You could stay at your swanky resort, lounging at the pool and hoping your drink gets refilled without you asking. Or you could throw on your sandals and take a stroll into that elusive territory called The Real Mexico.
I have to warn you though, these little trips can become addictive, especially if you go looking for a snack.
You’ll be on the plane back to the great white north, wishing you would have asked for a go cup for that fresh pineapple juice from the market.
Been there, done that.
Here are my favourite spots in and around Puerto Vallarta for real Mexican flavours.
Tacon di Marlin
You don’t have to go far to get your first taste of real Mexican food. In fact, you need only to walk across the footbridge with the orange railing that leads away from Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport.
It’s not unusual to see pilots chowing down on their 20-minute stops in PVR. The smoked marlin burrito is the house specialty, but you really can’t make a bad choice. Tacon means a really big taco, and they aren’t kidding.
And while you’re there, look for the El Pollo Feliz next door (a chain restaurant that has fantastic chicken).
Always open, never closed. That could easily be the motto of this torta stand at La Aurora’s busiest intersection.
Wondering what a torta is? Basically it’s a Mexican sandwich, served in a bun, with any number of fillings and garnishes. Ham, el pastor, lettuce, tomato, cheese and mayo comes heaped high on the tortas from this stand.
Line up for a seat at one of the stools. It’s a messy affair to eat a torta, so you may want to sit down.
Ask for a fresh juice that comes served in a bag with a straw taped to one end.
Steak Tacos Roque
Get yourself to the Walmart then head straight east down Prisciliano Sanchez to the first set of lights. Look for the yellow canopy on the southwest corner.
Chances are you’ll see and smell the giant chunk of pork roasting on an upright rotisserie in the corner.
Have the el pastor (pork from the upright rotisserie) tacos and a Dos Equis, either ambar or larger, grab a seat and watch the busy goings on of the La Aurora neighbourhood.
Don’t get caught up in the weird spelling of this neighbourhood burger joint—it’s fantastic!
The ground beef burgers, called res, are packed with flavour and juice. But it’s the shrimp (camarone) burger that will make you come back tomorrow.
The kitchen is on the street, tables are inside the building. It’s tucked away so you may have to ask for directions, or simply follow the smell of endless shrimp on the grill.
Carlos’s Crepe Stand
This is not the formal name of the place because this place doesn’t have a formal name. It’s just that a guy named Carlos runs this little street stand.
From Mr. Burguer, go east to the intersection at Universo and Mar Caribe.
He will be on the southeast corner. He’ll make you any kind of crepe you want but if you need a recommendation, bananas and Baileys is it. You’re welcome.
Aqua Curatives in Mercado Palmar de Aramara
Step inside this streetside market and head for the east end. There you’ll find a collection of coolers filled with freshly squeezed juices.
Venture away from the usual orange or grapefruit and step into the world of lime, pineapple, alfalfa, celery, beet and cucumber. Heck, go one step further and create your own concoction.
I love pina (pineapple) with apio (celery). A full litre comes in a Styro cup that will keep your drink cool for a long, long time.
And it will cost you less than 20 pesos, or about $2.
Time to head to Pitillal, a little community east of PV proper. It’s pronounced PTL.
Ask a cabbie to take you there or get on the bus for about six pesos. Get off at The Plaza, which is the town square.
Tacos NeTo is about a block off the square at 219D Ave Juarez, but anyone on the street can point you in the right direction.
Have the carnitas taco with jamaica (pronounced heh-my-ka) juice. Tacos are 10 pesos each, less than a buck.
La Súper Michoacana
Dessert time! You may never go back to eating plain ole’ Popsicles once you try a paletas, a frozen treat of fresh seasonal fruits on a stick.
The choices at these shops will have you hovering over the chest freezer, hemming and hawing.
Is today a day for refreshing watermelon or is it time to try something wacky like pepino con chile, with cucumber, watermelon, fresh lime juice and powdered chile piquín? Let your tastebuds guide you.
Dining in Puerto Vallarta
A city of undulating cobblestone streets strung along a broad sweep of the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta has been welcoming visitors to one of the best culinary scenes on Mexico’s west coast since Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor first put this former backwater fishing town on the map back in the 1960s.