Not only is Puerto Vallarta long famous for beautiful sunsets, pristine beaches, and abundant sunshine, it’s also a secret paradise for foodies. As Mexico’s leading culinary beach destination, Puerto Vallarta is home to an incredible gourmet and local food scene.
I was recently in Puerto Vallarta in late May, and I had a chance to take in all the tastes that the culinary mecca had to offer. Here are 5 recommendations I’d love to pass along that allow you to experience everything from fine dining to local street food and unique hands-on culinary experiences. I am already planning my next trip back!
Best Beach Front Dining: La Palapa
Situated right along the water in the bustling Playa de los Muertos district, La Palapa is an absolute treat for a romantic night with family or a special someone. At La Palapa, you can enjoy elegant, tropical, fine dining right on the beach, while simultaneously enjoying the most incredible sunset views in all of Puerto Vallarta. Complete with an ambiance featuring tiki torches and soft sounds from local musicians, the food was absolutely outstanding and the service was attentive and not rushed, allowing you to turn your sunset dining into a romantic evening under the stars. I especially loved the coconut shrimp and seared tuna dishes, but the roasted beet salad and sea scallops entree were equally as delicious.
Puerto Vallarta’s “It” Spot: Tintoque
Located right at the entrance of Marina Vallarta, you’ll find Puerto Vallarta’s “it spot”, La Tintoque. The ambiance and laid-back luxury at La Tintoque looks like it belongs in a chic New York neighborhood, and the restaurant is known for its innovative and strikingly-artistic cuisine. The “creative menu” designed by Chef Joel Ornelas changes daily based on the availability of unique, local, fresh ingredients and products.
Everything is made fresh to order in the restaurant’s open kitchen, and it was like watching a culinary ballet performance, seeing how precisely the courses were prepared. The octopus agua chile was mouthwatering and to-die-for, and the wagyu was delicious and as tender as butter. For dessert, the signature cheesecake moose was easily one of the top desserts I’ve ever tasted.
Insanely Impressive Food at an All-Inclusive: Villa Premiere
It’s not often that I rave about the food at all-inclusive beach resorts, but the food at the Villa Premiere was so good (and an exceptional value), that it was impossible not share.
Not only is this adults-only boutique resort a hidden culinary gem and fantastic value, the location cannot be beat. The resort is truly located in the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta, just blocks from the famous melacon, where you can stroll and take in all of the sights, sounds, and outdoor culture of the city right alongside the ocean.
Villa Premiere is insanely reasonably-priced, especially considering the caliber of meals and drinks that are included in the rate. A sample 3-night, all-inclusive plan (including unlimited top-shelf liquor and cocktails) for 2 adults is just under $200 per person, per night, making it a great redemption for Barclaycard Arrivals miles from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, or if you book 4 nights using the 4th night free benefit from the Citi Prestige, it’ll work out to just ~$288 per night for 2 adults!
Regarding the food at the Villa Premiere, everything is gourmet and exquisite. There are no buffets here- everything is prepared fresh to order and beautifully plated. All-inclusive dining is available all hours of the day (including room service) and is uncapped, so the the world is truly your oyster as you’re free to order anything from the menu.
For breakfast, I especially enjoyed the made-to-order fresh juices and smoothies, tropical fruit plate, and huevos rancheros. When it came to poolside dining for lunch, I opted for many mojitos and simple dishes like ceviche, fish tacos, and fresh guacamole. Dinner was always a multi-course, extravagant affair with top-notch main dishes including lamb shanks, premier cuts of beef, and fresh catch of the day. The food at Villa Premiere was hands-down the best I’ve ever experienced at any all-inclusive property I’ve ever stayed at, period.
Best Street Food Tour: Vallarta Food Tours Evening Taco Tour
If you’re looking for a fun and social way to experience some of Puerto Vallarta’s most amazing street taco stands frequented by locals, I’d highly recommend The Street – An Evening Taco Adventure Tour. It seems like taco stands and taquerias are everywhere in Puerto Vallarta, but how do you know which provide the best, and most authentic food?
After the sun sets for the day, save your appetite as you walk through the streets and connect local neighborhoods of Puerto Vallarta in an intimate way. During this guided tour, you’ll have a chance to try eight (!!) local Mexican delicacies including marlin ceviche tacos, beef cheek tacos (my favorite), and ending with mouth-watering hot churros. The tour lasts approximately 3.5 hours and cost $49 per person.
Best Cooking Class: Restaurant Gaby
The cooking class at Restaurant Gaby’s was truly a highlight and unique experience during my time in Puerto Vallarta. For $85 per person, you will spend 5-hours with chef Julio Cesar Castillon Pérez in his prized family owned and operated restaurant.
The day starts with a scenic walk to the colorful markets to hand-pick all of the fresh ingredients that will be used to make a 6-course feast. The menu varies, but our class included guacamole, traditional Aztec “stone soup”, Mole Poblano, Chiles en Nogada- which is the national dish of Puerto Vallarta (aka the most delicious and sweet stuffed peppers), and fish ceviche. Come hungry, because you’ll certainly leave stuffed!
This hands-on experience was such a fun social excursion, as we learned to prep and cook very typical and customary Mexican cuisine at the direction of such a talented and passionate chef, all while enjoying the sounds of a local mariachi band who stopped by to entertain.
The food in Puerto Vallarta is vibrant and full of life with explosive Mexican flavors and global inspiration. It’s nice to find a destination that truly has it all – sun, sand, and delicious cuisine.
What are some of your favorite Puerto Vallarta culinary experiences?