Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

Updated in 2022.

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta is an extremely popular destination for American and Canadian tourists. Particularly from the west coast, where flights to this beachside resort are cheap and quick. It’s generally assumed that Puerto Vallarta is a typical gringolandia, where tourists outnumber locals. This isn’t entirely true. Puerto Vallarta is an extremely popular vacation destination with people from Guadalajara, as well as the Bajio region of Mexico.

POPULATION: 200,000


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DAY TRIPS & THINGS TO DO IN PUERTO VALLARTA

There is no shortage of activities in Puerto Vallarta.

Hire a fishing charter or go on a whale watching tour. 

Hike up Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz for amazing views of the city.

Take a walk through Gringo Gulch. It’s an upscale residential area set on the hillside, right near the centro, and home to mansion-like homes including that of Elizabeth Taylor.

Check out Palo Maria waterfall (Cascada Palo Maria), a cool waterfall set surprisingly close to downtown.

Check out Canopy River Park and the Jorullo Bridge (Puente Jorullo). It’s really cool suspension bridge over the Cuale River, connecting two sides of forested canyon. It’s also part of a popular ATV tour route.

Head to the beach towns of Punta Mita, Sayulita, and San Pancho.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN PUERTO VALLARTA

The best area to stay for first timers is the centro/downtown. You’ll be relieved to hear that Vallarta is safe and so is the centro. In fact it’s tourist central! You’ll walking distance to the malecon (boardwalk), the beach, bars, and everything else you’ll need. Just don’t stay too close to the clubs (Mandala, for reference) or you won’t be able to sleep. 

Second best neighborhood to stay is the Zona Romantica. It’s trendy area filled with bars and world class restaurants. Zona Romantica is the heart of Vallarta’s big LGBT scene. Playa de Los Muertos is a good time.

Map of Puerto Vallarta Centro
Map of Puerto Vallarta Centro

 

RENT AN APARTMENT IN PUERTO VALLARTA

$500. The peso is low right now. You should be able to snag something a few blocks from the beach for about $500.

 

BEST BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN PUERTO VALLARTA

7/10 

Puerto Vallarta definitely has the big, cookie-cutter nightclubs found in Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

If there are some cool, hidden local bars and clubs, I haven’t found them. You’re best to go to something near the main strip, where lots of people roll into town on vacation for a good time.

My Latin Life recommends: Mandala, La Vaquita

Nightclubs in Puerto Vallarta
Nightclubs in Puerto Vallarta

 

IS PUERTO VALLARTA SAFE?

It is a very safe city. Although drug violence in Jalisco has ticked upward, Puerto Vallarta has been spared from the violence. You should be safe here at virtually all hours. Of all the Mexican beach towns, Vallarta is the safest.

 

 COST OF LIVING IN PUERTO VALLARTA

The following data is from Expatistan, a crowdsourced database of prices and cost of living around the world. In our experience, the data tends to underestimate cost of living, so take the following as the minimum you might need to live here.

*Figures are listed in USD

You’ll need a minimum of $1253 USD/month to live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

cost-of-living-puerto-vallarta

HOW TO GET TO PUERTO VALLARTA

The Vallarta airport is surprisingly well connected, with direct flights to Canada, the USA, Guadalajara, and Mexico City.

 

JOB OPPORTUNITIES

 I’ve seen gringos working here. As waiters, tour guides etc. I don’t know how much money they make. Probably close to none. Best to vacation here rather than try to carve out a life for yourself.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Not bad. Not as Americanized as Cancun. You can still see the remains of an actual Mexican city that was likely once charming. 60 years ago or so. As far as vacation spots go, this isn’t the best or worst. My vote for best goes to Mazatlan, where you can find fewer foreign tourists and more Mexicans ones. Particularly Mexican girls from Sinaloa. This is a good thing. Check out Puerto Vallarta if you find a cheap flight or bus and/or a great deal on a hotel. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit, but it’s a decent enough time if you stay for a week or so.


OVERALL RATING: 6.25/10


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