Dining is not limited to high-end options -- there
are plenty of small, family-owned restaurants, local
Mexican kitchens, and vegetarian cafes. Vallarta also
has branches of the world food-and-fun chains: Hard
Rock Cafe, Outback Steakhouse, and even Hooters. If
you get a hankering for ‘something familiar’,
then these are for you. However, don’t think that
‘Mexican Food’ means ‘spicy’…there
are TONS of non-chili-enriched choices for every palate.
Of the inexpensive local spots, one long-standing favorite
for light meals and fresh fruit drinks is Tutifruti,
Morelos 552 (tel. 322/222-1068). It's open Monday through
Saturday from 8am to 8pm. No credit cards. El Planeta
Vegetariano, Iturbide 270, just down from the main church
(tel. 322/222-3073), serves an inexpensive, bountiful,
and delicious vegetarian buffet, which changes for breakfast
and lunch/dinner. It's open Monday through Saturday.
Breakfast ($3.50) is served from 8 to 11am; the lunch
and dinner buffets ($5.50) are served from 11:30am to
10pm; no credit cards. A second location with the same
prices and hours of service is now in Marina Vallarta
tel. 322/209-0555, located in Marina del Rey, local
Marina Vallarta--Contrary to conventional travel wisdom,
most of the best restaurants in the Marina are in hotels.
Especially notable are Andrea (fine Italian cuisine),
at Velas Vallarta, and Garibaldi (exceptional seafood),
on the beachfront of the Westin Regina Resort. Other
choices are along the boardwalk bordering the marina
yacht harbor. A notable stop is the Café Max,
next to the Vallarta Adventures offices in Condominiums
Marina Golf, Local 11 (tel. 322/221-0362). It serves
excellent coffee and espresso drinks, plus pastries
and light snacks. Open Monday through Saturday from
8am to 1pm, and 4pm to 10:30pm.
Downtown--A great choice for lunch is La Mejor Opción,
Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez 230 (tel. 322/222-2355),
where the home-style dishes have a gourmet flair, and
chef-owner Gabriela Almada makes everyone feel special.
The daily special of soup, salad, and entree runs around
$10. Open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5pm for lunch,
and Monday through Saturday from 5 to 10pm. No credit
South of the Rio Cuale to Olas Altas--South of the
river is the densest restaurant area, where you'll find
the street Basilio Badillo, nicknamed "Restaurant
Row." A second main dining drag has emerged along
Calle Olas Altas, with a variety of cuisines and price
categories. Cafes and espresso bars, generally open
from 7am to midnight, line its wide sidewalks.
Jungle Restaurants--One of the unique attractions of
Puerto Vallarta is its "jungle restaurants,"
south of town toward Mismaloya. They offer open-air
dining in a tropical setting by the sea or beside a
mountain river. The many varieties of "jungle"
and "tropical" tours include a stop for swimming
and lunch. If you travel on your own, a taxi is the
best transportation -- the restaurants are quite a distance
from the main highway. Taxis are usually waiting for
The most recommendable of the jungle restaurants is
the ecologically sensitive El Nogalito (tel./fax 322/221-5225).
Located beside a clear jungle stream, the exceptionally
clean, beautifully landscaped ranch serves lunch, beverages,
and snacks on a shady, relaxing terrace. Several hiking
routes depart from the grounds, and the restaurant provides
a guide (whom you tip) to point out the native plants,
birds, and wildlife. It's much closer to town than the
other jungle restaurants: To find it, travel to Punta
Negra, about 8km (5 miles) south of downtown Puerto
Vallarta. A well-marked sign points up Calzada del Cedro,
a dirt road, to the ranch. It's open daily from noon
to 5:30pm. No credit cards.
Just past Boca de Tomatlán, at Highway 200 Km
20, is Chico's Paradise (tel. 322/223-6005; firstname.lastname@example.org).
It offers spectacular views of massive rocks -- some
marked with petroglyphs -- and the surrounding jungle
and mountains. There are natural pools and waterfalls
for swimming, plus a small mercado selling pricey trinkets.
The menu features excellent seafood as well as Mexican
dishes. The quality is quite good, and the portions
are generous, although prices are higher than in town
-- remember, you're paying for the setting. Open daily
from 10am to 6pm. No credit cards.