Located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico’s Jalisco state, Puerto Vallarta has a bit of everything: the pristine waters of Banderas Bay, a lively downtown and a captivating dining scene. Seafood is still a staple in this once-sleepy fishing village, but you’ll also find everything from elevated French fare to street-side tacos. Be sure to take a dip in the ocean before diving into the amazing cuisine.

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2 Must-try Restaurants

Trio Café

Lamb Rack, photograph courtesy of Trio Café.

Located on a cobblestoned street downtown, Trio Café’s decor is a mix of lush, tropical plants and Renaissance-inspired art—a nod to the chefs’ European roots. Known for mixing Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine, Trio transforms traditional European dishes such as foie gras and pasta by adding fresh, local herbs and spices. The eatery’s commitment to authenticity, means the pastas and desserts are made fresh daily, and the menu changes with the seasons. You can be sure a few favourites will always stay on the menu, including the rack of lamb and the open ravioli with lobster sauce.


La Palapa Restaurant

Photograph courtesy of La Palapa.

This historic restaurant is the perfect place to indulge your inner movie star while watching the sun set over Playa Los Muertos. Relax at the same tables where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton drank cocktails out of handblown glassware. The menu is influenced by the oceanside location and fuses Mexican, Asian and French cuisines. Entrees are protein-focused with perfectly prepared lobster, red snapper and beef medallions dishes. Vegetarians need not worry, there’s a decadent eggplant parmesan and an al Pastor mushroom tostada that can also be made vegan.


Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Breakfast: River Café

Start your day off right at River Café on Rio Cuale Island. It serves traditional and hearty breakfasts such as machaca, sopes and chilaquiles, and lighter fare like fresh fruit.


Lunch: Restaurant Dianita

Join the locals at Restaurant Dianita for a delicious (and affordable) lunch. The menu is packed with fresh ingredients and changes daily, so you’ll be in for a treat any day of the week.

Dinner: Café des Artistes

Photograph courtesy of Café des Artistes.

Thierry Blouet, chef and founder of Café des Artistes, blends French and Mexican cuisine at this elegant hot spot. Splurge on the six-course tasting menu so you can sample a variety of his unique creations.


3 Drink Stops

Mexico may be best-known for its tequila—and there are plenty to enjoy—but its growing craft brewery scene and inventive mixologists ensure there’s something for everyone.

Los Muertos Brewing

Photograph courtesy of Los Muertos Brewing.

As Puerto Vallarta’s first craft brewery and brew pub, Los Muertos takes its name from the annual Mexican celebration Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which coincided with the day the pub first opened on Nov. 2, 2012. Be sure to try to the Anillo de Fuego, a wheat-based ale fermented on a bed of diced serrano peppers.


The Iguana Restaurant and Tequila Bar

Photograph courtesy of The Iguana Restaurant and Tequila Bar.

Specializing in the region’s best (and often rare) tequilas and mezcals, this spot offers cocktails that blend the spirits with local fruits and herbs.


Twisted Palms Rooftop Lounge

Photograph courtesy of Twisted Palms Rooftop Lounge.

Offering an open-air setting, with trees surrounding the patio, this lounge is the perfect spot to order a martini—arguably the best in town—and features a nightly movie screening. Update: Twisted Palms Rooftop Lounge is currently open for to-go martinis only and the lounge will be reopening this fall.


Sweet Treats

Photograph courtesy of Metate Café.

Chocolate has a long history in Mexico. Learn all about it during a bean-to-bar workshop at the ChocoMuseo Puerto Vallarta (reopening November 2020). Try your hand at roasting and grinding cacao beans before making a chocolatey drink and blending your own chocolate bar. For your next fix, head over to Metate Chocolate y Café to taste chocolate mixed with pasilla red pepper. If the heat is too much for you, cool off at Lix ice cream parlour with an artisan ice cream cup or cone topped with fruit, nuts, sprinkles, and more.

Signature Experience

Chef Julio Castillón, photograph courtesy of Vallarta Food & Photo Tours.

At Gaby’s Restaurant Bar, guests get the chance to don an apron and really immerse themselves in their meal. During a five-hour cooking class, Chef Julio Castillón will teach you how to make authentic Mexican cuisine. Starting with a trip to the local market to pick up fresh ingredients, Castillón then brings his would-be master chefs back to the kitchen to prepare and cook salsas, mole tamales and more—all while mixing in a raicilla pairing to calm the nerves. The end result is a seven-course meal so you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.

This article appears in the December 2019 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.