The biggest question facing potential visitors to Puerto Vallarta is whether they’d prefer to stay in the city’s Old Town or its New Town.
You’ll hear various names for these areas - the Old Town might be Viejo Vallarta, the Zona Romántica (Romantic Zone), or the South Side while the New Town might be Nuevo Vallarta or the Hotel Zone - and technically each of these terms has a slightly different meaning. However, the basic idea is as follows: Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town is the original settlement while the New Town is home to large hotels and resort towers.
Both areas have their benefits as well as their drawbacks, and where you ought to stay depends upon what exactly you’re looking for out of your Puerto Vallarta vacation:
Old Town Benefits
The more “authentic” Puerto Vallarta, featuring the classic Mexican architecture and street layout that make the city unique
Home to the vast majority of the city’s best dining and shopping options
Features more points of interest spread over a smaller area
Easy walking access to sites means less money/time spent on taxi/bus transportation
Features more personal boutique hotel accommodations
A famously LGBTQ-friendly area with a very welcoming and accepting attitude
Old Town Drawbacks
Beach access here is limited, and the beaches that are available tend to get very crowded
Certain parts of town can get quite noisy and stay that way into the early hours
Though by no means “dangerous,” there is slightly more crime here as people tend to stay out later into the night - often with alcohol involved
New Town Benefits
More modern hotel facilities often include larger and better equipped rooms, swimming pools, etc.
Most hotels offer direct access to larger, relatively less crowded beaches
Taller hotel towers offer some of the best views in Puerto Vallarta
Most hotel facilities are gated and feature onsite security, making this an even safer option for travelers preoccupied with safety concerns
New Town Drawbacks
Modern high-rise hotels lack much of the charm that makes Puerto Vallarta such a special destination
Beyond hotels and the beach itself, things to do in the New Town are few and far between
The money spent on taxis and/or the time spent on buses getting to and from the Old Town’s points of interest can quickly add up
At the end of the day, trying to make the argument that either the Old Town or the New Town is inherently better is an exercise in futility. In reality, each vacationer is different and each area caters to different tastes. The simplified version is as follows:
If you’re looking for a laidback vacation spent mostly at the pool or the beach, then Puerto Vallarta’s New Town is probably for you. If you’re looking for a more active vacation spent enjoying restaurants, bars, clubs, and a bit of Mexican culture and history, then Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town is more likely your style.