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7 Local Foods You Need to Try in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta Food + Drink
by Stephanie Mee Dec 11, 2023

Puerto Vallarta may be best known for its white-sand beaches and all-inclusive resorts, but lately, it’s been garnering a reputation as a sought-after foodie destination. Locals and repeat visitors have long known about the diverse and dynamic food scene in this beach town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. But now, the rest of the world is also taking notice.

It seems like there are new restaurants opening up in Puerto Vallarta daily, from fine dining spots serving sophisticated fare to simple cenadurías where you can grab a cold beer and tostadas. However, if you want to experience tasty food that truly represents the region, street food is the way to go.

Street food vendors in Puerto Vallarta sell a wide range of dishes, many unique to the city. Seafood is a staple, which is not surprising, given the city’s location on the Bay of Banderas. You’ll also find hearty dishes that pay homage to ranches hidden away in the mountains, and spice-laden snacks that boast the bold flavors Jalisco is famous for. (And yes, it’s also home to tequila.)

If you’re looking for authentic Mexican cuisine in PV, skip the resort buffets and head to the streets. From refreshing coconut concoctions to indulgent birria tacos, these are a few of the best street food dishes in Puerto Vallarta.

Pescado Zarandeado

puerto vallarta food - mexico. fried fish

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Pescado zarandeado is whole fish marinated in spices and slow cooked over hot coals. The fish is split down the middle to make it easier to separate the tender flakes of meat from the bone. It’s best eaten on the beach with a cold beer in your hand and your toes in the sand. The name translates to “shaken fish,” likely a reference to the way the fish is flipped back and forth on the grill to ensure it cooks evenly.

Technically, pescado zarandeado originated in the State of Nayarit, just across the Ameca River from Puerto Vallarta on the same bay. But now, you can find vendors selling this delicacy on many of the beaches in and around Puerto Vallarta. Boca de Tomates is one of the best places to find it, with numerous seafood stands (called ramadas) serving different versions of pescado zarandeado.

Burritas de Marlin


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If there’s one simple, handheld dish that many people consider a Puerto Vallarta food classic, it’s the smoked marlin burrito from Tacón de Marlin. You won’t find much filler in this burrito — just a generous portion of rich, smoky marlin with a bit of lettuce and tomatoes wrapped in a tortilla. It’s grilled on the outside to add extra crunch.

There are two Tacón de Marlin locations in Puerto Vallarta. One is downtown in the Cinco de Deciembre neighborhood beside the famous Pepe’s Taco restaurant. The other is across the street from the airport, making it popular with people who want one last taste of PV before they head home. Both locations have indoor seating as well as takeaway options.

Tacón de Marlin is the undisputed king of burritas de marlin in Puerto Vallarta, but you can also find this hearty dish in several street food stalls around town. Look for seafood and fish taco stands, and there’s a good chance you’ll find smoked marlin on the menu.


tuba - puerto vallarta food

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Being the historic port city that it is, Puerto Vallarta has attracted countless world travelers over the centuries, many of whom brought their culinary traditions with them. Tuba is a fermented coconut drink originating in the Philippines that made its way to the shores of PV in the 16th century.

To make tuba, sap is collected from coconut palm trees and left to ferment for a day or two. The non-alcoholic drink is called tuba fresca, often served over ice with garnishes like pineapple, apples, and walnuts.

The best place to find traditional tuba is on the Malecón. Tuba sellers are easy to recognize, usually wearing white shirts and carrying giant gourds. Many of these tuberos have been producing tuba for decades using recipes passed down to them through generations.



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When hungry Vallartans (or Pata Saladas, as they’re called locally) need to fuel up on something extra filling, arrieros are often the top choice. A typical arriero consists of a huge tortilla filled with meat, cheese, beans, and cabbage. It’s basically a massive quesadilla.

This meat-heavy dish was born on the ranches. When farm workers wanted a quick meal, they would slap whatever meat was on hand into a tortilla along with cheese and available toppings. It’s now a favorite among hungry city dwellers.

La Aurora is the epicenter of arrieros in Puerto Vallarta. This blue-collar neighborhood has several street food stalls selling varieties of the creation. Arrieros Las Marineras is particularly popular for its special arriero with carne asada (steak), adobada (pork), and chorizo.

Camarones Embarazados

beach skewers puerto vallarta food

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Sit on any busy beach in Puerto Vallarta and within minutes, you’ll probably be approached by a vendor selling camarones embarazados. These popular beach treats are shrimp threaded on skewers, doused in a spicy, garlicky adobo sauce, and grilled over charcoal.

The name literally translates to “pregnant shrimp,” but that’s not entirely accurate. It’s actually a play on the term “en vara asado,” meaning “roasted on a stick.” The phrase sounds similar to “embarazado” when said quickly.

Many believe that camarones embarazados originated on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta before spreading throughout Mexico. If you want to try the snack at its source, keep an eye out for beach vendors with grills set up on the sand.

Tacos de Birria

puerto vallarta food.- street taco

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Breakfast like the locals do with the Puerto Vallarta food of choice in the mornings: an order of birria tacos. This iconic Jalisco street food is made from meat marinated in chili paste and spices, then simmered in broth for hours until the meat falls apart. It’s typically served with corn tortillas dipped in stew grease and grilled, along with a cup of broth.

The origins of birria are in the 16th century, when the Spaniards introduced goats to Mexico. Local found that marinating and slow cooking the meat made it more palatable. In Puerto Vallarta, birria de res (beef birria) is more common, although some spots do serve traditional birria de chivo (goat birra).

You can find birria stalls in nearly every neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta, but Birriería Robles in Zona Romantica and Birriería El Tío Toño in Versalles get rave reviews. Just keep in mind that birria is a breakfast dish, so many places will be sold out by midday.

Papa Elotes

elotes puerto vallarta food

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Corn is a favorite snack across Mexico, but in Puerto Vallarta, there’s a unique way to eat it. Papa elotes are piping-hot corn kernels served in a cup with a wide range of toppings, including boiled potatoes, broccoli, crumbled cheese, tortilla chips, chili powder, avocado cream, or salsa.

Locals swear by the papa elotes cart in front of Walmart and Sam’s Club. Vendors usually set up camp in the late afternoon at the end of the parking lot by the bus stop, slinging countless cups to hungry patrons looking for a quick snack.

Esquites are similar to papa elotes, but without the extravagant toppings. The corn kernels are usually tossed in butter or mayonnaise and topped with cheese, chili powder, and lime juice. You can find vendors selling esquites on the Malecón and in Parque Hidalgo in the evenings.

While strolling the seaside town’s streets, you’ll be spoiled for choices when it comes to delicious Puerto Vallarta food straight from local vendors. Most vendors are warm and welcoming to tourists, even if there is a language barrier. Just be sure to bring pesos, because most street food vendors only accept cash.

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