Nate on a balcony with the overlooking view of the pool and ocean

Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta (Best Areas & Places)

I have stayed in every popular Puerto Vallarta neighborhood. Your choice of where to stay in Puerto Vallarta can majorly affect how much you enjoy your trip! 

Each of Puerto Vallarta’s different areas has its own vibe, so you need to choose wisely. Travelers looking for a lively area might like the Romantic Zone, while others might prefer the idea of sipping cocktails at an infinity pool in the Hotel Zone or a private beach in the South Zone.

In this article, I’ll break down exactly where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for every type of traveler. Let’s start with a quick roundup of the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta, then we’ll deep dive into the city’s areas. If you prefer, you can also read my ranking of the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

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Best Places to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Overlooking view of the The Westin Resort & Spa and its pool
The Westin Resort & Spa is a fantastic resort

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta? Here are my top picks: 

Want more hotel suggestions? See my list of the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

Otherwise, let’s do a deep dive of the best areas and neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta: 

6 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is longer than it is wide. The city hugs a north to south strip between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Pacific Coast.

That means many places have great mountain or beach views, and pretty much every area of Puerto Vallarta is close to a beach. Of course some areas are better than others, so let’s rank the top Puerto Vallarta areas to stay in, starting with the best: 

Zona Romantica (The Romantic Zone)

👉 View all top hotels in Zona Romantica on Booking.

Aerial view of Playa de los Muertos in Zona Romantica
Playa de los Muertos in the Romantic Zone

👉 Best Area For LGBTQ Travelers, Dining & Nightlife | ✨ Best Romantic Zone Hotels: Vallarta Shores ($$$) • Casa Maria Hotel Boutique ($$)

When my partner Clara and I visit Puerto Vallarta, we usually try to stay in Zona Romantica (aka the Romantic Zone or Old Town Puerto Vallarta). Zona Romantica is the most walkable area of Puerto Vallarta and is home to many of Puerto Vallarta’s best restaurants, bars, and top things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

The Romantic Zone is also the center of Puerto Vallarta’s vibrant LGBTQ scene, and definitely the most popular place to stay in Puerto Vallarta for LGBTQ travelers.

To me, Zona Romantica feels like a mini town within Puerto Vallarta. It’s fairly compact, but packs so much into that space that many travelers who stay here barely leave the neighborhood. 

The Old Town / Romantic Zone area is also home to the popular Los Muertos beach. But staying here means it is also easy to get to the less crowded and more tropical southern beaches like Mismaloya or Yelapa. Zona Romantica also connects to the Malecón, Puerto Vallarta’s beachfront boardwalk that extends into the neighboring Centro Puerto Vallarta area.

Overall, if I had to recommend just one area to stay in Puerto Vallarta, the Romantic Zone would be it. If you can, book one of the fantastic suites at the beachside Vallarta Shores.

Pros of Staying in Zona Romantica:

  • Most walkable part of Puerto Vallarta
  • Home to fantastic restaurants and bars
  • Easy to get to the southern beaches
  • Tons of boutique hotels around Old Town / Romantic Zone
  • A very safe Puerto Vallarta neighborhood 

Cons of Staying in Zona Romantica:

  • Some parts of the Old Town area can be loud at night
  • You have to cross the city to get to Puerto Vallarta International Airport
  • You may have to walk up and down the hills a bit, depending on where you’re staying in Old Town
  • No large supermarkets

📚 Zona Romantica Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for LGBT Travelers & Couples
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsVallarta Shores ($$$) • Casa Maria Hotel Boutique ($$)
  • 🏠 ApartmentsBrowse Top Rentals in Zona Romantica
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Casa 449 ($$ – highly recommended!), River Cafe ($$$), Langostinos ($$$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Chici Tini rooftop patio, Blondie’s Slushbar
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Muelle de Playa de los Muertos (beautiful pier), beaches, parasailing

Marina Vallarta

👉 View all top hotels in Marina Vallarta on Booking.

Clara on the balcony of Marriott Resort & Spa with the overlooking view of the pool and the ocean
Clara and I loved the pool at the Marriott Resort & Spa

👉 Best Area For Families | ✨ Best Marina Vallarta Hotels: Westin Resort & SpaMarriott Resort & SpaHoliday Inn & Suites Marina & Golf

Located on the north side of Puerto Vallarta, Marina Vallarta is a developed area of beach resorts, hotels, and condos surrounding the Puerto Vallarta Marina. The Marina itself is a worthy attraction, and is worth a visit for a stroll even if you choose to stay elsewhere in Puerto Vallarta.

Marina Vallarta is also very close to the airport, which makes it easy to get in and out of town if you only have a short stay in Puerto Vallarta. It’s also home to the city’s best golf course, so this is where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for golfing. Plus it’s a very quiet and safe area. The downside is that the area isn’t the most lively (apart from the Marina itself), and it is filled with tourists.

Overall, I would recommend staying in the Marina area if you’re traveling with children or if you’re looking for a beach resort experience. The Westin in particular has a truly fantastic pool that is worthy of a trip in and of itself. 

Pros of Staying in Marina Vallarta:

  • Home to many of Puerto Vallarta’s top resorts (including my favorite, The Westin Resort, which has an unbelievable outdoor swimming pool) 
  • The Marina is fantastic for taking an evening stroll or grabbing a bite
  • Very close to the Puerto Vallarta airport
  • The Marina is one of the safest areas of Puerto Vallarta

Cons of Staying in Marina Vallarta:

  • A fairly touristy area so does not offer the most authentic Mexican experience
  • Not the city’s best beaches (and you have to watch out for crocodiles!)
  • Located far from the (better) southern beaches

📚 Marina Vallarta Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for Families
Google Map

Zona Hotelera (the Hotel Zone)

👉 View all top hotels in the Hotel Zone on Booking.

Clara on a pool in Hotel Mio in Puerto Vallarta
Clara and I loved staying at the Hotel Mio in the Hotel Zone

👉 Best Area For Beach Resorts & All Inclusives | ✨ Best Zona Hotelera Hotels: Hotel Mio VallartaHilton Puerto Vallarta Resort

The largest concentration of hotels in Puerto Vallarta is in the aptly named Hotel Zone. This area is a narrow strip that runs between the main road and the beach between downtown Puerto Vallarta and the Marina. Apart from two shopping malls (Galerias Vallarta Shopping Mall and the La Isla Shopping Center), there is really much here except a ton of beaches and a ton of beach hotels. 

While the Hotel Zone isn’t usually my personal pick for where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, it’s reasonably central and you have many of the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta to choose from.

If you’re looking for an adults-only property in the mid range price point, I highly recommend the fantastic rooftop at the Hotel Mio Vallarta. If you’re more of the all inclusive type, then the Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort is a great choice in this area too.

Pros of Staying in the Hotel Zone:

  • Easy access to some of the best and largest stretches of beach in Puerto Vallarta
  • Lots of all inclusive hotels to choose from
  • Very centrally located, so easy to get around

Cons of Staying in the Hotel Zone:

  • It’s a fairly empty (in my opinion, boring) area, so be sure to pick a good hotel
  • This area gets bombarded with day trippers from cruise ships during port days

📚 Hotel Zone Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for Beach Resorts & All Inclusives
Google Map

Conchas Chinas

👉 View all top hotels in Conchas Chinas on Booking.

Aerial view of the Conchas Chinas
Conchas Chinas is gorgeous (just be prepared to climb the hill!)

👉 Best Area For Romantic Getaways | ✨ Best Conchas Chinas Hotels: Patio Azul Hotelito BoutiqueMondavi Wellness Resort & SpaGrand Miramar Suites

If you’re looking for where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for a romantic getaway or for a peaceful and relaxing retreat, I’d suggest the exclusive Conchas Chinas area.

Located around a mountain bend just south of Zona Romantica, this hillside neighborhood offers some of the most fantastic views over Banderas Bay. If you’re visiting during whale watching season and squint, you can probably even see a whale from your hotel room’s private balcony or rooftop terrace!

If you like art and design, stay in my favorite boutique hotel: Patio Azul Hotelito. Or if you want more space and a suite, check out the fantastic but affordable Mondavi Wellness Resort. I stayed in both and loved them.

It’s important to understand that Conchas Chinas is geographically separated from the rest of Puerto Vallarta by the hills. This makes it quiet, serene, and peaceful. But it also means it’s not the liveliest area, and you do have to contend with steep inclines on most of the streets. Still, for a romantic getaway, this is the place to be in Puerto Vallarta. 

Pros of Staying in Conchas Chinas:

  • Incredible views over Banderas Bay
  • Very quiet, safe, and secluded
  • Conchas Chinas is a hidden beach that is rarely crowded

Cons of Staying in Conchas Chinas:

  • It’s very hilly so you need Ubers or need to hike
  • Very few restaurants, no bars, and only one convenience store 

📚 Conchas Chinas Mini Guide 📚
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for Romantic Getaways
Google Map

Centro / 5 de Diciembre (“Downtown Puerto Vallarta”)

👉 View all top hotels in Downtown Puerto Vallarta on Booking.

Clara posing for a picture in Downtown Puerto Vallarta
Clara and I love exploring Downtown Puerto Vallarta

👉 Best Area For Budget Travelers | ✨ Best Downtown Hotels: The Paramar Beachfront BoutiqueVilla Premiere Boutique HotelCASA MARÍA MALECÓN

Centro and 5 de Diciembre are technically two different Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods, but together they essentially comprise Puerto Vallarta’s downtown area. This is where you’ll find Puerto Vallarta’s Spanish colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and iconic landmarks like the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Malecón boardwalk.

Puerto Vallarta can be very touristy and foreigner-dominated, but this is one area where there is a bit more of a mix of Mexican tourists, locals, and foreigners. Also, if you’re wondering where to stay in Puerto Vallarta on a budget, you’ll find plenty of affordable hotels, hostels, and boutiques here.

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Pros of Staying in Centro or 5 de Diciembre :

  • Central, with easy access to the Malecón boardwalk
  • More affordable accommodation options
  • A slightly more authentic Mexican vibe than other popular parts of Puerto Vallarta

Cons of Staying in Centro or 5 de Diciembre:

  • Parts of these neighborhoods can be a bit lively, and thus loud
  • Relatively few beaches (instead there is a boardwalk)

📚 Centro & 5 de Diciembre Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for Budget Travelers
Google Map

Puerto Vallarta’s South Zone & Southern Beaches

Aerial view of Mismaloya beach and the Barceló
Mismaloya beach is just stunning (as is that large resort – the Barce)

👉 Best Area For Beach Getaways | ✨ Best Southern Beach Hotels: Hyatt Ziva Garza Blanca Preserve ResortHilton Vallarta Riviera All-Inclusive ResortBarceló (Mismaloya)

Want to know a secret about Puerto Vallarta? The best beaches in Puerto Vallarta are not actually within the city limits: they are actually dotted along the southern coastline where the lush Sierra Madre Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. 

Puerto Vallarta’s south zone includes secluded beach areas like Mismaloya, Playa Palmares, and Boca de Tomatlan. Further south via water taxi from Boca de Tomatlan, you can find even more secluded tropical beach towns like Yelapa, home to a stunning golden sand beach. Most are located in bays or coves against the dramatic setting of the mountains, and the lush ambiance reminds me a lot of Southeast Asia. 

You can find many all inclusive resorts and luxury hotels in Puerto Vallarta here. My overall top hotel in Puerto Vallarta, the fantastic Hyatt Ziva, even has its own private cove!

Just realize that Ubers and taxis to Puerto Vallarta can be scarce at night, so the South Zone is really a place to stay only if you don’t plan to leave your all inclusive resort or if you are renting a car (use Discover Cars to find the best deals). 

Pros of Staying in Puerto Vallarta’s South Zone Beaches:

  • Some of the most beautiful golden sand beaches in Mexico
  • Fantastic all inclusive resorts, many with a private beach
  • Quiet, peaceful, and secluded  

Cons of Staying in Puerto Vallarta’s South Zone Beaches:

  • It’s 20-40 minutes from central Puerto Vallarta, along a winding mountain road, so you need a car or taxis to get around
  • Very few restaurants or conveniences outside of the resorts

📚 South Zone Beaches Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for Beach Getaways
Google Map

Tips for Staying in Puerto Vallarta

Summers Are Hot and Muggy

The first time I visited Puerto Vallarta was during June and July, and I honestly had a rough introduction to the city because it was just so incredibly hot and muggy. During the summer Puerto Vallarta gets a ton of rain. While it’s fortunately usually not the kind of rain that runs all day, when it rains it really pours – so much so that the streets often flood. 

For this reason, I would try to avoid visiting this part of Mexico during summer. The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta for good weather is generally between November and May, when it is sunny and dry. Just note that December through March is the high season, so prices are higher during this time.

👉 Read Next: My Best Tips for Travel to Mexico

Come for Whale Watching Season

Nate's friend filming the whales on the sea
My friend on our recent whale watching tour (we saw four whales swimming with a pack of dolphins!)

High season in Puerto Vallarta coincides with whale watching season. Banderas Bay absolutely fills up with humpback whales from mid-December to early March. If you come during this period, you’re more or less guaranteed to see a whale. You are also likely to see dolphins on your cruise and, if you’re lucky, maybe even manta rays or sea turtles.

🐋 Pro Tip: Whale watching is popular so book in advance. Go here to browse Viator’s top Puerto Vallarta whale watching tours.

Fireworks Are a Nightly Event in Puerto Vallarta

View of the colorful fireworks on the night sky in The Westin Resort Puerto Vallarta
The nightly fireworks show at the The Westin Resort Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta absolutely loves fireworks. Coming for New Year’s to see Banderas Bay lit up front end to end is an absolute spectacle. But, no matter when you visit Puerto Vallarta, you’re likely to catch a few fireworks in the evenings.

Many of the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta – such as my favorite, The Westin Resort & Spa – put on nightly fireworks shows you can catch from most anywhere with a view over the bay.

The InDriver App Works Better Than Uber

Uber does work in Puerto Vallarta, but often wait times can start to get a little excessive. Most locals and local drivers prefer another app called InDriver. It works pretty similarly to Uber, but the key thing to know is that you have to pay in cash (and the drivers usually don’t have change). I usually find that InDriver has way more cars available in Puerto Vallarta than Uber.

👉 Always Forget to Pack Something? Don’t miss our Mexico packing checklist.

Power Outages Are Common in Puerto Vallarta

Power outages are a reality of life in Puerto Vallarta. Particularly during the summer, many areas of Puerto Vallarta experience near-nightly power outages (usually during summer storms). 

If you’re staying in a luxury resort or a luxury hotel, they may have a backup generator. Otherwise, you’ll just need to come prepared to wait it out (in my experience, they last anywhere from a few minutes to all night long). It helps to have a backup power bank for your electronics (I use the excellent Anker PowerCore).

👉 Read Next: Best Places to Stay in Mexico City

Get a Place With a Great View

View of the colorful sky during sunset in Mondavi Wellness Resort
Can you believe I paid just $50 per night for this view at Mondavi Wellness Resort?

One of the best things about Puerto Vallarta is that the topography of the Sierra Madre Mountains plunging into the Pacific Ocean means that most of the best Puerto Vallarta hotels offer incredible ocean views. 

Check out my guide to the best Puerto Vallarta hotels for inspiration. 

Or you can just book some of my favorite hotels in Puerto Vallarta with great views: Patio Azul Hotelito Boutique or Mondavi in Conchas Chinas are great choices.

The Hotel Mio Puerto Vallarta in the hotel zone also has great views from the rooftop outdoor pool. All are fantastic can’t-miss places to stay in Puerto Vallarta with epic views. 

Book Early if Visiting Puerto Vallarta During a Holiday

Puerto Vallarta is a very popular destination during the holiday season, especially for New Year’s. It also has surges of traffic during Spring Break and around American Thanksgiving. If visiting during these times, be sure to book your Puerto Vallarta hotel well in advance. 

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to find Puerto Vallarta hotels that offer free cancellation. Just try a search of Booking’s top hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

You Can’t Go Wrong Staying in the Romantic Zone

Aerial view of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico
Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone is beautiful

If you’ve made it this far in the guide to the best places in Puerto Vallarta, they you may be the indecisive type. If that’s you, my advice is to just search hotels in the Romantic Zone and leave it at that. Unless you want an all inclusive resort, the Romantic Zone really is the most central and best overall area for staying in Puerto Vallarta. I think you can’t go wrong!

FAQs About Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Aerial view of the Conchas Chinas Beach
Conchas Chinas beach

Where do celebs stay in Puerto Vallarta?

Many celebrities have been seen staying at Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta. Celebs have also been spotted in Punta Mita, a coastal town an hour north of Puerto Vallarta along the Riviera Nayarit. 

Where is the best part of Puerto Vallarta to stay?

The best part of Puerto Vallarta to stay in is the Romantic Zone. In my opinion, it is the best area for LGBT and younger travelers. The Romantic Zone is walking distance to many beaches, attractions, and fine dining restaurants.

Families looking for a relaxing vacation often prefer staying in Marina Vallarta or in the Hotel Zone, where you can find many hotels with spacious rooms and easy beach access. 

What is the nicest part of Puerto Vallarta?

The nicest part of Puerto Vallarta is Zona Romantic, or the Romantic Zone, where many of the best restaurants, boutiques, and attractions are located. With that said, Puerto Vallarta has many nice parts, with other nice areas including Conchas Chinas, Centro Puerto Vallarta, and Marina Vallarta. 

Is it safe to walk around Puerto Vallarta at night?

In general it is safe to walk around Puerto Vallarta at night, as long as you are sticking to the main tourist neighborhoods located within a kilometer of the beach. Puerto Vallarta is generally very safe for travel, and is often cited as one of the safest destinations in Mexico.

How many days do you need in Puerto Vallarta?

To truly experience the best Puerto Vallarta has to offer, you need to spend at least 3 days and nights in Puerto Vallarta. However, there is a lot to do and many travelers choose to stay for a week or even a month or more. 

👉 Read More Guides:

***

That’s it for this guide to where to stay in Puerto Vallarta! I hope I’ve helped you figure out the best areas and neighborhoods to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

Now, if you’re ready to book a hotel, be sure to check out my list of the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta

And also bookmark Clara’s guide to the best stuff to do in Puerto Vallarta for when you’re ready to plan your activities.

I hope I’ve helped you find the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta for your visit!

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4 Comments

  1. Nate,
    Awesome article! My wife and I are having a 10-year anniversary this coming August. I was initially planning an AI stay at either Garza Blanca or Hyatt Ziva. But, now am hearing such great things about Zona Romantica (and specifically Vallarta Shores that you recommend… wow @ those private infinity pools!)

    I am now strongly considering getting a sky Suite at Vallarta Shores instead as it comes with the private chef. BUT, my worry is that in August it will be so hot and muggy we may not really want to explore the Old Town area shops/restaurants and it would be easier to stay on-resort and have everything (and more AC!) at our fingertips!

    What are your thoughts? Would you still go the Zona Romatica route?
    Most important to us on this trip will be: rest/relaxation, eating great food, great views/beach access. I don’t envision doing a lot of excursions, mainly because we will only be there 2.5-3 days.

    1. Hi Preston – sounds like an epic anniversary trip. Honestly, all 3 of the Puerto Vallarta hotels you mention are great. There is definitely a difference between them, and from your comment, it seems like you understand those trade-offs well. You’re also correct that August is a very hot and muggy month. With that said, there is usually a period right after the rain storms when it can still be pretty pleasant to walk around. Puerto Vallarta is a place where it tends to rain torrentially for a few hours, and then have breaks in between. Vallarta Shores will put you right in the city, so you can walk the Malecon and have access to the many nice restaurants right in that area. It’s definitely different than having an all inclusive with its own beach. The Hyatt Ziva is a great property, especially if you can snag one of their suites. Honestly I don’t think you’ll go wrong at any of those 3 hotels, and it comes down to whether you want an all inclusive experience more than staying in the city. You can also check out my Puerto Vallarta hotels list for a little more thoughts on each hotel. Wherever you stay, have a happy anniversary in Puerto Vallarta!

  2. We are planning on staying for 3 months from Jan – March. Do you have any recommendations on a good website to use to find a place? Thanks

    1. For longer stays you can try short term apartment rentals on sites like VRBO or Airbnb. You may also find some Puerto Vallarta Facebook groups that have direct deals with owners, though I can’t vouch for any of them specifically. 3 months is challenging since it’s not long enough for a year lease, which is what most longer term rentals are.

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