5 cheap eats in Mexico

Mexico's Pacific coast is becoming a foodie haven with vibrant bars and bodegas. Make the most of local food and drink on a budget from tacos to cacao shots.

Puerto Vallarta city and sea views

Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the country they are travelling to.

All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of March 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

Forget the ritzy resorts lining the Mexican Caribbean. The Pacific beaches around Puerto Vallarta are home to bargain hotels, a lively, affordable food scene and great mescal.

Once a fading beach resort, this Pacific coast city is regaining its elegance. The Marina development has added Miami pizzazz with exciting new restaurants, but it remains great value. 

Puerto Vallarta main square with colourful flags

Meanwhile, along old cobbled streets in the south of the city, turn-of-the-century tortillerias churn out corn tacos and families gather for dinner on the wrought-iron balconies of apartment blocks stacked impossibly up the sheer mountainside.

On the beach, hipster spots such as El Barracuda vie for cocktail domination with the old tuberos who sell freshly made tuba (coconut milk, apple vinegar and spices).

Man on Mexican beach barbecuing meat and vegetables

But don’t stop there. Roam north along the Riviera Nayarit, 200 miles of white sand and whale-rich waters where surfer chic and laidback eateries rule in towns like San Francisco (known locally as San Pancho) and Sayulita. Here, you could happily sustain yourself by spending loose change on superb seafood tacos, paleta (ice lollies) that sing with chilli and lime, and mezcal.

Here are our suggestions for the best of Mexican food and drink to try a budget...

1. Cacao love shot

Forget espresso; head to cool Latino chocolatiers Mexicolate for a ‘cacao love shot’, a dark chocolate drink seasoned with cayenne pepper. 

Cup of chocolate latte

2. Tacos

La Marisma is a bright, modern taco stand in a pretty cobbled street south of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Get the ceviche tostada, shrimp tacos, and homemade hibiscus water. 

Fish taco with lime and slaw

3. Beachside snacks

Tomatina, a sunny little beachside surf shack in Lo de Marcos, is well worth a visit for its exemplary fish tacos and the tuna tartare with avocado and black sesame. 

Beach hut restaurant with sea views

4. Home-style cuisine

Head to local bodega Cenaduria Celia for standout home-style dishes including pig’s trotters, pozole (rich stew-like soups), and a legendary jericaya (custard flan, without the cinnamon). +52 322 222 2778

5. Seafood

There are two other branches of Mariscos La Tia in central Puerto Vallarta but this one is the most buzzy. Go for smoked marlin tacos, octopus tostada, and salta pa’tras (spicy ceviche). 

Discover more foodie travel tips at our travel hub.

Fruit stall with hanging bananas and mangos
Check out more budget holiday ideas:

5 cheap eats in Cuba
6 foodie breaks on a budget
Top 10 foods to try in Mexico
Top 10 foods to try in the Caribbean

Have you ever been to Mexico? Do you have any tips? Leave a comment below...

All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of March 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.

Comments, questions and tips

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Sandra Duncan's picture
Sandra Duncan
28th Mar, 2018
Well it appears as though AirBear72 does not know what he is talking about. I have lived in PV. Jalisco state is 30,343 mi². Purto Vallarta is in Jalisco State. It is like saying do not travel to Findlay Ohio because it is in the same geographical area as Chicago. As of March 28 2018 It is a Level 2 FOR all of Mexico. So not sure who AirBear72 is, except that his facts are way wrong.
28th Mar, 2018
A disturbing article, in that Puerta Vallarta is in Jalisco State, a hotbed of crime and cartel violence, yet zero mention of this fact. The U.S State Dept has a Level 3 Travel Alert in place ("Reconsider Travel"). No one should recommend "Roam north along the Riviera Nayarit, 200 miles of white sand", a lawless area with kidnappings and violence. Also, the "taco" pictured is more torta, a Mexican sandwich made with bread. Tacos have either corn or flour tortillas as a wrap. C'mon, BBC. You're better than this.
28th Mar, 2018
Great - thanks Sarah for the tips. Try the lovely villages of the Oaxacan coast next time (e.g. Mazunte just received the coveted ‘Pueblo Magico’ status). Airbear is correct on the photo of a torta not taco... but always remember tourists are not targetted in the drug violence. One is more likely to be killed in a subway in London, or a school in USA, or a cafe in Paris...unfortunately.
28th Mar, 2018
The World Economic Forum recently released their 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, which analyses the state of the travel and tourism sectors in 136 countries around the globe. Mexico did not make the Top 20...but Thailand, South Africa, Phillipines and other popular holiday spots did...
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