Puerto Vallarta Food and Drink Guide 2018

There’s lots happening in the Puerto Vallarta restaurant scene on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. In fact, there’s so much going on, it can be tough to know where to begin. From sipping artisanal raicilla overlooking the cobblestone streets of Old Town Vallarta to the beach bars of San Pancho, here’s our insider’s Puerto Vallarta Restaurant Guide on the best places to eat, things to do, local spirits to try, day trips and favourite food experiences in and around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico right now:

1. Puerto Vallarta Cooking Class 

Chef Mavi Graf and Pescado Zarandeado

Chef Mavi Graf and Pescado Zarandeado was featured in Lonely Planet’s Mexico from the Source

For culinary travellers, markets offer instant immersion into the colours and flavours of a country’s culture. In Puerto Vallarta, there are not one but several authentic food markets, each with its own personality. The best way to experience them is on a guided market tour  led by Chef Mavi Graf of Arte Culinario. Part of a cooking class held in Marina Vallarta, participants explore hidden culinary haunts meeting fishmongers, butchers and fruit vendors along the way. You’ll get a behind-the scenes look at bustling food stalls, then enjoy a cooking class featuring appetizer, entrèe and dessert with optional wine pairing.

2. Old Town Farmers Market  

Cooking class at Arte Culinario in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Make crab cakes at a cooking class at Arte Culinario in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

You can also purchase Arte Culinario’s popular salad dressings, infused vinegars and meat rubs to enjoy at home. These 100% preservative-free products are also available at the Old Town Farmers Market featuring products made by vendors who live within 75 kilometres of Puerto Vallarta.  Old Town Farmers Market is located at Plaza Lazaro Cardenas and is open Saturday from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm from January-May

3. Gaby’s: Best Traditional  Puerto Vallarta Restaurant

Raicilla in Tepic Nayarit Mexico

Puerto Vallarta is an ideal spot to sample raicilla, the traditional agave spirit that’s the cousin to tequila

While working on the Lonely Planet cookbook  From the Source – Mexico: Authentic Recipes From the People That Know Them the Best (Lonely Planet) I included Gaby’s family-run restaurant mostly because of its authentic version of cuala de coco, a classic Puerto Vallarta street snack that’s a cross between a coconut custard and flan. But their menu features a vast array of other authentic dishes and while I was working my way through the menu, pondering the deliciousness of it all, I was treated to a shot of the restaurant’s artisanal raicilla.

This distilled spirit, similar to tequila and mescal because it’s produced from the agave plant, can often be harsh because it’s frequently valued for potency rather than flavour. But the raicilla at Gaby’s is delicate, wth faint floral notes. While it’s available served in the signature Gaby’s margarita, it’s worth trying straight for a real taste of Jalisco.

4.  Signature Architecture and Street Food 

Beautiful view of Puerto Vallarta skyline

Beautiful view of Puerto Vallarta skyline

The soaring Los Muertos Pier, designed by Mexican architect Jesus Torres revitalized the Old Town beach scene with its waterfront promenade, scenic night lighting and modern dock with ferry boats whisking visitors to the hidden beaches of Yelapa. Watch local fisherman haul in their catch, catch a spectacular sunset or just soak up the relaxed vibe. The pier evokes the romance of the sea with its motif of an unfurled sail, its grand plaza entrance and circular walkway. The pier has joined other signature architecture, such as the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to become a new icon for Puerto Vallarta.

For food fans who want to explore architecture and cuisine,  Vallarta Food Tours offers several culinary walking tours of  the Centro and Old Town neighbourhoods. Themes include street food, regional tacos, hand-crafted cocktails and more. New for 2018 are their Bikes & Bites tour ( yes it’s by bicycle) and a Vallarta by Road Tour where you travel by air-conditioned van.

5. Secrets Vallarta Bay: A Couples Beach Hang-out

view of the swimming pool at Secrets Vallarta Bay

A dreamy view of the swimming pool at Secrets Vallarta Bay

A once-vacant piece of land on Las Glorias beach has been reborn as Secrets Vallarta Bay Resort and Spa. Situated within easy walking distance to El Malecon and overlooking Banderas Bay, this adults-only, all-inclusive property offers all the charm of Puerto Vallarta’s classic vibe but with luxury amenities such as elegant suites, ocean-views and gourmet cuisine at five à la carte restaurants.

Highlights of a stay include Maya cooking classes, salsa dance lessons and yoga on the beach. Golf fans will appreciate complimentary green fees at three nearby championship courses. The Preferred Club, with its exclusive lounge offering afternoon tapas and concierge service, enhanced mini-bar, continental breakfast and roomy suites with outdoor Jacuzzi, is well worth the upgrade. The glam swim-up suites are the nicest in town.

6. Villa Premiere Hotel: Romantic Cuisine

Dessert at Villas Premiere Puerto Vallarta restaurant

Beautiful dessert at Villas Premiere

Although it may not be well known outside of Puerto Vallarta, Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel is an adults-only hotel that’s at the top of my list when it comes to most romantic hotels in Mexico. With just 80 rooms and suites, it’s the only hotel I’ve ever been to where a therapist welcomes guests with a neck and shoulder massage upon check-in.  The spacious suites offer incredible ocean views from the balcony and the decor is contemporary, sleek and dramatic. Other amenities include a pillow menu and a scent menu for in-room aromatherapy and a prime oceanfront location a short walk to town.

However, for food fans a highlight of a stay at Villa Premiere is the sophisticated cuisine. Chef Tony Martinez has a deft hand when it comes to preparing local ingredients with molecular gastronomy techniques. Seafood dishes are an especially good choice as are the glamorous desserts which come beautifully presented with fresh flowers, gold leaf and other creative touches. Lonely Planet’s Mexico from the Source cookbook features a recipe for Caldo de Mariscos from the menu at La Corona restaurant.

Click here to check for the lowest rates on Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway on Hotelscombined.com a free search engine that compares prices on Expedia, Hotels.com and other major hotel websites to find you the lowest price.

7. Day Trip to W Hotel Punta de Mita Beach Bar

Chevycheria at the W Punta de Mita

Indulge in cocktails and fresh ceviche at the Chevicheria at the W Punta de Mita

If you’re looking for a beach bar away from the crowds, you’ll find your nirvana at the Chevicheria at the W Hotel in Punta de Mita. This laid-back hang-out is located within a palapa-topped Chevrolet 3800 pick-up truck set on a windswept stretch of coastline. You can enjoy a cocktail paired with one (or more) ceviches  from the beach bar’s ever-evolving ceviche menu.

Inventive ingredients include mezcal, green apple, red grapefruit, hibiscus flower syrup and a smorgasbord of tastes and textures that vary seasonally. While at the W Punta de Mita, keep your eye tuned for decor from Revolucion del Sueno, the cool design shop in Sayulita that features cheeky Mexican motifs in its modern line of fun accessories.

While in Sayulita, also check out the Sayulita Wine Shop for a tasting of mezcal, raicilla, wines from Valle de Guadalupe and unique Mexican liqueurs such as the Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur from Puebla. Infused with dried and smoked poblano pepper, it will add a boost to classic cocktails such as margaritas and can be tough to find outside Mexico.

Click here to check for the lowest rates on W Hotel Punta de Mita on Hotelscombined.com a free search engine that compares prices on Expedia, Hotels.com and other major hotel websites to find you the lowest price.

8. Day Trip to San Pancho ( San Francisco) – Restaurant las Palmas 

Aguachile at Las Palmas Restaurant in San Francisco

Aguachile at Las Palmas Restaurant in San Francisco

Another restaurant that’s well worth a road trip is Las Palmas beach restaurant in San Pancho (officially known as San Francisco), an hour north of Puerto Vallarta in Riviera Nayarit. This is my favourite spot to enjoy aguachile the Pacific coast specialty that features a mix of fresh, raw shrimp slightly “cooked” in lime juice and mixed with red onion, cucumber and serrano chile peppers.

Chef Sergio Romo offers several variations on classic aguachile so plan on spending an afternoon with your feet in the sand exploring tastes such as aguachile negro (an Asian-style version) or aguachile naranjado (an orange-hued treat) while listening to the sounds of the waves. The coast of Nayarit is a good place to pick up a few bottles of Salsa Huichol, the hot sauce produced in Tepic according to a secret family recipe.

9. Los Muertos Brew Pub

Craft beer by Radovan on Unsplash

Sip a craft beer while in Puerto Vallarta

The tradition of beer-making in Mexico dates back to 1542 when Emperor Carlos V of Spain gave permission to Alfonso de Herrera to establish a cerveceria in the Americas. Mexico quickly established a reputation as a nation of beer fans and big labels such as Corona, Dos Equis, Sol and Victoria became synonymous with good times. Recently, there’s been a surge of interest in small-batch, artisanal beer.

One of the top hubs for beer aficionados is Los Muertos Brewing in Puerto Vallarta. With its cheeky labels and street front Puerto Vallarta restaurant location in Old Town, it offers artisanal beers served with cantina flair. Sip a Mexicana Rubia, a light-bodied pale ale or, if you’re feeling adventurous go for an Anillo de Fuego, a chile-infused ale that’s perfect paired with tomato juice.

Puerto Vallarta Restaurant Guide Travel Planner

Official Puerto Vallarta Tourism: www.visitpuertovallarta.com

Puerto Vallarta Old Town Farmers Market: The location of this farmers market is at Plaza Lazaro Cardenas and is open Saturday from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm. January-May

Puerto Vallarta Cooking Class: Arte Culinario

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And that’s not the end of things to do in and around Puerto Vallarta!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Recipe for Easy Crab Cakes by Mavi Graf, Arte Culinario 

Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe 

Essential Guide to Day of the Dead in Mexico 

Ultimate List of the Most Romantic Hotels in Mexico 

 

From sipping artisanal raicilla in a traditional Puerto Vallarta restaurant to the beach bars of San Pancho, here's our insider's guide to the best places to eat, things to do, local drinks and favourite foodie day trips in and around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
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Showing 8 comments
  • Jeff & Crystal Bryant
    Reply

    What a timely article for us. We are trying to decide a destination for cold weather travel, and this article offers a compelling reason to visit Puerto Vallarta. Thanks for sharing.

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    Reply

    I love Puerto Vallarta, Michele, and totally agree with you on its many attributes. I especially love the food and the art that it offers–for every taste.

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    How timely. I am in Puerto Vallarta right now and discovering how much great food there is here.

  • Corinna
    Reply

    Excellent article! So many great recommendations. Please visit us at Vallarta Tequila Tastings next time you come to Puerto Vallarta to leatn more about Tequila, Raicilla and Mezcal.

    • Michele Peterson
      Reply

      Hi Corinna…thanks for the suggestion! Vallarta Tequila Tastings sounds like a great spot to visit.

  • Carolina Colborn
    Reply

    My daughter’s favorite destination is Puerto Vallarta and goes back whenever she can. Now I understand. Besides the things to do, it is the things to eat! Thanks. She always asks me to go with her because of the Pirates’ experience. Now I have my own reason to go..

  • Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    Reply

    I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta several times and will be visiting again next week. Most of your suggestions are new to me. I hope to try that aguachile at Las Palmas Restaurant in San Francisco, but doubt I’ll get that far out.

  • Kristin Henning
    Reply

    This is a nice wide assortment of suggestions for food in Puerto Vallarta. Thanks. Will pin.

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