Need help figuring out the the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta? I’ve got you covered! Since there are several popular hotel zones to choose from, knowing exactly where to stay in Puerto Vallarta can be challenging. Especially if you don’t know much about the city’s layout. No worries. The first time I traveled to Puerto Vallarta I had no idea either. Fortunately, after plenty of visits, I’ve stayed in four of the five hotel zones and have visited all of them. In this article, I’m going to guide you through the neighborhoods and share my tips about where to stay in Puerto Vallarta.
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Table of Contents Show
- The Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
- What Are Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zones?
- The Marina Zone
- The Hotel Zone
- El Centro
- The Romantic Zone
- The South Zone
- When is the Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta?
- Vacationing in Puerto Vallarta
The Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
The best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta will really depend on the kind of traveler you are and your wants. Every neighborhood has its own distinct qualities along with advantages and disadvantages. There’s really not a “bad” area to stay in Puerto Vallarta because the entire city is lovely but certain areas will ultimately be more pleasing to some people than others.
Since Puerto Vallarta is located directly on one of the largest bays in Mexico – Banderas Bay on the Pacific coast – and backed by the Sierra Madre mountain range – the views throughout the city are stunning. Add in a 12 block ocean-front boardwalk – also known as the malecón – and Puerto Vallarta is a very walkable city. The malecón stretches from Downtown to the Romantic Zone and there are plans to extend it into the Hotel Zone.
What Are Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zones?
If you ask ten people to identify the hotel zones in Puerto Vallarta and you’ll probably get ten different answers. That’s because sometimes people mistakenly identify “colonias” – which are smaller sections and even popular streets in a neighborhood – as a hotel zone. However, after talking to locals and tourism professionals, there are actually only five hotel zones. The zones are:
- The Marina Zone
- The Hotel Zone
- El Centro or Downtown
- The Romantic Zone
- The South Zone
Five zones doesn’t mean there aren’t more neighborhoods and it doesn’t mean you can’t stay somewhere else. It just means the geographical location of those five hotel zones are the ideal areas for tourists visiting Puerto Vallarta.
Also, you might also see some articles and maps of Puerto Vallarta that include Nuevo Vallarta. But technically, it isn’t Puerto Vallarta or even in the state of Jalisco – where Puerto Vallarta is located – for that matter. Nuevo Vallarta is a planned development in the neighboring state of Nayarit and is usually included because most people visiting Nuevo Vallarta and the Rivera Maya – also in Nayarit – fly into the airport in Puerto Vallarta.
Now, that you know the particulars and layout of Puerto Vallarta – let’s talk about the hotel zones.
The Marina Zone
The Marina Vallarta hotel zone of Puerto Vallarta includes the marina neighborhood and the entire area around the airport. It also includes the main bus terminal and the International Convention Center. Even though they’re in the same hotel zone, hotels around the airport are very different from the accommodations near the actual marina.
Where to Stay in Marina Vallarta Around the Airport
The first time I visited Puerto Vallarta, I traveled last minute by bus from Guadalajara. I knew I’d be getting in late and that point, I didn’t really didn’t have any plans 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 – and I was – I wouldn’t have to travel far after a long bus ride.
I ended up staying at City Express near the bus terminal and it was exactly what I needed that night. City Express is a chain of Mexican hotels geared towards business travelers and short term stays but it has everything that anyone could need. The price was reasonable, the rooms exceptionally clean and the bed very comfortable. There’s also a pool and breakfast included.
From my room facing the bay, I had a great view of the ocean and cruise port. There was even a cruise ship docked the next morning.
City Express is just a quick ride from the airport or bus station. Plus, it’s only about ten minutes from downtown and the malecón – or Puerto Vallarta’s famous boardwalk along the beach. In addition to being convenient for short term stays, it’s a very practical area for travelers with a car because most hotels here have parking available onsite. There’s plenty of public transportation including taxis, Uber and inDriver.
The Marina area around the airport is best for:
- Travelers passing through the area
- Travelers with a car
- Someone exploring the area north of Puerto Vallarta
The Marina Side
Still in the marina zone but on the west side – or the bay side of Mexico Hwy 200 – is the actual marina of Marina Vallarta. The vibe here is totally different that the more commercial like vibe around the airport. Marina Vallarta really is its own little city. It has restaurants, boutiques, spas, hair salons, golf courses, a post office and so much more. Anything you need, you can probably find it in the marina.
The area that surrounds the marina is full of quiet tree lined streets with hotels, condos and private homes. It feels a world away from the busy highway scene. It’s quiet but still close enough to the action in the marina. For me the only drawback of this neighborhood is unless you stay at one of the resorts on the beach, there’s not much beach access.
Where to Stay on the Marina Side
When I stayed near the marina, I spent a couple of nights at San Tropico Petit Hotel. Even though the name says hotel, this property offers suites and studios and is more like an apartment or condo. The suite I stayed in had two bedrooms and a full kitchen. One of the best things about the suites is that the entire wall in the living room opens to a huge balcony.
The outside of San Tropico is beautiful as well. The grounds have plenty of plants and trees, vibrant murals and useful, cute common areas. The pool is one of my favorites I’ve swam in anywhere and even though I’m usually a beach girl, the slightly heated water made cheating on the beach very easy. The temperature of it was perfect for the cooler, winter Vallarta days.
The hotel has a bar onsite by the pool that serves breakfast and drinks throughout the day. You could easily spend all day poolside and never move. However, if you are looking to be a bit active, they do offers yoga in the mornings.
The staff at the hotel was also very nice and helpful. When I checked in pretty early, they not only kept my luggage since my room wasn’t ready, they let me hang out around the pool.
Getting Around the Marina Zone
The marina is about ten minutes from the airport and ten minutes to downtown. There’s plenty of taxis and Ubers nearby and you can even catch a bus downtown. However, it is a bit more challenging to get a taxi on the residential streets.
Also if you have your own car, parking could be an issue in the marina and even on residential streets. Check with your hotel or property to verify 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
Many people consider the Hotel Zone to be the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta. This zone is located south of the marina and runs along the coast of Banderas Bay all the way to downtown. Some Puerto Vallarta maps divide the hotel zone into north and south but for simplicity, I’ve left it all as one zone.
Just like the Marina Zone that’s divided by Highway 200 – the Hotel Zone is too. While there are a few small hotels on the city side of highway, the majority of the places to stay in Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zone are on the beach side. Therefore, you’ll find most of Puerto Vallarta’s all-inclusive hotels and resorts in the hotel zone. This area also has the biggest concentration of shopping and popular chain stores.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zone
Since I travel solo a lot and usually forego large resorts, for couples or those traveling without children, my pick for where to stay in the Puerto Vallarta in the hotel zone is the adults only Hotel Mio. With a restaurant and other amenities on site, this property falls somewhere between a hotel and a resort. It’s not huge like an all-inclusive but big enough to feel spacious and a bit upscale.
The rooms at Hotel Mio are a very comfortable size with big doors that open out onto a nice balcony. I had what I would consider a partial ocean view. Not the best but definitely not the worst view in the world.
The room has a desk, closet area and plenty of room to unpack your stuff. I loved the big shower and the convenience of a separate water closet. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of my room but I do have a very candid video on my Instagram story.
As far as meals, Hotel Mio has an option to include breakfast with your stay. This comes in handy since there aren’t that many restaurants nearby in the hotel zone compared to el Centro or in the Romantic Zone.
Again, the disadvantage – for me – with this hotel is no beach access. Hotel Mio is surrounded by other beach resorts – Friendly Vallarta, good for families on the north and Fiesta Americana, more luxurious, on the south side but there’s no public beach nearby.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in the water. Hotel Mio has a gorgeous rooftop pool with stunning views across the Bay of Banderas. There’s also a bar and you can order food for a very reasonable price. I have to admit, I did enjoy spending time there reading and eating my nachos. So, if you want a resort without an all-inclusive then Hotel Mio might be it.
Getting Around the Hotel Zone
The Hotel Zone is approximately ten to fifteen minutes from the airport, depending on where you are staying. There are also plenty of taxis and buses readily available in this area. If you have a vehicle, most resorts have parking available. It’s also easy to walk to nearby Versailles and some of the restaurants in the area.
The Hotel Zone is best for:
- First time visitors
- Beach lovers
- Girls Trip
If I ranked my favorite areas of where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, then el Centro – or Downtown – is my second favorite hotel zone in Puerto Vallarta. Even though I didn’t have the best experience when I stayed the first time, I love the vibe and feeling of the neighborhood. It’s not as touristy as some of the other zones, there’s plenty of restaurants and everything is just steps from the beach and the malecón.
Where to Stay in el Centro
Hotel El Pescador is a traditional hotel in the 5 de Deciembre area of el Centro. The property is older but it’s in an ideal location right on the beach. In my opinion, the rooms are a bit plain and in need of updating but it has good reviews and people love it so I decided to stay there. Since I didn’t plan on spending much time in the room, a plain room was okay as long as it’s clean. And it was clean.
Unfortunately, I ended up having an issue in three different rooms. And not small issues. One had mold, the next one had an inch of water on the floor and the last one had no air conditioning. No big deal in February but I paid for ac. Not to mention, I spent a good part of my time waiting around for them to decide what to do and then moving my things.
Ultimately, the reason I wouldn’t stay here again was the poor customer service. I was never offered anything – not even a meal – for all my inconveniences. After speaking with a manager – by phone because there wasn’t one onsite, which I thought odd – I was told I might be eligible for a discount on a future stay.
Still, Hotel el Pescador is in a prime spot. There’s a very nice pool and good beach access to Playa Camarones – one of my favorite beaches. They also have a restaurant onsite and breakfast was good. Would I give them another chance? I’m not sure. Hotel Portonovo is right across the street and looks much newer. There’s no pool but you have close access to the beach. Another classic hotel in el Centro that comes highly recommended is Hotel Rosita. It’s another Puerto Vallarta classic and people rave about it.
Getting Around Downtown
El Centro is approximately 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 a rental or your own car. It’s also a great walking neighborhood.
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.
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 another one of my favorite swimming pools. I’ve stayed here a couple of times. Some of the rooms are on the small side but are perfect for the solo traveler or two people. For families, they also offer some larger rooms and even a few suites.
The hotel is located on one of my favorite streets in all the Romantic Zone – Basilio Badillo. This one street has so much going for it, you could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here without going anywhere else.
In addition to a great location for restaurants, Hotel Posada de Roger is just a short walk from the Los Muertos Beach – one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta.
Another good Romantic Zone option for couples, families and even larger groups that want to be directly on the beach is Hotel Los Arcos. This is another prime location on the corner of Basilio Badillo and Olas Altas right in the heart of the Romantic Zone.
The hotel has recently undergone some renovations, including adding one of the trendiest new restaurants in all of Puerto Vallarta, Mar y Vino.
Getting Around the Romantic Zone
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 stunning coastline and spectacular views. You’ll find some of the most luxurious resorts in Puerto Vallarta in the south zone. Many of these properties are perched high on the hillside and have wide open views of the Bay of Banderas. If you are looking for a quieter, relaxing vacation, then this might be the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for you.
Where to Stay in the South Zone
For the ultimate luxury, Garza Blanca, is all inclusive resort in a mountainside jungle setting. Because of the amenities the hotels offers, it’s kind of the resort to stay in Puerto Vallarta’s south zone. The property offers guests a choice of standard rooms and one, two and three bedroom suites that all come with balconies for those incredible. Some of the luxury suites have hammocks and bathtubs on the balcony.
Even though you’re not in the city center, Garza Blanca has a lot going on with a spa, several pools and plenty of restaurants for the pickiest of eaters. For active guests, the resort has hiking trails and offers water sport tours. Los Arcos Marine Park is the ideal place to snorkel.
Since the South Zone is the farthest zone from the airport some hotels and resorts offer shuttle services. If that’s not available, a private shuttle can be arranged and most resorts have taxi either waiting or on call. In addition to tazis, ride shares like Uber and public buses frequent in this zone.
This area is best for:
- resort lover
- romantic getaways
- beach lovers
- visitors who have a car
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 June, 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 is the beginning of the rainy season. Expect hotter and more humid weather. The average temp is 88F. 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. Be aware that July through October is also hurricane season.
Vacationing in Puerto Vallarta
When it comes down to where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, each hotel zone has it’s own unique vibe and features. Wherever you decide to stay – I know you’ll love Puerto Vallarta as much as I do. For suggestions about restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, check out my where to eat in Puerto Vallarta article and if you need tips about things to do in the area, read my Easy Day Trips From Puerto Vallarta post.
Planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta soon? Here’s my favorite websites for planning travel. Puerto Vallarta has great hospitals and healthcare but don’t skip out on travel insurance.
- For flight info and airplane tickets use Skyscanner.com
- Want to book a package with a plane ticket and hotel try Expedia
- Need accommodations? Booking.com is my go-to every time
- Find a home to fit your needs on VRBO.com
- Compare prices on car rentals with Rentalcars.com
- See what other travelers are saying at Tripadvisor.com
- Browse a variety of travel insurance plans with TravelInsurance.com
- For local tours & experiences Viator.com is excellent