Before going to many of the fine dining restaurants flanking Tulum’s beach road or exploring the local bites in town, I did what most weary travelers do when arriving in Tulum: head for the beach.
Unlike other areas in the Riveria Maya (cough, Cancun), there are no built up beach front high rises to ruin the atmosphere, only small, eco-friendly boutique hotels, that seamlessly blend in with the environment.
Relaxation began immediately.
Until I got hungry. Fortunately, the restaurant at El Pez, where we were staying, quickly brought out superb shrimp tacos topped with a sweet and spicy mango salsa, and with a streak of habanero sauce on the side. We also enjoyed a delectable mixed seafood ceviche, with plentiful fresh shrimp, fish, and octopus mixed with citrus, corn, avocado and chilis, and served with homemade tortilla chips.
Ceviche is the Central and South American version of Italian crudo: raw fish cured in citrus and spiced with chilis (though the shrimp and octopus were fully cooked). It’s even better when combined with creamy avocado and paired with something crunchy, like the homemade tortilla chips.
The most difficult question we encountered during the trip was which beach to go to. After enjoying the El Pez beach one day, on another day, after an agonizing decision-making process, we decided to check out La Zebra, the sister hotel of El Pez, and located a short drive down the beach road.
There we enjoyed fish ceviche while camped out on their restaurant’s beach-front terrace. The crunchiness was provided by a tostada that served to cradle the delicate fish, which was also topped with a tomatillo salsa.
While at La Zebra, we also sampled some shrimp and octopus tacos in a warm soft tortilla, as well as habanero-marinated beef tacos with pickled onions and a side of guacamole. All washed down with some cold lagers, of course. Beer and tacos always taste better while looking at the ocean.
There wasn’t just great beach-side Mexican food in Tulum either. A trip to the third beach-front sister hotel to La Zebra and El Pez, called Mezzanine, allowed us to enjoy Thai food while perched on a cliff with a breathtaking view of the beach. (Hence the name). Hammocks were set up along the cliff for an obligatory post-lunch nap while looking at the waves.
We weren’t entirely sure what to make of a Thai restaurant in Mexico, but this one was highly regarded (and, apparently, brought in TV personality Dim Geefay to consult on the menu). An inventive, if disjointed dish, of coconut rice, alongside green papaya salad, alongside fried marinated skirt steak turned out to be exactly what we wanted. Each component was great by itself, and actually made use of local ingredients, even if the dish didn’t fit in together.
We also enjoyed some charcoal grilled garlic-marinated shrimp skewers with a lime-cilantro sauce and an (unnecessary) sticky sweet-spicy sauce. For dessert try the banana spring rolls.
All three restaurants are located along the beach road and are attached to hotels. Check out the map below for (approximate) locations.