Traveling to unfamiliar cultural regions with vegan or specific dietary restrictions can be very intimidating, even more so when exacerbated by a potential language barrier. While I am not a vegan, I am an infrequent meat eater. I thought it would be a fun game to see what challenges I would face in trying to adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet while in another country. Puerto Vallarta is a food mecca with extraordinarily diverse restaurants to choose from.
Phrases to Know
During the course of my food journeys, I picked up a few key phrases important to making sure dietary restrictions are being met. While the general concept of veganism was known, there seemed to be a lot of misunderstandings on which ingredients are allowed. Chefs and servers were always more than happy to accommodate very specific requests and modifications. I found it incredibly important to double check all ingredients. But you know, I have the same issues with misinformation back home, too.
- sin queso – without cheese
- sin grasa – without fat/lard/grease
- solamente – only
- solamente frutas – only fruit
- solamente vegetales – only vegetables
Finding Healthy Food Options
As a food mecca, Puerto Vallarta has a foodie fusion from so many different cuisines and cultures. Whatever your palate is craving, there is something out there. Avocados are a staple with every meal.
Vegan Restaurants and Food Carts
If you are seeking a pure Vegan food experience in Puerto Vallarta, you might be hard pressed to find one. However, there are plenty of vegan/vegetarian restaurants to choose from, as well as restaurants which have specific vegan dishes. Every restaurant visited, whether or not they served meat, was able to modify as necessary.
This list includes restaurants in and around Puerto Vallarta which are vegan or vegetarian only.
- Crux De Huanacaxtle – Organic Love
- Nuevo Vallarta – Amaranta Nutrición Integral
- Puerto Vallarta – Comida Taiwanesa
- Puerto Vallarta – Corazon Saludable
- Puerto Vallarta – Green Place
- Puerto Vallarta – Local Organic Hippie
- Puerto Vallarta – Macai
- Puerto Vallarta – Planeta Vegetariano
- Puerto Vallarta – Playa Detox
- Puerto Vallarta – Salud Super Food
- Puerto Vallarta – Vegetariano Mary
- Puerto Vallarta – Veggie Table
- Puerto Vallarta – Veggitalia
- Puerto Vallarta – Yogi Bar
- San Francisco – Cilantro
- San Francisco – La Voz de Mi Terra
- Sayulita – Atico
- Sayulita – Iguana Gardens
- Sayulita – Veggie Land
I had amazing success in finding vegan food from popup stands and taco carts. The search was surprisingly easier and more prolific than querying restaurants. The place to go is the local farmers markets. There will most likely be at least two food vendors with vegan dishes. Whether you are the type of vegan whom prefers fresh and raw produce, or if you enjoy your food cooked and sauced, you will find tons of unique flavors and spices everywhere.
If you find yourself at a taco cart, utilize the phrases above and get a taco (or 4) with “solamente” beans, rice, cabbage, grilled onion, cilantro, and of course salsa and hot sauce.
You’ll also find yourself walking by many many carts selling coconuts. You can choose how green versus ripe you want your coconut for varying levels of sweetness. Depending on how strict of a vegan you are, hot sauce and chili options allow you to spice up the tasty snack.
- Puerto Vallarta – Olas Atlas Farmers Market
- Marina Riviera Nayarit – La Cruz Huanacaxtle Market
- Vendor – Shining Sprouts
Neighborhood Stores and Mom & Pop Corner Markets
For food to take with you on the go, these small markets are full of tasty surprises. You can find many different packages snacks made by local vendors. They will almost always have ingredients listed in Spanish, so you will need a translating app or be very proficient in Spanish. I picked up a couple bags of dried bananas for a hike.
When asking around for these small stores, here is some lingo to help you navigate to the correct type:
- La Tiendita or Tienda de Abarrotes – General corner store
- Frutas y Legumbres or Verdurería – Fresh fruit and vegetables store
- Tortillería – Fresh tortillas store
- Panadería – Bakery for fresh bread
Tours and Adventures
Any reputable tour company sign up for an activity with will have a vegan or other dietary plate however. I’ve found they do require advanced notice – more than a day – to make sure they are properly stocked and prepared. This is a typical vegan plate from Vallarta Adventures:
The Journey is Never Over
Having found a seemingly infinite number of healthy food choices, whether vegan or not, in Puerto Vallarta, I found myself quite spoiled. It was so easy to navigate food options during the entire trip. The food is vibrant, delicious, and brings so many new flavors to the palate. I feel quite spoiled as to what good Mexican food can be. Nothing compares back home.
Of course, being able to enjoy amazing food on the beach might bring about a bit of a bias.