Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta First Time: 5 Best areas

Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for first time? for singles, couples, family, aldults, and all-inclusive? In this guide we will be looking at the best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta (include map and video), the advantage and disadvantage of each area, the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta for all budgets, and safest places.

Located on the Bay of Banderas, the beaches and warm waters are the major appeals of Puerto Vallarta with travelers able to enjoy the infrastructure of a city or find quiet places simply to relax. Its airport, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International, provides a link with many parts of North America.

The high season is the Mexican winter when the weather further north in the USA and Canada can vary between poor to severe. Domestic demand is good as well, especially for weekend breaks.

Whether you want to stay in an apartment on a hill with breathtaking ocean views or in an all-inclusive hotel on the beach, Puerto Vallarta has it all!

Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta First Time?

The best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta for first-time visitors are Romantic Zone, Zona Hotelera, Marina, Downtown, Conchas Chinas, and South Zone.

In general, Romantic Zone, or Old Town, is the overall best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for first-timers. It has highest concentrations of hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, and shops. The the beautiful Malecon and Los Muertos beach are also nearby.

Puerto Vallarta is relatively safe city for tourist, but as you travel to any city, if you should practice common sense and take some basic precautions.

If you are looking for the safest neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta, look into the areas of Romantic Zone, Downtown, The Hotel Zone, and Marina Vallarta. These are also popular tourist areas with plenty of things to do and see for visitors.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Zona Romantica (The Romantic Zone)
💎 Best luxury hotel:Hotel Boutique Rivera Del Rio
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Vallarta Shores Beach Hotel
💰 Best budget hotel:Hotel Porto Allegro Puerto Vallarta

Overviews of best areas to stay in Puerto Vallarta for first-time tourists

Here is an overview of recommended areas in – for first-time visitors: 

Best areas in Puerto Vallarta for first-time tourists Why should you stay in this area?
Romantic Zone (Zona Romantica)This area is known for its vibrant atmosphere, cobblestone streets, and a wide range of restaurants, bars, and clubs. It’s close to the beach, the Malecon (boardwalk), and offers a lot of opportunities for shopping and exploring local art galleries.
Best for: Couples, nightlife enthusiasts, LGBTQ+ travelers, beach lovers, and those who want to experience the local culture.
Downtown Puerto VallartaDowntown offers a more authentic Mexican experience with historic architecture, local markets, and a variety of dining options. It’s also close to popular attractions like the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Cuale River Island.
Best for: History buffs, families, and those who want easy access to attractions and local culture.
Zona Hotelera This area is known for its luxury resorts and all-inclusive hotels. It’s great if you’re looking for a more secluded and pampered experience. It’s also near the Marina Vallarta for golf and yacht tours.
Best for: Luxury travelers, honeymooners, and those seeking a more relaxing and resort-style vacation.
Marina Marina Vallarta offers a mix of upscale accommodations, dining, and shopping. It’s known for its marina and golf course, making it an excellent choice for water sports enthusiasts and golfers.
Best for: Golfers, boat enthusiasts, and travelers looking for a quieter atmosphere.
Conchas ChinasLocated just south of Puerto Vallarta, Conchas Chinas is a more exclusive and upscale residential area. It offers stunning oceanfront villas and a quieter ambiance while still being close to the city.
Best for: Luxury travelers, honeymooners, and those seeking privacy and tranquility.

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta:

Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta for first-timers and tourists are:

1. Romantic Zone

The Romantic Zone, where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for nightlife
Zona Romantica @Mark Tyra

Romantic Zone is the best place to stay in Puerto Vallarta for the first time because it is the most popular part to stay in Puerto Vallarta with vibrant nightlife and the highest concentration of restaurants, bars, and club. It is also known by many names such as Zone Romantica, Old Town, Viejo Vallarta,  South Side, Old Vallarta.

Located just next to El Centro, the Romantic Zone offers a wide range of accommodations from budget-friendly hostels, boutique hotels, inns, condos, and several large hotels but no big resorts. 

The Old Town retains the charm of the traditional Mexican town with its old narrow cobblestone streets giving you an idea of its age. There is a rich history here and travelers wishing to be close to old architecture, galleries, and lovely plazas will be satisfied with accommodation here.

You can easily explore the Old Town on foot, but there are plenty of taxis and buses. By day, you can head to the beach on the Romantic Zone’s western border, Playa de Los Muertos, and the scenic Los Muertos Pier with its unique design.

The Old Farmer’s Market on weekends in Lazaro Cárdenas Park. Its selling artisan products, as well as fruit and vegetables, is a must for tourists with cafes locally selling local cuisine, including fresh seafood.

The famous Rio Cuale flea market is an indoor market with two stories that feature vendors, suppliers, and everything from pottery, jewelry, clothing, and souvenirs. If you like to bargain, this is a good place to get great deals, especially if you’re looking for crafts at affordable prices. On the second floor, you’ll find food stands.

There are so many activities to do nearby. If you base yourself in the Old Town, you can take a day trip to Nuevo Vallarta (New Vallarta). Nuevo Vallarta is located in the Riviera Nayarit, which has gorgeous beaches, golf courses, marinas, and restaurants that cater to tourists.

You can also take a boat taxi to Marieta Island, just off the coast of the Riviera Nayarit. Here you can visit the famous Hidden Beach, a private oasis of crystal blue waters and white sand, tucked inside a lush, tropical island. Accessible only when the tide is low, the beach itself is a lover’s paradise.

Zone Romantica has plenty of accommodation options for all budget travelers. With its central location, vibrant nightlife, and plenty of things to do within walking distance apart, Zone Romantica is the best place to stay in Puerto Vallarta for all type of travelers including singles, families, and couples.

Stay in Old Town if this is you first visit; you want a central location with a wide range of tourist amenities; you want to get a real flavor of traditional Mexico;you want a lively nightlife with crowded bars and clubs;

Best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta Old town:


2. Downtown Puerto Vallarta

Downtown, where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for first time tourists
Downtown @Kirt Edblom

Also known as El Centro, Downtown is the heart of culture and the administrative activity of a city that is the capital of a municipality. The convenient location makes it an ideal place to stay for first-time tourists and budget travelers.

Modern facilities include luxury shopping, bars, Michelin-rated restaurants, museums, art galleries, and theaters. There is also a developed nightclub scene that is primarily aimed at the young set.

The downtown area is the oldest part of town and, not surprisingly, includes many of the main points of interest for tourists visiting the city.

The highlight attraction is the famous boardwalk Malecon, a wide, beautiful beachfront boardwalk that stretches from Hotel Rosita all the way to the Cuale River and the Romantic Zone.

Malecon is a lovely place to walk, enjoy the climate and the many sculptures that line the walk. Most of the district is pedestrian with dedicated cycle paths in place. 

You can visit and buy at many of the stores, have a drink at a bar, or enjoy a delicious meal at many of the top restaurants that line the boardwalk.

In downtown, you will also find numerous historical and cultural attractions like the Naval Museum, the open-air Los Arcos Amphitheater, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Gringo Gulch, and the main Plaza. 

Located on Calle Hidalgo, one block from the main square (Zócalo), the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is an icon of the city, famous in photos, shirts, logos, and postcards. The Feast of Guadalupe takes place each December with parades, dancing, and music.

Another interesting place to visit is the Mirador Cerro de La Cruz (The Cross on the Hill Lookout), which offers great views of Puerto Vallarta and the Bay of Banderas.

You can also find 5 de Diciembre, a charming neighborhood, conveniently located between El Centro and the hotel zone. It has a hilly terrain that offers amazing views.

If you have more time in Puerto Vallarta, you can make a trip to nearby Magic Towns include San Sebastian del Oeste, Talpa de Allende, and Mascota in the Sierra Madres; a day trip to El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary, or the town of Tequila to visit Blue Agave farms.

Not surprisingly, the heart of the city tends to be crowded and noisy. If you want a relaxing holiday, perhaps you should look elsewhere for accommodation? However, if you are traveling on a budget, you will find cheap hostels Downtown.

Stay in Downtown if you want to be in the heart of the action, you do not mind crowds, you want the best shopping alternatives, you are on a budget and are looking for a suitable hostel.

Best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta Downtown:


Read Also:

3. Zona Hotelera

Zona Hotelera, where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for beaches
Mio Vallarta in Zona Hotelera

Zona Hotelera is the best place to stay in Puerto Vallarta all-inclusive because it is packed with all-inclusive hotels and resorts that include meals, drinks, and activities. It has the beach as one of its boundaries and as you head inland, you will find plenty of restaurants and clubs.

Also known as Zona Hotelera, Zona Hotelera is the district north of Downtown and south of the marina. It runs along some of the famous beaches such as Playa Camarones, Playa Tranquila, and Playa de Oro.

There is good shopping in the Hotel Zone from Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club stores for necessary supplies as well as the Galerias Vallarta Shopping Mall with a cinema, all kinds of shops, and nice restaurants.

You can also shop at La Isla Shopping Mall, visit Los Mangos Public Library, Punta Mita, and the Maritime Terminal.

The Hotel Zone has everything you might need including medical services. Access to Downtown is easy with public transport or taxis readily available if you want a change of scenery.

Stay in The Hotel Zone if You want a good choice of accommodation when choosing your holiday base. A district full of amenities including restaurants and shops is important to you, Proximity to the beach is important to you.

Best places to stay in the Hotel Zone:


4. Marina

Marina, where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for families
Marina de Puerto Vallarta @BirdsEyePix

Marina Vallarta is located in Banderas Bay, an upmarket development close to the airport, north of the main city. This is a family-friendly area with plenty of activities for kids such as Splash Water Park and Aquaventuras Park, and shopping malls with playgrounds. 

Marina Vallarta has a marina with many charters, yachts, sailboats, many all-inclusive resorts, and exclusive golf courses. The yachts moored here are a sign of real opulence while charter boats are available for tourists wishing to take trips out into the Pacific.

The promenade is lovely while if you visit the El Faro Lighthouse at sunset you are sure of a wonderful photograph. There are numerous bars and restaurants with street performers adding to the atmosphere. 

The shopping is excellent by the way. Beachfront developments often own the stretch of beach directly in front of them so if you want exclusivity, look at staying in one of the places available to rent, at a price. 

Mosaic Wall, Armonium’s Spa, Vallarta Adventures are also some of the places worth visiting!

Stay in Marina Puerto Vallarta if You want an exclusive area; Cruising out into the Pacific is on your ‘’to do’’ list; Your priority is relaxation rather than sightseeing.

Best places in Puerto Vallarta – Marina:

San Trópico Petit Hotel & Peaceful Escape Offering a year-round outdoor pool and views of the mountains, San Trópico Petit Hotel is situated in Puerto Vallarta in the Jalisco Region, 2.4 km from Cruise Ship Pier. The hotel has a sun terrace, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. Free WiFi is available throughout the property and free private parking is available on site.

Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa This luxury resort offers a private beach area and an infinity pool overlooking Banderas Bay. Each spacious room includes flat-screen satellite TV, an iPod dock and views of the gardens or ocean.


5. Conchas Chinas

Conchas Chinas and South Zone, where to stay in Puerto Vallarta for luxury
Conchas Chinas @Ernest McGray, Jr.

The South Zone is where some of the most luxurious resorts and hotels in Puerto Vallarta. Many of these properties are perched high on the hillside and have stunning views of the Bay of Banderas. If you like upscale resorts with a relaxed vibe, then South Zone is the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for you.

The South Zone as a whole has a number of small neighborhoods bordering on the jungle but offering lovely beaches and quality villas. This is an exclusive and affluent area in Puerto Vallarta where there is still a degree of poverty.

One small neighborhood, Conchas Chinas has even earned the nickname ‘’ Beverley Hills of Puerto Vallartas.’’ It is close to where the Burton and Taylor movie, ‘’The Night of the Iguana’’ was filmed by John Huston over half a century ago.

Another neighborhood in the South Zone is Mismaloya. Mismaloya is the best quiet area to stay in Puerto Vallarta with beautiful beaches. You can visit Puerto Vallarta Zoo, Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Boca de Tomatlán, and if you are up to watersports, go to the Paddle Zone.

Boca de Tomatlán is a small fishing village that sits on either side of the Rio Horcones which comes down from the Sierra Madre. Its colorful cover is stunning with bougainvillea, banana, and papaya, and the palm trees on the hillsides create a lovely setting. The beach comprises soft sand and the gentle waves make it ideal for swimming.

These neighborhoods tend to be quiet, providing an excellent place to relax, enjoy the climate, and have time on the beach with the occasional swim.

Stay in Conchas Chinas if you want a quiet holiday and are prepared to pay for it; your preference is to be in a natural environment even if there is villa development; you are not concerned about the historical and cultural aspects of Puerto Vallarta.

Best places to stay in Conchas Chinas:


🎬Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta in this video:

Where should I stay in Puerto Vallarta for the first time?

Romantic Zone is the best area to stay in Puerto Vallarta for first-timers because it is the most convenient location and it offers a wide range of tourist amenities. If you book a hotel here, you will belocated in the middle of action, within walking distance to the tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, shops, and bars.

What is the safest area to stay in Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is overall a safe city for tourisy, but as you travel to any city, if you should use common sense and be aware of your surrounding. Romantic Zone, Downtown, Hotel Zone, and Marina Vallarta are the tourist areas and some of the safest places to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

See Also:

In conclusion, Romantic Zone, Downtown Puerto Vallarta, Zona Hotelera, Marina, Conchas Chinas are the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta for tourists and first-time travelers.

If you want easy access to the beach and a lively atmosphere, the Romantic Zone may be your best bet. If you prefer luxury and seclusion, the Hotel Zone or Conchas Chinas may be more suitable.

Consider what type of experience you want and what activities you plan to do during your stay in Puerto Vallarta to help you decide the best area for your first-time visit.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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