Times are tight and we are all looking for ways to save money, even while on vacation. In Cancun, meals can be expensive, but it is possible to have a delicious and filling lunch for only five dollars.
At today’s exchange rate, 1 US Dollar equals 11.97 Mexican Pesos, which means that $5 dollars = $59.86 pesos (but for the sake of this article, I’m going to round up to $60 pesos). For that kind of money, you’ll have quite a few options for a cheap, but tasty, meal.
Fish Fritanga is located on the lagoon, very close to Plaza La Isla mall. Actually, the restaurant is located between La Habichuela Sunset and Tequila Herradura Museo Sensorial, to give you some major landmarks. From the street, the place looks like nothing more than a small take-out booth. You can get food to-go from that booth but, if you’d prefer to have the full restaurant experience, make your way down the path, to the left of the take-out booth. Go down the stairs and you will find many tables by the water. The restaurant is in a marina, so you’ll see lots of boats, but it’s still a decent view. Fish Fritanga is one of Cancun’s little hidden gems. They have seafood dishes, as the name implies, and some dishes are pricey, but they have pescadillas (deep-fried fish tacos) are only $10 pesos each. Their tacos de pescado (fish tacos) are only $18 pesos each and the tacos de camaron (shrimp tacos) are just $20 pesos each. At those prices, you can have a little feast for $5 dollars! All of the tostadas, as well as some of the side dishes are also under $60 pesos.
Hong Kong, the area’s largest Chinese restaurant chain, has combo platters that are under $60 pesos. The combos include one entree, a side of rice (fried or steamed), an egg roll, and a soft drink. My favorite combo is the Pollo Agridulce (Sweet & Sour Chicken). It’s very tasty, and knowing how little I paid for the meal makes it taste even more delicious. The largest restaurant Hong Kong restaurant is located in downtown Cancun, at Plaza Hong Kong, but there is a fast-food version of Hong Kong in the food court at Plaza Forum by the Sea (the mall where Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, Hard Rock Cafe, and Coco Bongo are located). There is a terrace just off of the food court where you’ll have panoramic views of the beach and the Caribbean Sea while you dine.
McDonald’s, the famous fast-food restaurant, has combo meals (sandwich, fries, and a beverage) for under $60 pesos. I haven’t seen their menu in a while so I can’t give specifics on exactly what your $60 pesos will get you at Mickey D’s, but you can definitely score a cheap lunch there. Don’t expect it to be fast food though. Mexico has not yet grasped the concept of making fast-food available quickly. There are several McDonald’s locations in the hotel zone, but the one in Plaza La Isla is your best bet, if you are interested in ambiance. The indoor area of that McDonald’s is just as uninviting as all the other McDonald’s that I’ve seen but they have an outdoor dining area, where you can sit and take in the sights and sounds of the mall (which is actually very pretty and far from what a typical mall looks like). After your meal, walk a few yards and gaze at the calm waters of Nichupte lagoon.
Splash! (yes, the exclamation point is in their logo) is the prettiest restaurant on our “Cheap Eats” list. It’s located right on the water, in front of Basic nightclub. From the street, you walk downstairs to the dining area. There, you’ll find lots of plants and trees and even a waterfall and a stream with small bridges you have to walk over to reach some of the tables. There’s not a bad seat in the house, but tables by the water are obviously the coveted tables. Splash! serves seafood and pasta. Like Fish Fritanga, Splash! has plenty of menu items that are over our $60 peso budget but it is possible to get a delicious and filling meal here for under $5 dollars. Shrimp or fish pescadillas (only $10 pesos each), tacos of battered and deep-fried fish ($18 pesos each), shrimp tacos ($19 pesos each) and tostadas with shrimp or crab meat ($45 pesos each) are all under $60 pesos.
- The Surfin Burrito is a tiny little place, across the street from Senor Frog’s. At The Surfin Burrito, they only serve made-to-order burritos and tacos. You can choose from the chicken, carne asada, fish, beans & cheese, or breakfast burritos, or tacos. All of which are $60 pesos, or less. The most expensive food items on the menu at The Surfin Burrito are the shrimp burrito and shrimp tacos. Each will set you back $69 pesos, which is roughly $5.76 USD. Still cheap, but not within our five dollar budget. As the photo shows, there is not much seating, or much shade, but the food (and low prices!) definitely makes the trip worthwhile.
Taco Factory has been around for years and, like all other restaurants on this list, they have yummy food at low prices. They have tacos (obviously!), burritos and other Mexican fare. There are many items on the menu that are under the $60 peso budget. This a nice spot for a cheap lunch but, since it’s in the heart of Cancun’s “party center”, it’s also a great place for grabbing some food after a night on the town.
Ty-Coz Express is located in a small shopping center, across the street from the Presidente Inter-Continental hotel. Ty-Coz only has baguette sandwiches and they are the best in town. The two most expensive items on the menu are listed at $70 pesos each, but the majority of the offerings are around $50 pesos, or less. The Economica sandwich, a baguette with ham, salami, and cheese, is only $15 pesos. There are only 2 or 3 small tables at Ty-Coz Express so be prepared to eat on the sidewalk, or plan to just get your sandwiches to go. Vegetarians will be delighted to know that Ty-Coz Express has a veggie sandwich, aptly named the Vegetariana.
Xtabentun is located in Coral Negro Flea Market. The kitchen is inside one of the shops and the tables are out on the walkway for the market. During busy times of day, there are also tables set up in the parking lot. It’s definitely not the place to go to for ambiance, but the food is super-cheap and very good. Tortas (sandwiches), tacos, and hot dogs are just some of the menu items that you can get for under $60 pesos. The chicken burrito is my personal favorite. It comes with beans and rice and the price is around $50 pesos. This place is very popular with locals, which is always a good sign that a restaurant has good food and good prices. Xtabentun is also a great place to eat, after a night of partying in Cancun’s nightclubs.