The Best Restaurants & Bars In Puerto VallartaBeautiful beaches and all the tacos, mezcal, and ceviche you could ever want.
Unlike other vacation hot spots in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta still feels like a small fisherman town despite its intense growth in the last few years. It’s located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and its many beaches are surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountains and forests where you’ll easily run into mango and palm trees. If you’re looking for where you should eat and drink, though, the good news is you can find great spots all over town.
Olas Atlas Street in the Zona Romantica has the beach views, downtown is where you'll find great sit-down dinner spots, and the Malecon Boardwalk has plenty of street vendors selling things like esquites in a cup and fermented apple juice known as tejuino. If you get bored of all the fresh seafood and ceviche, which theoretically could happen after your third meal of smoked marlin or coconut-crusted shrimp, consider taking a day trip to nearby La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for some charred al pastor tacos with cheese.
Read on to find all the best restaurants and bars in Puerto Vallarta.
SIT-DOWN DINNER SPOTS
You should spend your days in Puerto Vallarta sipping cold beer and eating deliciously fresh oysters from a bed of ice. Do all of that and more at La Docena, where they have plenty of seats to sit, cool down, and do some people-watching at the iconic Malecon boardwalk while the sun goes down. Order some pinguino cocktails, a drink made with vodka and white wine or rosé, and take in the unobstructed view of the Malecon and the sunset. The bar that’s decorated with beer caps might just inspire you to do an unhinged DIY project when you get back home.
Café des Artistes combines French and Mexican food, and it’s been one of the top restaurants in Vallarta for a long time. The best option is the six-course tasting menu, where you’ll get served things like white fish with butter and chipotle, and the wildly delicious foie gras crème bruleé. But the a la carte options are good too—some highlights include roasted sea bass, the suckling lamb, and the dark chocolate taco. When you make a reservation, ask to be seated in the garden area, where you’ll be surrounded by sculptures and plants, making you feel like you’re having dinner in a tropical art gallery.
Delicious seafood, great margaritas, and a front-row view of the beach: The Blue Shrimp checks a lot of boxes for a casual group dinner. Get a frozen mango margarita when you sit down, enjoy the incredible people-watching, and order as many dishes as you can share. Go with the bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese, some tableside guacamole, and the shrimp boat, which includes ceviche, calamari, garlic bread, tequila, coconut, and diabla shrimp. Basically, it’s all the seafood you could ever want, and it comes in a literal miniature boat.
If you want to make one big reservation and need a break from tacos and raw fish, El Trio is the place for things like artichoke soup, foie gras terrine, and a gigantic lamb rack. There are lots of small candle-lit tables, colorful glass lamps, hanging plants, and a large al fresco painting of various places in Europe. El Trio is a hidden classic—even from the outside, it looks like just another beautiful downtown building, but it's really one of the coziest places to have dinner in all of PV.
What started off as a local taco stand on a family’s porch has now turned into the most popular taco place in the PV area. They have just a couple of plastic tables covered by checkered tablecloths, and serve only a few things: tacos, sodas, fresh hibiscus or horchata water, and homemade flan. There’s also only one option when it comes to tacos, which is ribeye, so you literally can’t get this wrong. Pick from corn or flour tortillas, and definitely order them with salsa, coriander, and onion. Don’t leave without some flan—the gold syrup and soft consistency are perfection.
Barbacoa is a true Mexican staple. It’s made differently from place to place and from family to family, but at Tacos el Hidalguense, they do some really stand-out, buttery lamb barbacoa. The setup here is pretty simple and you’ll probably have to stand up to eat, but this is one of the best spots for a filling, quick breakfast (yes, breakfast) or lunch. Add on some cilantro, onion, a dash of lime, and some salsa to complete your barbacoa experience.
In Mexico, you’re never far away from good tacos. But there’s a reason you should make the 30ish-minute drive out to Tacos Junior: this stand on the side of the road has some of the best tacos al pastor you can find in the area. Order as many as you want, but start with two or three to keep the tortillas from getting cold and soggy—we know this might feel impossible, especially if you’re really hungry. You could also try the gringa option, which is practically the same as al pastor but includes cheese. Top them all off with a splash of lime, cilantro, chopped onion, and the very spicy habanero-pineapple salsa.
Arrieros Marypaz might be located behind a Sam’s and Walmart, but it’s always filled with locals who wait in a short line for some excellent tacos. The arriero taco, which is this spot’s specialty, includes asada, adobada, chorizo, beans, and cheese on a flour or corn tortilla topped with cilantro, onion, and salsa—and it’s a thing of beauty.
You'll always see the owner and her friendly team freshly make your gigantic tortillas and prepare your arriero with a precision that only comes from years of experience. The tacos themselves are extremely filling, and the combination of all the meats will keep you coming back—maybe even on the same day. There are only a few stools, so be prepared to eat your order standing up.
CEVICHE & SEAFOOD
Everyone in Vallarta knows 8 Tostadas because it’s the top place in town to get ceviche. There are multiple locations in the bay, but the one in La Marina is a great meeting point—it’s a laid-back spot that’s perfect for lunch where you’ll find families, friends, couples, and people eating solo.
The smokey marlin tostada and a cold michelada should be your first order, but definitely consider adding on the shrimp quesadillas and extremely fresh tuna sashimi. If you’re heading out for a boat ride from the marina, the ceviche is an excellent to-go snack.
A meal at El Barracuda is a whole-day lunch expedition. This spot sits on an open terrace above the Careyeros beach just outside of the Bay of Banderas, and it feels like a cross between a restaurant and a beach club. When you get there, order some aguas frescas or a cold beer before taking a quick pre-lunch dip in the ocean—this is something you very much can and should do at Barracuda.
When you come back from floating in the ocean, get some shrimp al pastor tacos, Peruvian-style ceviche, and oysters to round out your lunch. After you feel like you’ve eaten the whole cast of The Little Mermaid, get yourself a shaken carajillo, which combines a shot of espresso with Licor 43, and some flan for dessert. Just know they’re cash only.
Tacon de Marlin is where you should go before you head to the airport so you don't have to settle for a sad salad or the smallest bag of pretzels. The best burrito to try is their namesake tacon de marlin that packs in a ton of smokey marinated fish and fresh vegetables in a perfectly soft and warm flour tortilla. Grab some chipotle sauce and bring it on the plane to make everybody jealous.
Located just outside the entrance to the famous La Lancha Surf Spot, Makai is the perfect place to stop for lunch after pretending to be Kelly Slater even though you just wiped out for two hours. It’s right next to a gas station, and the blue and white decor and wooden curtains make it feel as though you’ve just walked into some kind of surf shack in a tropical paradise.
The ceviche is excellent, made with local tuna and white fish and served with tostadas—all of it together hits just the right crunchy, flavorful, and spicy notes. Get a couple of tuna tostadas to split, and don’t miss out on the catch-of-the-day sashimi that’s marinated in a refreshing mix of cucumber, chile, and herbs.
When you drive up to Mariscos La Tia II, which is off the main highway 10 minutes outside of downtown PV, you’ll see a bunch of roosters and chickens wandering around on the dirt road. Eventually, you’ll get to the open, two-level house with colorful wooden tables, chairs, and friendly staff.
Start by ordering a cold beer or agua fresca, some ceviche tostadas, and the Salta Pa Tras, a shrimp soup with smokey marlin that’s seasoned with butter, garlic, and some secret, magic blend of spices. Don't skip the La Quematida Combinada, which takes a bunch of sauteed seafood in that same buttery, garlicky mix and puts it over a “tortilla” made of gouda. The mix of crunchy cheese and buttery seafood is insanely good, and should probably be illegal.
Cha Cocina Libre is located inside a small house in the Versalles neighborhood, and not only is the staff extra friendly, but they do some great Mexican breakfast favorites. They nail every dish, but some standouts include their tres leches pancakes that taste like a buttery, fluffy cake, and the torta de chilaquiles that’s filled with fried tortilla chips covered in salsa. After you’re done, check out Hilo y el Mar, a small clothing shop behind the restaurant where you can stock up on linen vacation outfits.
La Tienda Grande is in Ixtapa, a small town 20 minutes from downtown PV that used to be a huge banana-growing hub. Now, Ixtapa is slowly becoming a popular city for new chefs, and La Tienda Grande might be the best restaurant in the area. It used to be one of the city’s general stores (the name literally translates to “the big store”) and it was the place where locals could buy everything from coffee grounds to soap or fruits and vegetables.
Order their famous capomo coffee made with the seeds of the capomo tree, and add on the burrito mañanero or the torta ahogada—the latter is a famous dish from Guadalajara that consists of a spicy tomato sauce-drenched torta filled with meat and cheese.
Nothing says “I’m not checking my email” like having breakfast at La Palapa near the Los Muerto Pier with your feet in the sand while drinking a piña colada. La Palapa is one of those restaurants that’s been around forever—you can actually see pictures of what Vallarta used to look like 70 years ago inside the restaurant.
Don’t miss staples like chilaquiles or huevos rancheros, the corn muffins that come with other freshly baked pastries, and the pancakes topped with caramelized banana, toasted nuts, mascarpone cheese, and Nutella. After breakfast, ask the staff to move your party to the sunbed camastros that are on the beach right in front of the restaurant where you can continue to drink your Bloody Mary, cold beer, and maybe even stay for lunch.
This speakeasy is hidden inside a store that looks like it has a bunch of leftover goods and trinkets from some long-forgotten estate sale. Once you walk in, though, you’ll be guided through a backdoor and enter a room where the music is loud but not too loud, and the energy feels completely different.
It’s a great spot to hang out with friends or have a romantic night out—the lights are low and the indoor patio and bar area is surrounded by plants and low, candle-lit tables. Order a paloma or any of the other house cocktails—we like the Colibri Negroni which comes with Campari, Martini Rosso, and Mexican Diega Gin. If you get hungry, snack on a cheese board or pizza.
Mezcal y Sal is a Mexican-tile-filled bar in Olas Atlas that makes delicious cocktails and has a surprisingly great plant-based food menu. Try the flower pot de platano macho, which is a plate of plantains covered with mole and drizzled with sour cream, hibiscus-marinated tacos, or the tetelas with oyster mushrooms al pastor. Basically everything here is meant to be shared, and it’s a fun place to hang out, sip some cocktails that might come in a vase, and have a full meal.