You've made the decision that you'd like to own a second home or perhaps retire full-time in Puerto Vallarta. But where, exactly, as there are so many different Vallarta neighborhoods and communities around the bay, each offering their own unique benefits and advantages. Over the past 30 years, Vallarta has evolved from a single destination to one that offers a multitude of regional options, each unique unto itself. Before beginning to look for a new home, you really should identify your needs to narrow down the search criteria, making the buying process much easier in the end.
If all you know is that you want a two-bedroom near or in Puerto Vallarta, you'll discover there are literally hundreds to choose from. Most people know the type of property they're interested in —be it a condo, home, townhouse or residential lot— and how many bedrooms it should have, along with desired amenities. But what they may not realize are the advantages and/or disadvantages each neighborhood —colonia in Mexico— provides.
MLSVallarta divides the Vallarta/Nayarit region into nine regions and and a number of smaller sub-regions. It is important you have a rough understanding of where these regions are situated so that when you start searching for properties it makes more sense to you. You can find our more about the regions and sub-regions, with maps, here. (The map to the right doesn't link to the sub-regions may, but the previous link does.)
If you want to be where the action is, downtown Vallarta is the place for you. The two most popular areas are Gringo Gulch, (Central North) which is on the hillside above town and overlooking the Cuale River, or on the south side, (Central South), from the Cuale River and along Los Muertos Beach, commonly known as Emiliano Zapata. In these areas, you can get around quite easily without owning a car, with markets, restaurants and shopping close by. Gringo Gulch is mostly made up of single-family homes and small condominium projects, nearly all offering views overlooking the city and bay. Across the river, however, real estate inventory is mostly made up of condominium projects of all sizes, the most popular situated along the shore, providing unobstructed views and easy access to the beach. In both areas, the disadvantage can be noise from city living, something you may have to put up with in order to have easy access and close proximity to most of downtown Vallarta.
The Hotel Zone, which extends from the marina to the northern edge of downtown Vallarta, has seen a considerable amount of development over the past 10 years, with the building of high-rise condominium projects that provide spectacular panoramic views of Vallarta and Banderas Bay. If high-rise living is your style, this area provides easy access to town and the airport, as well. Many shopping centers are situated nearby, just across the main road that leads into Vallarta. Or if it's a home you're looking for and you don't mind giving up having a view, there's the relatively new development of Fluvial or the older, traditional neighborhood of Versalles. Having a home here is like living on the outskirts of the main downtown area.
Just south of Vallarta, the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains hug the coastline, creating a steep vertical backdrop that has become popular for condominium developments, offering even more spectacular views than the developments along the shoreline below. Leaving Vallarta, Amapas is first, catering mostly to small and medium-size condo projects. Conchas Chinas is a little farther south and offers older luxury homes on either side of the highway, along with some newer condominium projects. Living here, however, one does need a vehicle, as the hills are steep and there is little in the way of shopping or restaurant options. If you’re a golfer, be ready for a drive to get to the courses, as most are located either east of Vallarta or along the northern shoreline.
On both sides of the international airport are two mega developments that were designed to provide a little something for everyone. They are large enough that you'd still want to own a vehicle, but for some, a golf cart may be enough. Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta/Flamingos are large residential areas built around marinas and golf courses, offering a variety of single-family homes and condominium options. Each has shopping centers and a good selection of restaurants, and both are situated along the shores of the bay, providing access to the beach, as well. Large condominium projects stand along the beach, while mostly smaller condo projects and single-family homes line the fairways of the golf courses. They tend to resemble residential areas you may be familiar with back in the USA or Canada, rather than traditional Mexico, but those who live there will find most everything they need available close by.
If you’re looking to get away from it all, to have a place to escape the hustle and bustle of city living, then you may want to look to the north, in the state of Nayarit, in small towns such as Sayulita and San Francisco (most commonly known as San Pancho), or along the southern shore of the bay, toward Boca de Tomatlan. To the north, there are also options in La Cruz and at the point of Punta de Mita, as well as residential developments situated between these two popular villages. These towns offer some smaller condominium projects, mostly along the shoreline, with single-family residences located behind, in the streets of these small towns. Sayulita and San Pancho have more hillside behind them, so most homes have ocean views. Heading south from Conchas Chinas, one can find beachfront homes and condos, as well as exclusive developments built into the lush tropical hillside that offer luxury single-family living or, most recently, new condominium developments.
The highway cuts inland at Boca de Tomatlan, and for the most part, land farther south along the coast is not deeded and does not have road access. However, if you are really looking to get away from it all and experience Mexico, you may want to visit El Tuito. There are no condominium projects there, but there are single-family homes and residential lots at reasonable prices, a brand-new ecologically sound development and nearby access to some exceptional beaches.
Back inside the bay again, Bucerias was once the place to escape to as Vallarta transitioned into a large city and service center for Banderas Bay, but it, too, has seen quite a bit of growth and is now the second largest town around Banderas Bay. Real estate options are mostly single-family homes or small condominium developments. Bucerias offers easy access to the bay’s longest beach, and the golf courses of Flamingos and Nuevo Vallarta are just minutes away. And if you enjoy boating, there is the relatively new marina in La Cruz to moor your boat, also just minutes away.
The most upscale development is located on the northern point of the bay, called Punta Mita. It is built around two Jack Nicklaus golf courses and hosts a St. Regis and Four Seasons hotel. There are numerous surf breaks around the point, lovely beaches with beach clubs and a very large and well outfitted tennis club, as well. Living there is seriously out of Vallarta, and many homeowners rarely visit Vallarta, making it only as far as the airport when heading south. Both luxury homes and condominiums are available along the shoreline or golf course fairways.
The variety of real estate options is wonderful, in that there really is something for everyone; however, it can be a little overwhelming if you aren't sure exactly what it is you're looking for. Take a good look at the lifestyle you desire, and be sure to take into consideration what may be most desirable not just now, but perhaps in five to ten years. You may even decide to rent for a while in different locations, to really get a feel for what each neighborhood has to offer.