Our Favorite Cozumel Restaurants

Everybody who visits Cozumel frequently has a list of favorite places they like to visit every trip. After years of extensive research, here’s our list:

Below are trip reports of some dining experiences from visits to the Island.

July 2017

We tried a few new places on this visit.

Technically the name of this place is Gio’s Gourmet Fast Food but everyone refers to it as Gio’s Tacos. It had only been open a few months when we ate there in July 2017 but it already was doing a good local business but we saw few tourists there.

Standard tacos were $18 MXN with an extra $2 MXN for cheese. We found we liked the plates with larger portions and different options liked the Chuleta Suiza, chopped smoked (ahumada) pork chops with Swiss cheese. The plates run $70-$85 MXN. There are also vegetarian options along with other items you don’t typically find in a traditional taqueria.

There are actually 2 restaurants at the Gio’s location. One serving tacos and other traditional Mexican dishes and the other grilling burgers under the name of Burger House, which earned a pretty good reputation at it’s former location at the corner of Ave 5 & Calle 3. There were 2 menus and 2 different wait staffs but the two places work closely together and will each serve meals to the same table/party. There are a few inside tables but most are on a covered patio next to the street.

The service was excellent, it was nice to have the variety of different options like appetizers and we loved the condiment table with multiple salsas and sauces. We liked Gio’s Tacos well enough to eat there 3-times over the 2-weeks we were in Cozumel this trip. But in some ways, if you’re going for the experience of a real Mexican taqueria; it was hard to say the tacos were better than at our old stand-by, Los Seras.

I never ordered a burger but a friend who ate with us did and he was quite happy with the food.

We only ate there in the evenings but it is open 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM (with a breakfast menu) and 6:00 PM- Midnight 7-days a week. Gio’s Gourmet Fast Food is located on Calle 11 Sur between Ave 25 and 30.

We ate at another place for the first time on this trip. We were staying at the Casa Mexicana hotel on Rafael Melgar (the waterfront road) and were using a parking lot next to the Hyperbaric Chamber Hospital on Calle 5. As we walked between the lot and the hotel, we passed by a place with a few street side tables and an outside grill on Calle 5 by the name of Colores y Sabores. There was a friendly greeter there offering the menu. We didn’t stop in on the first or even 2nd pass by the place but one evening there was a terrific 3-piece band playing some Cuban tunes and we decided to stop for a drink on our way to dinner. We were enjoying the music so much that we ordered an appetizer, which was very good and then a Yucatan sampler plate that was equally good.

We invited some friends to meet us there the next night to listen to the music before dinner and ate a full meal there again a few nights later. The band we were listening to those 2-nights was the house band from La Rumba, a Cuban restaurant/bar/dance club a few blocks away near the Church on Ave 10.

There isn’t music every night and when there is music, it’s not always the La Rumba band but the food is good enough and reasonably priced enough to warrant a visit even without the music.

We ate at a lot of our old favorites this trip; Los Seras for tacos, San Carlos for seafood, La Choza and Candela for lunch specials and Rock ‘N Java for great salads. We also discovered another location of Maple Bakehouse on Ave 65 across the street from the Boxito plumbing and tile store. And we took advantage of a Shiraz wine flight special with dinner one night at Chillin.

But we were sad to see that Comida Vietnam was closed and we’re afraid it might be permanent.

March/April 2017

We ate at many of our old favorites on this trip but did visit 3 new places.

Chillin’ Bistro & Lounge opened since our last visit in 2016. We asked around and heard good things about it and since it is located in our neighborhood beside the park in front of the Corpus Christi Church, we took the short walk up the street and gave it a try on our 2nd night in town.

The restaurant regularly features weekly meal and nightly drink specials and we took advantage of the 2 for 1 (for a total of $80 MXN) Martini special that night and were quite satisfied with the drinks. Service was good and it is a lovely setting on top of one of the very few modest hills in town looking out over the park and a picturesque view of the well-lit Church at night from both inside and patio seating.

For those with a long memory of the local Cozumel restaurant scene, this is the same space created by the original incantation of La Cocay.

We ate at Chillin’ a few nights later with friends and then again on our own a week later had good experiences on all 3 occasions. Over the 3-meals we enjoyed the Mahi-mahi and Grouper entrée specials, the Chicken Panini from the regular menu as well as a couple salad specials, a soup and dessert. With drinks, a shared appetizer, 2 entrées and a shared dessert our bill came to roughly $30 USD, higher than most of our meals in Cozumel but a bargain for what the same meal would cost at home.

For those not interested in a full meal there is an extensive appetizer menu and live music on Wednesdays and Saturdays beginning around 10 pm.

Chillin’ Bistro & Lounge / 25 Avenida Sur 1132, Gonzalo Guerrero, Cozumel / Phone: 01 987 120 2863

Another new restaurant we visited in April 2017 is the Maple Bakehouse Café, located justMaple Bakehouse treats around the corner from Candela on Calle 6 near the corner of Av. 10. As the name implies, this place has some of its roots in Candada. We didn’t have a meal but did see and smell some nice looking sandwiches and breakfasts on our visits there. The place is small and only has a few tables but is a great source for high quality style of baking that you more likely to find in San Francisco than Mexico. The cinnamon buns were terrific as was the apple strudel and orange flavor pastry. In addition to the sweets were beautiful baguettes and rounds of sour dough breads and while we didn’t try the coffee, it sure smelled good.

Maple Bakehouse Café / Calle 6 Norte 33, Centro, San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R. / Phone: 01 987 872 5807

One of the newest Asian restaurants just might be the best. In April 2017 we tried Comida Vietnam locatComida Vietnam facadeed on Pedro Joaquin Coldwell (Av 30) between 5 Sur and Morelos.It is a small place located next door to Fu Lin, a Chinese Restaurant that we suspect might share the same ownership.

The owner/head chef of Comida Vietnam is a very sweet young Vietnamese lady named Rose and we found the flavors to be about as close toComida Vietnam flying noodles authentic as could be reasonably expected. The chef told us that the menu is limited to some degree by the inability to get certainin gredients but over a couple visits we enjoyed a very good fresh spring roll, a passable Pad Thai (although with some soy, which you would never find in Thailand) and our favorite dish of the day; Flying Noodles. The presentation of the noodles was very impressive and added to the pleasure. We didn’t try it but the restaurant also offers Pho (noodle soup) among several other dishes.

Comida Vietnam / Av. Pedro Joaquin Coldwell 493-521, Adolfo López Mateos, San Miguel de Cozumel

May/June 2016

We hit many of our old favorites but stopped in at a couple new places this trip as well.

Not a new restaurant for us but we discovered a new favorite dish at Rock ‘N Java: the Sopa de Pollo. We were fighting something that we now think may have only been allergies due to pollen and dust but at the time thought it might be a cold so we went in search of the medicinal values of a basic chicken soup. And we found a good one at Rock ‘N Java. Lots of shredded chicken, rice and vegetables (including the brilliant addition of avocado) and not outrageously priced. We liked it so much we went back to order it again after our cold-like symptoms cleared up.

According to local friends who have always been a great source of info on restaurants, our beloved Taqueria Los Sera’s changed their cheese since our last visit and it bothered our friends enough that they now prefer Taqueria El Pique. We tried El Pique a couple times and while we liked it fine and would go back with our friends, we still prefer Los Sera’s; new cheese and all.

Pescaderia San Carlos remains our favorite restaurant in Cozumel. Not only is the food about as good as seafood can be, the owner Diego and his staff are remarkably kind and friendly. Do yourself a favor and go there for lunch early in your stay in Cozumel because chances are you’re going to want to go back again before you leave.

As always, both La Candela and La Choza were reliable choices for inexpensive but good quality lunch specials. We ate at both more than once. One of the things we appreciate about Candela is that they are always offering new items on their daily specials. On one visit, we had their garbanzo soup for the first time. Outstanding! We also had a very nice quiet dinner with friends at La Choza one night. Lunch has become their biggest draw these days among both locals and tourists so the place is largely deserted at night.

There is a location of Super Hit very close to our house (on the corner of Av. Codwell & Calle 15)and we stopped in a couple days for lunch. Along with the standard Mexican dishes, they do a very decent club sandwich with passable French fries. They’ve started offering lunch specials written on a chalk board by the door and I ordered from that list on both our meals and was quite satisfied especially considering the very reasonable price.

Tres Patitos Empanadas is now open some evenings. Wish I could be more specific but we never could figure out the pattern of days they were going to be open. But they close at 9 pm sharp. We walked up at 9:05 one night and saw quite a few people waiting for their order but they wouldn’t take ours…it was after 9! This is the cheapest good meal you’ll find just about anywhere. They’ve expanded the menu a bit and now offer a larger variety of empanadas, salbutas and other treats. They are also still open some mornings before 12 pm but we couldn’t figure out what days on that either.

Coffee MAK is a really nice little restaurant serving 3 meals a day. It is located between Calles 11 & 13 just south of the circle on Av 30 (aka Pedro Joaquin Codwell). There is a small parking area right in front of the restaurant and a couple tables outside by the door with 4-5 more tables inside.

We’ve enjoyed both breakfast and lunch at Coffee MAK and everything from the cappuccino to the breakfast egg combos to the lunch time fajitas were visually appealing and tasted good. The fajitas are not marinated as much as the traditional style but we enjoyed the clean flavors that allowed.

Prices are very reasonable. A lot of care was taken in the presentation and the service was attentive. I should mention that everything is made to order so don’t go into Coffee Mak thinking you’re going to get in and out quickly. This isn’t fast food.

Prima Trattoria is now closed

Our May 16 trip was the height of watermelon season and we made frequent orders of licuado de sandia or watermelon water. This is a heavenly beverage. Chunks of watermelon, seeds and all are crushed in a blender, strained and poured into a glass. Some places add a little sugar and water. Some pour it over ice. I can’t count the number of times we ordered it and never got a bad one.

We had a very nice breakfast on a Sunday morning at the restaurant atop the Cozumel Museo. Not the cheapest restaurant in town but the 2nd floor open-air location provides a lovely view of the Malecon and downtown waterfront and the food and service were very good. The complimentary sweet breads and toast were above average. We’ve actually eaten at this place once before but it was years ago so this was like a new discovery for us.

We’ve been to Guido’s many times before but not for a while and on our visit there this time, we discovered a lot of changes have been made…for the good.

Local 707 on Avenida 5 is now closed

La Catrina on Calle 11 Sur near the corner of Avenida 20 is a family run 3 meals per day restaurant. Very nice older house with parking behind the house. Lunch is a good deal. This place serves all the Mexican favorites and provides very good service.  There is both an air conditioned room as well as an open air patio for dining.

El Bungalow is the very casual place at the beach just north of the Airport road. Had a decent reasonably priced breakfast there. Also a very good place to watch the sunset.

Room Service Cozumel.com Provides delivery from just about any place in town.

January 2015

We’ve actually been to Cozumel on average of twice a year since January 2007 but in looking at this page, I realize we’re missing some entries. But here are some notes from a trip in 2015.

Coffee Mak is located between Calles 11 & 13 just south of the circle on Av 30 (aka Pedro Joaquin Codwell). There is a small parking area right in front of the restaurant and a couple tables outside by the door with 4-5 more tables inside.

We’ve enjoyed both breakfast and lunch at Coffee MAK and everything from the cappuccino to the breakfast egg combos to the lunch time fajitas were visually appealing and tasted good. The fajitas are not marinated as much as the traditional style but we enjoyed the clean flavors that allowed.

Prices are very reasonable. A lot of care was taken in the presentation and the service was attentive. I should mention that everything is made to order so don’t go into Coffee Mak thinking you’re going to get in and out quickly. This isn’t fast food.

We noticed the Tres Patitos Empanadas is now opening at night. They are still closed in the middle of the day but now available for late night snacks. Yeah!

January 2007

This trip’s dining theme: hearty soups. On first consideration, our instinct is to avoid hot soup in a warm weather climate destination like Cozumel but for what I’m sure is a sound scientific theory, after the initial heat, soup actually seems to make us feel cooler.

During our quick week in Cozumel, we enjoyed a pasta soup at La Choza, bean soup at Candella, pasole at Super Hit II & Otate’s and soupa de lima at Super Hit II.

Pasole is one of our favorite local specialties but to be perfectly honest, it is sometimes a little inconsistent at Super Hit II. This won’t keep us from ordering it there the next time we visit but probably due to what’s on hand at the time; the ingredients may change from one visit to the next.

It is something of a house specialty at Otate’s so if you’ve never had pasole before, that’s a good place to give it a try. Be sure to load it up with everything on the condiment tray served with it like lime, radish, onion, cabbage and oregano. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

In addition to going back to a lot of our old favorites (Turix, Guido’s, Santa Carla Pescaderia, and of course Los Seras Taqueria) we did try one new spot: Taco Pique on Av. 30 between Benito Juarez y Calle 2 Norte. A dive master friend recommended it so we thought we would give it a try one night.

It’s right across the street from the San Francisco Supermarket on Av. 30 and just a few doors down from Taco Diaz. I digress but Taco Diaz is also known as “The Head” taqueria as they serve all parts of the cow and pig (including brain) there. I’ve only eaten there once and did enjoy it but for some reason, can’t convince my better half to go with me.

But back to Taco Pique: it has an extensive menu with lots of dishes other than tacos and a wide assortment of beverages including jamaica, horchata, aquas, soft drinks and beer. There is a nice sized garden area in the back where you can dine. The food was good and I have to say the bathrooms are an improvement over Seras but to our taste, the tacos al pastor don’t stand up to Seras.

April 2006

While not by design, the dining theme of this trip turned out to be “Eat Local/Eat Cheap.” We didn’t pick places necessarily because they were cheap. It was really more of a case that we ate where we wanted to eat and most of those places turned out to be cheap.

The most expensive meal of the entire week was a dinner at Casa Denis that ran us $220 MXN (or about $20 US) for two. Can you believe it? We spent a whole $20 for dinner for 2. It’s an outrage I tell you. An outrage!

We would have spent more than that if we had eaten at Guido’s but they were closed the day (Sunday) we went there for lunch. Too bad. We love this place.

The cheapest meal we had was a take away breakfast that consisted of freshly made hot empanada from 3 Patitos Empandas at the corner of Ave 30 and Calle 15 and fresh squeezed orange juice from Fruiteria Milpa across the corner on the same intersection. Four large empanadas and a liter of juice came to a grand total of $32 MXN or less than $3 US for a meal for two. The empanadas were great and the juice was so sweet that if you told me someone had dumped sugar in it, I would have believed it.

We ate breakfast at our house on most mornings but did go out for a late breakfast one day at Cofelia’s on Calle 5 about a block off the waterfront. It was good as usual (but is now closed).

One trick to eating inexpensively in Cozumel is to take a clue from the locals and eat your largest meal at lunch when there are bargains to be had and plan on a lighter meal for dinner. With this thought in mind, we ate lunch a couple times at Candela’s at their new location at the corner of Ave 5 & Calle 6. They change entrées daily and if you want, you can get a look at what’s on the menu that day as you enter the restaurant and walk by the kitchen. The meal includes a choice of soups, a main course that includes a meat and 2 sides and unlimited supply of iced jamaica drink (hibiscus flower tea); all for a grand total of $45 MXN (or just over $4 US) per person. We tried a couple of the chicken in sauce dishes, a grilled chicken kabob and a beef in green sauce dish and all were excellent. And one day we splurged on key lime pie which was equally good. We have heard some people complain that they were charged more for their meal at Candela’s but we were only charged $45 MXN for the basic meal and drink. We did speak a little Spanish and even threw in a Mayan word or two and maybe that makes a difference. But even if they were to charge you $60 or $65 MXN, lunch at Candela’s would be worth it.

We took advantage of another local trick at lunch on another day. There is no mention of it on the menu but if you ask your waiter at La Choza if there are any lunch specials, he’ll list several dishes including some that are on the menu and will only charge you $50 MXN for your meal. But you have to ask. Drinks are not included in the deal and there are no discounts off the menu prices at dinner.

We also had a couple great lunches at our favorite fish place, Santa Carlos located on Ave. 50-B between A.R. Salas and Calle 3. I doubt he will do it for everyone but the owner, Diego, who coincidentally hosts a morning show on the radio and local cable channel, gave us a complimentary plate of mixed ceviche while we waited for our main meal. We got one plate of the fillet and another of a small whole fried snapper along with a beer and a soft drink for a total $150 MXN. Fish just doesn’t get much better than this.

So after we have our larger meal at lunch, a key part to eating cheaply means finding something lighter for dinner. But that doesn’t mean you have to make any great sacrifices with your evening meal. As we usually seem to on every trip to Cozumel, we made several visits to Los Sera tacqueria on Ave 30 for dinner. We got our usual plate of tacos al pastor con piña (grilled marinated pork with a slice of pineapple) with an occasional chuleta con queso taco (pork chop with cheese) for a change of pace. Dinner for two including soft drinks ranged from $70 to $85 MXN depending on how hungry we were that night. And these tacos are so good we dream about them when we’re not in Cozumel.

We had eaten there before but a friend turned my wife onto the vegetable burrito at Otate’s on Ave 15. She said it was one of the best vegetarian meals she had ever eaten. Not a single bean or grain of rice could be found in the burrito. Rather it was filled with sautéed and grilled vegetables and topped with a mild cheese. She liked it so much we made a 2nd trip there on another night. On our first trip I had the posole soup chock full of hominy, pork, chicken, onions, tomato, garlic, cilantro and who knows what else. It was a terrific meal that I’ll enjoy there again in the future.

November 2004

We’re just back from a quick trip down to get our place ready for the rental season.

On many of our trips, we find that our eating pattern follows a theme. One trip turned into the search for the best fajitas on the island. On another, it was the quest for the perfect flan. This trip might be described as “eating local.” Because we were so busy working, we didn’t really make it to all of our favorite restaurants this time but we did manage to eat very well and for the most part, very inexpensively.

We enjoyed dinner on more than one evening at Serra’s, our favorite taqueria on Ave 30. With Tacos Al Pastor at $4.50 pesos, two of us could eat very well for US$6-$7.

After driving by it for years and always seeing a good local crowd, we finally had dinner one night at Otatah’s on Ave. 15. In addition to the usual selections, we loved the pasòle: pork (or it could have been dark chicken meat) soup with hominy and vegetables.

We had a great seafood lunch at Santa Carlos back on Ave. 50-B. A starter of mixed conch and octopus ceviché followed by a whole fried snapper with several beers ran us about $160 pesos for two. Since our last trip there, they’ve expanded and improved the seating area for dining out back.

A new discovery that we liked so much that we ate there twice was El Candela at the corner of Calle 6 and Ave. 5. This place does a big take away business but also has a few tables that usually fill with locals by about 2:00-2:30pm. For a set price of about $50 pesos, you get a choice of soup, a choice from 3 entrées, either rice or spaghetti, a choice of steamed vegetables or new potatoes and unlimited refills on jamaica, an herbal tea-like cold beverage made from hibiscus flowers. The selection of entrées changes daily but usually includes a chicken cutlet stuffed with ham and cheese, the same pork in tomato sauce recipe that we’ve always loved at La Chosa plus one or two others. We only ate lunch there so I’m not 100% sure they are open for dinner.

Twice during our trip when we were so busy we couldn’t take a lot of time for lunch, we stopped by El Laurel on Calle 11 between Ave 25 & 30 and picked up lunch to go. A lunch of chicken salbutas, bean and cheese empanadas and chicken tamales ran us about $50 pesos total for two.

Most mornings we ate breakfast at home. I love to get up early, put the coffee on and run down to the fruiteria at the corner of Ave 30 and Calle 15 for fresh squeezed juices. This trip we discovered tangerine juice. Yum.

After our experience at Casa Dennis last Christmas that is described below, we were interested in giving it another try. We are happy to report that everything was back to normal. We had the same waiter as in our Christmas story. I don’t think he remembered that visit and but he remembered us well enough to know that I like the Sandia Grande as a beverage without me having to order it. The prices seemed a little higher than I remembered but the food and service were terrific this time.

We had a nice leisurely dinner one night at El Turix on Calle 17 between Ave 20 & 25. The owners there are such nice people and the food including desert are still good. Right next door to El Turix in the space formally housing La Cocay is a new restaurant, Mesa 17. We didn’t have the chance to try it but talked to lots of people who did (including the owners of El Turix) and everyone raved about this place. The prices are a bit high for Cozumel but if the food is as good as we heard, very much worth the expense.

Holiday Dining in Coz

We had what now seems like a rather funny experience at Casa Denis over Christmas/New Years 2003. Let me first say that we really like Casa Denis. This particular night was the 2nd time on our trip that we had eaten there and we will go there again. But if it had been our first visit, I doubt we would ever go back again.

As anyone who has been to Cozumel before knows, the restuarants on the square usually have someone standing out front trying to wave customers in. Some are more anoying than others. As it turns out, the guys at Casa Denis are less anoying than most of the others. But at Denis, they are not only calling you in to eat at the restaurant, they are calling you in to sit at a specific table where the person seating you will be your waiter (and earn your tip.) We’ve eaten there often enough that we have a couple guys that we like to wait on us and we sat at a table served by one of our favorites. As soon as we sat down, we could tell our waiter was full of holiday cheer. In other words, he was plowed. But it was Christmas time in Mexico and we know how they party down there so it didn’t bother us all that much. I doubt I would have even shown up for work if I was that drunk.

We ordered our drinks – a mineral water for my wife, a coke for our son and a sandia grande or large watermelon water for me. The waiter arrived with our drinks except for me he had a large sangria. Before I could say anything, he looked at the drink and said “stupid bartender” and took the drink back. We ordered our dinner – quesa dia for my wife, beef shis-ka-bob for our son and chulta or pork chop for me. The waiter and I had a discussion about the relative merits of the smoked pork chop vs. the grilled pork chop and he and I agreed that the grilled version was preferred so that’s what I ordered.

A few minutes passed and the waiter returned to the table to say “We don’t have any steak tonight.” So I said, “What about chuletas? Do you have chuletas?” The waiter said they did so I said, “I would like the grilled chuleta.” My son said “Do you have brochetta (shish-ka-bob)? I’ll have brochetta.” The waiter happily returned once again to the kitchen with our order and we all had a laugh. “What just happened?”

After a longer than usual wait, the waiter brought my wife and son their meals. About 5 minutes later, he shows up with a plate of fish for me. I said, “I didn’t order fish. I ordered chuleta. He looked at his pad and at my plate and said “stupid cook” and went back to the kitchen. We could hear a lot of yelling back and forth and figured the waiter was not the only employee who had partied that day before work.

So about 20 minutes later, my wife and son had long since finished their meals and what had once seemed humerous was not getting tedious. A different waiter shows up at our table and says “I have enchiladas.”

I’m sorry to report that I lost it a little. I wasn’t abusive and I didn’t curse but I was tired and hungry and sometimes I’m not a pleasent person to be around when I’m tired and hungry. I asked again if they had the pork chops and they said they did but a minute later we called the waiter back over and cancelled the order. So eventually, a nice looking young man stops by our table and asked if eveything was all right. I assumed he must be the owner or maybe the son of the owner and he knew everything was not all right and he was going to buy me a drink and apologize or something like that but instead, he invited us to visit his restaurant and promised this wouldn’t happen at his restaurant. To this day I don’t know who he was. At least he wasn’t drunk.