Los Muertos beach and the famous pier in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

What’s the Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta? A Neighborhood Guide

Need help figuring out the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta? Let me help. 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 (on my own dime) and have visited them all. In this article, I’m going to guide you through the neighborhoods and share my tips about where to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

The Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Where you decide to stay in Puerto Vallarta really depends on the kind of traveler you are and the experience you are going for. 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 – whatever neighborhood you choose, 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.

the view of the Bay of Banderas along the malecón in Puerto Vallarta
The Bay of Banderas along the malecón

5 Neighborhoods Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

If you ask ten people to identify the hotel zones in Puerto Vallarta 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 really only five main hotel zones. The zones and the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta are:

  • The Marina Zone
  • The Hotel Zone
  • Downtown
  • The Romantic Zone
  • The South Zone

Even though these are the main five zones that doesn’t mean there aren’t more neighborhoods and it certainly 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. It’s generally included because most people visiting Nuevo Vallarta and the Rivera Maya – also in Nayarit – fly into Puerto Vallarta’s airport.

Now, that you know the particulars and layout, let’s talk about the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta starting with neighborhoods north to south.

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Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – The Marina Zone

Many people consider the Marina Zone to be the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta. This hotel zone is a large one with a variety of different types of accommodations. Everything from resorts to condos to hotel chains that cater to more short term stays.

The Marina Zone encompasses the actual Marina Vallarta and the area around the airport. It also includes the main bus terminal and the International Convention Center.

The hotels around the airport and on the more commercial northeastern side of Highway 200 – the main travel route through town – are mostly chain hotels and auto hotels – designed more for business travelers or for those attending a conference.

In contrast, the actual marina of Marina Vallarta is one of the nicest parts of Puerto Vallarta. The marina is full of restaurants, boutiques, spas, hair salons, golf courses, a post office and so much more. In fact, it’s like its own little city and you can find anything you want or need there.

Additionally, the residential area adjacent to the marina is wonderful as well. It’s full of quiet tree lined streets with hotels, condos and private homes. It’s worlds away from the commercial area but yet close enough for convenience.

For me, the disadvantage of this neighborhood is unless you stay at one of the resorts on the beach, there’s not much public beach access and it’s not really within walking distance of the malecón.

Residential street in the Marina Vallarta area of Puerto Vallarta.
The tree lined streets of the Marina Zone in Puerto Vallarta

One of the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta near the marina is San Tropico Petit Hotel. The name says hotel but the property is made up of suites and studio apartments completely worthy of a long term stay.

When I decided to stay here, the only room available was a two bedroom with a full kitchen. More than I needed for a solo traveler but I loved it.

The rooms are huge and feel even more spacious because of the sliding glass doors in the living room that open up to a huge balcony overlooking the well kept grounds full of bright flowers and common areas.

As far as amenities, the pool at San Tropico is a winner. Even though I’m usually a beach girl, the slightly heated water in the pool made cheating on the beach very easy. The temperature was perfect for the cooler, winter Vallarta days.

By the pool, the hotel has a bar 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 hotel staff were pleasant and very 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.


For other Puerto Vallarta hotels in the Marina Vallarta zone, check out the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. This property is beachfront and is consistently rated as one of the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta. It’s beautiful.

How to Get to the Marina

Depending on exactly where you are staying, the marina is a quick, maybe ten minute 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.

Public transportation, buses, taxis, Uber and inDriver are plentiful and you can even catch a bus to take you downtown. Although public parking around the marina is crowded, most hotels should have parking on the premises.

Marina Vallarta is best for:

  • Families
  • Snowbirds
  • Long term expats
  • Visitors with a car
  • Last minute trips

Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – 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. A couple of the more popular neighborhoods in the Hotel Zone are Las Glorias and Versalles.

Just like the Marina Zone that’s divided by Highway 200 – the Hotel Zone is too. While there are a few smaller 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.

The Hotel Zone is where you’ll find most of Puerto Vallarta’s all-inclusive hotels and big resorts. This area also has the biggest concentration of shopping malls and popular chain stores. If you want a more traditional beach vacation at a large property, then the Hotel Zone is where is it.

The first time I visited Puerto Vallarta, I traveled last minute by bus from Guadalajara. I knew I’d be getting in late and I already don’t like arriving to a new place at night so I opted for something close to the bus station.

That way if I was delayed even more – and I was since it was Friday and traffic was heavy – I wouldn’t have to travel too far after the long bus ride.

I ended up booking a room at City Express at the north end of the Hotel Zone, near the bus terminal. It was exactly what I needed that first night. City Express is a chain of Mexican hotels geared towards business travelers but it has everything a casual traveler would need as well. Even a pool.

From my room facing the Bay of Banderas, I had a great view of the water and the cruise port from my exceptionally clean room with a very comfortable bed. The price was reasonable and includes breakfast.

Another bonus is that I was able to walk just a few steps to Cerveceria Chapultepec – practically in the parking lot – for dinner. Staying here was a convenient solution for a quick overnight.

the view from City Express Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Since I do travel solo a lot and usually forego large resorts, another pick for where to stay in the Puerto Vallarta in the Hotel Zone is the adults only Hotel Mio. With its amenities and an onsite restaurant, this property is somewhere between a hotel and a resort. It’s not huge like an all-inclusive but it feels a bit upscale.

If you’ve visited Puerto Vallarta – or Mexico in general – and didn’t enjoy your mattress, I’m happy to report that Hotel Mio has super comfy beds. The large rooms also feature a desk area and plenty of storage with a closet to unpack your stuff. I loved the huge shower and the convenience of a separate water closet.

Probably my favorite feature were the large glass doors that open onto a small balcony overlooking the Hotel Zone with a partial view of the Bay of Banderas. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of my room but I do have a story on my Instagram with a room report and a few other things from Hotel Mio.

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 compared to Downtown or the Romantic Zone.

Again, the only disadvantage, for me at least, is the lack of beach access. Hotel Mio is surrounded by other beachfront resorts like the family oriented Friendly Vallarta and the more luxurious Fiesta Americana but there’s no real close beach nearby.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in the water. Hotel Mio has a gorgeous rooftop pool with sweeping views of the Bay of Banderas. The nearby bar provides cocktails and poolside food service.

I have to admit, I did enjoy spending time there reading and munching on nachos. If you’re looking for a larger hotel without an all-inclusive option then Hotel Mio might be it.

Other Puerto Vallarta hotels in the Hotel Zone that come highly rated are the Fiesta Inn and the all-inclusive resort Los Tules – which btw, I’ve had booked twice and wasn’t able to go. Both look like great properties.

Then there’s the upscale, adults only Secrets Vallarta Bay Resort & Spa that rounds out the list of where to stay in Puerto Vallarta in the Hotel Zone.

How to Get to the Hotel Zone

The Hotel Zone is approximately ten to fifteen minutes from the airport, depending on where you’re staying. There are plenty of Ubers, taxis and buses readily available in this area. If you have a vehicle, most resorts have parking available. It’s also very easy to walk to nearby Versailles and restaurants in the area.

The Hotel Zone is best for:

  • First time visitors
  • Beach lovers
  • Families
  • Girls Trip

Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – Downtown

If I ranked my favorite areas of where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, then Downtown or el Centro, is my second favorite hotel zone in Puerto Vallarta. Although, I didn’t have the best experience when I stayed there the first time, I love the vibe and feeling of the neighborhood. It’s not as touristy as some of the other zones.

Downtown runs south of the Hotel Zone to the Rio Cuale. It includes some peaceful parks, the impressive Our Lady of Guadalupe church and easy access to the malecón. You’ll find an assortment of restaurants, street food, shopping and practically everything, just steps from the beach.

Related: Where to Eat in Puerto Vallarta

Most properties in this Puerto Vallarta hotel zone are on the smaller side, with plenty of traditional style and locally owned Mexican hotels. If you don’t like huge resorts and want more of a local feel then this is where to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

My first experience staying Downtown was at Hotel El Pescador. This property is an older, traditional style hotel in the 5 de Deciembre area of this Puerto Vallarta hotel zone.

You couldn’t ask for a better location right on the beach and it had decent reviews. Unfortunately, I ended up having issues in three different rooms.

Not to be deterred because downtown has plenty of other good hotel options, I recently stayed at Capital O Hotel 522. This property is located in the popular 5 de Diciembre area of Downtown.

The hotel is small and feels more like an apartment than hotel. Especially since it has less amenities like daily maid service or a pool. As a solo traveler, I felt very safe due to the gated entrance. I appreciated the location on a quiet street, the access to a communal kitchen – even though I never cooked – and the awesome ocean views from the various outdoor common areas.

The company that owns Capital O has locations all over Mexico and I would definitely seek them out in other cities I visit and stay at this property again in Puerto Vallarta.

For a more traditional hotel experience in the Downtown hotel zone, Hotel Portonovo is located across the street from El Pescador. It has great reviews on Booking and Google. And even though it doesn’t have a pool, beach access at Playa Camarones is easy.

Another classic Puerto Vallarta hotel in Downtown that comes highly recommended is Hotel Rosita. I personally have not stayed there but would definitely give it a try.

How to Get Downtown

Downtown 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 safe, easily walkable neighborhood close to plenty of restaurants and shopping.

Downtown is best for:

  • Solo travelers
  • Couples
  • Beach lovers
  • Returning visitors

Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – Romantic Zone

If you are looking to capture a piece of vintage Mexico on your vacation then the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta is the Romantic Zone or la Zona Romantica. You might also hear it referred to as Old Town.

Situated south of the Rio Cuale, the Romantic Zone is known for its cobblestone streets and historic buildings. Some of the more popular colonias in the Romantic Zone are Emiliano Zapata, Pino Suarez and Conchas Chinas up in the hills.

This neighborhood is full of smaller, budget friendly hotels, boutique hotels, condos and even a hostel or two. The larger hotels are somewhat bigger but there’s no mega resorts like you’ll find in the Hotel Zone. It also has the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in all of Puerto Vallarta. Which means it can be a bit loud at times.

All of that activity in a relatively small area 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.

A street view of the Romantic Zone one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta
The colorful streets in the Romantic Zone

Hotel Posada de Roger is an adorable little inn with rooms built around a a traditional Mexican courtyard full of flowers and one more of my favorite swimming pools. I’ve stayed here a few times and just love the safe peaceful setting.

Some of the rooms at Hotel Posada de Roger are on the small side but are the ideal size for the solo traveler or two people. For larger groups, they also have some suites and family rooms with balconies.

The hotel is located on one of the busiest streets in 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 – the popular beach where the iconic pier is located.

The pool at Hotel Posada de Roger in Puerto Vallarta
The pool at Hotel Posada de Roger is charming

Another one of the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta in the Romantic Zone is Hotel Los Arcos. Situated on prime beachfront, it’s in an ideal spot close to everything.

For those that want a bit more room and a kitchen, they also have a sister property – Los Arcos Suites – with those amenities. This is a terrific option for families and even larger groups.

Hotel Los Arcos has several restaurants onsite and the location on the corner of Basilio Badillo and Olas Altas is close to other great restaurants, bars and shopping. The hotel recently underwent some renovations, including adding one of the trendiest new restaurants in all of Puerto Vallarta – Mar y Vino.

One of my latest find is the perfectly located Casa Maria Hotel Boutique & Gallery – a true hidden gem that’s truly a work of art with its murals and one of the most fun pools in Puerto Vallarta.

I loved everything about this property – the friendly staff, the bright clean room with a balcony overlooking the pool and it also felt very safe.

For one of the adult only hotels in Puerto Vallarta in the Romantic Zone, check out Hotel Amaca, It sits just steps from the malecón and looks amazing.

How to Get to the Romantic Zone

The Romantic Zone is about fifteen minutes from the airport. If you are driving or have a rental, just be prepared for limited parking in the neighborhood. Unless your hotel or condo has designated parking, it will probably be tough to find a spot. There is a public, pay 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. All the restaurants, bars and shopping are in a relatively small area. And If you don’t want to walk or aren’t able, then there are plenty of taxis and Ubers available all the time.

The Romantic Zone is also the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for traveling to the southern beaches and Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Read my article about Easy Day Trips From Puerto Vallarta for some suggestions about where to go.

The Romantic Zone is best for:

  • Couples
  • Long term visitors
  • LGBTQ
  • Girls trip
  • Solo travelers

Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – South Zone

The South Zone of Puerto Vallarta – or Zona Sur – is the area along the coastal Highway 200 that goes south towards Mismaloya. This area is known for it’s stunning coastline and spectacular views.

Here you’ll find some of the most luxurious and secluded resorts in all of Puerto Vallarta. 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.

For the ultimate luxury in the South Zone, Garza Blanca, is all-inclusive resort in a mountainside jungle setting. Because of the amenities the hotels offers, it’s one of the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta and the 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 views. Some of the luxury suites even have hammocks and bathtubs on the balcony.

Although it’s 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 watersports tours. Los Arcos Marine Park is nearby and is the ideal place to snorkel and scuba.

Garza Blanca in the South Zone hotel area of Puerto Vallarta
The crystal clear water at Garza Blanca

The South Zone is also where the hotel that tops my wish list of places to stay in Puerto Vallarta is. The Hyatt Ziva is a high end property only a few miles south of Puerto Vallarta and is located on stunning Playa Estacas.

The property is gorgeous and very luxurious. Even though it’s out of the city center you have everything you need at your fingertips.

Getting to the South Zone

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.

The South Zone is best for:

  • Resort lovers
  • Romantic getaways
  • Beach lovers
  • Visitors with 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.

High season is 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 an especially busy time in Puerto Vallarta. Mexican nationals take the entire week to vacation and spend time with their families.

Basically the rest of the season is low season and I should say lower season because Puerto Vallarta is pretty busy year round now. I enjoy May and June. After the crowded winter season, things have slowed down some. Weather wise, it’s still a pretty good time to visit. It is hotter and begins to get more humid since it’s the beginning of the rainy season.

The average temp is around 88F. Fortunately, when it rains it usually only rains in the evening so your mornings and early afternoon shouldn’t be affected too much. Although, you might experience more overcast days even when it’s not raining. Also note that July through October is hurricane season.

FAQ About Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

What Part of Puerto Vallarta Has the Nicest Beaches?

The beaches on the south end of town are the nicest with the bluest, most clear water. In town, Los Muertos Beach, Playa Camarones and Playa Ampas are all nice swimming beaches. Tip: some of the beaches in Puerto Vallarta are rocky. Slip on water shoes helps a lot.

Is it Safe to Leave the Resort in Puerto Vallarta?

Definitely yes!

Do You Need a Car to Get Around Puerto Vallarta?

No, you do not need a car to get around Puerto Vallarta. Public transportation is convenient and plentiful with buses, taxis and Uber.

What is the Nicest Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta?

It really depends on your interests but in my opinion, the Romantic Zone is the nicest area to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

What are the Safest Neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest destinations in Mexico. All of the touristy neighborhoods mentioned above are very safe. Just use common sense, be situationally aware and implement a few travel safety tips.

Final Thoughts About Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

When it comes down to deciding where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, each hotel zone has it’s own unique feeling and features. Wherever you choose – you can’t go wrong. I know you’ll love Puerto Vallarta as much as I do.

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12 Comments

  1. Mike Walker says:

    Could you please send me your list of your favorite air bnb or vrbo properties in PV thank you

    1. Hi Mike. So sorry for the delay. I never got a notification of your comment. Just happened to see it today. If you would still like a list, send me an email please. It’s lori@southernersays.com. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Hey Lori, you have shared some nice & helpful info as my friend was planning to go Puerto Vallarta & this blog will help him for sure.

  3. David Pompea says:

    Would you kindly change the text font from light gray to black in order to make this page easier to read? Thanks!

  4. Karen H Denison says:

    Great article! Would you please E-mail me your Airbnb & VRBO LIST of RECOMMENDATIONS?
    THANK YOU!,
    KAREN

  5. Robin Finley says:

    Hello Lori, My wife and two teenage daughters are heading to PV on Nov 26th…short notice vacation! Looking for some homestay recommendations as we would like a kitchen. Could you please send me your list. We would love to be on the beach…for homestays is it more likely that we will find one few blocks off the beach?

    I’ve went to PV 30 years ago and was even considering Bucerias, Punta Mita or Saluylita…are those places too sleepy for teenagers? Romantic Zone of PV sounds fun…is it too loud?

    Great website!!

    Robin

    1. Hi Robin! I’m so sorry I’m just now seeing this. I have been traveling for a couple of weeks and did not check my comments. Bad blogger I know! Can you please email me at Lori@southernersays.com for that list if you still need it? I personally have not had a problem with noise in the Romantic Zone. I read a lot of comments about taking ear plugs but I’ve not had that issue. As far as the teenagers go, of those towns, I think they would enjoy Sayulita the most. I hope you have the best time revisiting Puerto Vallarta. Have a margarita for me!
      Lori

  6. Larry Sagen says:

    Lori,
    thanks for your thorough explanation. My wife and I are looking to rent a home/condo/apartment for a month+. Our budget is $1600USD for housing. I’ve been on AirBnb and found a number of places. We’re both semi retired and are light sleepers so a quiet street is great, but we’d like to be close to services. I found a great place on the hill with a view in Mismaloya. My concern is if there are enough services. Do you know anything about that area? I’ve also been looking at Sayulita. Everyone talks about construction noise. Originally we wanted to rent a place in Zona Romantica, but most are above our budget. We’d like at least a 1 bd with full kitchen.
    Love your thoughts.
    Blessings.
    Larry Sagen

    1. Hi Larry! For your search, I recommend joining a couple of Puerto Vallarta groups for expats and those seeking real estate. If you will send an email to lori@southernersays.com, I will be happy to share those groups with you. Mismaloya is gorgeous but it is limited in what it offers. What kind of services are you most concerned with? With the right person helping you, you should be able to find something in the Romantic Zone in your budget. The great thing about that area is that everything is right there. You can walk everywhere and you don’t need a car. Have you looked in Conchas Chinas? That’s just south of the RZ, still close enough to everything but a little quieter. Hope you find something to suit you. Good luck!

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