Puerto Vallarta is a popular resort city in the Bahia de Banderas on the Pacific coastal side of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Known as Vallarta or PV, it has expanded from a sleepy fishermen’s port to a larger city with a wide range of amenities and infrastructure that attracts tourists and expats alike.
Want to know what your life will be like here? Read on.
Is Puerto Vallarta a good place to live?
Yes, if you wish to escape the harsh winters of your own country, PV is ideal in this respect.
This location offers breathtaking vistas of world-class Pacific Ocean beaches and dramatic mountains.
There is an endless coastline with many inlets of beaches and boardwalks, which make this destination ideal if you enjoy the beach combined with walking and dramatic views.
Many hideaway beaches, small towns, and villages such as Charro and Bucerias can be accessed by boat. Other destinations include Nayarit, Punta Mita, and Sayulita on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta.
There are plenty of options to follow your hobbies, such as surfing, boating, yachting, golfing, and hiking. There is a large marina and golf course in Marina Vallarta.
You will find modern shopping malls such as Galeria and La Isla, and small shops and local markets. The same can be said for commercial restaurants and small family-run restaurants.
The city offers a contrast between the traditional atmosphere and the most modern amenities.
Claim to fame
For Hollywood fans, Puerta Vallarta has a special significance.
The film ‘The Night of the Iguana’ was filmed here, starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner, setting the pace for other Hollywood elite to follow.
Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was filmed in Mismaloya near Puerto Vallarta.
John Huston, the director, lived in Puerto Vallarta.
Actress Elizabeth Taylor and actor Richard Burton owned homes here. Their former home, known as Casa Kimberley, is now a boutique hotel in the city.
Is Puerto Vallarta safe?
Puerto Vallarta is considered to be one of the safest parts of Mexico to live in.
There is, of course, petty crime, especially during the tourist season, so it is important to be cautious and not have flashy jewelry, mobile phones, or wallets on display.
There have been reports of small incidences where someone is squirted with mustard and then offered to clean off the stain, distracting the individual so the wallet can be taken.
Skimming of bank cards is also known to be a problem, so when paying in restaurants, it is important not to lose sight of your card.
If you are buying/renting in Puerto Vallarta, it is vital to check that the real estate agent is part of the AMPI – the Mexican Association of Real Estate Agents meaning that real estate agents are trained and do the correct procedures legally.
Find more detail about purchasing or renting a home in Mexico in our guide on How To Avoid Pitfalls When Renting Or Buying Property In Mexico.
How much money do I need to live in Puerto Vallarta?
The cost of living is lower than that of the US, Canada, and Europe. It is a tourist spot but not as expensive as other tourist and expat hotspots, say, Cancun or Los Cabos in Baja California.
A monthly grocery bill could be around $300 USD. Internet costs around $50. Dining out is around $200—cell phone line rental is around $40. Gas and water bills are around $30.
Renting a 1-bedroom apartment – around $600 and a townhouse from $1500, renting an apartment in a new condominium block could be around $1000.
Property prices vary. A one-bedroomed apartment in a condominium could start at $140,000 USD.
Transport costs within Puerto Vallarta are low. A local journey by bus or taxi could be less than $10, and there are frequent services of local buses, and taxis are plentiful.
The pros and cons of living in Puerto Vallarta
Living in Puerto Vallarta comes with more positives than negatives, so let’s start with the good things.
The pros of living in Puerto Vallarta
1. All the amenities you need are here
Puerto Vallarta is a modern place with plenty of amenities, from shopping malls such as La Isla and Galeria to supermarkets with imported US goods and local products to small markets selling fruit and vegetables and other items.
You will find here Walmart, Cost-co, and many other well-known American and International brands.
Puerto Vallarta has good hospitals, clinics, emergency, and ambulance services.
You can find out more about healthcare in Mexico in our guide on Healthcare Options & Health Insurance For US Retirees In Mexico.
2. Good transport links
Puerto Vallarta is well connected with main highways running from the USA and from other parts of Central America.
Puerto Vallarta airport has flights to other parts of Mexico and internationally to and from the US, Canada, the UK, and other parts of Europe.
It’s an accessible city by land, sea, and air. All of this adds to the allure and growth of PV in recent years.
3. Day-to-day necessities are close by
The city is perfect for those that like to walk around on foot. Mostly everything is within walking distance or easily accessible with great bus and taxi transport within the city.
4. Great for beach lovers
There are numerous beaches within Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding areas, from downtown Playa Los Muertos in the old town or Zona Romantica to Playa Camarones.
There are also some remarkable hideaways here, such as Yelapa, a true tropical paradise you can only access by boat. It has restaurants and beach clubs and makes a fabulous destination for a day out.
Around 20 minutes by car from downtown Puerto Vallarta you will find another gem – Las Gemelas Beach, with amazing turquoise waters and a tranquil atmosphere.
5. Plenty of entertainment
Many expats have their own boat docked at the marina in the north of the town, so you can join them if you love boating or sailing.
There are always concerts or bands playing live on the beach, so you won’t be short of live music and an opportunity to dance.
The place is great for dining out, whether at the Malecon with a sea view or on the beach itself in Playa Los Muertos, or in other dining districts in Zona Romantica.
6. Thriving property market
The housing market is plentiful, varied, and modern. Housing options are numerous, whether renting or buying a property. Different types of property are available, from condominiums in gated communities to semi-rural surroundings and ocean/mountain views.
Property agents are bilingual, and many agents are expats from the US or Canada. Real Estate in Puerto Vallarta has boomed in the last 15 years, attracting not only international expats but also Mexicans.
7. Easy to make friends
It is one of the friendliest and safest cities in Mexico. It has a large and diverse expat community from richer expats to celebrities to retirees. Recently more digital nomads and younger expats have been moving in to set up homes and businesses.
8. Good internet connection
Good internet connectivity, including fiber-optic broadband. There are over twenty-five internet providers, which gives you a few options to choose from.
7. Good international schools
1. Tourist crowds
Puerto Vallarta is an established resort location. In the high season, especially when there is a huge volume of tourists and cruise ships stopping in Puerto Vallarta, it may not be an ideal location if you prefer peace and quiet.
2. The weather can be a bit extreme
It lies in a hurricane zone, and during the hurricane season, which runs from May to October, the area is prone to heavy rainstorms, occasional hurricanes, and sometimes earth tremors.
There is also high humidity between June and October – which some ex-pats may find hard to manage and experience and, as a result, would stay indoors as temperatures can be above 90F
3. Higher cost of living compared to some other locations
It may not be the cheapest area of Mexico to live in when compared to smaller towns, especially combining that with tourist costs applied to local shops and restaurants
Best areas to live in Puerto Vallarta
1. Old Vallarta
The oldest part of PV, known as Old Vallarta, or the Romantic Zone, has a bohemian and friendly feel. It’s known for bars, restaurants, cafes, and art galleries. Everything is conveniently located, with the beach within walking distance.
2. Downtown Vallarta
It is the heart of the city, which boasts its cultural heritage with many opportunities for shopping, bars, and restaurants.
3. Marina Vallarta
Marina Vallarta is situated on the seafront. It is an exclusive area and a great tourist attraction. It has many residential areas and a golf course that overlooks the Pacific beaches, as well as private schools and healthcare options.
The cruise ship port is also located in this area. This area attracts many expats who are yachting or boating enthusiasts.
4. Conchas Chinas
Conchas Chinas area is partly residential and partly consists of a hotel zone with luxury hotels and resorts. Most properties here have ocean views. Along with Marina Vallarta, it is considered to be one of the best exclusive areas to live in.
It has gyms, supermarkets, and self-service stores and borders the backdrop of the Sierra Madre mountains.
5. Nuevo Vallarta
Nuevo Vallarta is a new tourist destination with a similar configuration to Cancun, which is upcoming and modern. It is a resort destination situated just north of Puerto Vallarta on Banderas Bay. It boasts great golf courses, a marina, and a long, sandy Nuevo Vallarta beach.
6. Fluvial Vallarta
Fluvial Vallarta is a rapidly expanding area and has a lot of aspects of American culture, such as movie theatres and chain stores. Stores such as Walmart, Cost-co, and La Isla Shopping Centre. Houses in this area tend to be newer build houses and townhouses.
This area is family-friendly, quite upper-middle-class, and conveniently located halfway between Old Town Puerto Vallarta and Marina Vallarta.
7. Colonia 5 de Diciembre
Cinco de Diciembre is an authentic Mexican neighborhood. It attracts a lot of expats in both the rental and buying sector. The best thing about the area is that it’s close to the beach and 10 minutes away from the Malecon (main boardwalk).
8. The Hotel Zone
This area is all about hotels, resorts, and modern high-rise condo buildings. It runs along the main highway parallel to the beach.
Within the hotel zone, there are new condominium buildings, such as the new Portosanto Condominiums, that have modern luxury apartments to rent or buy with community facilities such as a sauna, gym, outdoor pool, and lounge area.
9. Areas around Puerto Vallarta
Coastal regions nearby to Puerto Vallarta are also becoming popular with expats. Twenty-seven miles south of Puerto Vallarta, you will find an exclusive peninsula known as Punta de Mita, which has attracted a lot of wealthy expats. Other regions of interest to expats are Bucerias and Sayulita.
Final thoughts on living in Puerto Vallarta
If you are planning to move to Mexico and still haven’t chosen the desired location, Puerto Vallarta should be on your list. It’s one of the best places for expats in Mexico if you are looking for beautiful beaches, good infrastructure and internet, various daily activities, good travel links and a dynamic and lively atmosphere.
Although it’s not a quiet place, Puerto Vallarta is very retiree-friendly. There’s plenty to do, all the amenities you need in retirement, and great expat and local communities to welcome you in.
Other popular locations in Mexico to consider:
- 9 Must-Knows For Living In Mazatlán, Mexico, As An Expat
- The Realities Of Living In The Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
- All About Living In Baja California Sur And La Paz As An Expat
- What’s It Really Like Living In Puerto Escondido, Mexico As An Expat
- Living In San Miguel De Allende As An Expat – What You Need To Know
You might find helpful:
- Living In Mexico As An Expat – a detailed relocation guide to Mexico: residency and paperwork, where to live, the costs, the pros and cons and how to settle down
- The Best Places To Live In Mexico For Expats – a detailed overview of the most popular expat locations in Mexico
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