From the Romantic Zone to the Marina, here are the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta for every budget and taste!
One of the reasons we decided to say goodbye to Querétaro and move to Guadalajara is its proximity to the beach. In the year we’ve been living in Guadalajara, we’ve roadtripped to the beach more than half a dozen times.
From chilled out San Pancho and party-party Sayulita to bougie Nuevo Vallarta and quaint Bucerías, the coasts of Jalisco and Nayarit have a lot to offer. Of all the potential spots to spend a long weekend, Puerto Vallarta is my go-to. The variety of activities, accommodation and (perhaps most importantly) restaurants is tough to beat.
With so many restaurants to choose from, it can be overwhelming to, well, actually choose one. If you wish you had a friend to ask for their recommendations, then you’ve come to the right place. After reading this post, you’ll have my picks for the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. When I travel, I pay for all my own meals so I can give a true and honest opinion about my experience. If a restaurant is in this post, it’s because I genuinely think it’s a goodie.
When I dine out, some of the elements I take into consideration are quality of food, ambience, service & price. I wouldn’t call myself a tough critic, but I’m not overly easy to please either. What I’m trying to say here is that I’ve put a lot of thought and care into this post…
I hope you will find it helpful as you prepare for your time in Puerto Vallarta.
Is it expensive to eat in Puerto Vallarta?
Thanks to the size of the city, you can find dining options for every budget in Puerto Vallarta. On a recent trip there, after a relatively expensive meal, we drove past street after street of vendors selling tacos, tamales, bunuelos and more.
The street fare aromas wafting through the open car windows smelled so good that, for a second, I wondered why we ever bothered with sit-down restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. Then I remembered how enjoyable it is to leaf through a thoughtfully-curated wine list or have a conversation in candlelight or see a beautifully-plated dish.
During your time in Puerto Vallarta, sample the spectrum of dining options that the city has to offer. Check out the late night street food scene one night & splurge on fancier fare another. Above all, don’t let anyone tell you that there’s a right or wrong way to eat in Mexico.
If you’re a budget-traveler wondering if you can swing Puerto Vallarta, then I’m here to tell you that eating in Puerto Vallarta is not universally expensive. In addition to fine dining establishments, the city is home to taco stands, small seafood joints, affordable breakfast spots & more.
What food is Puerto Vallarta famous for?
Since Puerto Vallarta is located on the ocean, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the most popular and well-known dishes feature mariscos (seafood). In my mind, no trip to the beach is complete until I’ve eaten a plate of aguachile. This Mexican dish consists of shrimp “cooked” in a spicy mixture lime juice, chiles, salt, cucumber & red onion.
While aguachile didn’t originate in Puerto Vallarta (it’s actually from Sinaloa), it’s served all over the city. Some of the best places to try this flavorful dish that simply doesn’t get talked about enough outside of Mexico are:
- Aguaschiles Charlie
- Mariscos La Tía
- Mariscos El Guero
- Mariscos El Memín
Not sure about a food with a name that translates to “chili water”? Opt for ceviche instead. If you’re not much of a seafood lover, birria (spicy meat stew made with goat, lamb or beef) is another beloved food in Puerto Vallarta. Tacos de Birria Chanfay & Taqueria de Birria El Banquito are two tried-and-tested spots.
How much should I tip at restaurants in Puerto Vallarta?
When dining at one of the following sit-down restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, it’s standard to tip 10-20%. Some Mexicans will tell you 10% is fine because that’s what they always do. Foreigners, especially people traveling to Mexico from the US, opt for 20% since that’s the tipping culture they’re used to back home. Personally, we tip the waiters at restaurants in Mexico 15%.
In Mexico, when the server brings you the check, if you’re going to pay with a credit card you need to ask for the terminal: ¿Me traes la terminal? They will get the little machine to run your card right at the table. As they’re running the card, they will ask if you want to add the tip: ¿Quieres agregar servicio? If you want to add, 15% you say: quince por ciento.
You also have the option to leave the tip in cash (en efectivo), but you won’t be able to write in the tip later when you sign.
A NOTE ABOUT TIPPING IN MEXICO: Tipping in dollars in Mexico is so cringe. I guess if it’s between typing and not leaving anything, okay??? If you’re thinking that tipping in USD is that you’re giving the person something more valuable, keep in mind the peso is strong AF right now and the dollar not so much. When you force someone to exchange your dollar for pesos, the hassle negates any extra value (if there ever really was any).
For more important things to know before your trip, check out these essential Mexico travel tips including how to stay healthy, what not to pack & more!
Calle Francisca Rodriguez 155, Altos. Esq. Olas Altas, Emiliano Zapata
One of my favorite restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, Tuna Azul is located on the second and third floors of a corner building at the edge of the Zona Romántica. Trust me, the stairs are worth it (fyi, there isn’t an elevator). With its strong margaritas—get yours on the rocks or frozen—and lobster taco special, it’s a great happy hour spot. On both our visits, we popped in without a reservation and were seated right away.
Menus are available in both Spanish & English, and the friendly wait staff makes you feel at home. There are plenty of fans strategically positioned around the restaurant to keep you cool on even the most humid PV days. As the name suggests, ordering mariscos is the way to go here. We enjoyed aguachile (choose your spice level), shrimp tacos, tostadas de pulpo & the house special lobster tacos.
Basilio Badillo 245, Zona Romántica
Usually, I’m wary of universal praise for a restaurant, but when locals, snowbirds & longtime PV lovers tell you that Fredy’s Tucan is the best breakfast restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, they’re right. The menu at Fredy’s is full of delicious plates that you’re sure to love, but if you even kind of like hash browns, be sure to order them—they’re the best I’ve ever had.
Because this is one of the most popular breakfast spots in Puerto Vallarta, you might have to wait for table (Fredy’s doesn’t do reservations). I ate here twice during a September trip to PV and got in right away, but that’s one of the benefits of visiting during low season. The waiters are friendly (most speak English), and the food comes out fast.
Mérida 128, Versalles
So, you’re staying the Zona Hotelera and you’re sick of the buffet breakfast 🤢 Los Olivos has got your covered. This tasty little cafe is located within walking distance of some of Puerto Vallarta’s biggest hotels and resorts. The cafe de olla has just the right amount of piloncillo (brown sugar), and as one Google review put it, Los Olivos serves “some of the best jugo verde (green juice) in Puerto Vallarta.”
We ate here two times on a recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, and both breakfasts were excellent. The ingredients are very fresh, and the food comes out fast. While I sipped my cafe de olla, my husband ordered espressos that he said not only did their job but also tasted good. I wouldn’t hesitate to order anything on the Los Olivos menu, but the chilaquiles, bacon & hot cakes were truly outstanding.
Av México 1358, 5 de Diciembre
One last breakfast spot for this rundown of restaurants in Puerto Vallarta! El Andariego is multiple floors, so even if you’re a big party trying to eat at a busy time, you shouldn’t have trouble getting a table. We sat on the rooftop terrace and could see the ocean.
The menu is a mix of Mexican and American cuisine. You’ll find traditional breakfast cocktails like Bloody Marys and mimosas if you’re in need of the hair of the dog. The staff speaks English.
Púlpito Olas Altas 122
The all-to-familiar Google search for “restaurants near me” introduced me to Coco’s Kitchen. It was my friend’s first day in Puerto Vallarta & after her four-hour flight from Chicago, she was starving. While I wouldn’t call her a picky eater, my best friend has unfortunately experienced tummy issues while visiting me in Mexico in the past and wanted to take it easy to start…Coco’s was perfect.
Tucked away down a side street just a few blocks back from the malecón (Puerto Vallarta’s famous oceanfront boardwalk), Coco’s is an excellent brunch/lunch option with a menu that features a variety of grilled dishes. I ordered a chicken gyro that came with a side Greek salad. The lunch menu is available from noon to 4 p.m. daily and includes burritos, fajitas, chicken burgers (my bestie loved this) & mahi mahi fish tacos.
Venustiano Carranza 466, Zona Romántica
One of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is explore the city’s art scene—which you can do at Qulture before or after enjoying a tasty meal. The building where the restaurant is located was once a hotel. Today, the rooms serve as art studios and galleries. The dining area is right in the center of it all and features a big round bar.
From Slider Lovers Sunday to an all-day happy hour on Wednesday, Qulture has promos every day of the week. I really enjoyed my Q burger, but in case you don’t eat meat, the menu also features vegan-friendly dishes like cauliflower curry. Burger lovers should check out La Negra, one of the best places to eat in Bucerias.
Km 2.5, Blvd. Francisco Medina Ascencio, Las Glorias
Even if you don’t speak a lick of Spanish, you’ll know this restaurant’s name translated into English is “The Milk” the minute you walk through the door. All-white decor might sound hokey now (I sure thought so before seeing it), but once you’re surrounded by it, it feels very upscale. Additionally, in Spain, to call something “la leche” means it’s simply the best, there’s nothing else like it, the bee’s knees if you will.
Based on the use of Spanish slang in naming the restaurant, it might not come as a surprise that La Leche’s menu features Spanish-influenced plates. While a tasting menu is available, we opted to order a l a carte: an asparagus, green bean & pistachio salad topped with mustard vinaigrette; octopus served with avocado emulsion and potato flautas; steak fillet alongside bone marrow.
Without a doubt, La Leche is for foodies. However, I appreciated that it didn’t feel pretentious. The giant disco ball and live DJ kept the atmosphere fun. If you want to see if La Leche lives up to all the hype, be sure to make a reservation which you can easily do on the restaurant’s website.
Mezcal y Sal
C. Fco. I. Madero 235, Zona Romántica
Of all the restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, one place I keep coming back to is Mezcal y Sal. In Sept. 2023, the restaurant moved just down the street to a larger space, and the new psychedelic decor transforms your meal into a full-sensory experience. If you’re looking for a fun (extremely Instagramable) spot for dinner with friends, look no further
As its name suggests, the drinks menu features a wide selection of mezcal. My husband usually orders his solito (straight), but I prefer the bartenders to mix mine up in one of the many interesting cocktails available. Beyond booze, the food is intended to be enjoyed as shared plates. One dish I can’t stop thinking about it the tiraditos de sandia—a complex, vegan-friendly alternative for tuna with a texture that’s unlike anything else I’ve ever eaten.
Siam Cocina Thai
C. Fco. I. Madero 271, Zona Romántica
A good friend of mine who relocated to Puerto Vallarta after years of living in Bangkok said this is the best Thai food she’s eaten outside of Thailand. The restaurant has moody lighting and an intimate feel that makes it a romantic choice for date night. The waitstaff is attentive and accommodating—some of the best service I’ve had in Puerto Vallarta.
The fried spring rolls we ordered to start arrived our table hot and tasted incredibly fresh. The cucumber salad had a nice little kick to it, but on the whole, I wish our dishes had been more aligned spice-wise with authentic Thai cuisine (according to Google reviews though, you can request to up the heat). As with most restaurants on this list, you should call ahead to make a reservation especially during high season.
Carretera Barra de Navidad Highway 200, Playa Palmares
You may have noticed a lack of waterfront establishments on this list of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. In my experience, I’ve found the spots right on the malecón to be overpriced and poor quality (if you’ve found en exception, let me know in the comments). Your BEST bet for enjoying seafood with a sea view is getting out of town a ways…
Head south on Highway 200 to Playa Palmares. While it might not look like much from the road, Canto Palmares serves up some seriously tasty plates including the yummiest huachinango (red snapper) I’ve eaten to date in Puerto Vallarta. Everything we ordered was exceptional, and even though we were stuffed after our long lunch, we ordered a tostada de pulpo for the road.
Unless you’re staying in one of the resorts or Airbnbs nearby, I suggest planning your day around lunch at Canto Palmares. You can spend a few hours before or after lunch at Playa Palmares which is a sandy, swimmable stretch of beach just below the restaurant. Up the road a few minutes, Playa Garza Blanca features crystal clear water in a protected cove. If you’re feeling really adventurous, start your day with this awesome waterfall hike in Yelapa and get lunch on the way back.
La Dolce Vita
Basilio Badillo 206, Zona Romántica
When you search on Google, you’ll see that there are a few different La Dolce Vitas scattered around Puerto Vallarta. We visited the Zona Romántica location where our server was a chatty fellow from Sicily. He was knowledgeable about the wine list & very professional overall.
As you might have guessed from the name (or the fact that I mentioned our waiter’s origin), La Dolce Vita is an Italian restaurant. We opted for the fried calamari starter and an insalata venezia before sharing the special: seafood lasagna with mussels, fish, octopus and topped with béchamel sauce. The real star of the menu though is the homemade pasta options.
Café des Artistes
C. Guadalupe Sánchez 740, Centro
With one of the loveliest restaurant courtyards in the whole city, Café de Artistes is an iconic Puerto Vallarta dining experience. For over three decades, the chefs & kitchen have been serving patrons French cuisine with a Mexican twist. Foodies will want to opt for the six-course tasting menu (vegetarian foodies also have a six-course tasting menu option).
Café de Artistes is a first-class choice if you’re celebrating a special occasion in Puerto Vallarta. In the Google reviews, diners rave about the attentive service with one reviewer saying the staff “pulled out all the stops” to make a special night even more special. A solo violinist, pianist or other live music acts enhance the elegance of this well-known Puerto Vallarta restaurant. Be sure to make a reservation.
C. Mina 252, Proyecto escola, Centro
Considered by many to be one of Puerto Vallarta’s best-kept secrets, Gaby’s Restaurant is a casual eatery that serves all your favorite Mexican dishes as well as Tex-Mex staples such as tequila-flamed shrimp fajitas. The menu also offers seaside twist on staple plates like lobster enchiladas.
The two-story restaurant has lots of seating—so if you’re wandering around Puerto Vallarta Centro without a dinner reservation, Gaby’s is a solid option. If you can, try to get a table on the upper terrace for a view of the ocean while sipping your margarita. Looking for fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta? Gaby’s offers Mexican cooking classes with Chef Julio multiple times per week.
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Final Thoughts About Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
Since moving to Guadalajara, I’ve been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time exploring Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area. However, it still feels like I’ve only just scratched the surface of this popular beach destination. With more trips to Puerto Vallarta already in the works, I plan to update this guide with more recommendations as I continue to taste test the city’s culinary scene.
If you have any suggestions for places not mentioned in this best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta roundup or you’d like to share you own experience at one of these establishments, please feel free to leave a comment.