When you are planning a trip, picking the right area to stay in is just as important as picking the hotel. Picking the wrong one could mean extra time and money spent on transportation. Who wants to spend all their time driving from one side of town to the other? If Puerto Vallarta is on your wish list and you’ve researched visiting, you probably noticed that there are a lot of options in many distinctive areas of town.
Believe me, I was just as confused when I planned my first trip to PV. Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to spend several weeks in the area and I stay in several different neighborhoods. Hopefully the info here will help make your decision of where to stay in Puerto Vallarta a little easier.
The Romantic Zone
- solo travelers
- girls trip
If you are looking for a small town feel and less resort, then the Romantic Zone or La Zona Romantica in Spanish, might just be the best area in Puerto Vallarta for you. PV is a big city with over a quarter of a million inhabitants but you would never know when you staying this neighborhood. Narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings and friendly neighborly people transport you to a simpler time. While there have been some changes recently with some new condos being built, it remains a charming, quaint neighborhood.
Situated south of the Rio Cuale, which kind of divides the city, the Romantic Zone is full of smaller budget friendly hotels, boutique hotels, inns, condos and even a hostel or two. There are a few larger hotels but no mega resorts like in the hotel zone. With the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in all of Puerto Vallarta you never have to leave if you don’t want to. When I stay in this area of Puerto Vallarta, I can find whatever I need, laundry, bank, bakery, usually just steps from my hotel.
The famous Los Muertos beach, El Muelle, the iconic pier that’s become the symbol for Puerto Vallarta, are nearby. As is the 12 block long promenade called the malecon.
Where to Stay in the Romantic Zone
The two places that I recommend in this area of Puerto Vallarta is Hotel Posada de Roger and Casa Yasmin. Both of these hotels are your typical Mexican style building. You enter a gate into a courtyard and the rooms surround the courtyard. Since they are older buildings, some of the rooms are on the small side, which is perfect for the solo traveler. However Posada de Roger has some larger accommodations and suites. They also a communal kitchen there and their pool is adorable.
The rooms and outside of Casa Yasmin are decorated in classic Mexican fashion with bright furniture, art and beautiful flowers everywhere. They also have the most inviting pool in their beautiful plant filled courtyard.
Getting around: The Romantic Zone is about thirty minutes from the airport. You can get there by taxi, bus or shuttle (check where you are staying to see if they offer one). At the time of writing, Uber was not allowed onto Federal property, so if you are at the airport then they aren’t allowed to pick you up. The Romantic Zone is a very friendly, safe walking neighborhood. However there are plenty of Ubers and taxis if you choose not to walk. If you plan on renting a car, parking is very limited in this area.
Despite the fact that the Marina area of Puerto Vallarta doesn’t have the easiest beach access, it’s another one of my favorite areas. It’s full of quiet of tree lined streets with plenty of condos, boutique hotels and resorts. The marina is like it’s own little city. There are restaurants, shops, spas, golf courses, tennis courts and even bowling!
I stayed the hip San Tropico Hotel, which is more condo than hotel. The grounds and pretty much everything about it was fantastic. I had two bedrooms and a full kitchen. The pool area was the best part. Even though I’m usually a beach girl, their pool made cheating on the beach very easy.
The staff went was super nice as well. When I checked in early, they not only kept my luggage, they let me go hang out around the pool even though it was pretty early in the morning.
There is a bar that offers breakfast, drinks and beer through out the day. If you decide to roll out of your chair and be a little more active, there are yoga classes poolside too.
Getting around: Marina Vallarta is just ten minutes from the airport via taxi. Again, check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle. Taxis and Uber available in the marina and the resorts but you will have to call for one if you are staying somewhere on one of the residential streets around the marina. If you are renting a car, parking is congested and limited in the marina.
For travel into downtown or to the Romantic Zone from the marina, you can walk out to the main road and catch a local bus at the Starbucks. Buses should have the destination written on the windshield but you might want to verify with your driver when you get on, just in case. Heading north? Catch a bus at the stop in front of the Walmart/Sam’s Club across from the Maritime Terminal where the Cruise Ships dock.
Airport & Bus Station Area
- solo travelers
- someone passing through
The first time I went to Puerto Vallarta, I traveled by bus from Guadalajara. I knew I would be getting in late and at that point I didn’t really know what I was going to do or if I would even like PV. So I decided to look for something close to the bus station/airport for the first night. That way I would be close and settled for the night.
City Express worked perfectly for me. They are a chain of Mexican hotels geared towards more towards the business traveler. The room was exceptionally clean and had a great view for a hotel located in this area of Vallarta. I received very good service and they had a nice pool.
This area would be a great jumping off spot if you plan on some day trips or activities north of Puerto Vallarta.
Getting around: this area is just about five minutes from the airport. It can be reached by bus or taxi. You could arrange a shuttle but being so close and with so many other options I think that would be unnecessary unless your hotel offers a free one. If you are headed to areas north such as Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerias or even Sayulita, you can catch a bus in front of Walmart/Sam’s Club across from the Maritime Terminal where the Cruise Ships dock.
- girls trip
- solo traveler
Puerto Vallarta’s hotel zone is fairly large and runs along the beaches of downtown. There are plenty of hotels, resorts, and condominiums. My first time in Vallarta was high season in February. It was kind of last minute but I was able to snag a smaller hotel in the northern end of the hotel zone, in the 5 de Deciembre neighborhood. I’m not even going to mention the hotel I stayed at. I had three different rooms over the course of two days and the customer service was awful.
I loved the neighborhood though and would stay here again if there was nothing available in the Romantic Zone. Even in high season, was fairly quiet. While you are not directly on the Malecon, it’s just a few blocks away. There are plenty of great restaurants and street food, which means tacos galore!
I did find the beaches to be a bit rockier here than others in PV but they were quieter and less crowded too. Another plus of being on the north side is you have closer access to the Marina other areas north of Vallarta that are worthy of visiting, like Nueva Vallarta, Bucerias or Sayulita in Nayarit.
Rental chairs and umbrellas from vendors on the beach are available or there is a beach club called Mangos on Playa Camarones. While Mangos has better chairs, I found the individual vendors offered great service and would help you with anything you wanted. A chair and umbrella will cost you about $10 USD.
Getting around: depending on where your hotel is in the Hotel Zone, you are about twenty minutes from the airport. Again, check with you hotel to see if they offer a shuttle. There are plenty of buses and taxis to take you to this area from the airport. Uber, taxis and buses are plentiful in the neighborhood. It’s also very walking friendly and safe and you can quickly get to the malecon.
The South Zone
The South Zone is located on the road that takes you south out of town. This area is known for it’s luxurious resorts and hotels. Many are perched high on the hillside and have stunning views of the Bay of Banderas and the surrounding jungle. I didn’t stay overnight in this area but had the opportunity to spend the day at Garza Blanca, a five star, all inclusive luxury resort. This zone is best suited for the traveler who has access to a car or someone content to stay put and not go into town. The resorts in the South Zone have restaurants on site but that’s about it
However, you definitely can’t beat the views. The water at that those southern beaches is spectacular.
Wherever you decide to stay in Puerto Vallarta, I know you will love it! I really don’t think there is a bad location. If your are planning on visiting any of the other beaches in the area, check out my post about Sayulita. Happy beaching!