Restaurant recommendations, shopping tips, and money advice for good times in Puerto Vallarta

In Puerto Vallarta when we were meandering the other day, we stumbled upon Planeta Vegetariana – there is a picture below. It’s a small restaurant tucked in the middle of a steep block going up and the sign outside reads “One of the best vegetarian restaurants in the world” – Bon Apetit Magazine. This caused us to stop in our tracks and peer in, but unfortunately we weren’t hungry. We are probably going back there today, so I will edit this post later with my report. HW and I both eat meat, seafood, and basically anything else… but who doesn’t have an appreciation for great vegetarian food? One of my favorite restaurants should you ever be in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where I grew up) is Seva, a vegetarian restaurant. Mmmm.

Anyway, we did go to the best restaurant we’ve been to so far in PV last night as it was recommended by a friend… I also posted my status on facebook that I was going to Los Arbolitos and when we got back, a different friend had commented that this is her favorite restaurant in PV. I could not find it in either of my two PV tourist books with restaurants and maps either – I had to look it up online to figure out where it was. I wonder if that’s because you have to pay to be in those pamphlets, and word of mouth is good enough for this place… or maybe I just did not have the right pamphlets, although one of them is supposed to have everything. Anyway, Los Arbolitos is a family-owned restaurant that opened in 1986 – it sits up in the hills along the river on Calle La Rivera, roughly a 20-minute walk from the beach up. I saw immediately why my friend recommended it – the food was great, the wine selection looked great, and there are even flaming bananas which are good apparently – we didn’t have them though. I also looked it up and on tripadvisor.com, it was rated 4.5 out of 5… it was also rated #14 out of 253 restaurants in Puerto Vallarta on the same site. Our food was sooo delicious – see picture below of my seafood casserole, which the waiter said was his favorite dish. Sarah had stuffed peppers and reported they were the best ones she’s had. She also had a beer, I had a 7-up and we each had bottled water, and the total bill was $38US or 447 pesos – it would have cost us less if we’d paid all in pesos as Los Arbolitos exchanges at the rate of 11 peso/$1 (when the actual exchange right now is 13.83/$1) – but HW had run out of pesos and needed to get more money changed over. Here is the currency calculator. More  money advice below.

The other place I’ve had recommended but have yet to make it there (hopefully Monday, our last day here) is Le Kliff. This is by far going to be the prettiest view as it sits on a cliff overlooking the sea. It’s also the most romantic (this comment is for you Mandy). 🙂 From the research I did prior to coming to PV, I learned the average meal is $21-30US and it’s good to have a reservation. It is pointless to go at night since the view is what you’re there for. I also read two reviews that said the food was good but not great, but that it didn’t matter because the view is sensational, and another review that said the food was really good. I will let you know my opinion on the food if we make it there. I also read somewhere online that this has been called the best view (restaurant-wise) in all of Mexico. I don’t remember where I read that, but I did look in to who said it and couldn’t figure it out, so who knows. I have a hard time believing it though, I would guess along the coast Mexico has many hidden restaurant gems. 

Regarding money – I called ahead of time and found out my credit cards (both) charge a 3% fee for every transaction here, so I brought cash. It works much better if you pay in pesos and learn the money system here anyway. For one, you will pay less every time if you pay in pesos. And two, this immerses you in their culture in a way that only money can. Our meal last night was a great example. If HW had paid in pesos, she would have saved herself a few dollars on a $17 meal. 

Also, when laying on the beach you will be approached nonstop by vendors selling things like dresses, jewelry, mangos on a stick, shrimp on a stick, blankets, etc. Our first day on the beach neither of us felt like shopping and negotiating (which go hand-in-hand here, as I’m sure you are aware) – however the 2nd day, I was in the mood. Here is my story, so you can learn from it. There are these huge blankets I’d taken a fancy to every time the blanket person walked by (see picture below). I didn’t let on to this though because I swear they can sense if you are even remotely interested.  So the day I did decide to buy it I said, how much? And he replied, for you? 650 pesos. I started laughing. He looked at me. I stared up at him. 100 pesos, I said. He looked incredulous. I actually felt bad inside too, I may pretend otherwise but inside I might just be a sucker… So he said no! 550 pesos. I laughed again. No, I said, laying down – I’m not interested. He knelt down beside me. Senorita, he said, how much you like to pay for this? I said, 150 pesos. He started to get up, and I started to turn over. No, no, no,  he said, we will work something out, but not 150 pesos. 500 pesos. And we went on like this. I came up to 250, he came down to 300; for a few minutes I refused to budge from 250 and he refused to budge from 300. When five or ten minutes had passed, I just didn’t feel like talking anymore. So I paid him the 300. Then HW wanted one, and she paid him 300 too (they are nice blankets). I wasn’t thinking, but we should have gotten him to give us two for 500 at least. So the next day inland a few blocks, we walked by a store and saw the same blankets with a price tag of 260 pesos! Sigh. At least we were only 40 off their asking price, but that is a good barometer for how much the vendors mark up beach stuff, which is sold in a lot of stores and at vendors near the beaches. Now the food on a stick, in my opinion, is fairly priced. I didn’t even argue about paying 20 pesos or so for a huge stick of fresh mango (HW had fresh watermelon).. we can’t remember exactly what we paid but I think it was 20 pesos. The fresh shrimp and fresh fish on a stick we had yesterday though, the guy wanted us to pay 30 pesos for. I would have paid that, but I just love negotiating, so I said how about two for fifty – cincuenta. Dos – cincuenta. And he agreed. There’s something about negotiating isn’t there? Next time I come to Puerto Vallarta (yes I am definitely coming back here), I’m going to make a shirt that says “No, gracias” and wear it when I don’t feel like shopping. Then I can just point to it… but they will still ask I’m sure. 

We’ve had such a good time here – I have to say I am so glad we came! It was really busy all over town yesterday and last night – we didn’t get back to our condo until 10:30 or so, exhausted after a long day of walking everywhere and laying on the beach… it’s a rough life. I barely saw anyone in masks again, and I’ve read that only healthcare workers and those that work with food a lot are even wearing them – and that isn’t even true because just about every restaurant we walk by the waitstaff are not masked up. Last night we walked past a sports bar that was packed – I had a quick flashback to walking along a street in the states, seeing TV’s all over inside bars, eyes glued to the latest scores.

One thing I have really enjoyed in PV is the lack of TV’s in restaurants and bars. That sports bar was the first place we saw a bunch of TV’s in a bar – obviously right, it’s a sports bar. There was one TV in Los Arbolitos way up in a corner that they were watching soccer on. Every now and then we’d hear a loud shout – soccer is very popular here.

A few minutes later walking along the boardwalk, we ran in to that couple from Seattle I mentioned earlier this week – they decided to stay and are happy they did. They fly home today.

Today we are going to walk around parts unexplored of PV, but first we are heading to lay on the beach and swim in the ocean, and later we’ll eat at the vegetarian place. That’s the plan at least, but who knows, often days on vacation don’t follow plans right…

I will do at least one more post if not two or three – at the end of our time here, I plan to cover the highlights/things that stood out to me that I have not mentioned, as well as my impressions of their culture and way of life. Nothing too deep, don’t get excited… just my observations, for whatever they’re worth. And if you have questions (like you did Mandy, and thank you by the way, that was what prompted me to write this) that I can answer, I will do my best. 🙂

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4 responses to “Restaurant recommendations, shopping tips, and money advice for good times in Puerto Vallarta

  1. Sounds like you’re having a good time – I’m glad to hear it. Baby shower was good here, all is well. Tell HW hello…safe travels coming home.

    🙂

  2. You’re great!! This is awesome!! Thanks so much. It’s a wonderful/needed distraction from the endless last minute details re the wedding. 🙂

  3. This is for anyone getting ready to travel to PV and stay at Barcelo. We arrived yesterday afternoon and everything is great here. Upon arriving at the airport they did check our temp and everyone with us check out okay. They then made you fill out a paper with your name on it and saying you have not had a fever latley. After you are done that like everyone has said make sure you keep walking past both sets of timeshare traps. One person is our group got caught up in it for awhile and he travels here once a year, so it happens, just walk away. Barcelo is not busy at all. The food has been good and the the drinks are great. Today is our first full day so I will leave more comments when I get time.

  4. oh good! Glad to hear everything is ok at the Barcelo and operational! I’d love to hear more comments too if you have time! Let me know if the restaurants at the barcelo are still operating and if they have shows at night?thanks David!

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