This helpful guide takes a closer look at where to stay in Puerto Vallarta. If you’re dreaming of relaxing on the beach, indulging in mouth-watering cuisine, and sipping cocktails while watching the sunset, then maybe it’s time to plan a trip to Mexico. PV is the perfect destination for all of the above.
Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Let’s get down to business and figure out where to stay in Puerto Vallarta. Here’s a quick look at the best areas in PV for several different categories:
Are you looking for a secluded all-inclusive resort with a private beach? Would you prefer to be in the center of the bustling nightlife? Or maybe you’d like to experience a more local side of PV? These are important things to consider when looking for places to stay in Puerto Vallarta.
The city extends from the airport south through El Centro and Old Town/Romantic Zone down to Conchas Chinas. With the sea to the front and the Sierra Madre mountains to the back, many of the best neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta are on the hillside.
Even though it’s not a very big city, you’ll want to consider the best Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods for you. I’ve spent several years living in Puerto Vallarta as a digital nomad and have stayed in many different parts of the city. This is one of my favorite places to visit in Mexico, so I’m excited to share some tips with you and help you plan the perfect trip.
1. El Centro: Best Place to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for Your First Time
If it’s your first time in PV, I highly suggest skipping the all-inclusive resort and staying in El Centro. I get the appeal of the AI stay, but save that for a return visit. Trust me – you’ll be back…
El Centro is the perfect place to base yourself for a first visit to the city. First of all, it’s the central part of town (hence the name). This is where you’ll find the Cathedral of our Lady of Guadalupe, which is the symbol of Puerto Vallarta.
This neighborhood is also where most of the famous Malecon is located. As the center of town, this is a busy commercial area as well with plenty of options for shopping and dining. Click here to find El Centro on the map.
Pros of Staying in El Centro
- Most central location in PV
- Great spot to soak up local culture
- Close proximity to some of the major sights
- Some of the best restaurants in town
- Pretty good nightlife scene
- Very easy to get around on foot, by bus, or taxi
Cons of Staying in El Centro
- Busy streets with constant traffic
- Can be noisy depending on the location
- Might have to get up and down a steep hill
- Tight living quarters
- Slightly limited selection for accommodation and nightlife
Best Places to Stay in El Centro
El Centro is very much a local ‘hood, so it’s not full of hotels and all-inclusive resorts. That being said, there are plenty of great places to lay your head here.
2. Casa Kimberly: How would you like to stay in the former home of a couple of movie stars? That’s what you’ll get at this famous PV hotel which also has one of the best restaurants in the city. Click here for details.
Top Things To Do in El Centro
There’s plenty to do in El Centro within walking distance of your accommodation. Most of the top things to do in the city are located in this area. That’s what makes it one of the top places to stay in Puerto Vallarta for anyone.
1. Walk the Malecon: Strolling along PV’s oceanfront promenade is high on every visitor’s to-do list, and for good reason. It’s full of stunning sculptures and the people-watching is always great. For a more adventurous experience, you can jump on an electric bike for a tour of El Centro that also takes you into the mountains. Click here to learn more and book.
2. Hike to the Cross: For one of the best views in town, hike up the hill to the cross (click here for directions). This isn’t so much a “hike” as it is a walk up a steep sidewalk and then some stairs. I’ve made it from the Malecon to the top in 10-12 minutes walking at a brisk pace. You might get a bit sweaty but it’s worth it for the view!
3. See the Cathedral and Main Square: The crown jewel of PV is without a doubt the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s a stunning church with an intricate cupola. One great way to explore all that El Centro has to offer is by taking a city tour. In addition to the main sights, it also features coffee and tequila tastings. Click here to learn more.
Where to Eat and Drink in El Centro
El Centro is home to some of the absolute best restaurants in the city. Here are three that you’ll definitely want to add to your list:
1. La Cappella: While I fully advocate for eating all of the local food (including street tacos), this Italian restaurant is one of the best places to eat in PV. It has a terrace with the perfect view of the church and its cupola, which is where it gets its name. If you fancy a sunset dinner here, you’d better book in advance. Click here for directions.
2. The Iguana: Once upon a time, movie stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor fell in love with each other and the city while on set in Puerto Vallarta. Their former home is now a hotel called Casa Kimberly, which is home to this incredible restaurant.
My wife and I have been to a lot of nice restaurants in PV and this one is easily in the top three. The menu changes with the seasons and it’s always a fine dining experience. Click here for directions.
3. Cafe des Artistes: Completing the trio of El Centro restaurants is this absolute gem of a place. The entire restaurant is a work of art, from the mural that adorns the front to the elegant dishes that arrive at your table.
They have several different spaces in the restaurant and the menu is always changing. This is another place you’ll want to reserve in advance to avoid disappointment. Click here for directions.
2. Old Town: Best Area in Puerto Vallarta for Nightlife
If you’ve come to PV to party (as many do), you’ll want to stay in the area known as Old Town or the Romantic Zone (Zona Romantica in Spanish). This is the place to be after the sun goes down.
After a big night out on the town, you’ll want to relax on la playa. You’ll be in just the right place, as this neighborhood is the home of Los Muertos Beach – a focal point for any visitor to Puerto Vallarta.
In addition, there are tons of cafes, spas, restaurants, shops, bars, and nightclubs here. You’ll never run out of options for where to shop, eat, relax, or drink in the Romantic Zone. This is definitely the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for those looking to have a good time. I’ve spent many a night in this area! Click here to find this neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta on the map.
Pros of Staying in Old Town
- Easy access to Los Muertos Beach
- Great culinary scene, from street food to high-end restaurants
- Epic nightlife
- Center of the LGBTQ scene, AKA the “Gayborhood”
- Convenient transportation options
- Short trip to beaches south of PV
Cons of Staying in Old Town
- Can be loud… like, really, really loud
- Very crowded during high season, weekends, and holidays
- More safety concerns than in other areas
- Might feel like a “walking ATM”
Best Places to Stay in Old Town (Zona Romantica)
There’s no shortage of accommodation options in Old Town and there’s something for every budget and style. Here are a few of the best choices:
2. Joint Boutique Hotel: This is a great hotel choice for digital nomads as it’s home to one of the best coworking spaces in PV. When you’re ready to relax, you can soak in the hot tub or book a massage. Click here for details.
Top Things To Do in Old Town (Zona Romantica)
While Old Town is the best place to stay in Puerto Vallarta for nightlife, there’s more to this neighborhood than just partying.
1. Los Muertos Beach: Days in Old Town are best spent on the beach. How you choose to spend it is up to you… There’s always the good old-fashioned sun lounger & umbrella combo, which usually leads to fish tacos and margaritas in my experience.
2. Party it Up: As I mentioned, Old Town is the place to be if you’re looking to partake in the nightlife. You can find it here whether you’re looking for a classy rooftop bar or a dingy dive, a cocktail lounge or a craft brewery, a rowdy nightclub, or quiet cocktails.
3. Boat Trip: If you’re staying right by the pier, you might as well add a boat trip to your PV itinerary. There are several options for excursions at sea such as this awesome trip to Yelapa to hike to a waterfall along with some snorkeling in Majahuitas.
Where to Eat and Drink in Old Town (Zona Romantica)
Old Town has hundreds of bars, restaurants, and clubs. You can stay here for several weeks and try something new for every meal and every Happy Hour.
2. Tuna Azul: If you’re looking for some tasty seafood in PV, I highly recommend this place. The crab tacos are great, as are the tuna sashimi tostadas. Click here for directions.
3. Versalles: Coolest Place to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
This is definitely one of the best neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta. It’s become somewhat of a foodie haven in recent years.
Every time I go back to Puerto Vallarta, I know there will be several new restaurants to try in Versalles. In addition to plenty of local fare, there’s also Greek, Japanese, and even Nashville hot chicken.
Staying in Versalles, you’ll likely meet several digital nomads as well as full-time residents. It’s a great spot to be if you want to experience more of a local vibe than you’ll find in Old Town. Click here to find Versalles on the map.
Pros of Staying in Versalles
- Amazing culinary scene
- More local than touristy
- Easy access to downtown and the airport
- Beach within walking distance
Cons of Staying in Versalles
- Lots of construction in the area
- Not many hotels to choose from
- Nightlife options are limited
- Can be an expensive/long cab ride after a night out
Best Places to Stay in Versalles
As I mentioned, there aren’t a ton of accommodation options here. Many places are just apartments that are rented out short-term, but here are some good choices:
Top Things To Do in Versalles
This is one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta to just take it easy, enjoy some good food, and relax on the beach.
1. Take a Food Tour: When in this foodie neighborhood, you’ll want to try as many places as possible. That’s why it’s worth it to go with a knowledgeable local guide.
2. Chill on the Beach: Playa Las Glorias is the local beach in Versalles. This beach is more laid-back than Los Muertos and there aren’t many businesses here, so it’s a good spot to bring an OXXO picnic and a few drinks. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Versalles
For a small neighborhood, Versalles really packs a punch with places to eat and drink. Here are just a few of my faves:
1. El Puerco de Oro: These pork belly tacos are life-changing. That’s all you need to know! Click here for directions.
2. LAMARA: Some of the best ceviche and aguachile in PV is on the menu here. Order a few different plates and go family style for sure. Click here for directions.
4. Hotel Zone: Best for Families
For those traveling with kids, the Hotel Zone is a good choice. Of all the Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods, this is the best bet for families.
As the name suggests, this area is full of hotels. Most of them have amenities like pools and playgrounds, and some even have daycare options.
Many of these hotels are all-inclusive and have plenty of kid-friendly food choices on the menus along with virgin cocktails and the like. For the adults, there are plenty of classic Mexican food and drink options. Click here to find it on the map.
Pros of Staying in the Hotel Zone
- Lots of accommodation choices
- Kid-friendly and adults-only options
- Easy access to the airport
- A long stretch of beach
Cons of Staying in the Hotel Zone
- Not many restaurants or bars outside of the resorts
- Overpriced touristy shops
- Not much of a local experience
- Can be expensive
Best Places to Stay in the Hotel Zone
You won’t be surprised to find out that there are plenty of hotels in this safe neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta. Here are a few of the best options:
Top Things To Do in the Hotel Zone
For many visitors to the Hotel Zone, a vacation here is all about some good old-fashioned R&R. It’s one of those posh areas of Puerto Vallarta where you just want to sip a margarita on the beach. There are still some adventures to be had, though.
1. Rhythms of the Night: This is one of the top-rated tours in PV and for good reason. It’s a super fun evening with a sunset cruise, open bar, delicious dinner, and an amazing show on a secluded beach.
2. Hop On Hop Off City Bus: If you’re staying in the Hotel Zone, a great way to spend a day is by taking this bus with an audio tour up and down the coast.
3. San Pancho and Sayulita: While PV is great, there’s much more to explore in Banderas Bay. The towns of Sayulita and San Pancho to the north are well worth a day trip.
Where to Eat and Drink in the Hotel Zone
Since many people choose to go the AI route here, they tend to stick to their resort. There are still a few great restaurants worth checking out, though.
1. La Leche: Yes, the name of this restaurant means “the milk,” but don’t let that deter you. It’s a modern and trendy restaurant with an ever-changing menu that’s always ranked among the best in PV. Click here for directions.
3. Cerveceria Chapultepec: A popular chain from Guadalajara, this spot churns out small plates and drinks for around 20 pesos ($1 USD) each. It’s a fun place to hang out with locals and pre-game before going out on the town. Click here for directions.
5. Marina Vallarta: Luxurious Area to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Marina Vallarta is definitely the fancy part of the city. This is where the giant cruise ships dock, welcoming thousands upon thousands of visitors to PV each year. The city is working on a massive new cruise terminal called Puerto Mágico (Magic Port) that will include a tequila museum and an aquarium.
If you’re reading this article, though, you’re probably not headed to Puerto Vallarta on a cruise ship. But, this area isn’t just for cruise passengers, as the Marina is also home to a world-class golf course and plenty of upscale shops and accommodations.
It’s a very popular spot for families or for those who seek a bit of peace and quiet (and luxury) on their vacation. Click here to find it on the map.
Pros of Staying in Marina Vallarta
- Luxury accommodation options
- Quieter than Centro and Romanic Zone
- Pedestrian boardwalk
- 18 hole golf course
- Great dining
- Many shopping options
- Close to the airport
Cons of Staying in Marina Vallarta
- More expensive than other areas of Puerto Vallarta
- Not as traditional or authentic
- Not the best beaches
- Longer journey to get into the center if you want to go out for the night
Best Places to Stay in the Marina Vallarta
1. San Tropico: This boutique hotel is highly rated thanks to its beautiful, peaceful grounds. There are colorful murals all over the property, which is basically a big garden. Here you can chill out in a hammock, take a dip in the outdoor pool, and even join a free yoga class. Click here for details.
2. Velas Vallarta Suites: This high-end resort has a few different pools (one even has a swim-up bar!) as well as a nice beachfront area with sun loungers and canopy tents for shade. There’s also a spa and a fitness center, and it’s located right near the world-class Marina Vallarta Golf Club if you want to hit the links. Click here to learn more.
3. Casa Velas: This resort is definitely on the pricier side, but they’ve got stellar reviews and are adults-only. When it comes to Puerto Vallarta hotels, this one is worth splurging on. Click here to see the latest price from Booking.com.
Things To Do in Marina Vallarta
- Go Golfing at Marina Vallarta Golf Club (early in the morning or late evening, otherwise it’s too hot!)
- Visit the El Faro Lighthouse
- Walk around the marina admiring the beautiful yachts
- Go on a luxury sunset sail that leaves from the Marina. Find out more here.
Where to Eat and Drink in Marina Vallarta
There are lots of great food options here, many of which are international cuisine.
1. Casa Ritual for Sushi: if you like sushi, you won’t want to miss the authentic sushi at this gorgeous boutique hotel. The small restaurant serves up fantastic nigiri and perfectly presented plates. It’s expensive but worth it.
2. Mr. Cream Pancakes and Waffles: this fun restaurant does breakfast just right. Come here for pancakes and waffles as the name suggests, or go for something more local like the chilaquiles.
6. 5 de Diciembre
I must admit I’m partial to the neighborhood known as 5D as it’s where I’ve spent the most time in PV. This local ‘hood is in between the Hotel Zone and El Centro, with hilly streets that jut up to the mountains. It’s home to Playa Camarones, which is a fun local beach that’s always full of the sounds of wandering mariachi bands.
It’s one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Puerto Vallarta as it’s still close to all the action of El Centro and the Romantic Zone. Staying here is a bit easier on the wallet, though, and it’s not quite as loud at night.
That being said, this is very much a local Mexican neighborhood. You may hear dogs, roosters, and the occasional mid-week fiesta…
Pros of Staying in 5 de Diciembre
- Very local neighborhood
- Nice views from the top of the hill
- Has a beach
- Awesome restaurants and street food
- Cheaper than other areas
Cons of Staying in 5 de Diciembre
- Can be very noisy
- Cobblestone streets and hills can be tough to navigate
- Not many hotel choices
- Only a few bars to choose from
Best Places to Stay in 5 de Diciembre
There aren’t a ton of hotels in 5D, but there are some solid choices near the beach. Here are some of my faves:
Top Things To Do in 5 de Diciembre
With the ocean to the front and mountains to the back, there are plenty of opportunities for adventures when staying in 5D.
1. Horseback Riding with ATV and Zipline: Cruising through town and up to the mountains on an ATV is a fun way to spend an afternoon in PV. You also have the option to tack on an ATV ride and a zipline course.
2. Evening Taco Adventure: A major reason that 5D is one of the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta is all the awesome street food. If you’re not comfortable just choosing your own taco stalls, jump on a tour with a local guide.
3. Tacos & Tequila: These are a few of my favorite things and this is the perfect nieghborhood to indulge in both. This tour is tons of fun and a great way to kick off a night in PV.
Where to Eat and Drink in 5 de Diciembre
Eating and drinking your way around 5 de Diciembre is a major highlight of choosing this as your home base. These are just a few of the best places in the area:
1. El Barracuda: This beachfront restaurant is always a go-to of mine when friends come to visit. The seafood is amazing here and there’s a great bar next door called El Solar that you can order drinks from. Click here for directions.
3. Gusto Lounge: This might be the only dive bar in the world where you can get a lobster dinner. Sergio and Naomi are good friends of ours and some of the best bar owners you’ll ever meet. Click here for directions.
Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta: FAQs
El Centro and the Romantic Zone are connected by the bridge over the river and together they make for the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta center.
There aren’t really any “no go” areas in PV, but for tourists, you’ll want to stick closer to the beach and the central part of the city for convenience’s sake.
PV is generally a very safe place to travel. The Hotel Zone and the Versalles neighborhood are among the safest areas as there isn’t really much nightlife. Most incidents here occur after midnight in the popular bar and club areas. Read more about safety in PV here.
If you don’t mind spending some time & money getting around town, it doesn’t really matter. PV isn’t that big and there are many convenient options for transportation from the local bus to rideshare apps.
I’m partial to the 5 de Diciembre and El Centro neighborhoods as they have hills that give you amazing views of the palm trees and ocean. This is also where you’ll find the Malecon, the cathedral, and plenty of street art.
I highly recommend staying in downtown PV. This puts you in a convenient location whether you want to go on day trips or just chill on the beach. You’ll also have tons of options for shopping, dining, and nightlife.
For the most part, yes, however, there are lots of cobblestone streets here and some neighborhoods are quite hilly. If you have mobility issues, you’ll want to be sure to book a place that will be convenient.
To be close to all the action, you’ll want to stay in El Centro or the Romantic Zone.
PV has an extensive bus system that can get you anywhere you need to go. Most rides only cost 10 pesos (about $0.50 USD) and only slightly more for trips to places like Bucerias or Sayulita.
When considering where to stay in Puerto Vallarta, you have several options. It’s not a big city, but each area has its own vibe with its own pros and cons.
Regardless of which of these neighborhoods you choose to base yourself in, it’s easy enough to get between them and to go on day trips. You’ll also have great choices for food no matter which area you choose.
I hope you found this guide helpful, and most of all I hope you enjoy your trip to this little slice of paradise I’ve been fortunate enough to call home for a few years.