If you are coming from the airport, which is basically where the city of Puerto Vallarta starts, coming from the north going south, you will find Marina Vallarta to your right. Marina Vallarta is a very popular community. It is a very fancy neighborhood with a small marina where people leave their yachts. Marina Vallarta also has a lot of restaurants and some bars. They have all kinds of restaurants and many places to go to and eat. You can buy ice cream, eat some seafood, etc. They don’t have nightclubs, though, because it is more of a fancy family area. They have a lot of hotels and a lighthouse that they turned into a bar. The view from the lighthouse is amazing. They also have live music sometimes. If you want to go shopping, Marina Vallarta has that. If you want to just have a drink, they have that, too. Marina Vallarta is one of the nicest places in Puerto Vallarta.
After Marina Vallarta, you will find many private communities where most of the residents are expats. A few minutes after Marina Vallarta, if you are driving south, you’ll see a big mall to your left called Plaza Galerias. This is the nicest mall in Puerto Vallarta. It has a casino, a gym, department stores, shoe stores, clothing stores, an appliance and electronics store, a pet store, a fish store (which is not very common in Puerto Vallarta), a Starbucks, etc. It’s a nice place to spend the day if you want to get away from the heat. You can go there to have an ice cream or to see a movie. Plaza Galerias is pretty fancy and it’s big. It’s the kind of place that lots of Americans are familiar with but it’s a bit smaller compared to the malls in the US. Right next to Plaza Galerias, there is a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club, which are the two places that are most frequented by expats to shop for their household needs. Right in front of Sam’s Club is the port where the cruise ships dock. A lot of tourists come from there and they go to La Marietas, Las Animas, and many other small beaches and islands. A lot of tours start from that dock so the area is also a very popular and significant area in Puerto Vallarta. Almost every other day there is a new cruise ship that arrives at that port. They bring thousands of people who get off to do some shopping and explore the city. This generates a lot of income for Puerto Vallarta. It is a big place and there are also a lot or restaurants by the port. You would also see vendors selling all kinds of items such as clothes, jewelry, wallets, hats, tours, etc. These are the most significant places in the northern part of Puerto Vallarta. There’s a lot to do in every one of them so they are all interesting for expats.
Three minutes going south of the port, you’ll see another mall called Plaza Caracol, which is similar to Plaza Galerias but a bit smaller and not as nice. Plaza Caracol is more for the locals of Puerto Vallarta. In Plaza Caracol, you will find some banks, some stores, a department store that is similar to Wal-Mart, and a gym. Right beside Plaza Caracol, there is a hospital called Vallarta Medical Center, which was formerly known as Cornerstone. It is a big hospital with brand new equipment. That area of Puerto Vallarta is also full of clinics and doctor’s offices. You will find all kinds of doctors there: plastic surgeons, bariatric surgeons, etc. This is a well-known area for expats as this is where they usually go if they need medical attention.
Staying on the main road, if you drive another 10 minutes, you’ll be getting into downtown Puerto Vallarta. This is a highly populated area of Puerto Vallarta where you will find old buildings and cathedrals. This part of Puerto Vallarta is very, very different for the rest, as it is being preserved, so while all the other parts of Puerto Vallarta are very touristy and upscale, downtown is more like an old town. Even the statues, the restaurants, the hotels and everything around downtown don’t look like the rest of Puerto Vallarta. There are a lot of places there for expats like condominiums, houses for rent, hotels, timeshares, etc. You can walk downtown in just 40 to 45 minutes if you go from end to end and you will see a lot of nice places. Downtown is one thing in the morning and another at night. There are a lot of nightclubs, restaurants, and all kinds of things to do at night. They have mimes, clowns, fire shows, guys doing tricks, artists, etc. Since Puerto Vallarta is on the beach, you can go to the boardwalk and walk by the beach.
There is an area located south of downtown called Romantic Zone, which is more for the LGBT community in Puerto Vallarta. Every hotel, nightclub, and restaurant in the Romantic Zone is geared towards the LGBT community, which is very strong in Puerto Vallarta. We have lots of tourists from the LGBT community who come to Puerto Vallarta and stay in that area. It is very nice even though it is small but it is very significant because it is a tourist spot. The people who work in the establishments in the Romantic Zone do not necessarily belong to the LGBT community but the target market of the businesses there is the LGBT community and it draws a lot of tourists from the LGBT community as well.
After Romantic Zone, there is not much to see so I would say that the Romantic Zone is sort of the end of the city of Puerto Vallarta. Once you go beyond that, you are on the road going to Mismaloya, which is close to Puerto Vallarta at 5 minutes away from town. Mismaloya is also an area that is heavily populated by expats and is a little bit more exclusive. It is a more expensive place to live but it is also very nice, very quiet, and very safe (though in general, Puerto Vallarta is safe). We have many clients who live in Mismaloya who prefer to come over to our office instead of us going to their place because if we go to their place, it would take a lot of time since we have to give a lot of our information and IDs before security would let us in. Mismaloya is good for people who want to be in a very private place.
There are three hospitals in downtown. Two of them are big hospitals with doctors’ offices and clinics gathered around. This is also one of the popular parts of the city. If you go up the hills around town, you’ll find a lot of nice places, condos, and houses, which are mostly owned by expats. They have amazing views. Some of these expats live here for about 4 months out of the year. Then they put their places up for rent for other expats who would rather stay here longer. However, these areas don’t have as many people as in downtown, Marina Vallarta, or Mismaloya. For people who want to have a nice place with a beautiful view, the place to go to is up the hills.
Another well-known area that a lot of Americans live is Fluvial. The population in Fluvial is a combination of Americans and Mexicans. It is located in the middle of the city and it is a really big place. It has big houses that are around 400 square meters (4,300 square feet). They have houses that have pools. Some have businesses. There are a lot of buildings in Fluvial that can be used as clinics or doctor’s offices. It is a very secure area, too. There is a Costco in that area and there are lots of popular restaurants. A river passes through the city and there are parks that people go to. There are also places where you can go biking. They have a gym, and a tiny lighthouse. Fluvial is a popular area where we have a lot of expat clients. However, Fluvial is one of the most expensive places in Puerto Vallarta in which to live.
(Lighthouse at Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, pictured.)