Wondering what’s the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta? Let me help. Since there are several popular neighborhoods or hotel zones to choose from, knowing exactly where to stay in Puerto Vallarta can be challenging. Especially if you’re not familiar with 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 spent time in all of them.
In this article, I’m going to guide you through the different neighborhoods and share my tips about where to stay in Puerto Vallarta.
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Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco in southwestern Mexico and sits directly on one of the largest bays in the country called Banderas Bay. With the ocean on one side and the Sierra Madre mountain range on the other, you get stunning views from just about any neighborhood.
For this reason, there’s not really a “bad” area where to stay in Puerto Vallarta. The entire city is lovely but depending on what kind of experience you are looking for, certain areas will ultimately be more pleasing to some people than others.
The best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta really depends on your wants and needs and the kind of traveler you are. Each neighborhood has its own distinct qualities along with advantages and a few disadvantages.
When deciding where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, you might also want to consider how you will get around. Puerto Vallarta is a very walkable town and in most of the tourist areas, you don’t need a car.
Many people enjoy being near the 12 block ocean-front boardwalk – aka the malecón – that stretches from Downtown to the Romantic Zone. Full of restaurants, shops and entertainment, the malecón is a fun activity anytime of the day but it really comes alive at night.
There’s talk of extending the malecón to the Hotel Zone. I hope it happens because strolling along the malecón is one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
5 Neighborhoods Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
If you ask ten people to identify the Puerto Vallarta hotel zones, you’ll probably get ten different answers. That’s because sometimes people mistakenly identify “colonias” – which are smaller sections or 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 or el Centro
- 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 that include Nuevo Vallarta with Puerto Vallarta hotel zones. But Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta aren’t the same. Nuevo Vallarta isn’t part of Puerto Vallarta, or even in the state of Jalisco. It’s in the neighboring state of Nayarit.
Nuevo Vallarta is a planned development generally included with Puerto Vallarta info since most people visiting there, as well as other popular destinations in Nayarit, such as Rivera Nayarit, Punta de Mita and Bucerias, arrive via Puerto Vallarta’s (PVR) international airport located north of the city.
For simplicity, I’ll leave Nuevo Vallarta for a different article. However, if you’re interested in visiting Nayarit, a day trip to the hip beach town of Sayulita is a great add-on to Puerto Vallarta or a longer trip to the capital Tepic is an ideal way to extend your Mexico trip.
Now, that you know the particulars and layout of this area of Mexico (link to Google Map) of this area of Mexico, let’s talk about the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta starting with neighborhoods north to south.
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – The Marina Zone
We’ll start our tour with the Marina Zone – one of the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta. This hotel zone encompasses the area around the airport, the main bus terminal, the International Convention Center and Marina Vallarta with its luxury boats and yachts.
The airport side, or the northeastern side of Highway 200, which is the main travel route through town, is more commercial and includes mostly chain hotels and auto hotels designed for overnights, business travelers or for those attending a conference.
In contrast, the area south of Highway 200, adjacent to the marina, is full of quiet tree lined streets with a few larger resorts, condos, apartments and homes that cater to long term stays.
The advantage is you are tucked away from the busy highway but close enough to the convenience of the marina with its many restaurants, shopping and boutiques. There’s even spas, golf courses and a post office in this little city within the city.
For me, the disadvantage of this Puerto Vallarta 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.
However, if you are craving quiet and a really laid back vacation, then the Marina Zone is one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta.
In the Marina Zone, the San Tropico Petit Hotel is a great option of Puerto Vallarta hotels. And yes, the name says hotel but the property is made up of studio apartments and suites completely worthy of a longer stays.
I booked this hotel last minute so the only room available was a two bedroom unit with a full kitchen. It was more than I needed as a solo traveler but the price was affordable but I loved having all that space.
The rooms are huge and feel even bigger since the living room has a sliding glass door that opens up to a huge balcony overlooking the well-manicured grounds with plenty of vibrant flowers.
Additionally, the common areas and the pool were definite winners. Even though I’m usually a beach girl, the heated pool water on the cooler, winter Vallarta days made cheating on the beach very easy and I believe they have even added a hot tub since I was there.
Beside the pool, there’s a small bar and eating area where they serve breakfast in the morning and then drinks the rest of the day. You could easily spend all day poolside and never move. But if you are looking to be a bit active, they do offers yoga in the mornings.
The hotel staff were great – very friendly and accommodating. When I checked in earlier than I should have, they not only held my luggage for me but let me hang out at the pool.
San Tropico is a perfect option for any type of traveler but especially those longing for a quiet, chill vacation with relaxation and plenty of reading by the pool as the top priority.
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. I recently had the opportunity to stay there with my daughter and will update soon but let’s just say we loved it!
How to Get to the Marina Zone
Depending on where you stay, the marina is a quick, maybe ten minute taxi or Uber ride from the airport or bus station. And it’s only about ten minutes ride from downtown and the malecón.
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 larger hotels have parking.
Marina Vallarta is best for:
- Long term expats
- Visitors with a car
- Last minute trips
The Hotel Zone – One of the Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
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. 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 convenient.
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. It was exactly what I needed that first night. City Express is a chain of Mexican hotels geared towards business travelers but 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 included 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.
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 room also features a desk area and plenty of storage with a closet so you can completely unpack. Plus, 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 from Hotel Mio.
As far as dining, 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, in the Hotel Zone, 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 good 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 hotel without an all-inclusive option then Hotel Mio might just 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
- Girls Trip
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – El Centro or 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 hotel experience the first time I stayed there, 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.
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 Downtown 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 booked Capital O Hotel 522. This property is also located in 5 de Diciembre area of Downtown. The hotel is a bit on the small side and feels more like an apartment than a 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 and appreciated the location on a quiet street. There’s access to a communal kitchen – even though I never cooked – and outdoor spaces with awesome views from the various common areas.
The company that owns Capital O has locations all over Mexico and I would definitely seek them out in other cities 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 beach access to Playa Camarones is easy.
Another classic Puerto Vallarta hotel in Downtown that comes highly recommended is Hotel Rosita. I just recently stayed there and will have an update coming soon.
How to Get to el Centro
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
- Beach lovers
- Returning visitors
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – The Romantic Zone
If you are looking to capture a piece of old 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 big but there’s no mega resorts like you’ll find in the Hotel Zone.
The Romantic Zone also has the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in all of Puerto Vallarta. You can’t walk a block without passing a multitude of places to eat – street food, bakeries coffee shops and more. The only drawback to all this is that it can be a bit loud at times.
However, all of that activity in a relatively small area gives it a very intimate feel. It’s super safe and beautiful Los Muertos beach, with the iconic Puerto Vallarta pier and malecón, are all just steps away. It makes it easy to run down to the beach just in time for sunset.
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 ideal for solo travelers or two people. For larger groups or families, they also have some suites and larger rooms with kitchenettes and 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, if you wanted, you could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner 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, a popular beach where the iconic Puerto Vallarta pier is located, and the bus stop for those day trips to the south beaches.
Another one of the popular places to stay in Puerto Vallarta in the Romantic Zone is Hotel Los Arcos. Situated on prime beachfront, this mid-budget hotel is close to just about everything. And for those that like a kitchen, their sister property, Los Arcos Suites is just what your are looking for and 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 restaurants, bars and plenty of shopping. The hotel recently underwent some renovations, including adding one of the trendiest new restaurants in all of Puerto Vallarta – Mar y Vino.
Another hotel I really like in the Romantic Zone is the perfectly located Casa Maria Hotel Boutique & Gallery – a small gem in plain site that’s literally a work of art with its colorful 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 felt very safe.
For an adult only Puerto Vallarta hotel in the Romantic Zone, check out Hotel Amaca. It sits just steps from the malecón, offers a plunge pool and awesome views of the surrounding area.
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 suggestions about where to go.
The Romantic Zone is best for:
- Long term visitors
- Girls trip
- Solo travelers
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta – South Zone
The South Zone of Puerto Vallarta – or la Zona Sur – is the area along the coastal Highway 200 heading south towards Mismaloya. This area is known for it’s stunning coastline, gorgeous beaches 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.
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 and you are just a bus, or taxi, ride from the Romantic Zone.
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
If none of my suggestions here seem to be what you’re looking for or you’d rather book a home stay, the map below features other hotels and VRBO homestay properties throughout all the Puerto Vallarta hotel zones.
When is the Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta was once mainly a winter destination but not anymore. In recent years it’s become a year-round vacation spot for travelers from all over. I personally have visited in every season except fall.
Typically, high season in Puerto Vallarta is November through mid-April. During this dry season, the weather calls for no rain, clear days and cooler nights. Average temperature hover around 82F.
Easter Week – or Semana Santa – is an especially busy time in Puerto Vallarta. It’s the time of the year when Mexican nationals take the entire week to vacation and spend time with their families.
After the crowded winter season, things begin to slow 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 late afternoon and night 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.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta FAQs
What Part of Puerto Vallarta Has the Nicest Beaches?
The beaches heading out of town, towards the south, are the nicest beaches in Puerto Vallarta. The water is a beautiful color and very clear. Closer to town, Los Muertos Beach, Playa Camarones and Playa Ampas are all nice swimming beaches but aren’t as clear, especially in summer when there it’s rainy.
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. Use common sense, be situationally aware and implement a few travel safety tips.
Is it Safe to Leave the Resort in Puerto Vallarta?
There’s a lot of talk about safety in Mexico, but absolutely yes! You can’t get to know Puerto Vallarta unless you leave the resort. Puerto Vallarta was recently ranked as the second city in Mexico where citizens feel the safest.
Southerner Says Tip: many of the beaches in Puerto Vallarta are rocky and can really hurt your feet getting in and out of the water. A pair of slip on water shoes is a tremendous help.
My 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. If you’re like me, then you’ll probably connect with one of them more than others but it may take a few visits to figure out exactly which one.
Overall, if you can’t tell already, Puerto Vallarta is a place I love with all of my heart. So, if you use this guide and found a place you enjoy, I want to hear about it. Or, if you booked a new place that wasn’t mentioned in this article, please tell me about it. Even when I’m on vacation, I’m scouting hotels and places to stay.
Wherever you choose to stay in Puerto Vallarta, you can’t go wrong. And I just know you’ll love this city as much as I do!
See you on the road!