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The Romantic Zone, or Zona Romantica Puerto Vallarta, is the official gaybourhood of the city and the most-loved of them all.
It’s where you can find some of the best restaurants, shops, and endless nightlife and entertainment.
In this post, we’ll guide you through the best things to do in the Romantic Zone.
An Intro to the Romantic Zone Puerto Vallarta
The area, also called Old Town, is the heart of tourism in Puerto Vallarta. This is where you’ll find the sailboat-shaped pier and the famous Playa Los Muertos.
Leaving El Centro, you arrive in Old Town by crossing the river. A few bridges cross between the two, including one on the Malecon that crosses over the little island.
La Zona Romantic (the Romantic Zone) is the center of the LGBTQ scene. Puerto Vallarta is the gay beach capital of the country, and it’s often referred to as the “San Francisco of Mexico.”
While this area is always busy, it’s especially lively during the city’s annual pride festival. This happens in May and it’s one of Puerto Vallarta’s best events with lots going on, so be sure to check the calendar. Click here for more info.
There are plenty of hotels, shops, restaurants, cafes, spas, and bars catering to the constant flow of tourists. Over the past few years, the neighborhood has also seen an influx of high-rise apartments.
Many bemoan the gentrification of the Romantic Zone (myself included), as it has lost a lot of its traditional charm in the process. There’s constant construction now, with builders trying to one-up each other by going higher and higher.
That being said, this is still a super fun place to stay, especially if you’re just visiting.
Things to do in Zona Romantica Puerto Vallarta
For the most part, the Romantic Zone is all about three things – the beach, the food, and the party.
This neighborhood is home to Los Muertos Beach, the most famous and busiest beach in town. Here, you’ll find the iconic pier shaped like a sailboat. Walk to the end for a great view of the town and the beach.
There are many restaurants on the beach where you can find a sun lounger and umbrella as long as you’re ordering something. Our go-to spot is Swell, as they have great service and reasonable prices.
Just a block off the beach, you’ll find Lazaro Cardenas Park. These days it’s known as the tile park thanks to the ongoing project to cover the entire thing with colorful mosaic tiles. Click here to learn more about this awesome project, and be sure to check it out.
This park is also home to the weekly farmers’ market during the high season. It takes place on Saturdays from 9 AM-2 PM and features dozens of local vendors.
Exploring the Isla Cuale is another fun thing to do in the Romantic Zone. This little island in the river is full of trees, making it a great place to hide from the midday sun.
There’s a big flea market on the island where you can do some souvenir shopping, and there’s also a nice little park with a cultural center.
If you’re up for it, climb the long staircase up to the area known as Gringo Gulch. Here you can visit the former home of Elizbeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Best Restaurants in the Romantic Zone
Other than that, the Romantic Zone is all about going out to eat and party. There are so many restaurants and bars here that it can be a bit overwhelming.
You can seriously find it all here, from street tacos to fancy candlelit dinners, dive bars to high-end cocktail joints.
It’s possible to hit a different restaurant and bar every night with no repeats, even if you stay for a month or more. There are just that many options here.
I’ve done plenty of research over the years to bring you some recommendations. Here are some of the best spots to eat and drink in Zona Romantica:
- Freddy’s Tucan: probably the best breakfast spot in town
- Mezcal y Sal: unique small plates and amazing cocktails
- La Palapa: fancy beachfront restaurant good for any meal
- Salud Super Food: great place for salads, bowls, and other healthy stuff
- Pancho’s Tacos: an iconic place for tacos al pastor and more
- Poblanos: extensive menu of Mexican classics
- Hot Mamma’s Whiskey Kitchen: Nashville hot chicken and more soul food
- Nosh Turkish Bites: great spot for light Turkish/Mediterranean fare
- Monzon: excellent craft brewery with a creative kitchen
- Twisted Palms: rooftop bar known for their martinis
- El Soñador: my favorite dive bar
- Mr. Flamingo: gay bar with a bumping dance floor that welcomes all
Puerto Vallarta Romantic Zone Hotels
A vast majority of visitors to PV choose to stay in the Romantic Zone. This is the tourist center of the city, and you’ve got everything you need at your fingertips here.
When looking for a place here, one thing to think about is how close you want to be to the party. Music blares until the wee hours of the morning most nights, so keep that in mind.
If you’re hoping to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll need to find a place a few blocks away from the main bar area. Or perhaps just stay somewhere like Versalles or the Marina and just come to Old Town for dinner and drinks.
As is the case with restaurants and bars, you’re also spoiled for choices when it comes to accommodation here.
Here are a few recommendations for where to stay in the Romantic Zone:
Casa Nicole is a lovely boutique hotel just a few blocks from the beach with a pool and gym. They’re known to make fantastic breakfasts here.
Rivera Del Rio makes a perfect choice for those looking for something away from the noisy bars. They have a rooftop pool with great views and some very stylish rooms.
Almar is a luxury LGBT beachfront resort home to the famous Mantamar beach club. This is the place to see and be seen in PV’s “Gayborhood” and is consistently named one of Puerto Vallarta’s best luxury hotels.
One thing is for sure about the Romantic Zone – this is a fun place to be. Days can be spent lounging on the beach or enjoying some watersports, while evenings are for trying new restaurants and bar hopping.
If you’re in PV for a short vacation, this is the place for you. Many digital nomads also choose to base themselves here to be in the center of all the action.
Would I live in the Romantic Zone? Probably not. I don’t trust myself to be that close to the party, and I’d get sick of the neverending crowds of tourists. But many people love living here!
Other Puerto Vallarta Neighbourhoods
We’ve been exploring the best Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods one by one. For more guides, check these posts: