Eating vegan in Mexico can be tricky. Often times, lard or chicken stock are used for rice, making what would be a staple of the vegan diet entirely not vegan. We headed down the gorgeous resort city of Puerto Vallarta to do a little research for you (read: eat all of the amazing vegan food) and assembled our top picks for vegan dining in the Old Town (and a little beyond) of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Welcome to your guide to vegan dining in Puerto Vallarta.
Oh my buffet! Planeta Vegetariano, located slightly up the hill in Puerto Vallarta in what is known as Gringo Gulch, is one of the spots we ate at more than once in the two weeks we were stuffing our faces with food. Why? Because it’s that good. Forget beans and rice. This spot features a buffet of all the delicious vegan eats. While some food is vegetarian — don’t worry, just let the staff know you are vegano and they will tell you what to steer clear from — this dining experience is a culinary feast of Mexican food.
Seriously. The moment we walked in, we got that vegan food anxiety. You know what we’re talking about: when there is so much good eats you don’t know where to start but know you want to eat every single item on the buffet. Each meal service — breakfast, lunch and dinner — features different items and menus change daily.
Open daily 8 – 11:30 a.m., noon – 10 p.m.
Restaurant Vegetariano Mary
It’s not in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town. In fact, it’s most likely a cab ride away, but you can’t miss the other all-you-can-eat vegan/vegetarian buffet at Vegetariano Mary. We trekked it there (not the best idea in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity, but whatever) and weren’t disappointed. In the least. Not as charming as Planeta Vegetariano, this spot has plenty of vegan options that will make it worth the (inexpensive) cab ride.
Calle Honduras 309
Open Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Salud Super Food
Oh man do we love Salud Super Food. Nestled a quick walk from Los Muertos beach, Salud is the healthiest joint in Zona Romantica and offers such tasty eats, you’ll find yourself there more than once. With a large juice menu, plus bowls of goodness, Salud serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start your day with a superfood smoothie and an oatmeal, or grab a quinoa bowl. Regardless of what you get, you’ll be stoked you stopped at this farm-to-table fast casual restaurant. Bonus: grab a seat outside in the covered patio and watch the colorful city.
Olas Atlas 534
Open Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Love raw food? Playa Detox is the ultimate for raw vegan dining in Puerto Vallarta. A bus or cab ride from the Old Town (and near the Hotel District), this juice bar/fast causal restaurant offers a massive menu of vegan food. From raw noodles to burgers, to freshly made sorbet, and everything in between, we loved Playa Detox and all it had to offer. Even if it was off the beaten path from our Puerto Vallarta adventures.
Prisciliano Sanchez #519
Open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tucked into the island on Rio Cuale, the large River Cafe restaurant includes creative vegan options. One of the more romantic spots to dine on vegan food in Puerto Vallarta, River Cafe serves dishes like the quinoa salad with avocado, grilled pineapple and mango in a cilantro vinaigrette; the sensational (and we mean sensational) coconut quinoa with sauteed bell peppers, coconut, almonds and quinoa in a habanero caramel sauce; and a filling linguini pomodoro. Here, vegan dining in Puerto Vallarta gets creative … in the best possible way.
You’ve noticed the strike-thru above, yeah? The reason we did this is because on our last visit to River Cafe in May, the server not only told us we could order the fish (because it’s vegan) but because their vegan and vegetarian menu is mis-labled. Excellent service doesn’t make up for the fact that the menu which marks items as vegan that clearly have non-vegan items, but because some of the dishes marked as vegan and don’t have glaring issues like cheese, are not vegan. And, they know it. We asked for the gorgeous dish pictured above because we had it last time and it was “vegan.” When we said we were vegan, the server said the item was not, in fact, vegan and that the menu was wrong.
The lesson: ask your server and let them know you are vegan. They can tweak items, but don’t simply assume because the item is marked as vegan it is. ‘Cause it’s not.
Isla Rio Cuale 4
Open daily 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Gaby’s doesn’t have a vegan menu, but because of their knowledgeable staff and killer (and we mean killer) view of the Bay of Banderas from its upstairs terrace, it’s on our list. Order up some racilla (moonshine made in the mountains surrounding the city) and then tweak the enchilada, chimichanga or a spaghetti and enjoy.
Calle Mina 252
Open daily 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Like Gaby’s, La Palapa doesn’t have a specific vegan menu … but it made our list thanks to its beach dining. Literally, the tables and chairs and lounge chairs are in the sand. It does have a nice selection of veggie items, though. And, the staff know and understand vegan versus vegetarian versus other. Head here for brunch and enjoy the idyllic beach setting and order the oatmeal without milk and grab a coffee or mimosa. For lunch, order the Ensalada Mazamitla with spinach, mushrooms and tomato (it’s tasty!), peach salad, guac with jalapeños or veggie fajitas. Dinner: ask for their vegan options. You won’t be disappointed.
Open daily 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
A Page in the Sun
Finally, we have to include a coffee shop/place to work on our vegan food guide to Puerto Vallarta. A Page in the Sun made the list thanks to its cozy setting (hello, desks and book store!), and its accommodating options like a bagel with veggies, chilaquiles (hold the egg and meat). We dig the organically grown, local coffee, with soy and almond milk options, the agua fresca options (fruit water rocks), plus juices, smoothies and salads you can tweak. They also serve wine and beer, so you can read/work and have a little drink at the same time.
Lázaro Cárdenas #179
Open daily 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
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Diana Edelman is the founder of Vegans, Baby. She previously lived and worked in Thailand working for an elephant sanctuary and has traveled around the world speaking about the realities of elephant tourism, being a positive activist and entrepreneur at events including TBEX, SEED Food + Wine, VegFest Puerto Rico, VegFest Toronto and more. Diana is a proud partner with the James Beard Foundation and curates their Vegas Vegan Dinner series at the famous James Beard House, as well as the vegan activation, The Farm Stand, at Las Vegas’ Life Is Beautiful festival.