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Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods and the entire Banderas Bay area

Vallarta Neighborhoods in Brief


Downtown or “El Centro” (The Center) was the original nesting place for foreigners, and remains popular today. One part of this area is even generally called ‘Gringo Gulch’ as a testament to its popularity with ex-patriots. (Liz Taylor and Richard Burton had homes here…across the street from each other, they built a ‘love bridge’ over the street which still stands today to connect the two.) Residents here are right in the middle of the best of Puerto Vallarta, with nearly unlimited dining, shopping, and entertainment facilities available within short walking distances. Some of those walks can be up and down steep hills and steps, however…houses start climbing the mountain just a few blocks from the beach behind the famed malecòn, the beach-front ‘boardwalk’. On the other hand, the hillside homes offer incredible views of Puerto Vallarta’s famous spectacular sunsets and nightly fireworks show, and the breezes tend to keep the air in your house cool and fresh.

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Nearly everything about this area reminds you that you are in REAL Mexico…the cobblestone streets, tile roofs, and colorful flowers hanging off every other balcony. The architecture style is typically very traditional…there are very few ‘modern’ style homes here. Residents here have the ability to stroll to either end of the Malecòn, Los Muertos Beach, or Viejo Vallarta in under 15 minutes, and take advantage of the hundreds of restaurants, shops, and galleries without worrying about driving and parking.

Not all of El Centro is hills, however. On the South side of the Cuale River lies a long flat valley which is Viejo Vallarta (say “Vee-Ay-Ho”). The name means ‘Old Vallarta’, and is a bit of a misnomer in that it’s not actually the oldest part of town, but it certainly is the neighborhood which has most retained the traditional feel of a Mexican town. Viejo is filled with shops and cafes and is home to ‘Restaurant Row’ where you’ll find outstanding dining ranging from casual to luxurious. The neighborhood supermarket is here, as well as hundreds of shops and small galleries, cantinas, sports bars, night clubs, and all the typical services you might need from plumbing and electrical stores to fabric and furniture vendors.

On the Los Muertos Beach and bit South of Viejo Vallarta is ‘Olas Altas’ (meaning 'high waves', even though they are not really), which has a variety of housing options from apartments to high-rise condos. Again, there are lots of shops and restaurants, and the bars and restaurants on the beach tend to be the center of social activity day and night.

Many residents in El Centro don’t own cars, enjoy the freedom from automotive expenses and driving/parking hassles, and use the plentiful (and inexpensive) busses and taxis when they need. In any other part of Puerto Vallarta a car is almost a necessity. Real estate in El Centro can be more expensive than in other parts of town, but the atmosphere, convenience, and social activity more than make up for the higher prices.


Just South of Puerto Vallarta ‘proper’ is the exclusive domain known as Conchas Chinas. Perched on the rocks overlooking the bay, residents here arguably have the best views of the city and water and lay claim to the most beautiful collection of architecture anywhere along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Traditional hacienda-style homes built in the 50’s and 60’s blend with multi-million-dollar masterpieces of today along winding streets on the mountain which drops to the sea.

This neighborhood offers wonderful challenges to creative architects and builders, and the results are nearly always multi-level masterpieces. Exclusivity and privacy are the keys to residents here, while they are still just a few minutes-drive from all of El Centro’s charms and services. While some homes host year-around residents, many are used as vacation homes and can generate a handsome income as vacation rentals for groups large and small. Water is a key element in homes in Conchas Chinas…nearly every home has a swimming pool or at least some type of fountain or water feature.

Drive North from the Airport and you’ll cross a river into the state of Nayarit. Here you’ll find not just another state, but another state of mind in Nuevo (‘new’) Vallarta. It’s also in a different time zone (one hour earlier than Jalisco), but nearly everybody operates on “Jalisco time” to avoid confusion or missing flights. Nuevo Vallarta is the place for those who let boating or golfing take control of their leisure time…there are three magnificent golf courses and a modern world-class marina. Many residents set sail from their back yards along the canals that join the marina.

Single-family homes are luxurious and have lots of space between them, filled with lawns, gardens, pools and patios. While of course you will find traditional Mexican style homes, many have chosen to build in more modern styles, and they coexist side-by-side given the large lots. Several high-rise condo projects share space with the many hotels along a long, flat beach perfect for swimming or jogging. A modern shopping center and grocery stock most of what you’ll need, and more expansive shopping is available about 15 minutes away in Puerto Vallarta.


There are still many undeveloped lots available for those who want to build from scratch, as well as planned communities. Chief among these is the beautiful Paradise Village, which includes a hotel, condos, villas, marina, golf club, and more. Situated at the East end of Nuevo and where the marina enters the bay, this project seems to combine all the best of Nuevo Vallarta with the convenience of location closest to all of Puerto Vallarta’s charms.

While there is a good selection of restaurants, Nuevo has only been under serious development for about a decade or so, so today’s builders and buyers will have only more and more available to them as the area grows and attracts additional eateries and services.

Between El Centro and the Airport are dozens of neighborhoods where ‘gringos’ will find suitable homes for vacation, full-time living, or retirement. Just because you’re not in a ‘tourist’ area doesn’t mean you’ll be an outsider…neighborhood friendships are just as common here between foreigners and ‘locals’ as in the other areas more dominated by folks from the U.S. and Canada. And because these aren’t newly-developed areas catering to tourists, the prices tend to be much more reasonable for many people.

Less than a mile from the beaches are family neighborhoods where many gringos find their perfect home in houses and condos, with as many or few of the modern conveniences you may desire. Homes here tend to lack yards (and the required up-keep!), but many have open courtyards or brick-paved 'gardens' for outdoor relaxation and entertaining. The Versailles neighborhood is often chosen for its location close to major thouroghfares and modern shopping. More local services are available in these ‘non-tourist’ areas too, without having to fight the occasional busloads of tourists gawking on the sidewalk in El Centro.

Seamen and landlubbers alike come to Marina Vallarta for the in-town convenience of a primarily condominium community which surrounds the Puerto Vallarta marina and is close to the beach and city’s ‘North end’ shopping and services. There’s also a golf course here with fairway homes and townhouses, and a wide variety of restaurants. While not on the beach, there is public beach access within short walking distance.


The area along the bay between Nuevo Vallarta and Punta Mita has several areas that are attracting more and more foreign residents. Some if this is due to the growth of Puerto Vallarta as a city and the Vallarta region as a whole, where more people are deciding to go to enjoy the amenities of Puerto Vallarta while still living in a smaller town.

First stop north of Nuevo Vallarta is Bucerias, which is currently growing rapidly in popularity. Here you are less than half-an-hour away from “PV”, but have nearly all the services you might require. The beach is long and sandy, and prices for property just off the beach are vary reasonable…the house you wanted a few years ago in PV that is now out of your price range is available here.

La Cruz (full name: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, which can sprain the tongue of even native-Spanish -speakers, so everybody just calls it 'La Cruz') is just another 5 minutes West of Bucerias, and is becoming another ‘hot spot’ for foreign investment. The town has a small fishing fleet and several very nice restaurants to take advantage of the daily catch.

Punta Mita is at the tip of the bay, about an hour’s drive or less from PV. There are actually 2 Punta Mitas….the original town resided at the very tip of the bay until a decade or so ago when the entire point was purchased by developers and moved the existing residents a bit East to El Corral. So while the two side-by-side towns of El Corral and Emiliano Zapata are considered by all the locals to be Punta Mita, the Punta Mita Development Corp. bills the point and its ultra-luxurious resort as Punta Mita as well. If you’re in the market for a super-luxury home, the ‘new’ Punta Mita is for you. If you’re not quite in that income bracket, the ‘old’ Punta Mita is a lovely if sleepy little town, but quite a few gringos have immersed themselves in the town and real estate opportunities here are still excellent.

Even Further North

If you drive west out of Bucerias but stay on highway 200 rather than exiting towards La Cruz and Punta Mita, you'll wind your way across some low mountains and end up on the Pacific coast again. Many home buyers and real estate investors are choosing this area for the considerably lower costs of property compared to Puerto Vallarta, and also have appreciation in mind. The area is, in fact, slated for tourism development by the Federal Government, which will eventually bring better roads and perhaps an additional international airport to the region. While we can only speculate as to the timetable, any such development will surely add value to any property purchased in the near-term.

First stop is Sayulita, which has become a thriving surfer's town with a bohemian feel to it, and has seen much growth and gringo influence in the past half-decade. About an hour from Puerto Vallarta, it is still a humble town without a supermarket, but most everything one needs can be found at the stores around the town square, and weekly trips to the Puerto Vallarta Wal-Mart are a habit among most of the ex-pats.

Within the next 30 to 45 minutes driving time north are San Francisco (also known as San Pancho), Lo de Marcos, Rincon de Guayabitos, and La Peñita. San Pancho especially has been popular among foreigners recently due to low property prices and a beautiful beach. All these towns and areas are likely to prove themselves as good investments, considering current pricing and rate of growth.


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