Lionfish on a Hawaiian sling fishing spear in the blue water of Cozumel. Photo by author.

Best Cozumel Restaurants to Eat Lionfish: Sustainable Travel in Cozumel

Invasive species can wreak havoc on marine ecosystems, disrupting natural balance and threatening native wildlife. In Cozumel, one particular culprit, the lionfish, has become a growing concern.

Native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, these vibrant yet voracious predators have made their way into the Caribbean, feeding on smaller fish, disrupting Cozumel’s coral health, and decimating local tropical fish populations. 

Lionfish are an invasive species in the Caribbean that can have a significant impact on the ecosystems there.

With their venomous spines, they can out-compete native fish for food and habitat, disrupting the natural balance of the oceans. 

However, there is a unique solution brewing in the culinary scene of Cozumel – ordering lionfish from local restaurants.

For more on eating local lionfish and the other great eco-friendly things to do in Cozumel, check out this post, next

So, if you find yourself in Cozumel, make sure to order at least one lionfish dish at one of the following restaurants in downtown San Miguel de Cozumel, and join in the fight against invasive species while helping local fishermen and savoring a unique and delightful fresh seafood meal. 

Medium sized lionfish with flamboyant white plume-like fins on a dive site in Cozume's marine park. By author.
Lionfish are under control in Cozumel…for now

Lionfish are Now “Invading” Caribbean Restaurant Menus

These underwater invaders may be harmful to the environment, but lionfish are safe to eat and quite delicious on the plate.

The flesh has a mild flavor and delicate texture, making it an ideal ingredient along with shrimp for ceviche and other seafood dishes.

You’ll find Cozumel restaurants specializing in local seafood that serve lionfish, or you may even spot it on a menu alongside other favorites like mahi-mahi or grouper.

By creating a market for lionfish in the best restaurants of Cozumel, local efforts are underway to control their populations.

The initiative was led by the National Parks Ministry (CONANP), particularly CONANP-Cozumel, which was a key player in the lionfish fishery before it was replicated in other protected areas.

ICES Journal of Marine Science

Local Cozumel restaurant chefs have begun experimenting with different recipes, turning lionfish into delectable dishes for foodies in Cozumel, such as lionfish cakes or lionfish pizza

It’s even showing up occasionally on fish tacos in town

The following Cozumel restaurants are not only helping to preserve the delicate balance of Cozumel’s marine ecosystem by incorporating the invasive lionfish into their menus, but also offering a unique culinary experience for thousands of scuba divers and other travelers in Cozumel. 

Or any other island visitors who love fresh seafood…and eco-friendly travel tips.

Author's image of La Perlita restaurants facade, with mural of lionfish painted on exterior wall in Cozumel.
La Perlita is a leader in Cozumel lionfish cuisine

Several Cozumel Restaurants Serving Lionfish on the Menu

1. La Perlita Restaurant Specializes In Lionfish

If you’re looking for an amazing culinary experience with a unique twist, La Perlita Restaurant in Cozumel is the place to go. 

Specializing in lionfish, this restaurant’s perfected the art of serving up this delicacy.

La Perlita’s menu is filled with dishes that highlight the flavors and textures of lionfish, creating an unforgettable experience.

From soups and salads to entrees and desserts, La Perlita is a must, and has something for everyone. 

For a truly unique dining experience with some of the best lionfish dishes around, make sure to give La Perlita a try!

2. Kondesa’s Famous Lionfish Cakes

If you’re looking for a unique culinary experience in Cozumel, then Kondesa should be your first stop.

This restaurant is famous for being an early adopter of serving lionfish on the menu, and with their lionfish cakes, they’ve perfected the recipe.

These fish cakes are crispy and light, made with fresh lionfish mixed with herbs and spices to bring out the most flavor. The result is a delicious meal that you won’t soon forget.

Kondesa’s lionfish cakes are a great way to get a taste of something unique and different without having to sacrifice on taste. Not only are these cakes incredibly flavorful, but they also look beautiful when presented on a plate with Kondesa’s signature house-made sauces.

Kondesa is also a wonderful place for a nice romantic dinner in their lovely garden dining area, with great service and a full menu of other excellent dishes.

Their cauliflower mole tacos are another standout for plant-based eaters, and don’t miss their house churros with chocolate sauce for dessert. 

Whether you’re looking for an eco-friendly option for dinner or just want to visit one of the top restaurants in Cozumel with something new to scratch that foodie itch, Kondesa will hit the spot every time. 

3. Punta Sur Cervesería’s Awesome Lionfish Pizza in Cozumel

For lionfish in Cozumel, Punta Sur Cerveseria is not only one of our general picks for the best pizza pies in Cozumel, but it’s their signature lionfish pizza that helped put this place on the map among Cozumel divers.

The combination of the crunchy crust, bright chiles, and mild lionfish makes this dish a must-try.

And it’s not just a delicious option – the pizza is packed full of nutrition as well. Lionfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular health.

Plus, this pizza looks as good as it tastes!

So if you’re looking for a fresh and exciting way to enjoy lionfish on Cozumel, head over to Punta Sur Cerveseria and try their signature “Pez Leon” pizza for about $10 bucks. With its unique flavor profile and health benefits, it’s a foodie favorite in Cozumel.

And that’s not even considering their amazing role as the only on-site micro-brewery in Cozumel’s beer scene. This place is a must for beer lovers

Exterior facade of Destileria Cozumel in San Miguel, 2023
Destilería Cozumel has new lionfish options in 2023

4. Destilería Cozumel – Taste Lionfish on a Stacked Tostada

This new Cozumel restaurant is fast becoming one of my favorite places to eat in San Miguel de Cozumel. 

As the name of the restaurant implies, Destilería Cozumel offers up small-batch artisanal distilled spirits, made in-house.

Namely, Destileria Cozumel produces their own varieties of white rum, spiced rum, and house gin varieties. 

This has earned them a firm spot on our roundup of the best bars in Cozumel for any occasion.

But the food menu at Destilería Cozumel is another great addition to the island’s foodie scene. 

I sense some serious culinary training behind their lionfish tostada, as well as their other twists on Mexican culinary classics, like the Caribbean bibimbap, dishes with pickled hibiscus flower, and the smoked beef barbacoa tacos. 

5. New Especias Italian Bistro Has A Lionfish Dish

New Especias in Cozumel has a lionfish dish that’s the perfect way to get your sustainable seafood fix. It’s fresh and flavorful, sure to please any palate.

This unique dish is made with locally-sourced lionfish, ensuring that you’re getting the freshest catch possible.

Plus, the restaurant has a cozy atmosphere which adds to the dining experience. So if you’re looking for an exceptional Italian meal with great seafood selections, as well, New Especias should be one of your go-to spots.

6. Find Lionfish Dinner At Blue Angel’s Restaurant

If you’re in Cozumel and looking to sample the unique flavor of lionfish, Blue Angel’s Restaurant is an excellent choice.

Located right on the waterfront just south of downtown San Miguel, this beloved dive-centered hotel and restaurant has a well-reviewed lionfish dish that will have your mouth watering. The ingredients are fresh, and the chef knows just how to bring out the subtle flavors of this delicious seafood.

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy some delicious lionfish in Cozumel – or to arrange some of Cozumel’s fun shore diving – be sure to check out Blue Angel’s Restaurant.

Caught! Lionfish snagged on Hawaiian sling in Cozumel.
Lionfish hunting is regulated now in Cozumel

7. Lionfish Hunting – Bring Your Own Catch (BYOC) 

Certified and experienced divers may be able to hunt for lionfish in Cozumel, and then take it to one of several local seafood joints that will cook your fresh catch, to order. 

However, Cozumel divers should please be aware that there are now strict rules in place. 

Hunting Lionfish by Scuba Divers Now Requires A Permit

Divers in Cozumel can no longer freely hunt for lionfish within the marine park dive sites, without the proper credentials and oversight.

Please don’t get your favorite Cozumel dive shop in trouble by sneaking a sling with you within the marine park, or pressure them to let you spear lionfish “because you’ve always done it before.” 

If you’re spotted by a marine park ranger or other diver, it’ll be your divemaster and captain in trouble, not you.  So don’t push the rules. 

Things have tightened up a bit since the pandemic. And since the vast majority of amateur hunters totally whiff, and then spear perfectly healthy sponges and coral instead, the marine park rangers really needed to step in. 

Cozumel divers who want to hunt lionfish and help the problem should go with authorized dive shops and seek out their specific dive outings to hunt for lionfish. 

As a general rule, lionfish hunting by divers in Cozumel must take place outside of the protected national marine park. 

Dive sites to the north of the marine park (like Barracuda or San Juan) can be fished, and divers are still required to hunt only with specific approved gear, like the “Hawaiian sling” style spears that do not leave one’s hand, for example. 

Juvenile lionfish found on a dive site in Cozumel marine park. Original image by author.
Lionfish reproduce while young, so juveniles are a threat

Cozumel’s Lionfish Hunting Certification Class

Also, for the past few years, the local Cozumel environmental and conservation authorities have developed a certification class for those interested in hunting Cozumel lionfish. 

Talk to your dive shop about the current guidelines for taking the short class, and make sure you use a shop with experience that will take care to maintain the best practices when spearfishing for lionfish in Cozumel. 

Cozumel Dive Shops that Offer Lionfish Hunting Dives

If you have a favorite dive shop in Cozumel that you always return to, talk to them about your options before your next visit.

Some divemasters have gotten the harbor master’s certification credentials, and some shops will also venture outside the boundaries of the protected marine park where some fishing is permitted.

But there are now regulations in place, and seasonal limitations, etc., so it’s always best to ask the right questions, and arrange the activity through an experienced Cozumel dive operation with up-to-date credentials and insurance

Cozumel dive shops that currently lead the pack for experienced and credentialed lionfish hunting dives are: 

Two large lionfish in Cozumel, underwater. Image by author.
Cozumel lionfish are still a threat to coral reef

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Lionfish Dangerous To Eat?

When it comes to eating lionfish in Cozumel, there’s one question that often comes up—is lionfish dangerous to eat? This is a valid concern, and one that should be taken seriously.

The most danger lionfish in Cozumel pose to divers would be from touching or coming into contact with a live lionfish, as their spines and plumes can cause a severe sting to human skin.

My good dive buddy who has participated in lionfish hunting derbies in Florida was stung once, and he described the pain like holding your whole hand in an open fire for an hour.

Plus his hand that was stung by a lionfish swelled up like a volleyball. Not fun.

The good news? The good news is that in terms of EATING lionfish, they are perfectly safe to eat. While they may look intimidating and be known to have some venom, lionfish are pretty easy to prepare properly and then perfectly safe to eat.

They’re actually quite delicious, with a mild flavor and a firm texture. Of course, as with any seafood, there can be some risks if the fish isn’t cooked properly or if it was caught from unsafe waters. But generally speaking, you can feel confident enjoying lionfish in Cozumel without worrying about your safety.

So go ahead and seek out restaurants serving up this tasty local delicacy! You’ll find plenty of great options around the island where you can enjoy fresh-caught lionfish prepared according to traditional recipes. Bon appetite!

What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Lionfish?

Eating lionfish has a range of health benefits that are worth exploring. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, eating this fish can help reduce inflammation in the body, lower cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health. It’s also an excellent source of protein and contains essential vitamins like B12 and minerals such as phosphorus. With its mild flavor, lionfish is becoming popular with seafood lovers around the world.

But what makes it even more appealing is its sustainability. Due to its high reproductive rate, lionfish have become one of the most invasive species in this region, causing huge damage to native coral reefs.

By eating them instead of releasing them back into the water, you’re helping to protect fragile ecosystems while enjoying delicious fish dishes.

What Other Kinds Of Seafood Can I Find In Cozumel?

The island of Cozumel is a bounty for seafood lovers and other hungry tourists.

Whether you’re looking for lionfish or something else, the island has it all. From delicious Caribbean red snapper to mahi-mahi, there are plenty of options for fish fans.

Other local delicacies include Caribbean lobster, octopus, and queen conch, but there are seasonal restrictions on these to allow local populations to remain intact.

Please familiarize yourself with some of the Cozumel seafood seasonal consumption rules here in this related post.

You can almost always find tasty red snapper on the menu and in the local markets, and sometimes other local fish, like grouper-types and plentiful ocean triggerfish, are featured as the catch of the day. 

Conclusion: Should you Order Lionfish in Cozumel? YES!

Overall, eating lionfish in Cozumel can be a delicious and unique culinary experience. It’s also a great way to practice responsible tourism in Cozumel, or really anywhere in Florida and other Caribbean diving destinations that are similarly plagued by this invasive fish. 

Lionfish is safe to eat if it is prepared correctly and with fresh ingredients. There are many health benefits associated with consuming lionfish, such as its high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. 

It is important to understand the potential risks associated with handling lionfish if you intend to arrange a lionfish hunting excursion in Cozumel, such as their venomous spines.

However, you can be sure that local restaurants serving lionfish in Cozumel use proper safety protocols, so you can enjoy this delicious seafood without any worries.

Similar Posts