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AH CACAO CHOCOLATE CAFÉ
5th Avenue at Constituyentes (18th Street)
Playa del Carmen
The Ah Cacao Chocolate Café—really, just a couple of sidewalk tables fronting a glass display case and barista station—is the place to come to indulge your every cacao craving. The products are made from criollo beans grown in Chiapas and Tabasco, and the owner has taken care to develop fair-trade practices with the growers there. You can claim you've come to the cafe for research purposes: The Mayan civilization was among the earliest to discover chocolate's benefits. Don't miss the sweet and slightly spicy chocolate Maya, a rich drink recommended for lovers. (Warning: The Mayans believed that chocolate enhances fertility). The coffee is delicious too. Get a brownie to accompany it.
ALUX RESTAURANT & LOUNGE
Avenue Juárez between 65th and 70th Avenues, just west of Highway 307
Playa del Carmen
The setting is the chief attraction at Alux, a restaurant and cocktail lounge nestled inside a cavern, which you access via a long rock staircase, lit by tiki torches, that descends sharply from the street. When candlelit, the subterranean space—complete with stalactites and stalagmites—becomes one of the region's most romantic dining spots. Depending on the evening, the quality of Alux's regional cuisine falls between good and fair. Live entertainment—sometimes troubadours but also belly dancers and other performers—is provided on most nights.
Carretera Tulum–Boca Paila, Kilometer 7.7
In keeping with its fitness-minded Bikini Boot Camp, this resort serves up a selection of low-fat, fiber-rich, all-natural Mexican dishes. Take it from us—deprivation never tasted so fabulous. Standouts include the tortilla soup and calamari salad; a surprisingly virtuous banana flan will change the way you think about desserts.
EL RESTAURANTE AT MAROMA RESORT AND SPA
Highway 307, Kilometer 51
Tel: 866-454-9351, 52-998-872-8200
The resort's breakfasts alone are worth the price of admission: Think fresh pastries topped with cranberry-cactus jam and Mexican hot chocolate. Dinner is an equally impressive affair thanks to inspired dishes like the Yucatán lime soup with shredded chicken and crisp tortilla strips, and the lobster in champagne sabayon—all of them served on the beach under the stars. The restaurant enforces a resort-casual dress code, so be sure to pack dress slacks and proper shoes.
Carratera Federal Cancún, Kilometer 298
Very yin and yang: At the Fairmont Mayakoba's fine-dining room, cool metal and stone accents balance the wood-and-rattan furnishings and soaring roof, while the all-white cutlery complements the informality of the seaside setting. The menu, innovative without being frou-frou, is beautifully balanced too. Much of it is surf-oriented—tuna carpaccio, say, and butter-poached Caribbean lobster—but turf, from foie gras to rack of lamb, is also well represented. Seafood and the sea you're gazing at don't always bear any relation to one another, though the lobster served here is sustainably harvested by a Riviera Maya fishing cooperative.