Written By: Geoff Millar, Ultimate All Inclusive Vacations
This month we will continue our journey of all-inclusive resort destinations on the West coast of Mexico. We are going to focus on Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area. The Puerto Vallarta area is bordered on the East by the Sierra Madre Mountains, “We don’t need no stinking badges”, and by the Pacific Ocean to the West. The Main town of Puerto Vallarta sits on the largest bay in Mexico, Banderas Bay.
The Puerto Vallarta area is made up of a number of different locations. To the South you have the Southern Zone including the Mismaloya area. This is a beautiful area made up of resorts and some very up-scale villas and private homes. The Mismaloya area is also the location where the movie “Night of the Iguana” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was filmed. It was actually filmed on the exact location of the current Barcelo Resort. In the mountains and jungle behind Mismaloya, the movie “Predator”, with Arnold Swartznager was filmed. The Southern Zone is beautiful with a jungle backdrop, some of the nicest smaller beaches and one of the top snorkeling locations in the Puerto Vallarta area, Los Arcos, a large rock formation just offshore. The Southern Zone includes such resorts as the Barcelo and the Hyatt Ziva.
The next area toward the town of Puerto Vallarta is the Romantic Zone. This area sits in the southern part of the town of Puerto Vallarta. It is bordered by the Cuale River and contains 2 great beaches, Los Muertos Beach and Olas Altas Beach. The area was developed in the 60’s and 70’s and has few all-inclusive resorts but contains a number smaller boutiques hotels. The Romantic Zone is filled with shopping, art galleries, restaurants, and bars. It is known as old Vallarta with cobblestone streets and wonderful Mexican décor. There is really no great need for all-inclusive resorts in this area as fantastic dining and nightlife are right outside your door.
The next area we come to is the Downtown area or the oldest part of Puerto Vallarta. The center of this area is the town Plaza anchored by the church and fronting the Malecon, the public walkway along the ocean. This is where families and tourists alike stroll along the Malecon enjoying the views and gentle evening breezes, artists and craftsmen display their wares and musicians serenade the onlookers. In the downtown area there are a number of upscale restaurants and art gallaries with private residences in the hills above the town. Cuale River Island borders the downtown area and the Romantic area. The Island is home to fantastic shopping and dining. You can also view the Taylor-Burton Bridge that linked the Apts. of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton when they were filming “Night of the Iguana”. I will leave the rest up to your imagination.
Just north of the Downtown area is the Hotel Zone. This area was the major resort growth area beginning in the 70s. There is a mixture of all-inclusive resorts and non-all-inclusive resorts, from mid-level to up-scale resorts with very nice beaches. Some of the resorts in this area are the Secrets and NOW resorts, the Sheraton Buganvillas, and the newest Sunscape resort, formerly the Holiday Inn. Restaurants, nightlife, and shopping have grown up in this area with newer Malls and it is also the location of the Sam’s Club. This area is just a short cab or bus ride into the downtown and Romantic areas. The hotel zone is more of a modern area with a different vibe. It has some very nice beaches that front the large number of resorts in the area. A number of the land tours leave from this area and the downtown area. Land tours in Puerto Vallarta tend to lean toward the active adventure tours, ATV tours, ziplineing, cliff rappelling, tequila tasting, golf, hiking, horseback riding, visits to movie sets as a number of movies were filmed in the Puerto Vallarta area. Using public transportation in Puerto Vallarta is very easy and fairly inexpensive. Cabs and buses tend to be the most popular.
The fourth area and the last area close to the main town is the Marina Zone. This is the area where the cruise port is located and where the majority of the ocean tour activities depart from. Ocean activities in the Puerto Vallarta area include swimming, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching in the winter months, dinner cruises, and surfing in the Northern Zone. This area is also the closest to the airport. There are a number of resorts located in the Marina Zone like the Marriott, the Melia, the Velas Vallarta, and Mayan Palace. There are some very nice beaches in the area. The only drawback is at the southern end of the marina zone and the Northern end of the Hotel zone is the river that runs into the ocean and during the rainy season can muddy the water of the resorts close to the river entrance.
As we move north from the Town of Puerto Vallarta we come to Nuevo Vallarta or as it is called today, Nayarit. This area sits about ½ hour north of Puerto Vallarta. This area was developed as a resort area in the early 90s. A little known fact is that even though the two are fairly close, Nayarit actually is in a different time zone than Puerto Vallarta and the time differs by 1 hour. Tell your clients not to panic as the resorts actually keep the same time in both places to avoid confusion. A big problem was that if your resort is in Nayarit and one time zone, the airport is in another time zone and it was hard to track when you needed to leave the resort to check-in at the airport. The Nayarit Zone is the newest resort area and the location of most of the all-inclusive resorts. It sits on, what, I feel, is the best beach in the Puerto Vallarta area. The beach is 13 miles long and is very swimmable and great for watersports. There are everything from mid-level 3 star resorts to up-scale 5 star resorts like the Grand Velas, Hard Rock, RIU resorts, Dreams, Marival, and Marival Residences. It takes about ½ hour 45 minutes to get to the downtown Puerto Vallarta Zone by bus or cab. There are also watersport tours that leave from the Nayarit area to the same areas as the ones that leave from the Marina area. 3 golf courses are very close to Nayarit. Aside from the resorts, Nayarit is a great beach community with very nice homes and condominiums. This area is great for clients that want great beaches, very nice resorts and a slower pace away from the town environment, Nayarit is a great destination.
The last area we are going to look at is the Northern Zone with the best known area being Punta De Mita. The area tends to be more upscale than most of the areas. The area is about 1 hour north of the airport and is home to resorts such as the St. Regis and the Four Seasons, Iberostar, and closer to Nayarit, the Palladium. The area includes beautiful golf courses, its own Marina with fishing charters, and up-scale residences all set in a beautiful setting. This area is known for surfing and surfers from all over the world come here to experience it. Most stay in the wonderfully quirky town of Syulita. The town of Syulita started as a small village with one street and has developed into one of the most charming towns in the area with great restaurants and shopping. While in the area stop in and take a surfing lesson.
Puerto Vallarta is a fantastically diverse area with something for everyone. Even though it has grown, it still retains it old world Mexican charm. The people are warm and friendly, the food is fantastic, and the activities never end. There is a huge expat community in Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta is one of the most LGBTA friendly areas in Mexico and the Caribbean.
In future articles, we will talk about the different resorts in all the areas.