The story goes that in the early ’60s, the actor Richard Burton found himself in Switzerland in the midst of a romance with Elizabeth Taylor when he got a call from John Huston. The director invited him to star in his upcoming film, The Night of the Iguana, which was to be filmed “in paradise!”
That’s how the renowned director described Puerto Vallarta and its surroundings, which were little known outside Mexico at the time. He understood so little about this area of the Pacific Coast that the actor went to the Mexican embassy in Switzerland and asked to see a map; he wanted them to point to “that paradise” that would serve as the setting for the film adaptation of one of playwright Tennessee Williams’s masterpieces.
There’s no question that all that happened during the filming of this great Hollywood film helped to make Vallarta an obligatory Mexican destination for international and domestic travelers alike, and it’s now one of the three most popular ports in the country thanks to its touristic — and above all, gastronomic — offerings.
Huston, Burton, and Taylor made these beaches their home for many years — as did thousands of citizens from around the world and other Mexican states who have brought their cultures to Vallarta, and in so doing, have contributed a great deal to the overall vibrancy of the city and specifically to its daily cuisine.
Exploring Vallartan cuisine is a trip unto itself, one full of local flavors, new experiences, and international tastes. A trip here isn’t limited to Puerto Vallarta; indeed, to eat like a local you’ll have to explore the different towns that connect this Jaliscan city to those of the Riviera Nayarit, by visiting the essential restaurants below.
Price key per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 200 pesos (Less than $13 USD)
$$ = 201 – 500 pesos ($14 to $30 USD)
$$$ = 501 – 950 pesos ($31 to $50 USD)
$$$$ = 950 – 1500 pesos ($51 USD and up)
Wendy Pérez is a journalist, editor, and teacher of Mexican gastronomic history based in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Translated by Emily Safrin.