Vallarta Travel Tip: Dining Out

Travel Tips — By Robin N. on March 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Mariachi frequent beach restaurants, playing songs for a fee -- Photo by Robin Noelle

While Puerto Vallarta has many fine dining restaurants to choose from, you’ll probably (hopefully) enjoy some casual beach dining as well. Unlike restaurants in the US and Canada, you’ll find dining in Mexico to be a more interactive experience.

It’s near impossible to dine on the beach without drawing the attention of beach vendors. These hard working men, women and yes, children, roam the beaches in the steamy Vallarta heat, often lugging around many pounds of blankets, pareos, and trinkets for tourists to buy. This is frequently the sole income for the family. While some tourists enjoy shopping while they eat (or are waiting to eat), others do not.

It’s not necessary to be curt or nasty to these salespeople. Instead decline with a polite “no, gracias” and shake of the head. You can usually head them off before they reach your table with a firm head shake or raised palm. Still, some vendors can be overly persistent in their desire to make a sale. In this case, again there’s no need to be rude. Instead, flag down your waiter or the restaurant manager and let him know that you would prefer not to be bothered. They will usually make it clear to the vendors to give you some space.

It’s hard to resist a grimy-faced little moppet at your table trying to sell you Chiclets or bobble-head turtles, but beware! Once you make a purchase, you’ve signaled that you’re a buyer. Prepare to hold party to a host of people eager to show off their jewelry and braiding skills. Mariachi musicians also roam the beaches to play music for diners. If you don’t wish to hear a song, decline before they start to play. If you want the performance, ask how much for a song. It’s usually around $50 pesos (about $5 US).

Another beach restaurant feature are pets. Some people bring dogs with them to dine at the beach while other dogs may be strays or local neighborhood dogs. While some people naturally enjoy the company of four-legged companions, others cringe at the idea of dogs roaming through the tables while they eat. Usually these dogs will wander off if ignored but if they really bother you, again, ask your waiter to help keep Fluffy in check. Also, check the restaurant policy before bringing your own pooch.

Mexican restaurants aren’t typically known for their speedy service, but that’s how they do it down there. In Mexico, meals are a time to enjoy each other’s company and visit with the family. Keep this in mind when you’re figuring out the tip. While the service may not have been up to typical American standards, that’s no reason not to tip. Instead remember that the people serving you make a terrible wage by anyone’s standards and often travel an hour or more to get to work each day on the bus. They may be supporting their entire family with their wage. A few pesos hardly makes a difference to most tourists but it could mean a tremendous amount to your server. Be generous unless the service and food were truly terrible.

Many beach restaurants are very inexpensive. When your bill comes to just a few dollars for a hearty lunch and a beer, go ahead and tip more than 20%. Leaving 10-20 pesos (somewhere between .50-1.50) is a nice gesture and will probably earn you a warm-hearted gracias, amigo! when you leave.

Tags: beach dining, dining out, Mariachi, mexico, tipping, Travel Tips, vendors