Need help figuring out the the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta? I’ve got you covered! Since Puerto Vallarta has several neighborhoods or hotel zones to choose from, picking the right one can be challenging. When I planned my first trip to Puerto Vallarta, I had no clue about the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta or where they were either. Fortunately, after several visits and plenty of exploring, I’ve stayed in four of the five major hotel zones. Researching and knowing where to stay in Puerto Vallarta actually saves time and money because you’ll be in the best neighborhood for you and your needs. Here’s my suggestions.
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What Are the Hotel Zones in Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta has five main hotel zones. Many people will list more than five because they mistakenly name “colonias” – which are little sections or even popular streets – within a neighborhood, and count those as a zone. From doing research and talking to many locals and tourism individuals there are really only five zones.
You also might see maps of the zones that include Nuevo Vallarta but technically, it isn’t Puerto Vallarta or even in the state of Jalisco for that matter. On some maps the Hotel Zone is divided into north and south. For simplicity, I have left it all as one zone.
The five main areas or hotel zones in Puerto Vallarta are:
- Marina Vallarta
- The Hotel Zone
- The Romantic Zone
- The South Zone
The Marina Vallarta zone includes the marina neighborhood and the area around the airport. This area also includes the main bus terminal and International Convention center. Even though they are the same zone, the accommodations in the marina are very different from the more chain like hotels around the airport.
Where to Stay in Marina Vallarta
The first time I went to Puerto Vallarta, I traveled by bus from Guadalajara. I knew I would be getting in late. At that point, I didn’t really know what I was going to do while I was there or if I would even like it. So I decided to look for something close by the bus station for the first night. That way if I was delayed – and I was – or really tired, I wouldn’t have to travel far after a long bus ride.
I decided to stay in the City Express hotel for my first night in Puerto Vallarta. This hotel is on the airport side, or the east side of the main road, Mexico Hwy 200. It was perfect for what I needed that night as I was just arriving.
City Express is a chain of Mexican hotels geared towards the business traveler. From my room facing the bay, I had a nice view and I was even able to see the cruise ships come into the marina. The hotel was reasonably priced and exceptionally clean.
Even though it was convenient for the night, I probably wouldn’t stay there long term. Not because there was a problem, but only because I like to be closer to the beach and the Malecón. However, if you are planning on traveling around the region, are only in town a night or two, it’s a convenient spot with good amenities.
Another hotel option on the airport side of the marina, that’s also close to the bus station, is the Container Inn.
City Express and this area of Puerto Vallarta is just a quick ride from the airport or bus station. Plus it’s only about ten minutes from downtown. It’s a very practical area to stay for travelers that have a car because most hotels in this area have free parking available onsite.
The Marina area around the airport is best for:
- travelers needing a room for a night
- someone exploring the region and areas north
- travelers with a car
The Marina Side
On the west side or the bay side of Mexico Hwy 200, is the actual marina of Marina Vallarta. This area is it’s own little city. It has restaurants, shops, spas, hair salons, golf courses, a post office and much more.
One of the drawbacks, for me at least, is unless you stay at one of the resorts on the beach, there’s not much beach access. It’s still one of my favorite areas though. Quiet tree lined streets with condos and private homes surround the marina and provide a place to get away from from town but still be close enough to the conveniences in the marina.
My Hotel on the Marina Side
In this residential part of the marina, I stayed at San Tropico Petit Hotel. The the name says hotel but this property is more like a condo or apartment. It’s a gorgeous hotel with meticulously kept grounds. My condo had two bedrooms and a full kitchen. One of the best things about these rooms is that the entire wall in the living room opens to a huge balcony. It was like having an entire extra room.
The hotel also has great amenities. I’m usually a beach girl but the pool made cheating on the beach very easy. It’s even slightly heated for those cooler winter Vallarta days.
There’s a bar onsite that serves breakfast and drinks throughout the day. You could easily spend all day at the pool and never move. However, if you are looking to be a bit active, the hotel offers yoga in the mornings.
The staff at the hotel was very nice and helpful. When I checked in early, they not only kept my luggage, they let me go hang out around the pool even though it was early in the morning.
If you would like more of a resort experience on the beach in the marina zone, then the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa looks lovely. They recently underwent some upgrades and have one of the best pools in the area.
The marina is about ten minutes from the airport and ten minutes to downtown. While it is a popular area, it was a little more complicated getting a taxi since this area is less commercial and taxis aren’t just driving by. I also had to wait a little longer on an Uber to pick me up as well.
However, if you don’t mind walking, there are plenty of taxis and Ubers in the marina. You can even catch a bus to take you downtown or to head north.
If you are driving and have your own car, parking could be an issue in the marina and even on residential streets. Check with your hotel or property owner to see if there’s parking available on the premises.
Marina Vallarta is best for:
- snowbirds or long term
- someone who doesn’t mind walking
The Hotel Zone
One of the most popular areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta is the hotel zone. This area is located south of the marina and runs along the beaches of north of downtown. While there are hotels on the city side of the main road, the majority are on the beach side. So, if you are a beach lover, this area is the area for you.
The hotel zone is full of all-inclusive hotels and resorts. It’s a great area for first-timers and the traveler who wants to stay in a property with plenty of amenities on site.
Unfortunately, it’s the one area I haven’t stayed in. I prefer a smaller more intimate place. and neighborhood feel so resorts aren’t really my thing if I’m traveling solo.
Where to Stay in the Hotel Zone
If I was looking to book a room at one of the resorts in this area, I would consider staying in:
- Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta – this property has stunning ocean views in a large resort setting
- Canto del Sol Plaza Vallarta – a smaller more modern resort but with with Mexican touches
- Friendly Vallarta – all-inclusive resort with a beautiful palm tree lined beach front
- Sunset Plaza Beach Resort – an all inclusive resort and spa on the beach that has plenty of family amenities
The Hotel Zone is approximately ten minutes from the airport. Transportation is plentiful in this area. There’s access to taxis, Uber and even public buses that go downtown. If you are driving, most hotels and resorts have parking available.
The Hotel Zone is best for:
- first time visitors
- beach lovers
- girls trip
- solo traveler who wants to be around other tourists
Southerner Says: good news for travelers to Puerto Vallarta. The Malecón is being extended about a kilometer, from Downtown north to the hotel zone. Soon, it will be easier than ever to walk into town from the Hotel Zone.
If I ranked my favorite areas of Puerto Vallarta, then downtown is my second favorite. Even though I didn’t have the best experience at my hotel there, I love the vibe of the neighborhood. It’s not as touristy and there aren’t as many resorts. The famous Malecón – or boardwalk along the ocean – starts in this neighborhood.
My Downtown Experience
The very first time I visited Puerto Vallarta, it was February, around Valentine’s Day. The trip was last minute so by the time I booked a room, there weren’t many options available.
Fortunately, I snagged a room at Hotel El Pescador in the 5 de Deciembre neighborhood downtown. The hotel is beautiful on the outside. The common areas are pretty and the pool is nice. Plus you can’t beat the location. However, the rooms leave a bit to be desired. They are a bit plain and in need of some updating. Since I didn’t plan on being in the room much, plain was okay as long as it’s clean. And it was clean.
But I ended up having a problem in three different rooms. First, it was a white moldy substance that fell from the ceiling and covered everything in my room. They wanted to leave me there but I insisted they move me. Next, it was water. I woke up to about an inch of water on the floor in the next room they put me in. I never even knew where it was coming from. Finally, after moving me yet again, the room they gave me didn’t have air conditioning. It was February and I didn’t need the AC but considering that’s what I paid for, I expected to get it or at least something in return for not being able to meet those expectations.
Honestly, I was so happy to be in Puerto Vallarta that all of this really didn’t bother me too much but I spent a good portion of my time waiting around for maintenance and then waiting around while they found a solution and then changing rooms. It was frustrating to do that three times. Out of everything, the fact that they offered me nothing for my troubles – no apology, no discount, not even a meal at their restaurant, is what turned me off the most. I spoke with a manager and was told I might be eligible for a discount on a future stay. I think I’ll probably pass.
Where to Stay Downtown
Even after that less less than desirable experience, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay Downtown again. I loved 5 de Diciembre area and I think that neighborhood is one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta for an authentic, less touristy experience. There are plenty of good restaurants, shops and nightlife in this zone.
Across the street from El Hotel Pescador is Hotel Portonovo. It’s listed as a 4 star on Google and has good reviews there and on Booking.com. It’s not directly on the beach but there’s no problem accessing beaches in this neighborhood. Playa Camarones is a bit more rocky than some of the other beaches in Puerto Vallarta but it’s one of my favorites. You could spend the day at Mango’s Beach Club or rent a chair and umbrella from local vendors.
Hotel Rosita is another no frills, classic Puerto Vallarta hotel I’ve read good things about online. It’s a little further south a couple of blocks. Even better because that means it’s closer to the Malecón.
For a more upscale experience, Villa Premier Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway is 5 star property located right at the southern end of the hotel zone, where downtown begins. It’s right on the beach and some of the rooms have their own Jacuzzis.
Downtown is, give or take, fifteen minutes from the airport. Public transportation, Uber and taxis are plentiful and as long as your hotel has parking you would be fine if you have your own car. It’s also a great walking neighborhood and as I mentioned, just a short distance from the start of the boardwalk.
Downtown is best for:
- solo travelers
- exploring the center city
- beach lovers
- returning visitors
The Romantic Zone
If you are looking to capture a piece of old Mexico on your vacation in Puerto Vallarta, then look no further than the Romantic Zone – La Zona Romantica – or Old Town, as it was originally known. This is hands down my favorite area to stay in Puerto Vallarta.
Situated south of the Rio Cuale, 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. It also has the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in all of Puerto Vallarta.
All of that in a relatively small space gives this neighborhood a very intimate feel. The beautiful Los Muertos beach, the iconic Puerto Vallarta pier and Malecón are all just steps from the Romantic Zone.
READ MORE: Where to Eat in Puerto Vallarta
Where to Stay in the Romantic Zone
Hotel Posada de Roger is an adorable little inn with rooms that are built around a courtyard full of flowers and one of my favorite swimming pools. The hotel is just a couple of blocks from the beach. Some of the rooms are on the small side but are just right for the solo traveler or a couple. For families, there are some larger rooms and even a few suites. All rooms have air conditioning and ceiling fans. There’s even a communal kitchen onsite and a restaurant.
Hotel Yasmin is another small hotel I love in the Romantic Zone. (Unfortunately, as of April 24, 2021, Hotel Yasmin is temporarily closed) The hotel is next to one of my favorite restaurants – Cafe de Olla. I started going to the restaurant and when I found out they owned the hotel too, I decided to stay there.
The property is so charming. It’s decorated with bright cheery furniture and plants in a typical Mexican hacienda style. All the rooms face the inner courtyard with a small pool. The rooms are on the smaller side but is perfect for couples and the solo traveler. All the rooms have ceiling fans and air conditioning as well.
Southerner Says: If you pay at the hotel, Hotel Yasmin is cash only.
For couples, families or larger groups, another one of my favorite hotels in the Romantic Zone is Hotel Los Arcos. It’s not high end luxury but this property is directly on the beach and has recently undergone some upgrades, including adding one of the trendiest new restaurants in all of Puerto Vallarta, Mar y Vino. Additionally, the hotel has a delicious breakfast buffet, amazing pools and is in a stellar location close to the pier and the Malecón. What more could you want?
The Romantic Zone is about fifteen minutes from the airport. If you are driving or have a rental, parking is limited in this area. Unless your hotel or condo has designated parking, it will be hard to find a spot. There is a public, pay for parking lot, across the street from the Parque Lazaro Cardenas.
The good news is you really don’t even need a car if you are staying in the Romantic Zone. It’s very walking friendly, with plenty of restaurants, bars and shopping in a small area. If you don’t want to walk or aren’t able, then there are plenty of taxis and Ubers available. It’s also easy to use public transportation.
The Romantic Zone is the best for:
- girls trip
- first time visitors
- returning visitors
The South Zone
The South Zone of Puerto Vallarta is the area along the coastal road that takes you south towards Mismaloya. This area is known for it’s spectacular views. The jungles seem to spill into the ocean.
It’s also where some of the biggest, most luxurious resorts and hotels are located. Many of these properties are perched high on the hillside and have stunning views of the Bay of Banderas. If you like resorts and a quieter vacation, then this might be the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for you.
Where to Stay in the South Zone
I haven’t stayed overnight in the South Zone but I had the opportunity to spend the day and dine at the 5 star, Garza Blanca, an all inclusive, gorgeous luxury resort set in the jungle.
For an adult only option in the South Zone, consider the Grand Fiesta Americana All-Inclusive. It’s a beautiful property with a stunning beach and swimming area.
Most of these resorts in the South Zone have restaurants on site, offer spa options and can even arrange tours or a driver for you. Besides the spas, the water and beaches are gorgeous here so anyone interested in water activities would love it. You can snorkel or dive the nearby Los Arcos Marine Park.
Since the South Zone is the farthermost zone from the airport, check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle. If not, a private shuttle, taxi or Uber can help you get around. Hotels should have taxis on call to take you back to town or you can make arrangements with your Uber driver if you like their service. In addition to ride shares, public buses are frequent in this zone.
The public buses stop at a few of the resorts on their way to Boca de Tomatlan so you could easily ride a bus to the Romantic Zone or Downtown. You can catch a south bound orange and white bus in the Romantic Zone for around forty cents one way.
This area is best for:
- resort lovers
- romantic getaways
- beach lovers
- visitors who have a car
- someone that doesn’t mind skipping the city center
Homestays in Puerto Vallarta
Because Puerto Vallarta is popular with ex-pats and snowbird communities, there are plenty of of condos and apartments for rent in the city. If you plan on staying awhile, there are some advantages to doing a homestay.
One of the biggest advantages is having access to a kitchen and many properties even have a private pool. VRBO – Vacation Rental By Owner – has a huge list of properties in every neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta. As does Airbnb. I have a personal list of my favorite Airbnb properties. I just don’t post it publicly. If you would like to see the list, feel free to email email@example.com.
Southerner Says: the longer your stay, the better rate you can negotiate. Also, it’s advantageous to pay in pesos instead of dollars.
When is the Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta is perfect anytime of the year. I’ve visited in winter, spring and early summer but I wouldn’t hesitate to go any time of the year. Even in the more humid, late summer, you can get some great deals on accommodations. However, there are times that are more popular than others.
November through mid April is considered high or busy season in Puerto Vallarta. This is when many snowbirds begin to head south to escape winter in their home countries. The weather is Vallarta is wonderful with clear days and cooler nights. Average temperature hover around 82F with no rain.
Easter Week or – Semana Santa – is a busy time for Puerto Vallarta. Many Mexican nationals take the entire week to vacation and spend time with with their families.
By May, things have really slowed down. Weather wise, it’s still a great time to visit and you can find good deals on lodging then too. It’s warm but not so humid yet.
June means the beginning of the rainy season. Expect hotter and more humid weather. The average temp is 88F. This continues through about mid October. Fortunately, when it rains it usually only rains in the evening and at night so your days shouldn’t be affected too much. Although it could be a little overcast during the day even when it’s not raining. July through October is still rainy and hurricane season.
Planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta soon? Here’s the websites I use when I’m ready to start planning:
- Flight info and airplane tickets – Skyscanner
- To book a package all at once – Expedia
- Hotels and hostels – Booking.com
- Home stays – VRBO.com
- Vehicle rentals – Rentalcars.com
- Check reviews and what other travelers are saying – Tripadvisor.com
- Browse a variety of travel insurance plans – TravelInsurance.com
- Local tours & experiences – Viator.com
The Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Honestly, when it comes to where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, I don’t think there’s a bad location. Each neighborhood has it’s own unique vibe, features and advantages. Wherever you decide to stay, I know you will love Puerto Vallarta as much as I do. Are you ready to book your trip?
READ MORE: 5 Easy Beachy Day Trips From Puerto Vallarta