Puerto Vallarta has an exceptional dining scene. Over 250 restaurants serve cuisines from around the world, in addition to fresh seafood and regional dishes. Chefs from France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Argentina have come for visits and stayed to open restaurants. In celebration of this diversity, Vallarta's culinary community hosts a gourmet dining festival each November. Prices below include the 16% IVA tax.
Of the inexpensive local spots, one favorite is El Planeta Vegetariano, Iturbide 270, just down from the main church (tel. 322/222-3073), serving an inexpensive and delicious vegetarian buffet, which changes for breakfast and lunch/dinner. It's open daily. Breakfast (50 pesos) is served from 8am till noon; the lunch and dinner buffets (75 pesos) are served from noon to 10pm; no credit cards are accepted.
Tapas, Anyone? -- Certainly much of modern Mexico's culture draws on the important influence of Spain, so it only makes sense that Spanish culinary traditions would be evident as well. Of the many options, these are my favorites: the long-standing Barcelona Tapas, Matamoros and 31 de Octubre streets (tel. 322/222-0510), a tapas bar located up a set of stairs on a hillside, with sweeping views of the bay. In addition to tapas and a selection of Spanish entrees, including paella, it offers sangria and a fine selection of wines from noon to 11:30pm. La Esquina de los Caprichos, Miramar 402, corner of Iturbide (tel. 322/222-0911), is a tiny place near Hacienda San Angel known as having the most reasonably priced (35-85 pesos) tapas in town, and perhaps the tastiest. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:30am to 10pm; cash only. It closes in August.
Most of the best restaurants in the Marina are in hotels, but a number of quality options line the boardwalk bordering the marina yacht harbor, as well.
South of the Río Cuale to Olas Alatas
South of the river is the densest restaurant area, where you'll find Basilio Badillo. 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, and there are a number of casual seafood eateries open along the beachfront during high season. A wonderful farmers market takes place on Olas Altas Saturdays from 10am to 2pm.