Puerto Vallarta is also a Paradise for Foodies
Puerto Vallarta is one of the country’s top culinary centers outside of Mexico City. The food scene is quite sophisticated for a small town and the selection varied. It would take weeks to discover them all.
Below are some of our favorite restaurants and bars and not in any particular order.
Guests will find info and reviews on these and many other restaurants in various local magazines at the villa. The staff can make reservations and call taxis for pick up at the villa.
- La Palapa– Elegant tropical gourmet fare served beachfront with soft music and torch light as a backdrop. Year after year La Palapa is voted best restaurant for “Sunset and Outdoor Dining” by Vallarta Lifestyles Reader’s Poll. A sunset dinner should not be missed at this Puerto Vallarta standard. Sit with your feet in the sand under a huge beachfront palapa surrounded by torches, with the sublime sounds of flute and guitar in the background. Also one of the best spots to relax during the day on Los Muertos beach; designer lounge chairs and umbrellas with waiters serving food and drink on linen tablecloths while you sunbathe and swim 20 feet from the water’s edge.
- El Dorado – Next door to La Palapa is the venerable El Dorado. This area is the best spot on Los Muertos Beach for swimming and people watching. Lots of tradition at El Dorado: it is one of the original palapa restaurants in PV. Pleasant and relaxing happy hour atmosphere for sunset, popular with repeat winter visitors and families. Old school but not dated.
- Swell – On the other side of El Dorado is another popular hangout for Vallarta locals and expats. Swell Beach Club is a little more casual than the swanky La Palapa or the traditional El Dorado. This section of the beach is where everyone meets. Hugely popular but not touristy.
- Lindo Mar Beach Club – Serene setting next to the water in Conchas Chinas, great Sunday brunch, popular with the local business crowd for lunch. The perfect way to start a day at the beach in Conchas Chinas.
- La Cerveceria Union – Originally from Guadalajara, cerveceria means “brewery” in spanish. This people-watching hang out on the Malecon has craft beer, an oyster bar and a wide variety of fresh seafood.
- Dolce Vita– Owners from Italy, this restaurant has been a popular gathering spot for locals for decades. Prime location on the Malecon, known for their brick oven pizza and carpaccio, dinner served until 2:00 am.
- Blanca Blue – If you are staying on the South Shore near Mismaloya and don’t want to make the trek to Old Town at night, Garza Blanca Resort is the perfect answer. They have several restaurants that get rave reviews, but Blanca Blue is a favorite with the local socialites. Located approximately 10 minutes south of Old Town Vallarta.
- Hotel Mousai – The adults-only section of Garza Blanca Resort is on the mountain side of the road. Ultra contemporary with various restaurants and clubs including a sushi bar, cigar lounge with fire pits and DJ and a roof top bar with astounding views. Their motto is “chic, trendy and pleasure seeking”. Enough said.
- Casa Kimberley – Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s timeless home in Gringo Gulch has been converted into a fabulous boutique inn with a fine dining restaurant called “The Iguana”. Try not to miss this updated version of Old Vallarta; if nothing else check out the tequlia bar. Nov thru Apr, mariachis play every evening at 7:30 pm. Call ahead for reservations.
- Barcelona Tapas-Casual ambiance with attentive service and one of the best views in Vallarta, enjoy sharing a variety of Spanish appetizers while drinking fruit drenched Sangria. Lots of vegetarian options. Three blocks up the hill from the north end of the Malecon. The restaurant is on the rooftop of a 3 story building with no elevator; be prepared to climb, but worth it for the view.
- Vista Grill – From the same owners as La Palapa; sophisticated setting with a breathtaking view of bay and town. Even if only for a visit to the bar, you will be happy you caught this view.
- El Patio de Mi Casa – another spot to stop in for a drink but much more casual and insanely cool, an artsy bohemian hideaway for those in the know, literally because you would never know it was there when walking down the street – at the end of a long passage, tucked inside a courtyard behind a white stucco wall on Guerrero street in Gringo Gulch; only open at night.
- Kaiser Maximilian – charming sidewalk café on Olas Altas street specializing in Austrian cuisine with a Mexican twist. Known for their great service. Check out the dessert and espresso bar next door
- Archie’s Wok – a perennial Vallarta favorite, exquisite Thai and Asian dishes, very reasonable prices and a lovely Zen atmosphere with water features and live harp music. The original owner was John Huston’s personal chef; his wife and children have carried on the tradition. Located in the Olas Atlas area next to Los Muertos Beach, on the same street as the pier.
- Café des Artistes-A little pricey and portions are small but you won’t be disappointed by the fabulous atmosphere at Vallarta’s most famous restaurant, located in the art gallery district. Reservations for a table in the garden area are hard to come by; indoor seating is more posh anyway. A stylish piano bar serves specialty tequilas and martinis. French chef/owner Thierry Blouet is a fixture on the Vallarta culinary scene and winner of many international awards; he has branched out to several incarnations in various locations but the flagship is Café des Artistes. Ask about prix fixe menus, private chef demos, workshops and other special events sponsored by Café des Artistes, including the Gourmet Festival every November.
- The River Café– Gourmet cuisine with a Mexican flair, on the Rio Cuale Island, below the south bound bridge. Visit the bar for great live lounge music in relaxed riverside setting
- De Santos-Don’t even think about coming here until 10 pm. Located in the Peninsula Center in the Hotel Zone, this is where you will find the “beautiful people” and the well-heeled crowd from Guadalajara. Definitely a place to see and be seen in Puerto Vallarta and a favorite with Mexican celebrities on vacation in PV. Owned by two brothers whose sister is married to the drummer of rock band Mana. De Santos is so cool they opened a location in Greenwich Village, in addition to their Mexico City and Guadalajara venues.
- Other noteworthy Peninsula hot spots: Barra Bar and Thierry’s Steakhouse.
- La Bodeguita Del Medio-Cuban bar from Havana made famous by Ernest Hemingway. Live salsa music every night and two-for-one Mojitos made with Havana Club rum. Located on the Malecon.
Malecon Strip – Speaking of the Malecon, every visitor to Puerto Vallarta should set aside one evening to stroll the oceanfront promenade.
The Malecon strip is where the action takes place after the sun goes down. “Antro” is the colloquial term for the giant discos in Mexico, which literally translates into “cavern” but is slang for “dive” or “joint”. It is purely tongue in cheek; some of the night clubs on the Malecon are lavish, high tech and full of young, attractive people. Mandala, Punto V, Zoo and La Vaquita are the most popular. Walk the strip at night and see which club appeals the most from the outside. It is considered very gauche to go to an antro before 11 pm; they stay open til 5 or 6 am.
To get the full antro experience, take a taxi to Strana in the hotel zone.
- Nacho Daddy – The south side of the Rio Cuale is a little more sedate. Known as the Romantic Zone, there are countless bars and sidewalk cafes with a few nightclubs and live music venues mixed in between. Nacho Daddy is one of the few places in all of Puerto Vallarta where the music starts early. The house blues band is a big draw for the North Americans who live in Old Town Vallarta year round or spend winters there. Austin recording legend Joe King Carrasco plays every Saturday night in high season. Nacho Daddy serves Tex-Mex classics in generous portions at reasonable prices. It is also a great place to catch your favorite sports team on TV and mingle with the local gringos. Located on Basilio Badillo at the old Treehouse, near Galeria Dante.
- Other late-night music venues to check out in the Romantic Zone are Andale and Roxy.
- Café de Olla – For dining in the Romantic Zone, a long time Puerto Vallarta standard is Cafe de Olla, a carnivore’s haven with a grill on the sidewalk to entice you inside. Located on Basilio Badillo, a few blocks inland from Los Muertos beach. There is usually a line in winter but this is not a tourist trap; it is loved by the locals.
- Joe Jack’s Fish Shack – Also on Basilio Badillo, this spin off from a California cousin also has lines out the door for their Friday Fish & Chips and their burger has been voted “Best in Town”. The covered patio upstairs is charming and pleasant, while the lower level is a lively spot for watching the passers by on B. Badillo street.
- El Brujo – Don’t be put off by the humble exterior. This beloved restaurant serves some of the best fish in Puerto Vallarta. The grill is their specialty; ask for anything on the menu served in a molcahete, a volcanic stone mortar and pestle used in Mexican cooking since the Aztecs. At El Brujo, the roasted tomato, chile and spices are freshly ground while the mortar is warm and then all the grilled items are added. Super casual and off the beaten path with a very small dining area and open kitchen but the lines of people waiting for a table say everything. Also located in the Romantic Zone but in more of a residential area further inland on Basilio Badillo.
- El Arrayán – Award winning restaurant, most noted for their authentic Mexican cuisine, also incorporating ingredients and techniques used in Mexican cooking for centuries but in an updated format. Featured on many TV programs and dining guides, the owner/chef offers cooking classes as well. A duo plays Mexican music on Saturday nights. Located a bit north of the Malecon; take a taxi.
- Vegetarian Planet– Delicious salads and main courses served buffet style, all you can eat. This casual little restaurant was featured in “Bon Appétit” magazine. You will swear the grilled tofu kabobs are made with real beef and the soy ceviche was made with fish caught that morning. Located one block north of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Main Plaza.
- La Cigale – Located just below Veggie Planet, north of the Church, this French bistro is set in a historic building and the friendly chef/owner is from Marseille. Black and white checked floor, menu on a chalkboard, long wooden bar and a superb Nicoise Salad create an authentic French dining experience.
- Memo’s Pancake House and Fredy’s Tucan – if you enjoy eating breakfast, you will love these two restaurants. Very popular with locals and repeat visitors, both have an excellent selection of pancakes and waffles in addition to typical American and Mexican breakfast fare. Located just a few blocks apart from each other on Basilio Badillo in the Romantic Zone.