The Foods of Tulum Mexico Part II: Mexican Street Food

A “small” order of shrimp ceviche at El Camello Jr.

I recently embarked on a relaxing and flavorful vacation to Tulum in Mexico. Here is the second entry in our Beyond the Five Boroughs feature on Tulum, featuring Tulum’s fresh take on Mexican street food and other traditional Mexican dishes, like tacos and ceviches. The first post explored Tulum’s surprisingly authentic Italian restaurants. The third post covered Hartwood, Tulum’s best restaurant.  Later posts will explore beach front dining and Tulum’s many other fine dining establishments.

Most of Tulum’s superb collection of high quality restaurants are located along the beach road, which makes it all too easy to enjoy all your meals a quick stroll from the beach. If you have a car, which we recommend, take a short drive past the checkpoint with friendly men with friendly automatic weapons, and explore Tulum Town, about a 20 minute drive from the beach.

A selection of Antijitos at La Chiapaneca

The food is not as good as some of the outstanding restaurants on the beach road, but, naturally, the prices drop considerably. And you can sample the cuisine that locals and adventurous travelers alike can enjoy together.

Two spots that should not be missed are El Camello Jr., a raucous local seafood shop and restaurant, and Antojitos La Chiapaneca, a taqueria serving phenomenally inexpensive al pastor tacos. Or try them both in the same meal for a little surf ‘n turf – they’re certainly cheap enough.

Octopus al Guajillo tacos at El Camello Jr.

El Camello, “the camel” in Spanish, is located on the outskirts of town and so, from the beach, you have to drive straight through the town until it seems like there’s no town left, and then there it is, on the side of the road. Sit at one of the outdoor plastic chairs to enjoy the full experience.

The scene at El Camello

El Camello serves huge portions of ceviche including octopus, fish, shrimp, and, for some reason, goat (we did not order the goat). Sizes range from “small” (meaning “large”) to “large” (meaning “can feed a small army”).

While you wait to order, a complimentary plate of spicy shark dip arrives with homemade tortilla chips. I don’t think I had ever dipped tortilla chips into a shark dish before, but this dip would go great watching a football game in front of the TV. It’s exactly like a shark-laced salsa sounds. Not very fishy, just meaty, spicy, and delicious.

The spicy shark dip

We ordered what they claimed was a “small” shrimp ceviche and a massive plate of perfectly steamed shrimp marinated in a citrus bath with tomatoes, onions, and spices arrived.

We also sampled inventive octopus tacos marinated with guajillo chilis. Octopus is hard to cook and often comes out rubbery, but not this one. Obviously, they knew what they were doing.

Some might object that the octopus could have been thrown on the grill for a little char; but the simply boiled and marinated pulpo worked for me.

Be sure, of course, to wash everything down with plenty of beer.

Dutifully making an al pastor taco at Antojitos La Chiapaneca

When you’ve had your fill of the surf, head over to Antojitos La Chiapaneca for the turf. At La Chiapaneca, the antojitos – meaning “snacks” in Spanish – include incredibly cheap tacos. The specialty is al pastor, or rotisserie pork. They serve chicken, carne al asada, and bean tacos as well. Naturally, the staff does not speak English.

The fixins’ bar

The tacos are not large, but at less than 50 cents each, you can order a lot. The tacos are served with just lime wedges, and there is a slightly ominous looking fixins’ bar where pots of brightly colored salsas, chopped cilantro-laced onions, and pickled cabbage await self-service.

La Chiapaneca also serves pretty good cheese empanadas, and tostadas with bean paste, your choice of meat, and sliced avocados.

Opt for a large variety and take full advantage of the fixins’ bar. While I was apprehensive at first – especially because we were in cleanliness-challenged Mexico – I had no problems the next day, and I carefully observed that the locals were going to town on all the salsas.

The bright orange one had great flavor of guajillo chilis while the green one was seriously spicy. Try a little of both!

Are tacos at La Chiapaneca the best in the world? Is the meat quality the best? No, of course not, but you wouldn’t expect it to be for the price. It’s more about the great deal, being at a local joint, and enjoying the night on vacation.

Inexplicably, there is no beer, which would have gone perfectly. Opt instead for a Mexican coke, cheap here, $5.00 back in New York. Does it taste different than regular coke? I don’t know, but paired with lots of spicy tacos, I enjoyed myself.

Al pastor tacos with all the fixins’

El Camello Jr.
Avenida Tulum & Luna Sur
Tulum, Mexico
Recommended dishes: ceviches, guajillo octopus tacos, beer

Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Avenida Tulum (right after Jupiter Norte)
Recommended dishes: Tacos al pastor, empanadas con queso, Mexican coke.


  • Reply March 17, 2014


    Tulum pueblo (town) is a 20 minute bicycle ride from the beach road, not a 20 minute “drive”.

  • Reply March 17, 2014


    You must be fast on your cycle!

  • Reply March 18, 2014


    Sorry to see shark dip on Camello’s menu. 🙁

    • Reply March 18, 2014


      Oh, it’s no longer complimentary? Order it anyway!

  • Reply December 27, 2014


    I think Anonymous was referring to the practice of finning, the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark’s fins and throwing the still-alive shark back into the water. The sharks either starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown. Hopefully this is not the practice at El Camello, Jr…

    Would think a food author would be more aware of this awful practice 🙁

    • Reply January 2, 2015

      Mike Herman

      Possibly, but there’s no way the dip was made from shark fins. Not a chance. Agreed, it’s a horrible practice.

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