Puerto Vallarta Neighborhoods & Towns
Puerto Vallarta proper is made up of several zones, all of which lie along or near the city's waterfront, Banderas Bay. Residential areas sit in the eastern part of the city. The Hotel Zone and Marina Vallarta stand just a few miles from the city's airport, while the popular Playa Los Muertos is located on the city's southern side. In between is El Centro, home to some of the city's oldest architecture and streets, including the renowned Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on Hidalgo Street. North and east of the city are popular pueblos -- or towns -- that offer a less commercialized and more authentic glimpse of the Mexican lifestyle.
Many of Mexico's most luxurious and expensive resorts lie along Marina Vallarta, just a few miles south of the city's airport. The area also includes an 18-hole golf course and a waterpark, as well as a popular boardwalk with cafés, restaurants and boutiques. Also located on the marina is the landmark lighthouse, El Faro, which offers spectacular views of Banderas Bay.
Just south of Marina Vallarta along Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascencio is the crowded Hotel Zone. As the name suggests, this area houses hotels aplenty, but it's also central to shopping centers, attractions, restaurants and public transportation. Unfortunately, it can also prove too congested for travelers seeking peace and quiet. Traffic along the avenue has become increasingly busy and parking can be scarce.
El Centro & Zona Romantica
South of the Hotel Zone, El Centro is another very active area in Vallarta. The area has eclectic and abundant cuisine offerings, as well as its vibrant art scene and its seaside malecón, the boardwalk that runs along the bay's shore. The area's narrow cobblestone streets and famous Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe also offer tourists a glimpse into an older, less commercial Vallarta. A little farther south is the Zona Romantica, or Romantic Zone, home of one of the popular Playa Los Muertos. The south side is also the center for the city's thriving gay scene. A newly constructed Malecón seaside walkway offers spectacular views of the bay and easy access to the beach.
Local towns outside of Puerto Vallarta proper offer travelers a better glimpse of the local lifestyle and culture. One of the most widely-visited pueblos just north of Puerto Vallarta, Bucerías, offers fine food and excellent beaches with fewer crowds than its southern neighbor, as does the small town of Punta de Mita, home to several beachside hotels and resorts. Towns and pueblos like Bucerías and Punta de Mita are accessible by bus and by rental car. To the south of Puerto Vallarta, seaside towns like Yelapa also offer luxurious hotels away from PV's more crowded city center.
The drug and gang violence that has afflicted much of Mexico in the past several years has not greatly affected Puerto Vallarta. That said, be sure to check U.S. State Department travel advisories before heading to Puerto Vallarta or anywhere in Mexico.
Most of the dangers in Puerto Vallarta involve swimming and food safety. Never swim by yourself or without the supervision of a lifeguard. Travelers should also note that the surf is rougher in the days following a rain or thunder storm, so proceed with caution after bad weather. If you're going hiking or walking in the wilderness, wear long pants and shoes to prevent serious injury from snake bites.