Looking for the best places to eat in Puerto Vallarta? Nobody can promise a perfect restaurant list since this is a big beach resort vacation destination with hundreds of spots to choose from. We have eaten our way across the area several times over the years though and have a good sense of which Puerto Vallarta restaurants live up to the hype, consistently.
First though, a quick geography lesson. There’s a river just north of the PV airport that separates the state of Jalisco from the state of Nayarit. Jalisco contains Puerto Vallarta, as well as the Costalegre region to the south. Riviera Nayarit north of the river contains Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerias, Punta de Mita, and Sayulita. We’re staying on the southern side of the river and airport for this article on where to eat, Puerto Vallarta proper between the Romantic Zone and the marina area.
Note that if you’re staying at a high-end all-inclusive hotel in this area, you will probably eat extremely well. We’ve always been especially impressed with Casa Velas Hotel, which served up this fine dish you see below on my most recent trip.
Mexico is very kid-friendly, so even with the nicest places on this list you can bring the whole family if you want. In most months, reservations are recommended, especially for the smaller places: many are on Open Table.
Vallarta Marina Restaurants
Sonora Grill Prime
We loved everything about this place, from the roaming mixologist’s cart to the slabs of beef brought out to peruse to the fact that the place seemed to have a staff-to-guest ratio of one-to-one. This homage to beef has plenty of other things on the menu, plus it’s a lot less stuffy than your usual steakhouse. Judging by the groups of Mexicans and foreigners alike who had a permanent smile on their face, this is a restaurant to enjoy with good friends who aren’t in any hurry to leave.
Sonora Grill is part of a small chain with other outlets in Guadalajara and Monterrey. More info here.
Puerto Vallarta Dining in the Hotel Corridor
I’m not sure we would have known about or found this ceviche and aguachile place if we weren’t having our mid-day meal with a sometime local in the know, but it was a highlight of our week. Lamara serves super-fresh seafood in a variety of ways that look and taste incredible, all in big portions that are best passed around.
They also have a full bar, an impressive craft beer list, and good desserts. This is a professional operation that knows where it excels and does it extremely well, at very fair prices. Lamara is a popular spot that frequently has a wait, plus they run out of things late in the day when they get busy, so the best bet on when to arrive is early afternoon, pre-comida. The best place to get more info is on their Facebook page.
This just may be the coolest-looking restaurant around, plus it’s one of the best places to eat in Puerto Vallarta. La Leche is “The Milk” and the interior is awash in white, but in a playful, artistic way with milk jugs running up the walls. The menu changes regularly depending on seasonality and the whims of the chef, so expect a few items done well from a chalkboard rather than an exhaustive printed menu where you’re not sure what’s good. This is where we had the prettiest salad of the week, everything super-fresh.
There’s a night club above if you feel like getting your groove on afterwards. See more here.
This intimate restaurant in a nondescript, windowless building you could easily miss is one of Puerto Vallarta’s hottest dining spots. We saw several groups turned away on a weeknight because they didn’t have reservations. There’s an open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work and a bar where the mixologist’s skills are on display as well.
Everything we tried here was excellent, from the “three textures of beets,” grilled cauliflower, and huitlacoche soup that would all make a vegetarian happy, to the gorgeously presented catch of the day tacos on blue corn tortillas and tamal of the day that had succulent pork. The website has nothing but photos, but you can make a reservation there and start salivating.
Top Restaurants in Downtown Puerto Vallarta
Tintoque used to be located in the Marina area and had a very contemporary look, but they moved to the Romantic Zone of downtown Puerto Vallarta, accompanied by a more interior look, some outdoor seating, and a rise in menu prices.
In these days of Yelp trolls and professional bashers, it’s hard to find a restaurant that gets nearly unanimous raves, but Tintoque got pretty close for years until a few missteps after their location move. Now next to the river downtown, this standout gourmet spot serves up beautiful plates in a vibrant atmosphere without feeling overly stuffy.
Don’t come here for giant portions, but come if you’re a foodie who wants to be surprised and delighted with some of the best food in Puerto Vallarta. See more online here.
Cafe des Artistes
Thierry Blouet is one of Mexico’s best-known celebrity chefs, with a restaurant that really broke new ground when it opened three decades ago. It has since won a slew of awards as one of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. He now has several places you can try in this area and a second by the same name at the JW Marriott in Los Cabos, but it’s worth making a reservation at the original if you’re a fan of fine dining.
Cafe des Artistes has long been described as “Mexican dishes prepared with French techniques,” so you get the best of both worlds, especially if you go for the tasting menu. You’ll find carefully prepared tuna, octopus, lobster, and fish, but you can also try “seared rougié foie gras au mezcal and guava” or”confit suckling pig in black mole.” Visit the official site here.
Hacienda San Angel Gourmet
We’re big fans of this well-designed boutique hotel in downtown Puerto Vallarta that sits right above the dome of the city’s famous Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The restaurant at Hacienda San Angel is open to the public and has a romantic view of the sea and the city lights tumbling down the hillside. There’s a wide range of seafood, a few meat items, and a smattering for vegetarians, such as ravioli stuffed with artichokes.
You might want to bring a credit card and a back-up to this spot though: the majority of the main dishes are $30-$50. See more info here.
The Iguana Restaurant and Tequila Bar
Casa Kimberly is a sister hotel to Hacienda San Angel, the latter was Richard Burton’s home here and the former was the home he bought for Elizabeth Taylor. The two were connected by a bridge over the narrow street below. You can stay in her original bedroom with its palatial bath at Casa Kimberly, or just come to this Vallarta restaurant for dinner and feel her presence with a large period portrait on the wall.
Follow that link above for a full rundown on the hotel, but here’s what my associate editor Lydia had to say about the popular restaurant. “The food has hints of Mexican influence but is a wide range of international choices including lambchops, grilled salmon, ceviche, lobster tacos and sea bass. Their desserts are heavenly, all with a Mexican flair, and the wine list is robust.” As the name would suggest, they also have an excellent range of tequila choices at the bar. Get more info and make a reservation here.
Sapphire Beach Club Bistrot
We’ve written before about Mantamar Beach Club in Puerto Vallarta, but the gay-friendly Sapphire Beach Club nearby gets the nod as the best spot in the area for lunch or a sunset dinner. Run by the same owners as Azafran, this Mediterranean waterfront restaurant specializes in grilled seafood and meat, a good wine list, and an open kitchen. The shaded, open-air space filled with bleached wood furniture lets the sea and colorful dishes supply the color pops.
You’ll need to pay a one-day membership fee to join the club here at the end of the Old Town Romantic Zone, so come early and enjoy the pool, the beach palapas, and the fun atmosphere. See more at the Sapphire website.
Gaby’s Restaurant and Bar
If you get tired of stacked-up pretty plates and complicated seafood concoctions, come to Gaby’s when you’re in the center of downtown near the main church and gazebo. In business since 1989 in the same location on three levels, this Puerto Vallarta Mexican restaurant with patios serves some of the best Mexican food in Puerto Vallarta for all three meals, the real deal with no watering down for tourists.
Visit for good cocktails and authentic cuisine in a fun atmosphere in the heart of the action. More info here.
Which PV Restaurants to Avoid
We hope you find this rundown of some places to find the best food in the region useful. After all, there are a lot of mediocre places to eat, as in most beach resort areas, so we hope to help you stay out of those. In many cases, you can find better food at a simpler local place a few blocks back or even from a street cart.
We are not going to call anyone out by name and say you shouldn’t go there, but if you want to avoid boring, overpriced, uninspiring Puerto Vallarta food on vacation, here’s our take on which places to avoid:
1) Restaurants that employ a full-time tout outside who is begging you to come in. “Hey guys, ready to eat something?”
2) Restaurants that have their own merchandise shop and menu items with trademark signs beside them.
3) Restaurants that blast the music so loud you can’t hear each other because, “We need to make sure people know we are open.”
For more info on the area, see the official website for local tourism.
How about you? Where did you find the best food in Puerto Vallarta on your vacation?
Article by Luxury Latin America editor Timothy Scott, all photos by the writer except where indicated plus Iguana Restaurant photo by associate editor Lydia Carey.