
- Money Bar
- Caribe Burger
- Cozumel Rum Company
Cozumel’s Best Sweet Desserts
No matter where I’ve gone in Cozumel, I seem to always have to get dessert once I see their selections.
Key lime pie at the Key Lime Pie Factory (north end), flaming banana splits at Rolandi’s, hot fresh churros at Kondesa, the incredible chocolate cake at K’ooben Laab, and I better stop because my mouth is watering.
As if regular, homemade ice creams, gelatos, and fresh mango smoothies were not enough!
Mexico is also the land of homemade pastries and bread – pick up a tray and tongs in the grocery store like Mega or Chedraui – and select a number of freshly baked treats to sample (for incredibly low prices).
Or visit one or two of the beautiful cake shops all over town.
Each holiday has its own traditional treats, so take a look when you’re doing your shopping in Mega or Chedraui – that’s sometimes the best way to get an insider’s look at the local culture.
Pan del Muerto (Bread of the Dead, around Day of the Dead celebrations Nov. 1-2), or a Rosca de Reyes (Cake of the Kings, for Three Kings Day on January 6) – these and many others are some of the special tastes of Mexico. Try them!
Honestly? Just try whatever looks good to you. You can’t lose.
There are so many great choices. For one, read our related post on our favorite coffee bars in town – many of those have delicious sweet treats that go perfectly with coffee.
And my next favorite – always – is ice cream.
I’ve had some of the best ice cream after dinner at the Hotel Casa del Mar restaurant. They buy fresh, homemade ice cream almost daily from a woman in town. Get the coconut before it runs out!
But coconut ice cream is also a favorite at a little shop in the town square, at the wonderful El Moro restaurant, and at many places around town. Cozumel is coconut ice cream country!
Another of those only-in-Cozumel experiences the island is known for can be found handmade and hand-delivered by the man we affectionately call the Churro Man, Javier.
The Churro Man can be seen nearly every day riding his bike up and down the main drags of town with his signature blue container. That blue bucket of love is full of some of the most freshly baked, warm and delicious churros you’re likely to find! And they’re usually stuffed with either sweet cream, raspberry jam, or Mexican chocolate sauce.
He is one of the many spontaneous highlights during a stay on the island, so if you see him – don’t hesitate to wave him over, try a fresh churro, and chat a while!
That’s how real traveling memories are made. Cozumel, style.
Now that you know where to eat in Cozumel – or at least where to start – I’m confident you’ll appreciate the island’s foodie scene, too.