For the best authentic Mexican food Cancun head for Parque de las Palapas in Downtown Cancun. If you entered “Cancun restaurant near me” into Google and you are staying in the Hotel Zone Cancun, Parque de las Palapas will show up, it did for me.
At Parque de las Palapas you will find authentic local food every night, think Food Trucks and Street Food. Some that could easily rival some of the best Mexican restaurants in Cancun at a fraction of the price. Sure you won’t have white tablecloths or table service, however, you will eat great food.
I found out about Palapas (as the locals call it) over a conversation with a waiter over breakfast. I asked the question where could I eat authentic Mexican food Cancun? He quickly shot back that Parque de las Palapas was the best place he knew. When I asked if there would be any tourists there he answered no. Music to my ears! I love dining with the locals as I did here.
Food that is served at Parque de las Palapas
You’ll find a great mixture of authentic food at Palapas. Big local favorites on offer are Elote, Tacos, Marquesitas, and Churros.
This popular Mexican Street Food had a huge crowd gathered around the stalls. The dish is also made in Mexican homes, the difference when bought as street food being the stick.
The corn is either grilled or boiled and served on the stick or cut and put into a small cup with some of the liquid. A mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream is smeared on the corn cob followed by a generous dusting of Cotija cheese. If you wanted to replicate this at home you could substitute Cotija with Parmasean or Reggiano cheese.
Not forgetting a squeeze of lime, or, as at Palapas, any other sauce you could care to name.
I’d read so much about Taco’s in Mexico, the flavors and how the actual taco is soft, not hard. Plus the variety of fillings and condiments that differed from the watered-down version Australians are served by well-known chains and Mexican restaurant wannabe’s.
Softshell Tacos are corn-based which suits me as I have a Gluten intolerance. Taco fillings a Palapas included fish, chicken, shredded beef, marinated pork, chorizo and a red and green capsicum (pepper) mixture.
Toppings include a small serve of Guacamole, Greek yoghurt or sour cream, salsa, roasted corn, cabbage, mayonnaise and of course lime juice. The toppings on offer depended on where you order them.
Before I traveled to Spain 10 years ago I hadn’t heard of Churros. It was back before I discovered I was allergic to gluten, so have indulged in the Spanish snack with gooey chocolate dipping sauce. Most of the stall holders at Palapas will call you over and hand you a sample. They looked good, very good!
Churro, as they are correctly named, originate from Spain and Portugal and are traditionally made from a choux-like pastry rather than a doughy-type doughnut mix. They are then deep fried so are not the healthiest calorie-friendly snack.
Marquesitas are a traditional Yucatan sweet treat or dessert. They look like a crepe, however, tend to be crispy rather than soft. The most popular filling is the Italian favorite, Nutella, plus cheese. Yes, cheese! Apparently, it’s a taste sensational, one I couldn’t sample as the Marquesitas are made from wheat.
Authentic Mexican Food Cancun I ate
You might find decision making about what to eat at Palapas difficult. The aromas from the stalls and grills will keep you guessing for a while until logic kicks in. Where else could I eat authentic Mexican food and in particular Molcajete Familiar?
Served in a traditional three-legged mortar and pestle, this dish had a little of everything. Chicken, beef, capsicum, (peppers), zucchini, onions and the reason I wanted to try the dish, cactus all done on a piping hot grill. Strips of cheese were placed on top of the dish which didn’t have much flavor and a few chillies, the hot blow-your-brains-out habaneros. I passed on those. 🙂
A variety of accompaniments were available from red and green chilli pastes and sauces, sour cream, mayo and salsas.
How to get to Parque de las Palapas from Cancun Hotel Zone
If you are looking at where to eat in Cancun or looking for some authentic Mexican food Cancun then definitely include Parque de las Palapas in your plans. Palapas is easy to get to from the Hotel Zone by bus. Before you leave your hotel, see the concierge at your hotel and ask for a map. Also, pick up business card too in case you find yourself lost and need the address when asking for help.
Catch the R-1 bus and get off at Tulum Ave where you’ll see a group of little shops. The next street you are heading for is Calle Tulipanes so cross Tulum Ave and walk north. Turn left into Calle Tulipanes until you reach the park.
When leaving retrace your steps to Tulum Ave then turn right and walk down the Cobra Ave. The bus stop is by the Chedraui back to the Hotel Zone in Cancun.
If you are looking to eat authentic Mexican food Cancun then a visit to Parque de las Palapas is a must!
Where have you eaten authentic Mexican food other than Cancun?