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Experiencing Vallarta: Where to Stay

Published Aug 10, 2009 - (Updated Dec 3, 2012)


Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Summer/Fall 2009 issue.

One of the most alluring features of Puerto Vallarta as a destination is that — unless you are traveling onboard one of the many cruise ships that dock for the day at our Maritime Terminal or are simply driving through on your way somewhere else — when the day is done and it’s time to get some well-deserved rest after exploring our town, the lodging options are as plentiful and varied as our restaurant choices.

For those of us who live here year round, it’s interesting to see the many ways visitors choose to experience our city. Some folks arrive on vacation for a few days, while others make an annual pilgrimage to their timeshare units. Then there are northerners who escape their cold weather for months at a time and an increasing number of US and Canadian visitors who have chosen Puerto Vallarta as their permanent retirement home.

This first installment of a two-part article focuses on the many ways you can “connect” with our destination, regardless of  whether you are thinking “I need a place to vacation” or “I need a place to live.” Part Two, “What Can I Do Once I Get to Puerto Vallarta,” will be featured in our next issue and will focus on the amazing variety of activities you can pursue in our destination.


Hotels are undoubtedly the most predictable way to explore a destination for the first time and have the advantage of being completely non-committal. Additionally, the hotel experience offers incredible diversity, from top-notch hotels offering in-house entertainment, amenities and restaurants to intimate boutique hotels that offer stylish and personalized service.

In the case of large chains such as Westin, Marriott, Holiday Inn and Four Seasons (all well-represented here), brand recognition plays a major role in helping first-time visitors feel at ease, knowing exactly what they are going to get. A closely supervised, independent rating system (see sidebar) categorizes hotels according to pricing and amenities, making it easy for you to find your best option.

For returning visitors, the broad scope of hotel choices in and around Banderas Bay guarantees a completely different lodging experience each time. The options are so plentiful, it would take more than two decades to spend the night in every room available!

TIP: The “Lodging and Travel” section of our website (www.virtualvallarta.com/puertovallarta/lodgingandtravel) features a complete hotel directory, sorted by area and star rating, along with a glimpse at some of the exclusive boutique hotels in the region. Intrigued? Visit www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com for more information.

Stars and Diamonds
Stars indicate the quality of a hotel’s facilities, while diamonds rate the quality of its services, the more the better in both cases. This certified classification is done by private companies, such as CALMECAC (calmecac.com.mx), using accepted international standards that are recognized worldwide.

Below is a guide to the star classification system for hotel facilities:

* Budget hotel with small rooms and shared spaces

** Medium-level lodging with private bath and some extra furniture, such as wardrobe or table

*** Moderately priced lodging with large rooms, television, comfortable bathrooms and maid service

**** First-class accommodations with laundry service, meeting center and other amenities

***** Luxury accommodations with a comprehensive range of personalized services

Gran Turismo and five-star hotels often share the same level of luxury in their facilities.

Condo Hotels

A fairly new concept in Puerto Vallarta and surrounding areas, condo hotel units can be experienced as a hotel first and as an investment later, should you become charmed with a specific location or neighborhood. In many cases, condo “sections” in a specific development are managed by independent specialized companies, so quality of service may not be as polished as that of the hotel counterpart. The Villa Group and The Velas Group have begun using in this alternative successfully in Puerto Vallarta.

TIP: If you look for a desirable building in a good location, a respectable developer, an attractive amenity package and good management, your investment is likely to appreciate over the years.


Many people seduced by Puerto Vallarta’s intangible allure after a trip or two seek ways to make their vacation time a more permanent investment. And since more often than not, vacation time is locked to specific weeks of the year, no other option compels you to schedule and plan your vacation as timeshare does.

But aside from investment, perhaps the biggest incentive in this travel option is the sense of community you develop, since you tend to forge strong long-term bonds with people vacationing at the same time you are. However, if you should find yourself wanting a change of scenery, trading your beachfront slot with another destination should present no problem whatsoever, Puerto Vallarta a highly sought-after destination among timeshare devotees.

And while sometimes maligned due to the complicated process often involved in jumping onboard, the timeshare industry took root in Puerto Vallarta decades ago, guaranteeing return visitors year after year. Additionally, if you wish to upgrade your investments, many established brands allow you to switch to other, more permanent options.

TIP: Brands such as Westin’s Club Regina, Sheraton, Playa del Sol, Villa Group, Mayan Palace, the Velas Group and Paradise Village have established themselves as the most enduring players. As such, they are a good starting point, should you wish to consider your options.

Because You Deserve the Very Best

Take the guesswork out of your luxury rental experience by choosing a member of the Costa Vallarta Boutique Villas collection, an affiliate of Mexico Boutique Hotels. This selective grouping of luxury properties offers exclusive and elegant residences that can accommodate groups of 2 to 22 guests. Book via their professional concierge, who is readily available during office hours via the toll-free numbers listed on their website.

Membership in CVBV cannot be bought; rather, it is earned by passing a rigorous inspection by a professional team of experts from the vacation and hospitality industries. The result? Pristine properties exuding privacy, spectacular views, deluxe amenities and a full range of services, including in-house staff eagerly attending to your every need. These properties also offer unique venue options for special events such as family reunions, intimate luxury weddings and work retreats. It simply doesn’t get any better! www.costavallartaboutiquevillas.com


Just as there is a huge scope of hotel options, short- and long-term condo or villa rentals are ubiquitous in just about every neighborhood in and beyond Puerto Vallarta, offering visitors more of a do-it-yourself experience. If you prefer grocery shopping to room service, this is the way to go!

Renting a place in Puerto Vallarta will certainly appeal to anyone who has already developed a bond with the destination and wants to explore the adventure of taking care of oneself here, from going to the store and picking up your laundry to interacting more closely with the local culture. This is particularly true when renting in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood — great for budget traveling.

On the other hand, if a high-end villa rental with spectacular infinity pools and sunset views better fits the bill, many such offerings are fully staffed, allowing you to enjoy hearty made-to-order breakfasts, while a maid cleans your room, or spectacular dinners prepared with ingredients you selected during the day.

TIP: While the choices are many, condo or villa rentals do not provide the assurance and service implicitly guaranteed by major hotel brands, unless you are working with an established high-end alternative such as Costa Vallarta Boutique Villas (see sidebar). Web sites such as Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com) are useful to connect directly with owners. Finally, working through a local real estate company can be helpful, as they take care of pre-screening properties and only work with the more attractive ones.

Fractional Ownership

If you are pretty much in love with Puerto Vallarta and know you will continue to spend vacation time here — but feel daunted by the investment and commitment of a full-time purchase — welcome to fractional ownership, an increasingly popular option in vacation destinations such as Puerto Vallarta. People often purchase vacation properties only to find themselves spending just a few weeks of the year there, yet having to worry about the maintenance and upkeep of the property year round. And let’s not forget the challenge of managing your full-time ownership (whether it’s empty or rented for short terms) from afar! In that regard, fractional ownership offers the benefits of a plush property for a comparably smaller investment.

Many people confuse fractional ownership with timeshare. While both offer resort and vacation-type properties, fractional ownership allows you to actually own a portion of the property with your purchase, not just the specific amount of time to spend at the property. Companies such as Four Seasons, The Villa Group and La Tranquila offer attractive options in the area.

TIP: Although you own your fractional property, it is still shared with other investors, making it challenging to personalize or make it your own. Keep this in mind if the feeling of “coming home to your own place” is high on your list of priorities.

Full-Time Ownership

From brand-new modern developments to traditional fixer-upper casitas, there is something for everyone when it comes to purchasing and creating a home for yourself in Puerto Vallarta. Becoming a home or condo owner allows you to truly experience the destination’s blessings and pitfalls up close and personally like no other option. Once you’ve made this leap, whether it’s for retirement, vacation, rental investment or all of the above, you have “officially” become a “local,” but not quite a “pata salada” (literally, “salty foot”), the term commonly used to refer to those born here.

TIP: Many folks are increasingly relying on home exchange services to travel through the world inexpensively. If you would like to consider this option, websites such as www.homeexchange.com are worth exploring.

Are you ready to consider a home purchase in Puerto Vallarta? Turn to page 112 of this magazine to explore our complete Guide to Purchasing Real Estate in Puerto Vallarta. And for resources online, consider either of the following websites:

This website is home to the Puerto Vallarta real estate MLS service. There are three chapters of AMPI (Mexican real estate association) in the region, and all three use this service (Multi-List Vallarta) for their MLS service. It is has been serving the region since 1988 and is the longest running service of this type in Mexico.

This website is a companion publication to Puerto Vallarta’s popular real estate monthly, the Vallarta Real Estate Guide. VREG is the most comprehensive real estate print publication available in Puerto Vallarta, featuring MLS property listings, real estate articles, maps and popular region descriptions.

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