Puerto Vallarta is home to stunning sunsets, beautiful beaches, and one of the most exciting gourmet scenes in Mexico. Restaurants in this picturesque city range from family-run taco stands to award-winning fine dining restaurants. There are two important food festivals during the year, the Gourmet Festival in November and Puerto Vallarta Restaurant Week from May 15 to June 10. But you'll find plenty of restaurants serving delicious food, from flavorful fish tacos to fabulous gourmet meals any time of the year. Here are some of our all-time favorites.
This charming French restaurant is set on a hill overlooking the malecón in Puerto Vallarta's centro. Chef Thierry Blouet, one of the founders of the annual Gourmet Festival, creates menus that pay homage to classic French technique while incorporating Latin flavors and ideas. The results are whimsical yet utterly captivating: confit duck chilaquiles, a souffle of Chilean sea bass with a reposado tequila sauce, a scallop carpaccio with chiles and sea asparagus. Many consider this to be the finest dining experience in Puerto Vallarta.
Set beside the scenic Rio Cuale that runs through the historic center of Puerto Vallarta, this café/restaurant is a tranquil open-air haven hidden among the lush tropical foliage. Breakfasts include American favorites like waffles and pancakes along with traditional Mexican specialties like chilaquiles and machaca. Dinner features dishes with an Asian spin like Thai-style mussels along with European classics like Filet Mignon. For a special night, book the romantic gazebo table reached via a little bridge and set right over the river.
The décor of this well-loved Mediterranean-themed restaurant features hand-painted frescoes, a leafy courtyard and a staircase leading to a romantic rooftop garden. The kitchen, helmed by chef-owners Bernhard Güth and Ulf Henriksson, showcases handmade pasta dishes and Mediterranean classics like antipasto and beef carpaccio. The location is unspectacular, on an ordinary business street downtown, but the food keeps patrons coming back time and again.
Set on beautiful Playa de los Muertos, La Palapa Restaurant & Lounge is an award-winning gourmet lair that marries a casual beachside atmosphere with a sophisticated, globally-influenced menu. Have a tropical cocktail at the bar then settle in to sample dishes like ahi tuna tartare or slow braised duck rolled in corn tortillas and served with a habanero sauce. Diners can also opt to have a romantic candlelit private dinner set up on the sand.
Cheerful floral patterned oilcloth table covers, simple wooden tables and chairs, colorful folk art, and a tree-filled courtyard around which the tables are placed give El Arrayán the feel of a traditional Mexican "fonda" eatery. The fare is also traditional Mexican but with some inventive variations. Try the signature El Arrayán margarita, made with the fruit from which the restaurant gets its name, and shrimp in peanut mole sauce. All items on the menu are gluten-free, and they are happy to make vegetarian variations, including a vegetarian version of cochinita pibil, a traditional Yucatecan pulled pork dish.
Craft beer, fresh oysters, and a gorgeous view of the ocean are some of the main draws of La Cerveceria Union, but they also serve a variety of margaritas and micheladas, other seafood dishes as well as other meat and vegetarian options like a portobello mushroom burger and sweet potato fries. The open-air dining area allows you to enjoy breezes off the ocean while you enjoy your meal looking out over the Malecón.
If the food carts are calling out to you, one of the best ways to explore the many options available is with a street food tour. Vallarta Food Tours offer a few options, but their evening taco tour is a winner that starts with seafood tacos and ends with delicious freshly fried churros, with more fabulous tacos than you think you can consume in between, as well as a stop for a sample of smoky mezcal. It's an ideal way to get an introduction to the wide variety of tacos and simple but sensational street fare.