More than just a beach town for surfing and sunning, Puerto Vallarta’s cobblestone center and oceanfront promenade is an important culinary destination in itself. Now, local food traditions, many centuries old, combined with fresh ingredients from land and sea, means an ever-expanding list of options – and many dirt cheap – to enjoy.  

A man chops up meat on a wooden cutting board at a street food stall in Puerto Vallarta. There is a crowd of customers waiting to get served.
El Chulo is a taco stand institution in Puerto Vallarta © Melissa Curtin / Lonely Planet

Chow down like a local at food stalls

El Chulo 

Chop, chop, chop in nonstop succession, surrounded by locals, a plump man with a miniature mustache swiftly pulls meat from his street cart grill and pulverizes the cabeza (cow’s head) on a wooden block with his cleaver. 

At El Chulo, beef cheek tacos are a must. No part of the cow’s head is wasted, including the eyeball and tongue. This 40-year-old taco stand at Aguacate 216 specializes in meat that is slow-cooked for 4-5 hours and has a loyal following.  


For something a little less adventurous, try Marisima’s, the streetside taco stand located towards Los Muertos Beach, where dollar fish tacos soothe the soul. Sit on a stool, add your own condiments and don’t mind that the plates are wrapped in plastic – it's just for quick and easy cleanup. 

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Closeup of an open soft taco piled with chopped meat, rice, beans, cilantro, onions and cheese on a red and white paper wrapper.
Get your taco fill at Tacos Memo Grill © Melissa Curtin / Lonely Planet

Tacos Memo Grill 

More tacos, por favor. Head to the roadside stand – Tacos Memo Grill – at Calle Basilio Badillo 381 for crunchy grilled steak tostadas (toasted flat crisp tortilla) doused in beans, spices and cilantro. Select from marinated pork, sausage, chicken, shrimp and vegetarian tacos, or ask for these options on a soft torta. 

Neighborhood restaurants 

Mariscos Cisneros 

Devour crab enchiladas, shrimp tacos and seafood burritos at Mariscos Cisneros at Calle Aguacate 271. Sample four different kinds of ceviche and try their signature seafood mashup dish – a chile relleno taco. 

Shrimp brochette (shrimp skewers) often sold on the beach can be found here too, along with a local favorite – pescado embarazado (pregnant fish) – where marlin or school shark (cazon) is roasted on a stick and grilled and marinated in lime over coals and then served with Huichol salsa. 

Chefs and brothers Ricardo and Marco are natives of Puerto Vallarta and began a street stand together over two decades ago before opening the successful eatery a few years later. 

A tall, white styrofoam cup filled with Mexican beer and topped with shrimp, cucumbers, pineapple and sprinkled with spicy powder sits on a plastic checkered table cloth
A beer isn't just a beer at Mariscos El Guero © Melissa Curtin / Lonely Planet

Mariscos El Guero 

It may be near impossible to not take pictures of your Michelada (a popular Mexican beer cocktail) at Mariscos El Guero, where your cerveza comes topped with shrimp, cucumber, and pineapple and sprinkled with tangy spicy tajin powder. 

Local bars

Bar Zapata 

Move over margaritas, the traditional Mexican cocktail is a Paloma made with tequila, lime juice and grapefruit-flavored soda – preferably Fresca, Squirt, Jarritos or grape soda – served on the rocks with a lime wedge. 

Enjoy this wondrous concoction at Bar Zapata’s out of a Mexican clay mug or try a cantaritos, another refreshing Paloma-like cocktail from the Jalisco region served in a clay cup with a mix of orange, grapefruit and lime juices with sparkling grapefruit soda. 

La Pulqueria

For the brave, ask for a shot of raicilla at La Pulqueria. The potent drink is tequila and Mezcal’s rebellious blue agave moonshine cousin that comes with a smoky taste. 

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Los Muertos Brewing 

Sample a tasty beer flight with heavenly lagers, IPAs, stouts, and fruit-infused ales with hints of grapefruit or chili at Los Muertos Brewing

Bar La Playa

For expert handcrafted cocktails, head towards the waterfront to Bar La Playa where Mezcal, tequila flights, watermelon-shaped Jello shots, coffee cocktails and margaritas with jalapeño may tickle your fancy in this hip space. 

A hand holds an oiled-stained brown paper bag filled with two fresh churros, dusted with sugar, on a street in Puerto Vallarta
There's nothing better than churros straight from the oil © Melissa Curtin / Lonely Planet

Sweet treats 

Churro stand on Calle Jacarandas 

The local churro stand at Calle Jacarandas 244 has been in business for almost 50 years and three generations. Twenty pesos offers a full bag of piping hot crunchy churros shot from what looks like a caulking gun, squeezed out and cut one by one into the frying oil.

In a few seconds, the churros are dusted with sugar or powder, crunchy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside. Hours fluctuate from 5 – 8 pm.

Paleteria Y Neveria La Michoacana 

Cool down with a popular icy treat at Paleteria Y Neveria La Michoacana. The family-run spot, located on the corner of Calle Constitution and Calle Lazaro Cardenas, serves a host of paleta (ice pops) flavors like kiwi, tamarind, pineapple cucumber, mango with chili, coconut, passion fruit and guanabana. Natural fruit waters and ice cream dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts are also available. 

Choco Museo 

To satiate your sweet tooth, stroll along a mile-long esplanade called the malecón to the Choco Museo, a free chocolate factory museum located in El Centro at Juárez 449. 

Sign up ahead for a chocolate workshop or buy some snacks and candy souvenirs at Azteca, one of the largest dulcerias (candy shops) in El Centro where you can watch a labor of love and sample traditional Aztec confections including mueganos (fried flour puffs), caramelized nuts, seed and amaranth concoctions and a wide selection of dried fruits.   

Four shrimp lay on a bed of bright yellow sauce which is topped with greenery and a black garnish
Enjoy the fantastic seafood at Cafe des Artistes © Melissa Curtin / Lonely Planet

Fine dining 

Cafe des Artistes  

Surrounded in a neighborhood filled with art galleries, sophisticated Cafe des Artistes brings fine dining in an intimate garden setting with live music. Expect pumpkin soup served from a gourd, shrimp flambéed tableside and sexy coffee served with a pair of cookie legs.  

El Dorado 

Watch the sunset at El Dorado, a romantic beachfront restaurant near Los Muertos Pier. In operation since the 1960s, the classic beach decor blends seamlessly with the views of crashing waves and the sea salt aroma. Cap your evening with Carajillo 43, an espresso coffee infused with Licor 43, a spicy, sweet Spanish liquor made from 43 secret ingredients. 

El Panorama Restaurant

Atop Hotel Suites La Siesta, longstanding El Panorama Restaurant sits on a hillside in the heart of El Centro with commanding views of the entire Bay of Banderas. Dine on the rooftop terrace with entertaining flambé cooking right at your table. 

The most popular dish at El Panorama is their famous caesar salad which is prepared and served tableside with dramatic tossing flair. This dish was invented in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico. 

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