Best Restaurant in Playa Del Carmen

…if the best is what you need, look no further…

I’ve received a few emails recently from people wanting my recommendation on the absolute best restaurant in Playa Del Carmen.

I’m no food critic.

I mean, before I left the States, I though TGI Fridays was a fine dining experience.

But Playa Del Carmen is so cheap for eating out that I rarely actually cook my own meals today.

Well, also that’s because I think beans on toast is a gourmet experience in my kitchen.

So for the last few years I’ve been dining out all over Playa Del Carmen and have tried literally hundreds of Playa Del Carmen restaurants.

In my head, I’d narrowed down the best restaurants in Playa Del Carmen to a handful of places that consistently offered great food and atmosphere.

Read my best restaurants in Playa Del Carmen article to see the shortlist.

How To Pick The Best Restaurant In Playa Del Carmen

All the top restaurants in Playa Del Carmen serve delicious food.

It’s hard to pick a restaurant just on taste.

Taste also depends so much on your mood and frame of mind.

The best restaurant in Playa Del Carmen has to be a culinary treat.

Yet it also has to be unique in many ways.

I also considered the following:

  • Service
  • Presentation
  • Chefs
  • Prices
  • Finally, I wanted the restaurant that is the absolute “must do” dining experience in Playa Del Carmen.

The Best Restaurant In Playa Del Carmen Is…Ajua Maya

Wait, I forgot about the drumroll…

The Ajua Maya is a Playa Del Carmen institution.

It got so popular that they moved the restaurant in order to open a bigger place.

Believe me, with the competition that exists in the city, that is no easy feat. Playa Del Carmen is well-known for restaurants and bars coming and going, but rarely for them expanding.

It’s located on 5th Ave, between Calle 38 and 40.

It’s run by a Mexican / American husband and wife team that are always in the restaurant chatting with customers.

Jorge, the co-owner, is full of amazing stories about growing up in a Mayan household in Tuxtla-Guiterrez and his mother opening the most famous bakery in the region.

Brenda, the other co-owner, still makes the chocolate cake and cheesecakes that she was famous for in Virginia, US.

Ajua Maya is always popular for wedding meals and for large groups celebrating.

(NOTE: Brenda, one of the owners, is a wedding planner and a corporate event planner as well as restaurateur.)

But whether you come as 2 or 20 people, the service is always as good.

How Good Is The Food In Ajua Maya?

If you’re going to take away the lofty title of Rufus’s Best Restaurant in Playa Del Carmen, then it’s got to taste good.

Ajua Maya is undoubtedly delicious.

The meat is grilled to perfection, seafood is incredibly fresh, appetizers are bursting with flavor, and desserts are a must whether you’re full or not.

What I like most about the food is the variety and diversity of each individual dish.

Every bite is a new combination of flavors, each little dish is subtly different, and the eclectic combination of influences create a true dining experience.

There’s not much more I can say about the quality of the food.

I could do some food critic waffle like, “Hints of spring tantalize the tongue before the powerful rush of the asparagus turns a hungry mouth into a frenzy…

But that’s just bullshit.

It’s delicious at Ajua Maya.

The best way to find out is to try it for yourself.

What Kind Of Food Is On The Menu?

So, officially, the food is a mix of Mayan, Mexican, Virginian, Gourmet Vegan, and Mestizo.

Which sounds interesting but I’m not sure I really understand what that means.

It’s certainly eclectic, and there is a mix of strong Mexican flavors with the more delicate approach of other cultures.

They’ve also perfected how to cook all types of meat and seafood.

Some personal favorites:

  • Roasted venison with cognac and saffron
  • BBQ platters of baby back ribs and jumbo shrimp
  • Fresh Lobster
  • Arrachera – that’s Mexican marinated skirt steak. (Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it before either.)

About The Menu At Ajua Maya

Ajua Maya mainly has six set menus, and on each menu there is a dozen dishes to choose from.

I hate these types of menus if you don’t get choice.

Fortunately, that’s not Ajua Maya.

  1. First, you get a starter of fresh chips and salsa.
  2. Then you choose an appetizer.  After that, you’re likely already quite full given the portion sizes.
  3. Next up comes the highlight is the huge selection of entrees. By then, you’re stuffed. But you must finish the last part of your meal….
  4. Finally, dessert comes.


What Are Some Prices At Ajua Maya?

The cheapest is the Ajua Cantina, a very Mexican party-style menu that costs $25 USD per person.

Think sumptuous fajitas, bbq platters, chile relleno with beef, and wild seafood salads that are bigger than the table.

Then the most expensive is the Elegant Hacienda Menu.

It’s $65 USD per person, but just check out what’s on this menu.

  • Grilled lobster
  • Roasted venison
  • Basket of shrimp with mango habanera sauce
  • Apple tart bathed in cinnamon brandy.

Does the Queen of England eat this good?

The Other Great Menus At The Best Restaurant In Playa Del Carmen

There are six different menus to choose from.

I haven’t tried the $35 USD per person Vegan Gourmet menu because I am somewhat of a meat fiend.

(However, this is changing. I have gained some unnecessary weight due to all the delicious food here. I might have to go vegan soon.)

But a couple of girlfriends were raving about their spicy tofu curry and hand-pressed ravioli.

I usually order the Ajua Maya menu.

It’s only $35 USD per person, and there is a dozen massive slabs of meat or fish to choose from.

  • 16-oz rib eye
  • Roasted cornish game hen stuffed with chile
  • Pork
  • Awesome barbequed fish
  • And my favorite, Tikin Xic. That’s Mayan fresh fish in an achiote sauce.

Real foodies will appreciate the Flambe and Exotic Mayan Menu.

There’s plenty of truffles, brandy sauce, lobster, and exotic Mayan entrees to please anyone.

Or there is the Hacienda Mayan Menu – a more traditional selection of food based on colonial times.

  • Surf and turf
  • Wild lobster
  • Salmon
  • Carrot cake
  • etc.

Anything Else About The Best Restaurant In Playa Del Carmen

A great restaurant isn’t just about food.

Ajua Maya has also nailed how to create a great atmosphere.

It’s cozy and welcoming, but also big enough for larger groups who want to create a lively vibe.

The service is outstanding and sometimes very funny.

Have you ever seen waiters carry drinks on their heads?

It’s certainly worth a tip.

It’s alfresco dining if you wish.

Which is what I think Playa Del Carmen is made for.

Plus they’re rocking this Mexican / Mayan / mystical kind of vibe which epitomizes everything that Playa Del Carmen is about.

I think their chefs are authentic Mayans as well.

Which would make sense given some of the crazy sounding things on the menu.

Most importantly the food portions are insane.

Lots of great food = happy people = good atmosphere.

Forget Gorden Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen – if every restaurant in Playa Del Carmen followed that simple equation, then we would all be fat and satisfied.

But they don’t.

So go to the best restaurant in Playa Del Carmen – the Ajua Maya.

And while you are there, tell Brenda and Jorge that Rufus says hello!

I will see you there soon…

Lots of love,


Rufus signature

It’s your turn. What do you think is the best restaurant in Playa? Please tell us in the comments section below!

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