If you go on TripAdvisor and search for the best restaurants in Huatulco, Mexico, you’ll soon notice something curious: the top seven restaurants are all very close together on the map. They’re practically on top of each other. And that’s because they’re all at the same hotel: The Quinta Bella.
You might be thinking they pulled this off because there aren’t other restaurants. But Huatulco is a tourist town full of resorts and restaurants. There are 231 restaurants in Tripadvisor’s Huatulco ranking as of April, 2022,. And what this Guide has experienced while traveling for decades, is that most hotels around the world struggle to launch just one marginally acceptable restaurant you’ll only half-regret eating at if you’re forced to. So hosting not only one sorta-okay restaurant, but seven really good ones, at a hotel? That was something I had to eat for myself.
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While I was in Huatulco on this adventure, I only made it to two of the Quinta Bella’s restaurants: Marea (the fifth-best restaurant in town), and Aroma (the best-rated). Let’s explore those meals:
Seafood lunch by the beach at Marea
I wasn’t staying at the Quinta Bella while I was in Huatulco. I was staying at a resort, the Camino Real Zaashilla. And the Quinta Bella nailed something the Camino Real was missing: a big patio by the beach where you could just order large platters of food and cheap beer for hours while you gazed at the ocean doing ocean things. That’s what Marea is. With a cleverly designed deck on the rooftop of two other restaurants, Otto and Rustico, Marea is the place to go for a long lunch of straightforward Mexican bar food and seafood cuisine. Crack a cold Negra Modelo and get the fish tacos flowing.
I started with a taco gobernador, a specialty of Sinaloa state. It’s a cheesy shrimp taco, with cheese inside and outside, so you get this delicious cheesey crust on the tortilla, with gooey cheese hugging the fresh shrimps inside. A sharp slaw of pickled cucumbers and onions came alongside the taco. For my main, I had the fish of the day, dorado (mahi-mahi), stuffed with octopus and shrimp, and bathed in a smokey fire-roasted pepper tomato sauce I would’ve ordered on its own as a soup.
It was the kind of restaurant I would happily go to every day of a vacation. It was straight-forward, fresh food done well, in an ideal setting. It came out very quickly and the servers were helpful explaining everything. With two beers, the meal cost $465 MXN before tip. That’s around $23 USD. Less than I paid for two mezcal margaritas at the Camino Real Zaashilla.
Contemporary Mexican cuisine at Huatulco's top-rated restaurant: Aroma
Sometimes it seemed like a lot to have all of these restaurants in one place. The entrance to Aroma is shared with UNO, the Korean-BBQ fusion restaurant. Depending on where you sit in Aroma, you might be eating tlayudas while you watch somebody grill kalbi. But that also seemed fun, like being in an amusement park with good food. There’s thoughtfulness and clever design in how they’ve created seven distinct, delicious restaurants in one place, that balance the demands of tourists while honoring the depth of local food culture. Aroma, the contemporary Mexican cuisine restaurant navigates that balance well.
Before I even got to the food I ordered, my waiter brought me a complimentary empanada of Oaxacan cheese with baby shrimp and a spicy tomatillo salsa in a mini molcajete. This morsel captures that balance I was talking about: It’s a fried string cheese empanada (happy tourist on vacation). It’s also a complex salsa with fresh, local ingredients and baby sea insects (local depth and sophistication). And it’s all delicious!
Shortly after, my molito de garbanzo arrived. It’s a toasted chickpea soup the waiter pours at the table over crumbled cotija cheese, mint, jalapenos, shredded pork, and a poached egg, accompanied by freshly made tortilla chips. Like the sauce on my fish at lunch, I would drink buckets of this.
For my main, I went with a grilled octopus. For me the, real star here were the potatoes in a citrus and chipotle sauce. Those potatoes were cooked so perfectly. Roasted with salt and magic.
For dessert, I asked what the best dessert was and the waiter suggested I go with the molten chocolate lava cake. Beloved dessert of vacation hotels all over the world and they did it with a local spin. The ice cream was not vanilla, it was Oaxacan cheese ice cream, which cheese makes for such a creamy texture and flavor.
And there was also a complimentary liqueur truffle at the end: dark chocolate with candied orange, chili flakes, and mezcal inside.
If I’m in Huatulco again, I would stay at the Quinta Bella. When I was researching places to stay in Huatulco, it didn’t even come up. I only discovered it because of the restaurants. You can find the Quinta Bella here on Booking.com. I’ve used Booking.com several times to book stays the last few months because the prices and cancellation policies have often been the best options out there.
I don’t know why the Quinta Bella didn’t get mentioned more when I was researching places to stay in Huatulco. Not only does it have all of the best-rated restaurants in town, but it has two pools (served by the best restaurants in town) and an excellent location at the end of a beach. The water in this bay is quite calm for the region. The night I was there, they were also catering a large family dinner on the beach with plush cushions and string lights and live music.
The chance to eat at a different restaurant each night, with easy access to a pool and the beach and my hotel room, at affordable prices is extremely appealing. None of the big resorts in Huatulco have this many restaurants. And these were the best meals I had while I was there.
If you’re a digital nomad looking for an Airbnb in Oaxaca, Mexico, this Guide suggests checking out La Calera. It is a former lime stone