Last updated: 01:19 PM ET, Wed October 05 2016

In Search of the Perfect Puerto Vallarta Taco

Features & Advice | Melinda Crow | October 04, 2016

In Search of the Perfect Puerto Vallarta Taco

Photos by Melinda Crow

Whatever your favorite taco is at home, forget about it. Mexican street tacos will change the way you look at the humble handful of beef, seafood, or pork forever. First of all, get over your fear of Mexican street food. Taco stands are not fly-by-night operators.

In Puerto Vallarta, great taco eateries are often generations old. They cannot afford to make people sick. The food is safe. The neighborhoods are safe. The only thing you have to fear is whether or not you will have room in your tummy for churros after a walk on the taco wild side.

READ MORE: 7 Great Things to Do In Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Food Tours is the perfect way to get a sampling of all things taco in Vallarta. You will be met by guides that ease you into the adventure with a sit-down tasting of crispy fish tacos in a traditional restaurante. From there you walk through the cobblestone streets of Old Puerto Vallarta with stops for tacos topped with steak, marlin, carne asada, pozole, and cabeza. There's also a quick break for sipping Mezcal during your taco marathon.

Pozole adds authentic flavor to this delicious taco.

The tour is not just about the food; it’s about cultural immersion. You stroll the streets as shop keepers sweep their walks at the end of the day. Church bells call the faithful to Mass. Families and friends gather to share the evening air. Having knowledgeable guides lead you through the history of the food and the neighborhoods is a bonus. Each stop has a story.

And each stop has a spice level, which the guides are quick to offer advice on. The tacos themselves are rarely spicy; it's all about how much heat you can take in your sauce or salsa. At most stops on the tour, the guides will order the specialty of the house. Accommodations are made for vegetarian diets, allergies, and gluten-free diets.

The most adventurous stop on the tour for most is the one for tacos cabeza — which means head. You can choose the cheek meat, which is a more familiar texture, or go for the full deal with chopped meat that includes every part of the beef head. At this stop, the guides assist you in ordering your preference in Spanish—adding another layer to your immersion. 

Tacos cabeza, for the adventurous.

Each taco has unique characteristics — some are served on crispy tostada-like shells, others on warm-from-the-griddle soft tortillas. Most have onion and mild white cheese. The most unexpected taco for the newcomer to Mexico is probably the Tacos al Pastor. Pork steaks are stacked in layers on a vertical skewer and spit-grilled in the fashion of Lebanese shawarma. The taco is stuffed with crispy bits of meat and pineapple carved from the spit as it rotates in front of the open fire. Think bacony goodness. Think grilled ham. Think delicious.

READ MORE: 7 Must-Try Mexican Meals

The night ends at a tiny street corner churro stand. The deep-fried sweet treat dusted in cinnamon sugar is a delightful end to an evening of food exploration. Puerto Vallarta Food Tours also offers daytime tours that work well for cruise ship visitors. The Downtown Vallarta Tour departs daily at 11 am and includes tacos, ceviche, tequila, tortillas, and chocolate. The best advice for either tour is to arrive hungry.    

Cooking up delicious churros.

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