I don’t usually find myself in places like this. It’s very touristy here. There’s a Señor Frogs. But a friend and I were staying about 30 minutes away in a small town called Bucerias and thought we would check out the PV scene for a night. We wandered past the resorts and clubs and found a few things to eat, drink and do:
Walk down the Malecon
Just past the Plaza de Los Arcos, there’s a narrow strip on the malecon (great at sunset) with a line of food vendors, mostly selling the same things: bowls of cut up hot dogs and french fries (drunk food, definitely), plantains (is bigger better in the case of plantains? Not so sure), cakes (I actually hate cake but maybe you don’t), chicharrones (yes!), and elote (corn cut off the cob and mixed in a cup with cream, lime and chile— one of my favorite Mexican snacks). It feels like a little piece of small-town Mexico. Keep walking down and you’ll come to a footbridge, once you pass that you’ll be in Old Vallarta, the less resorty part of town.
Tacos at El Moreno
We’d heard about this taco stand from a friend. On the corner of Madero and Constitucion (Madero runs into the Malecon) sits a street cart called El Moreno. They’re known for their birria, stewed goat that sits warming in a clay pot on the grill. It’s not the best birria I’ve had but it’s safe and good. Tacos are cheap (starting at $1) and come in small and large sizes.
Drinks at Bolero – CLOSED
They had me at the giant vintage poster of a bull fighter that extends from the top of the bar to the ceiling. This is a chill bar with open windows, one pool table, and plenty of seating that overlooks the sidewalk. The music was a mix of pop and rock (which frankly, I prefer to really loud techno or really live banda), and the drinks were cheap, like $2. There’s a little extra thought and edge here—maybe it’s the painting of the puma on the wall or the antlers above the bathrooms, or the sweet bartender from Vancover— but whatever it is I’d bet by midnight this is a fun place to be. Open from 6:30 pm to 4 a.m, right down the block from El Moreno on Madero.
Get Your Hair Done at Zebra
Ladies! My favorite international time killing activity (ok, if not drinking) is getting my hair did. Seriously, I hate blow drying my own hair so why do it if I can pay someone $15? We stumbled by Zebra (meant to be, I love animal print) and came out with a shiny, curly, clean do. However, Gabriela came out with a mediocre manicure so you should probably stick to the hair.
Dance at Bodeguita del Medio
For a little taste of Cuba head to La Bodeguita del Medio, grab a mojito (I would advise asking them to put more rum in it), and bust out your salsa moves. The bar, covered in wall signatures just like Habana Vieja’s original version, has a second story that overlooks the dance floor and a live Cuban band that plays every night at 10 p.m. There’s a good mix here of locals, non-fraty tourists, and a few Cubans (they’re the ones that dance really well). Mojitos run about $5-$6.
And on your way out, eat at Tacón de Marlin!
If I worked at an airline counter at the Puerto Vallarta airport this is how my check-ins would go:
Will you be checking baggage?
Did you go to El Tacón de Marlin?
I’m sorry, you can’t leave the country yet.
Exiting the Puerto Vallarta airport head left, all the way around the corner until you see a pedestrian bridge. Across it awaits a seafood burrito so good, you might miss your flight sitting at a table hoping time will stop long enough for you to have a second one. But it’s these kind of meals, these kind of moments on vacation that time only allows us a finite number of: an accidental wake up at the peak of a florescent sunrise, a construction worker carrying your suitcase so you don’t have to drag it across the ripped up pavement and jokingly telling his coworkers he’s headed to California too, the sun on your back after a dip in the pool, or the first bite of a warm burrito.
Tacón de Marlin is a very casual restaurant that serves burritos filled with a number of different seafoods, cheese, lettuce, onions, and salsa. I got a combo of smoked marlin and shrimp, the marlin was meaty and tasty, and the shrimp were cooked perfectly. The burrito is wrapped, cut in half, and grilled on all sides (including the cut sides). By the time it’s wrapped up it’s dripping a mix of salsa and grease, and the ingredients come together in such an obviously delicious way that I felt ashamed for years of refusing to eat a burrito in Mexico. Our new friend Dani, a PV native who we met at Bodeguita del Medio told us about this place and said that every time he’s headed back to his current home in Mexico city he gets a burrito to go. I would do the exact same.
Cheesecake fans will enjoy the pie de yelapa, a traditional cheesecake made down the coast with a pomegranate jam on top. Burritos run about $7.
Constitucion and Francisco I Madero, Old Vallarta
Closed Thursday. 9AM – 12AM.
Corner of Francisco I Madero and Vallarta
6:30 PM-4 AM
on Carranza #333. Cross street is Insurgente. 10 AM-9 PM.
Bodeguita del Medio
on Diaz Ordaz and Calle 31 de Octubre. Live music goes from 10 pm til late.