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Best Restaurants in CancúnOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

By AAA Travel Editor

Cancún has a number of reliably good hotel restaurants, as you'd expect in a popular resort destination. If you're the non-adventurous culinary type you'll find plenty of places to eat in the Hotel Zone, from familiar fast food to pricey places to eat with reliably standard menus. If you want to dive into the more exotic world of authentic Yucatecan cuisine, check out one of the local restaurants in downtown Ciudad Cancún.

Fine Dining Options

Hotel Zone restaurants tend to emphasize a fine dining experience. Heading the list is La Joya , in the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancún All Inclusive Spa Resort . The evening begins with a complimentary tequila tasting, along with a knowledgeable explanation of the distilling process used to create this potent beverage. This three-level restaurant is beautifully decorated with stained glass, artwork and authentic Mexican furniture. The food includes gourmet fare like venison empanadas as well as such Mexican standards as grilled beef tampiqueña style, and the wine list includes selections from Baja California's Guadalupe Valley. A strolling trio of musicians provides a romantic backdrop, which makes a dinner here one of the popular things for couples to do. Most nights also feature a show (beginning at 8 p.m.) headed by the 11-member Mariachi del Sol, who regale diners with a variety of songs.

Oakwood paneling and cool marble floors characterize Le Basilic , also in the Fiesta Americana. This intimate, adults-only restaurant offers a changing menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, emphasizing fresh ingredients and beautiful presentation. Chef Henri Charvet works wonders with seafood—a luscious lobster consommé appetizer, or entrées like fillet of sole with caviar and grilled salmon in a caper sauce. Service is attentive to say the least. You'll also want to dress up for this experience.

Fantino , in The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun , maintains that hotel's embodiment of high-end luxury. The mood here is elegant, the ambience classical European. The dining room's hand-painted ceiling frescos and beautiful Caribbean views set the stage for gastronomic adventure. You can choose from the a la carte or tasting menu, the latter paired with selections from an outstanding wine list. From gazpacho with sea scallops and lemon crème fraiche to such entrées as Maine lobster lasagna or short ribs with squash gnocchi, this is special occasion dining you'll remember.

Hacienda Sisal Mexican Grill , on Boulevard Kukulcán at Km 13.5, has vaulted ceilings and a huge courtyard that recall the grand Mexican haciendas of yore. Start with guacamole, prepared tableside and spiked with sererano chiles, coriander, oregano, garlic and lime juice. Main dishes offer no surprises, but they're tasty and creatively prepared; try Yucatecan-style roast pork or the lobster and shrimp enchiladas with a tomato and chipotle chile sauce. Tikinxic—fish marinated in annatto (a spice made from the seeds of the achiote tree) and Seville orange juice, topped with onions and tomatoes and cooked in a banana leaf—is a recipe that goes all the way back to the Mayans.

Nearby Restaurants with Lagoon Views

Lorenzillo's is one of the city's longtime favorites. Literally built over Nichupté Lagoon, its thatched palapa roof is a local landmark. The seafood—in-season soft shell and stone crabs, live Caribbean lobster, Chilean sea bass—is above reproach, but you also can order a rib-eye steak or the Huracán Wilma, a chicken breast stuffed with creamed spinach, goat cheese and bacon. Try to get an upstairs table in the smaller two-story palapa on the pier; the views are well worth it.

Another restaurant with a lovely lagoon view is Harry's Prime Steakhouse & Raw Bar . The USDA Prime filet mignon is an excellent cut of beef that doesn't need an accompanying Bernaise sauce or garlic and herb butter (but don't let that stop you). With such meaty options available, parmesan truffle fries or creamed corn with black truffles are almost an afterthought—but again, don't let that stop you. Harry's also has a wide variety of seafood appetizers, from grilled octopus to lobster tostadas. If you can save room for dessert, try the mango sorbet.

The décor at Puerto Madero —enhanced by a spectacular view of the lagoon—is inspired by the fashionable Puerto Madero neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Carnivores will appreciate the ham and cheese-stuffed empanadas, homemade Argentinean sausage and the big rib-eye steaks, although the house specialty is for seafood lovers: a platter for two laden with clams, oysters in the shell, jumbo shrimp, whitefish and Alaskan king crab legs.

Where to Eat Steaks, Seafood and Local Specialties

Another popular Argentinean steakhouse is Cambalache , on the second floor of the Forum-by-the-Sea shopping complex at Boulevard Kukulcán Km 9. This cavernous space has a traditional steakhouse look (dark woods, soft lighting), and the service is outstanding. Start with the house cocktail, a concoction of sparkling cider, red wine and fresh fruit prepared tableside. The house-made potato crisps served in a fried potato basket are a tasty appetizer nosh. A charcoal grill imparts plenty of flavor to the various steaks and sausages; if you're dining with a group, try slow-roasted short ribs or suckling pig from the wood-fired grill.

As its name implies, La Destileria (The Distillery), across from Plaza Kukulcán, evokes the fiery alcoholic beverage Mexico is known for; if you like margaritas and have a taste for tequila, you've come to the right place. The food is traditional Mexican as well, but without a lot of concessions to tourist palates. Take the fajitas; strips of arrachera beef arrive in a sizzling hot molcajete (a three-legged mortar made of volcanic basalt rock), and the fixings include roasted nopal cactus, smoked jalapeños and a tomato-tomatillo salsa. Acapulco-style grilled fish marinated with spices and peppers is a tasty seafood dish.

It makes sense to go with the obvious at the Crab House . Stone, soft shell and Alaskan king crabs all get their due here, and the crustacean also shows up in the house salad and the cakes that can be ordered as an appetizer. The smoked marlin with capers, olives and sliced tomatoes is another delicious starter. Meat eaters can opt for filet mignon or a grilled rib eye. Like the other restaurants that line the lagoon, the Crab House has both an outdoor deck and indoor seating.

Captain's Cove Steak & Seafood Grill , toward the southern end of the Hotel Zone, is another popular seafood eatery that's been around for ages. It's a multilevel place with big windows overlooking the lagoon and the Royal Yacht Club Marina. Seafood is the main draw—shrimp, crab platters, whole fried fish and a grouper fillet prepared Yucatecan style, marinated in seasonings and cooked in a banana leaf wrapper with tomatoes, peppers, onions and limes. An outdoor deck overlooking the water is shaded by a big palapa roof. The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet here is a good deal.

Italian Favorites

There are probably as many Italian restaurants in Cancún as there are Mexican, and Gustino Italian Grill , in the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, is one of the better ones. Terraced seating and big windows equal great beachside views, and the atmosphere is relatively intimate. The antipasti bar, loaded with cold cuts, marinated veggies and imported cheeses, could be a meal in itself—or opt for classic Italian preparations like roasted rack of lamb or a braised veal chop with Prosciutto and wild mushrooms. Homemade tagliatelle with truffle cream sauce is a sinfully rich pasta dish. Service is gracious and attentive without being overbearing.

The polished service and superb food keep regulars coming back to Casa Rolandi Gourmet Restaurant & Yacht Club , in the Hotel Zone at Boulevard Kukulcán Km 13.5. The Italian cuisine can be as simple as homemade lasagna, thyme-infused pork chops or a fish fillet sautéed with garlic, lemon and white wine, or as decadently rich as the black ravioli stuffed with lobster. And you could make a full meal from the antipasto choices alone.

La Dolce Vita Downtown is a good choice it you want to take a break from the Hotel Zone dining scene. The staff makes you feel welcome as soon as you walk through the door. Homemade pastas and Italian classics are executed with flair; try the house specialty Boquinete Dolce Vita, snapper topped with shrimp and mushrooms enclosed in puff pastry, served with a lobster sauce. Capellini with tomato sauce and fresh basil is a simple dish, but it's delicious. If you're dining with a significant other, end the meal with crepes Suzette for two.

Start the Day with a Good Breakfast

Many Cancún restaurants are open for lunch and dinner only, which makes finding breakfast outside your hotel a bit of a daunting proposition. Fortunately there's Vips, in the Hotel Zone on Boulevard Kukulcán at Km 9.5 (near the Cancún Center). Although you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner here, the morning meal is their specialty. Go for one of the egg plates, perhaps Motul-style—two fried eggs, peas and diced ham atop a crispy tortilla covered in tomato sauce, with pureed black beans and slices of fried banana on the side. Add toast, fruit juice and good café Americano and you'll be set for most of the day.

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Travel Information

City Population

661,176

Elevation

7 meters (23 feet)

Police (emergency)

To contact the local police, dial 911.

Hospitals

Most major local hotels have their own in-house or on-call doctor. A list of physicians can also be obtained from the U.S. Consular Agency, in the Torre la Europea building, Boulevard Kukulcán Km marker 13; phone (999) 316-7168 in Mexico or (844) 528-6611 in the U.S. Local clinics do not accept U.S. health insurance, often charge fees well above U.S. rates and have been known to charge for services not rendered. The Red Cross (Cruz Roja) is in Ciudad Cancún on Avenida Yaxchilán, between avenidas Xcaret and Labná. It is open 24 hours; phone (998) 884-1616. In an emergency, dial 911 and request an English-speaking operator.

Newspapers

The Miami Herald and USA Today are available in the bigger local hotels.

Publications

Cancún Tips magazine has easy-to-read maps and information about local restaurants, shopping, entertainment and other things to do in Cancún. Pick up free tourist-oriented brochures at the airport, hotel lobbies, shopping centers and sidewalk booths.

Currency Exchange

Casas de cambio (currency exchange houses) and banks are along Avenida Tulum in downtown Ciudad Cancún. Most banks are open Mon.-Fri. 9-5; currency exchange normally is confined to the morning hours. Currency exchange houses also are at the airport and in the Hotel Zone shopping areas around Cancún Point.

Staying Safe

Crime directed at tourists is not prevalent, but do use common sense. Keep jewelry and other valuables in the hotel safe, or don't bring them at all. Guard against petty theft or purse-snatching incidents in crowded public places or when using public transportation. If leaving a vehicle in Hotel Zone shopping areas, don't invite a break-in by leaving valuables in plain view.

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