There is all manner of lodging available in Puerto Vallarta but it is important to consider what kind of vacation you’re looking for to determine the best zone. In Part 1 we looked at two of the five zones, the South and Downtown Zones. Moving north we’ll look at the remaining zones in Puerto Vallarta and beyond.
The Hotel Zone is located between the airport and downtown, bisected by the cruise-ship terminal and opposite several large malls. Most of the properties are large resorts and while the street side is not that appealing, fronting busy Francisco Medina Ascencio Boulevard and a jumbled collection of shops and services, the beaches are beautiful and the sun sets directly opposite this location making for a lovely, romantic sunset every evening. It’s an easy stroll on flat terrain to downtown, especially for those resorts closest to downtown (furthest from the airport), and shopping and movie theaters are available at the nearby malls.
Sheraton Buganvillas Resort & Convention Center, one of the closest to downtown, is an example of a chain hotel in the Hotel Zone that offers many amenities, including a large pool, intimate spa and several restaurants with beach access. It’s an older hotel with the standard type of anonymous guest room you’d expect, but you’ll get a great night’s sleep on the exceedingly comfortable Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed topped with soft, feather pillows—a factor not taken lightly by many seasoned travelers. The Sunday Brunch is renowned for its vast number of breakfast and lunch tastes in an open-air setting—get there early to avoid long lines.
Moving further north, Marina Vallarta is centered around a picturesque marina with 400 private slips where many expats berth their yachts. Small boutiques and cafés line the marina and it’s a pleasant place to stroll in the evening. The popular tour company, Vallarta Adventures, has a convenient pick-up spot here. It’s a short cab ride or longer public bus ride to downtown which is perfect for couples or families who want a quieter experience overall—they might visit downtown one or two times in a week and take advantage of other activities around the area during their stay. The small beaches tend to be rocky so most of the resort action is centered around large pools. Access to the central golf course, Marina Vallarta Club de Golf, is available.
Newer resorts in Marina Vallarta tend to raise the bar on luxury and the CasaMagna Marriott is no exception. Soaring lobbies, lush landscaping, references to the local culture and impeccable service set this property apart from many others. The sizable Ohtli Spa offers an impressive range of services with four plunge pools, a lap pool, well-equipped gym and several different styles of massage in a lovely setting.
Don’t be misled by the name, Nuevo Vallarta, which is not actually in Puerto Vallarta. It is located in the neighboring state of Nayarit and is the newest area to be developed. It’s a 30 minute drive from Puerto Vallarta so visits to downtown would likely be limited, but most properties provide all you need so you never have to leave.
Characterized by huge, all-inclusive resorts with multiple buildings, pools and golf courses, these are the type of resorts where it’s easy to forget you’re in Mexico and hard to get motivated to depart, even for an excursion. The Grand Mayan Nuevo Vallarta is a good example, with large suites, fifteen restaurants and bars, full-service spa, sandy beach, golf course, lazy river and more.
Beyond Puerto Vallarta
For the adventurous traveler who is looking for a unique experience consider pushing beyond the city limits. Lodging is available in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a small fishing village populated with an unexpected number of eclectic restaurants; Yelapa, accessible only by boat; Sayulita, a popular surfer destination; and San Sebastian de Oeste, a quaint silver mining town, all within an hour or two of town.
There is a place to suit all tastes in Puerta Vallarta—all it takes is a little understanding of what kind of vacation and amenities you’re looking for. If you’re a hipster looking for a pub crawl you don’t want to end up far away in Nuevo Vallarta. Likewise, if you’re looking for a peaceful tropical vacation where your kids will be entertained for hours you don’t want to end up at a Los Muertos beach-front property. If you have a group that is split the Hotel Zone might be perfect, with full-service resorts that are within walking distance of downtown.
Several airlines provide direct air service from San Francisco (SFO) to Puerto Vallarta (PVR), including Alaska Airlines and United. Prices for airlines departing from SFO are currently starting at around $500. Flight time is about 3.5 hours. Check Skyscanner for more information.
According to the US Department of State a visa is not required for citizens of the U.S. but you must carry a valid passport.