Visit Puerto Vallarta | Getting the Most Out of Your Trip & Capturing The Charm of The Old Puerto Vallarta

Pebbled Streets & The Color of One of Mexico's Popular Destinations

This little vacation had been in the planning phase for a while. Revolving around the destination wedding of a dear friend. While that wedding was the reason why we were heading to Puerto Vallarta, exploration was the reason we were staying.

After doing some travel research and hearing the hubby go on and on about his trip to Puerto Vallarta many, many years ago, we extended our stay past our friend’s wedding. I wanted to see this pueblo magico that he described.

Let me explain that Puerto Vallarta is divided into several sections and each has its charm. To make the planning and life easier on myself, I narrowed it to a few, but there are many more areas left to explore.

The Marina

The wedding ceremony was in the Marina area. Instead of taking a chance and struggling back and forth with a baby we chose to be close by to our destination. I looked into small boutique hotels & B&B’s but none that offered what we needed. Traveling with a little one you have more needs. For us the location was important, we needed a store close by in case of anything and easy access to food.

Our little guy got his wish, that he must have sent me telepathically, Holiday Inn Express. As you know from previous posts, he loves the beds at Holiday Inn hotels. This location is not just great, its style was modern and the hotel is spotless. I think the best we’ve stayed in. The best part was breakfast, I can’t rave enough about it. The breakfast included chilaquiles and some of the best we had on this trip.

Right across the street was a colorful outdoor mall with a grocery store, and a pharmacy that we ended up needing and plenty of places to pick from to eat. One of our favorite tacos from this trip is right across the street. (Always the food)

Read about all the tacos in Puerto Vallarta


Not everything was expensive, we kept exploring and you do find small locals selling things and making food. It’s just not on the main touristy side, most of those you’ll find getting lost in the secluded hallways. If you’re like us, you’ll gravitate to those shaded areas to hide from the heat.

The best thing about this area? It’s minutes from the airport. So it was a great starting point for us. But it can also be a great last stop on your way out of Puerto Vallarta. This can be a morning or afternoon trip and you can see it all. Unless you’re there because you have a boat, then that’s the place for you.

Nuevo Vallarta

The wedding took place in Nuevo Vallarta, which is only a 20 min drive from where the Marina area. We choose not to stay there because of all the exploring we wanted to do. I like to be close by to get back to the hotel when we feel or need to. Even though we didn’t really experience Nuevo Vallarta besides the drive to the wedding, I can say it’s pretty. The beach looked great and it reminded me of Punta Cana a bit. More resort style, everything there and a bit hard to leave. Which is great if you just want to relax in the hotel. Maybe next time.

Romantic Zone

This area is known also as Zona Romantica or Colonia Emilio Zapata or sometimes Old Town. It’s confusing because everything I read is that this area is newer than the downtown or El Centro.

This area kept coming up in anything I read about Puerto Vallarta. So many things to see and many of the places the hubby wanted to eat were there too.

This is why this was our next location to stay. I picked a hotel based on photos and that was on the beach. We can usually accommodate anywhere, so an upgrade later we had a better stay. The area itself reminds me of an old town with a few sprinkles of tourism starting to disturb that old town feel. There are a ton of art galleries, I sure did try to see most of them. Several mercados, cute stores and plenty of good places to have a delicious taco. Hopefully, they keep the charm.

This area is very popular, so is the beach and everything around it. Most places we visited had lines or you had a lot of tourists right on top of each other. This is also a very active nightlife, but since our hotel room faces the beach we couldn’t hear it. We started our days early to avoid the heat and the crowds. This also meant our days ended early because we would have a very exhausted baby. This wasn’t a bad thing, the baby slept and hubby and I got to enjoy the sunset on our balcony every night.

El Centro

That name translates to the center or the downtown. This is between the Romantic Zone and the Hotel Zone. We didn’t switch hotels for this. We found it by exploring and getting lost in the pebbled streets of Puerto Vallarta.

We realized we left the Romantic Zone when the streets were quiet and only a few locals passed us on the street. That was actually nice to get a little down time to sightsee, without bumping into so many tourists. This allowed us to slow down and take in the colorful streets and capture the moments.

We didn’t get to really know this side since it was further from the hotel. From what we saw it’s worth spending time there. Especially in good walking shoes and a willingness to explore uphill. If I had to choose a place to return and stay it would be this area, especially the area around and behind the La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe or The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is where the true charm, or what is left of it is at.

Hotel Zone

After a few days of busy tourists, lots & lots of walking we were ready to get away to a quieter location. I also promised the hubby to slow down. He is a big relaxer, wanting pool and rest. I found a cute hotel on the beach and that also had all-inclusive. This made for an easy and relaxing time.

This area is more for shopping and family activities. Lots of restaurants, movie theater, all family places. But my boys were tired of all the exploring I made them do. To them, it was beach and pool time. Which I have to admit, the beach was better here than in the Romantic Zone.

With so many big hotels I thought I wouldn’t enjoy my time there. I was wrong. It was the most family hotel we stayed in on this trip. Our little one enjoyed it too. There was plenty for us all to do as a family in the hotel and the beach. The best part of our stay here was that on Cinco de Mayo, which I thought they didn’t celebrate, all the hotels had fireworks. One after another took their turn and painting the night sky with beautiful colors. It was a great way for us to end our trip, celebrate our anniversary and enjoy as a family. It was a perfect ending.


We enjoyed our family vacation and we were successful at recharging, both spiritually and creatively. This is how we travel, exploring and summering in the country to the point of exhaustion and then we enjoy our downtime.

It wasn’t as quaint as the hubby described it, but the way he remembered it, was a long time ago. I hope Puerto Vallarta holds on to as much charm as they have left, it doesn’t need modernization in a place that can be so magical. If Elizabeth Taylor fell in love with the pueblo feel that was Puerto Vallarta, (enough to buy a home), we can too.

What are your recommendations for PV? Inspire me!

Leslie M. Guzmán is a Guatemalan artist best known for her creative explorations of world cultures. Her works capture the untold stories of people, objects and the places from which they come.

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