Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide

Mexico  #1 in Best Cheap Spring Break Destinations
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Puerto Vallarta Area Map

Neighborhoods

Puerto Vallarta 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 the area's most luxurious and expensive resorts lie along Marina Vallarta, less than 2 miles south of the city's airport. The area also contains the Marina Vallarta Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course, as well as the Aquaventuras water park. The area is rounded out by a handful of cafes, restaurants and boutiques lined up along its boardwalk. Also located on the marina is the landmark lighthouse, El Faro, which offers breathtaking views of Banderas Bay. Just north of Marina Vallarta in Nayarit state sits Nuevo Vallarta, a resort community with more top hotels, golf courses, spas and Nuevo Vallarta beach. If you choose to bed down here, you'll need to rent a car or hail a taxi to get to Puerto Vallarta's restaurants and attractions, but if it's luxury you seek you may not mind the distance.

Just south of Marina Vallarta along Av. 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.

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 a vibrant art scene and its seaside malecón. 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 Romanticaor Romantic Zone, home to one of the popular Playa Los Muertos. The south side is also the center for the city's thriving LGBT scene. A fairly recently constructed Malecón seaside walkway offers spectacular views of the bay and easy access to the beach.

For a more authentic experience of local lifestyle and culture, travelers should make time for the small towns located outside of Puerto Vallarta. For instance, Bucerías, offers excellent food and beaches with fewer crowds than its southern neighbor, as does the small fishing village of Punta Mita, home to several beachside hotels and resorts. Towns and pueblos like Bucerías and Punta Mita are accessible by bus and 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 thunderstorm, 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.

 

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