Puerto Vallarta is magical – very easy to get to from most places in the US, extremely accessible and friendly, one of the few places I feel relaxed the second I arrive. It’s not exactly a beach destination (the town beach isn’t where you want to swim), but it’s warm year round, your lodging should have a pool, and there’s lots to do in and around the area. We typically don’t bother with a car, rarely exchange money (dollars and credit cards work nearly everywhere), and make a point of doing at least one day trip to a beach resort by boat, or one of the surrounding towns.

Do try to stay at Hacienda San Angel if you can, it’s very special.


Note there’s a lot of turnover and it’s worth checking to see what’s still open. I last updated this list in March 2023.

  • [haven’t been] Archie’s Wok: good Chinese
  • **El Baracuda: good food on the beach, far north side of town.
  • **Restaurante Barcelona (Spanish): great view, up on the 4th floor of a tall building, good Spanish food/tapas.
  • **Bistro Teresa: above the Starbucks, 4th floor. Excellent food, great views, fancy. Dinner only. (closed)
  • **Blanca Blu (south of town) – very fancy hotel, looks to be closed
  • [haven’t been] Bonito Kitchen is AWESOME!  Best infused lemonades.  Must have. Vietnamese.  So fresh.
  • **Cafe Des Artistes: On the hill, one of the nicest restaurants (fancy) in town. Excellent food, pretty/formal setting.
  • **Cerveceria Union: microbrewery, outdoor seating. Closed, replaced by a rather hip-looking Oyster Bar. Haven’t been.
  • [haven’t been] El Colibru: swanky cocktail lounge in a cave, owned by a couple of cute young Brits. Reservations required.
  • **Daiquiri Dick’s: easy to dismiss the name, but this is an incredibly consistent, pleasant restaurant. 
  • [hasn’t been] Los Muertos Brewery
  • **The Restaurant @ Hacienda San Angel: excellent! Fancy date-night place. Also has an elaborate and popular Sunday brunch service.
  • [haven’t been] Joe Jack’s Fish Shack
  • **Layla’s Restaurante: Mexican, off the Malecon, family run. Food is good, nice people, can be very slow.
  • **La Palapa: on the beach, nice setting, mix of food and food cocktails. Classic tiki-style decor.
  • *El Patio de Mi Casa (Heidi’s place), nice setting, but service and food were both bad on my last visit. (closed)
  • There’s a long stretch of restaurants along the beach, for the most part with very similar menus and unremarkable (but not bad) food. Roberto’s was fine, as was Cuates y Cuetes.
  • [haven’t been] Tre Piatti: very good Italian
  • [haven’t been] Trio: high end, comes highly recommended

Places to Stay

  • ***Hacienda San Angel: really magical. One of my very favorite places of all time (and where we got married), an indoor-outdoor hotel with wonderful food, decorated with antiques. Adults only. 
  • Casa Kimberly, around the corner from Hacienda San Angel, is now under separate ownership but was renovated under the creative direction of the Hacienda. It would be a second choice, but it’s an impressive facility and worth visiting.

Places to Go

  • **Las Animas Beach: is the beach club we’re most familiar with. It’s fun, family friendly, not trying to be a night club.
  • ***Botanical Gardens: Really great. Good restaurant (lunch), excellent swimming hole, and truly stunning gardens. 40 minute drive south of old town.
  • [haven’t been] Hotelito Mio ( – favorite new hot spot. You can buy a day pass for $95 which includes $65 food and drink. You take an uber to Boca Tomatlan and they will send a private panga to collect you. Maybe 10 minutes by boat from Boca. They are hard to get in touch with so book early.
  • [haven’t been] Litibu Grill.  Close to Punta Mita and a great day trip.  Reservations required.
  • *Majahuitas Beach Club is aiming to be a major party. It’s a very adult scene, with extremely loud music, and you’re largely trapped there (return boat is at 10 pm). There isn’t a great swimming area, and you have to eat food in a cloistered buffet area. On the plus side, we saw whales very close to the beach, and the food itself was pretty good. 
  • [haven’t been] Ocean Grill. On the water, great. Again, reservations required and they will send panga for you to Boca

Don’t go in the water in Sayulita (Bay doesn’t flush well, really dirty). Otherwise, it’s a nice (if crowded) beach and a cute town.


We honeymooned at ***Verana, in Yelapa, very special. The hotel is a series of individual indoor-outdoor spaces, lovely pools, quite isolated. It’s close enough to walk down to the town beach, but feels like a very private getaway.

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