My early trips to Cozumel were 100% for diving. But once I moved here, my NYC foodie roots took hold and I had to go beyond the guide book listings and find out for myself. Does Cozumel really have a good food scene?
Cozumel has a great food scene, and I don’t just mean the range of awesome Mexican joints. There’s an incredible variety of cuisines for such a small island! Choices include top-notch Italian, Indonesian, Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Pizza, Sushi, Burgers, Seafood, Vegan, Pastries, Ice Cream, fine chocolates, street food (yes, esquites!), and on and on. This overview will give you a quick taste and some top picks of what to look for when you’re in Cozumel.
And like several other features of Cozumel, you can enjoy these food finds on a budget, or at some beautiful sit-down establishments worthy of serious special occasions.
FYI: This is just an overview, to help encourage you to vacation here if food is among your favorite reasons to travel. Stay tuned for some deeper dives on each category, like the best tacos to order on the island, or this one we did on cool coffee bars in Cozumel.
Cozumel’s Mexican Food
Apologies in advance. I couldn’t possibly include every great Mexican restaurant in Cozumel. There are just too many!
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 chilled ceviche from today’s fresh catch.
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 sunset picnic.
A trip to San Miguel Central Mercado Municipal will also prove to be an explosion of delicious casual eats, 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 omelets, tamales, tostadas, pozole, and more, 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 sit-down restaurants serving some fine plates of Yucatan Specialties from the region.
Our Top Mexican Picks:
Grilled/Roasted Meat and Chicken: El Billy, Parri Pollo (30 Av. at Salas)
Italian Restaurants in Cozumel—New York Approved
Coming from New York City, it’s easy to be a food snob. I was spoiled by being able to sample any cuisine under the sun, at nearly anytime of the day.
I was a pessimist about what I would find living in Cozumel. Turns out, I was way wrong to doubt, and I’m so happy I was!
So 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 Roland’s is an excellent choice when you have a special birthday or another celebration you want to light up.
Choose the lovely 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 newcomer that is fast taking the Island by storm is K’ooben Laab. This charmer is a small and modest place, that opened with only a few seats.
But there is nothing modest about the skill and quality of this homemade pasta and Italian food – it’s just incredible.
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).
Let’s Talk Pizza
The pizza game in Cozumel has also really improved in the last several years. We’ll have a full post just on pizza picks here on the site any minute, but for now, choose among this list below, and you’ll be off to a good start.
Our Top Pizza Picks:
(p.s. full disclosure…I’m actually from New Haven. So, we’re not quite there yet – not that good! but getting closer. 😉 )
Other Cuisines in Cozumel
Moving on from Mexican and Italian, the choices keep going.
Top Other Picks:
Lebanese – Arabian Taco
Sushi – Cozumel Dreaming
Bindaya (sorry! since closed. still hoping…)
Fried Chicken – Cozumel Fried Chicken
Vegan/Vegetarian – Cali Cafe
Spanish – Casa Tomas
Argentinian – Del Sur Parrilla Argentina
Lobster Sandwich – no other than the BEST one at Le Chef
Buccanos and Shi Fu.
In the end…these two unique restaurants just need their own mini-section!
Buccanos is a lovely beach club, by day. It’s a great choice for some swimming and sunbathing, all with a nice, fun menu, good drinks, and especially nice service, grounds, pool, and bathrooms, etc.
But at night?! Buccanos – and now it’s newer sister restaurant Shi Fu – are serious fine dining destinations.
Buccanos has a great menu featuring lots of steak, shrimp, and lobster dishes.
Shi Fu, meanwhile, has a really sophisticated Asian-fusion menu, really allowing some brand new tastes and sensory experiences that are also delicious.
Definitely try these two places if you can.
As you can imagine, like ‘best pizza’ on the island, the argument rages over Cozumel’s best burger. This burger lover still finds herself disappointed here quite a bit…that said, here are the crowd-sourced favorites. Lately! This could all change by next year…stay tuned for updates!
Our Best Cozumel Burger Picks (as of 2020):
Chillin Bistro (esp. The lamb sliders)
Cozumel is a Sweet Tooth’s Paradise
No matter where I’ve gone in Cozumel, I seem to always have to get dessert once I see their selections. Key lime pie, flaming banana splits, creme brulees, mousses, and more.
As if regular, homemade ice creams, gelatos, and fresh mango smoothies were not enough!
Mexico is also the land of homemade pastries and bread in every grocery store and 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 only-in-Cozumel experience 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 chocolate.
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.