North Coast Vallarta: (map)
In the state of Nayarit. The North Coast of the Banderas Bay, stretching south to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (Wana kaxtlay); popularly referred to as just "La Cruz". You'll find long pristine beaches, shallow waters, and wide open spaces. A few larger resorts are in this area, but mainly you'll find small private beachside homes, and a couple of little peaceful villages.
Places to check out: Four Seasons Hotel and Golf Course, El Anclote beachside restaurants, and Villa Bella in La Cruz.
Getting there: You can easily take a Medina ATM bus from the Hotel Zone.
The windshields of the bus will state where they stop. Look for Punta de Mita on the bus window, or La Cruz (Many times written La and a "cross" symbol) if La Cruz is where you want to go.
In the state of Nayarit. A developing area growing by leaps and bounds. A favorite of snowbirds and people looking for something a little more remote, but still easily accessible to Puerto Vallarta. Many family run restaurants and Vista Vallarta, Hotel Palmeras, Mark's Restaurant, and the little shopping stands near the beach.
Getting there: Look for a bus that says Bucerias on the windshield.
Nuevo Vallarta: (map)
In the state of Nayarit. This zone is known for its gentle beaches, golf courses and giant resort complexes. Many of the resorts are All-Inclusive, catering to people who prefer to spend most of their vacation within the resort complex. Prices in the shopping areas and stores tend to be higher than in Puerto Vallarta proper.
Places to check out: Marival Grand & Suites, El Tigre Golf Course and the paved streets near the golf course perfect for jogging and rollerblading.
Getting there: Take a Nuevo Vallarta bus from the Hotel Zone heading north.
Marina Vallarta: (map)
In the state of Jalisco. The marina area is home to many grand turismo hotels, beautiful condos, with great shopping and restaurants. With over 400 private boat slips and marinas, this is the perfect destination for the yachting crowd and land-lubbers alike. The beaches are typically man made, but hotels without beaches have an alternative beach to use.
Places to check out: Stroll the marinas and check out the variety of sailing vessels docked, The Marriott Hotel and the Melia, shopping at Plaza Neptuno for delightful gifts and housewares.
Getting there: Take a Marina bus, clearly marked on the windshield.
North Hotel Zone: (map)
In the state of Jalisco. The Hotel Zone is host to primarily large resorts and beachfront accommodations. Not as new as Nuevo Vallarta, the Hotel Zone offers a wealth of activities, excellent shopping within close proximity to all other areas. The beaches here are a little rockier and the water is deeper than the north tip of the bay.
Places to check out: Wal-Mart and Sam's Club for food and necessities, Villa del Palmar hotels, Mexican Fiesta at the Krystal, and the variety of boat tours departing from the Maritime Terminal dock.
Getting there: Any bus marked Walmart or Sam's Club on the windshield, as well as Marina buses. Taxi cab rides from Hotel Zone to Centro (downtown) are under 50 pesos.
South Hotel Zone: (map)
In the state of Jalisco. Similar to the North Hotel Zone. Close proximity to shopping, activities and the downtown core. From most areas, you can enjoy a nice walk to downtown from the South Hotel Zone. From the Sheraton to the Malecon, a leisurely 15 minute walk. While the beaches are not as pristine as Nuevo Vallarta, they are a hub of activities, shopping and tanning.
Places to Check Out: Getaway Club, PVNET Cyber Cafe, Mega for groceries, the hundreds of shops, restaurants and bars lining the streets on the way to the Malecon.
Getting There: Any bus marked Centro will take you to the South Hotel
Zone, or a bus marked Centro will take you from your hotel to downtown and south of the Rio Cuale. Taxis are a mere 30 pesos for a trip to the Malecon.
Downtown or "Centro": (map)
In the state of Jalisco. Home of the Malecon, Los Arcos, the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Plaza de Armas. you'll find the widest range of shopping, dining and nightlife; truly the heart of the Bay. The Centro area is quite safe for a bustling city and easy to find your way around.
Places to Check Out: The list could go on and on, but a stroll down the Malecon is a must, especially on Sunday evenings when locals and visitors alike enjoy the many sights, sounds, and flavors as vendors sell their wares. The most nightlife within a short walk.
Getting There: Any bus marked Centro will take you to Park Hidalgo, just north of the Malecon, the street behind the Malecon, or just south of the Central Plaza and Los Arcos.