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:
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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
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.