Puerto Vallarta, Mexico has long been a top tourist destination, famous for its expansive beaches. Here’s our guide to steering clear of tourist traps and chain restaurants, instead immersing yourself in the most delicious dining experiences on offer.
We begin our list with a location that Puerto Vallarta is famous for – the beach. La Palapa takes beachfront dining to another level with efficient and personal service. This can all be enjoyed while feeling the sand between your toes. A family-owned and -run restaurant, La Palapa combines fresh, local ingredients with Asian and French elements. This makes for some tasty dishes, all at a reasonable price. The selling point here, however, is the combination of such good food with such an amazing view.
Playa Detox is a recently opened and locally owned vegan restaurant and juice bar. It has a focus on cutting the acidity from our diets. The coconut cevichesare a stand-out menu item, offering a fruity twist on the classic beachfront favorite. They are served piled high on a crisp tostada. Combine with a fresh, cold-press juice for a refreshingly healthy lunch. It’s handily located opposite a beautiful yoga studio, and regularly offers healthy living sessions on the premises. Playa Detox is a must-visit for both vegans and those feeling the effects of holiday overindulgence alike.
A Puerto Vallarta institution, Mariscos El Coleguita has three locations in the area, but the best views are offered down by the marina. Grab a table on the terraza to really take advantage of the stunning scenery, but don’t feel like you need to dress up for the occasion. El Coleguita has a relaxed, friendly vibe and excellent freshly caught and cooked seafood. There are also complementary tequila shots and banana desserts with every order. If the vegan ceviche from Playa Detox doesn’t float your boat, come and try the original down by the docks at El Coleguita.
Dine in comfort at El Arrayán, with tables surrounding the picturesque courtyard, whose trees more often than not provided the fruits for your delicious cocktails. Arrayanesare a little-known Mexican fruit, more subtle in taste than tamarind. This offers a lovely parallel to the offerings of the restaurant itself – still overwhelmingly Mexican, yet with a refined touch and are the inspiration for the restaurant’s name. Serving traditional almost gourmet Oaxacan-inspired cuisine, this atmospheric restaurant is located a few streets back from the malecón. It is accommodating for those following gluten-free diets and alters the common misconception that Mexican food is always cheese- and grease-heavy.
Florios has customers flocking in to try the delectable thin crust pizzas and pastas, generously topped with Mexican and Argentine-inspired salsas. The ever popular chimichurri comes highly recommended, accompanied by a refreshing agua fresca to combat the famous Vallarta heat. Located downtown, the brightly decorated, cozy Florios often has live music. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a break from exploring the malecón. Enjoy the excellent service, affordable food, and meet the friendly owner, Miguel. The 2-for-1 offers on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays only add to the appeal.
Going beyond the familial, rustic aesthetic of many Puerto Vallarta restaurants, Café Des Artistes offers a high-class dining experience, in a breathtaking interior. Acclaimed chef Thierry Blouet was educated in France and Mexico. This goes someway to explain the delicate, delectable compositions that dominate the menu here. Highlights include the rib-eye steak and refreshing cucumber martinis, served by attentive waitstaff. Be sure to inform them of birthdays or anniversaries for a truly special experience. However, if a three-course meal is too much, partake in tapas and cocktails at the adjoining and equally decadent P’Yote Lounge.
If you’re tired out after the slight uphill walk and stairs needed to reach fifth-floor Barcelona Tapas, treat yourself to a delicious sangria on arrival. Be sure not to immediately take in the views over downtown Vallarta and the beach as you’ll be left even shorter of breath than before. The range of both tapas and wine is impressive and diverse. You’ll be spoiled for choice, so going in a group is advisable to take advantage of the options available. The service is excellent, the views stunning, and the food will make you temporarily forget about tacos.
On the beach, dining doesn’t have to be low quality, as proved by El Barracuda. In this people-watcher’s dream, take advantage of the oceanfront location, interspersing courses with a quick dip. The seafood options naturally come highly recommended, accompanied by a classic margarita. For those wanting more of a relaxed, restaurant vibe, going during the day is preferable. This is because it adopts a beach bar atmosphere during the evening. Overall? Great food in an above-average location, but bring cash as cards are not accepted.
Pizza in the romantic zone of Puerto Vallarta, La Piazzetta is a perennially busy hub with a menu full of authentic Italian recipes. Divine thin-crust pizzas smothered in an exceptional red sauce, topped with any combination of ingredients make La Piazzetta the perfect location for simple, traditional, and delicious food, should you tire of Mexican dishes. Diners can often expect to be greeted by owner Mimmo Lorusso, either in the main restaurant or the outdoor courtyard, making for a welcoming dining experience in this home away from home.
A dining experience that lives up to the hype, La Leche is truly unmissable from the decor to the food. Due to the understated and minimalist black and white interior, the inventive and surprising dishes are allowed to speak for themselves. Each night, a new menu is drawn up on the chalkboard by chef Alfonso Cadena. This means repeat visits are never repetitive. This place gracefully sidesteps the danger of being either gimmicky or a tourist trap, offering true cocina de autor. The second floor bar – La Nata – is available for customers who want to relax with a drink before or after their meal.