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Welcome to the second installment of our Puerto Vallarta Neighborhood Guide series. In case you missed it, check out the first post about Marina Vallarta. We’re moving south from there with the Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zone as the next stop.
An Intro to the Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zone
Basically, the Hotel Zone starts at the cruise ship terminal and goes all the way south to the stadium. Generally speaking, it’s mostly the narrow strip of land between the highway and the beach.
Once you go inland, you find yourself in other local neighborhoods that we’ll cover in future posts, such as Versalles and 5 de Diciembre. As the name would suggest, the Hotel Zone is mostly composed of hotels, many of them being large all-inclusive resorts.
There are also plenty of condo buildings and shopping centers. This includes La Isla, which is the premier mall in Puerto Vallarta featuring dozens of international shops and a state-of-the-art cinema.
As I mentioned, the cruise ship terminal is located here. Massive ships pull up every day throughout the high season dropping short-term visitors off by the hundreds.
To serve this constant flow of people, the immediate area around the cruise port has a Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, casino, and a new shopping area called Puerto Magico (Magic Port).
This is most definitely an area geared towards tourists. There are so many massage parlors, pharmacies, and souvenir shops in the Hotel Zone it’s a bit ridiculous. Even when I lived in the area for six months I still felt like a tourist walking around.
That being said, I really enjoyed the condo where we lived. It was great having a huge supermarket right next door and the beach a block away. The area is lacking in restaurants and bars that aren’t a part of a hotel, though.
The commute to Old Town definitely got old after a while, but at least it’s only 10 pesos to catch the bus there and cabs run around 100-120 for a ride back depending on the time of night.
It’s generally an older crowd in terms of the expats in the Hotel Zone. Most of my neighbors at the condo we lived in for a season were retirees, many of whom only stay in PV for the nicest months. As I told all of them – “I want to be like you when I grow up.”
For tourists and short-term visitors, the Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zone is a super convenient base. It’s easy getting in and out from the airport and to Old Town. Plus, who doesn’t love a hotel balcony overlooking the beach?
Speaking of la playa, the long stretch of beach in the Hotel Zone is public. It starts up by the port and goes all the way down to the Sheraton. There aren’t that many places where you can get chairs and order food & drink, though.
Things to do in the Hotel Zone
Since it’s mostly composed of huge resorts, there isn’t really a whole lot to do in the Hotel Zone. Most people just stay at their resort and take advantage of the all-inclusive amenities, making occasional trips into town or going on half-day tours.
Speaking of tours, many of them begin in the port area. This includes the amazing Rhythms of the Night (my personal fave). It starts out with a scenic boat ride complete with an open bar that takes you to the remote Las Caletas for the performance.
It’s a bit like Cirque du Soleil with acrobatics, dancers, and fire jugglers. The venue itself is a mystical amphitheater set in the jungle and it’s pretty incredible.
You also get to enjoy a nice buffet dinner and continue the open bar fun all night. Put this one high on your list of things to do in PV at night. It’s easily in the top three tours I’ve done in five years of living here.
The pirate ship tour also leaves from the port and it’s one of the most popular tours in the city. I’ve never personally done it but it’s been on my list. It’s certainly fun watching the ship pull up to the Malecon and giving a fireworks show on a nightly basis!
As I mentioned, there’s a public stretch of beach but not that many places to get a chair and umbrella. This is mostly a DIY beach day if you come here. There are just a few places where you can order food & drinks, and none of them are all that great.
It is definitely worth it to go to the beach in the Hotel Zone to experience a sea turtle release. These happen very often between July and December when sea turtles show up by the hundreds to nest. Even outside of these months it’s possible to catch one if you’re in town a few days.
If you’re feeling super adventurous, you could add skydiving to your Puerto Vallarta itinerary. Skydive Vallarta has its office here in the Hotel Zone and runs trips daily. This is definitely one of the most scenic places to go skydiving!
Shopping is also high on the list of things to do in the Hotel Zone. I hate going to the mall and even I enjoy a stroll around La Isla. It’s a pretty cool open-air mall and it’s fun doing some window shopping and catching a movie there from time to time.
Restaurants in the Hotel Zone
Since much of the area is taken up by resorts and condos, there aren’t a ton of restaurants here. I mean there are plenty of them in the resorts, but you can’t just go eat in most of them.
You won’t go hungry or thirsty here, though. There are just far fewer options than in other neighborhoods.
Here’s a list of restaurants in the Hotel Zone to get you through a trip there:
- El Oasis del Holi: one of few beachside restaurants here with good seafood
- Food Park: awesome food truck park with lots of options and a full bar
- icu: one of the top-rated restaurants in the city with tasting menus
- Porfirio’s: fine-dining Mexican cuisine
- Monkey Business: cool new spot with a bar, food, live music, and karaoke
- Punto Mar: beach club with decent food and sun loungers/umbrellas
- La Leche: always comes up in “best restaurants in PV” lists
- Zeferino’s: tiny local pizza shop that’s good for takeout
- Imperial: new kitchen and bar just off the highway
- Cerverceria Chapultepec: my favorite dive bar with dirt cheap snacks and drinks
- La Madalena: fancy place with gorgeous decor and an extensive menu
Hotels in the Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zone
I know all-inclusive is fun, but I recommend going for a non-inclusive option and checking out the awesome bars and restaurants in town instead. There are just too many great places here to be stuck eating soggy nachos and drinking watered-down margaritas.
That being said, I’ll still give you a recommendation for an all-inclusive resort because I know it’s fun having unlimited cocktails in a swim-up bar. Here are some of the best hotels on the beach to stay in the Hotel Zone:
Villa del Palmar Beach Resort is a solid choice in the area. It’s right on the beach with a huge pool and you have the option to go all-inclusive or not here.
Fiesta Americana right around the corner is where you’ll want to be if you’re looking for that all-inclusive treatment. There’s an infinity pool that’s adults only and a kid’s club for families.
Hotel Mio is an entire adults-only hotel. It’s not on the beach and is right off the highway, but there’s a nice rooftop pool and it’s a super convenient location at a good price.
That about does it for this guide to the Puerto Vallarta Hotel Zone. If you’re just looking for a home base for a few days, it’s definitely a convenient one. Those planning to go out in Old Town every night may want to move further south, though, and that’s what we’ll do in the next couple of posts!
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