A guide to eating and drinking at the beach in Yucatán

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Eating at the beach in Yucatán is always an adventure, whether or not you are trying something new or sticking to an old favorite. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The variety of restaurants at Yucatán’s beaches has gone through the roof, but the true staples of beach eating and drinking remain mostly the same. From fancy restaurants to street vendors and from the sweet to the savory and spicy, there is something for everyone. Here’s what you’ll find:

Fresh coconuts

The thought of enjoying a fresh coconut on a beautiful beach is what vacation dreams are made of. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

There is nothing quite as refreshing as a freshly cut coconut. Some people prefer to pour the coconut water into a bottle or plastic cup with ice, but you should enjoy it straight from the coconut itself. Besides, there is something so satisfying about watching vendors effortlessly cut off the top with a machete and hand you your coconut right then and there. When you are done drinking up the coconut water, you can always take it back to the vendor and ask them to cut it in half so you can get to the delicious “meat” inside.

Ceviche

Ceviche in Yucatán can be made from shrimp, octopus, fish, shellfish, or in the case of a “ceviche mixto,” all of the above. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Ceviche is one of the most popular menu items on Yucatán’s coast, and it’s easy to understand why. This delicious seafood dish is cooked with acid from limes and mixed with tomato and onion. Ceviche in Yucatán is usually served with a basket of tostadas (tortilla chips) and chili sauce. It is a great option if you are hungry but don’t want to feel weighed down, as long as you don’t overdo it with the tostadas. 

Cocktails 

Cocktails go down especially easy under Yucatán’s intense sun.  Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Nothing hits the spot at the beach like a good cocktail, and that’s a fact. You can expect to find your favorites on certain beaches, including daiquiris and piña coladas. But one thing you should keep in mind is that many of these cocktails come prepared with chili, both on the rim and inside the drink itself. If this is not your thing, tell your waiter, “Solo la bediba, sin chili por favor.”

Traditional candies

Traditional candies in Yucatán are extremely sweet, so make sure you don’t bite off too much at a time unless you want a toothache. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Traditional candies are sold by vendors on Yucatán’s beaches and boardwalks. They range in flavor from extremely sweet to sour and savory, and most are made from nuts, marzipan, tamarind, and coconut. Next time you see the dulcero, make sure to wave him over and buy one or two of each to know what you like. 

Shrimp cocktail

The size and amount of shrimp in each cocktail can vary widely, so scout around to see what other customers are being served. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Unlike in other places, shrimp cocktail in Yucatán is always served in either a tall or rounded glass. Shrimp cocktails are mixed with a tomato-based sauce, some habanero chili on the side, and crackers. Because this is not a fried dish like ceviche, it’s fairly light and won’t weigh you down if you feel like a dip in the ocean afterward. 

Shaved ice 

Shaved ice treats can be found near the beach at push carts and in shops, restaurants, and convenience stores. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Shaved ice beverages are extremely popular in Yucatán, especially among kids. Though most are made with artificial flavors, more natural options do exist, and they are usually a bit more expensive. If you do pick one up for one of the little ones in your life, remind them they better not take too long to slurp it up unless they want it to turn to liquid. Like with cocktails, these beverages usually come with spicy rims and a tamarind-covered straw — but can easily be prepared without if you ask. 

Botanas

The quality and amount of botana on offer is often the number one factor most Yucatecos consider when deciding where to eat at the beach. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Botaneros is the name given to a specific kind of restaurant that serves “free botanas,” small dishes of food with every round of drink your order. These small dishes often include tamales, flautas, papadzules, spicy potato wedges, and the like. Visitors to Yucatán are often confused when unknowingly visiting a botanero and being suddenly served with items they did not order, only to be reassured, “no se preocupe, son gratis.”

Fish tacos

When ordering fish tacos, ask how big they are, as often they are quite large and filling. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

For many visitors to Mexico, the first thing that comes to mind when they think about eating on the beach is fish tacos. But believe it or not, these seafood tacos have only become popular in Yucatán in recent years, as they are much more closely associated with beaches on the west coast. The fish in the tacos is usually fried or grilled and served on fresh tortillas with pico de gallo, dressing, and hot sauce. Fish tacos go exceptionally well with a cold Pacifico if you are a beer drinker. 

Tostilocos

Tostilocos are usually served in a chip bag, but if they are truly huge, they will come in a polystyrene container. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

This nacho-like snack is made using a base of corn chips (usually Tostitos) covered with different kinds of cheese, hot sauces, peanuts, jalapeño peppers, and optional ingredients such as bacon bits. Tostilocos are delicious, and some would say the ultimate junk food — but make sure to limit yourself to one. Otherwise, your digestive track will be in for one heck of a ride. 

Burgers and French fries

Bribing your children with French fries to get them to try new foods probably won’t get you on the cover of any parenting magazine, it’s worth a shot. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Yes, yes, we know. Burgers and French fries are hardly the epitome of Yucatecan food. But if you are traveling with children or especially fussy eaters, you will be happy to find them on the menu. Other common friendly “kid-friendly options” include chicken nuggets or chicken strips. Don’t feel too bad about indulging your kids with what they know they like. It’s their holiday, too, after all. 

Check back for more of Yucatán’s favorite beach treats. In the meantime, read out more stories on Yucatecan cuisine and delicacies.

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