Where to Stay in Acapulco

Mexico Acapulco › Best Places to Stay
Updated: March 15, 2022

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Best Areas to Stay in Acapulco

Synonymous with beachside hedonism, Acapulco has been a household name since the 1950s. During its heyday, Mexico’s original party town attracted Hollywood glitterati, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor, and for decades it was the most popular beach vacation spot south of the border for American travelers. While its popularity has waned somewhat in comparison to that of rival resorts of Cancun, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, its beaches are second to none. Besides the city’s most celebrated spectacle of daredevil cliff divers of La Quebrada, as well as boat cruises, assorted water sports, and fishing aside, unexpected surprises await the visitor, such as an ancient petroglyph site high above the city. Acapulco also boasts the most dramatic topography of all of Mexico’s beach towns: wide bays and hidden coves sheltered by soaring cliffs, winding coastal roads with gorgeous views around every bend, and high-rise hotels looming against a backdrop of jungle-green hills.

Acapulco is a spread-out city, stretching around the Bahía de Acapulco (Acapulco Bay) from the Acapulco Tradicional (a.k.a. Old Acapulco or the centro histórico) in the north to Diamante, a string of beaches south of the bay. The two are linked by Acapulco’s 7-mile-long principal bayside avenue, Avenida Costera Miguel Alemán (‘La Costera’) that hugs the coastline. At the south end of the bay, Avenida Costera becomes Carretera Escénica and winds its way up the Brisas del Marqués headland, and then down toward Puerto Marqués, Diamante, and the airport.

Acapulco Tradicional is the oldest part of the city. It encompasses the compact historic heart with its narrow streets, centered on the centuries-old Plaza Álvarez and dominated by the cathedral as well as the busy port, several small beaches, and most of Acapulco’s historic attractions. It’s also where you find La Quebrada, where the spectacle of the famous cliff divers takes place.

Just south of Old Acapulco is the peninsula of Las Playas, a hilly, quiet, largely residential neighborhood with leafy, winding streets. There’s a couple of popular beaches on the peninsula’s south side and Las Playas is easily walkable to Acapulco Tradicional.

Some 7 miles northwest of Acapulco Tradicional is Pie de la Cuesta, consisting of a long, narrow strip of land that separates Acapulco Bay from the Laguna de Coyuca which is rich in birdlife. Though not a part of the city, it’s a popular weekend getaway for Acapulco residents, with numerous inexpensive guesthouses and seafood restaurants.

Acapulco Tradicional is also the beginning of La Costera, the busy avenue that circles the bay. Playa Hornos, just east of Acapulco Tradicional, marks the beginning of the Zona Dorada – a long string of beaches fronted by midrange oceanfront hotels that’s popular with tourists. The best of the beaches is Playa Icacos, halfway along the bay, and that’s where you’ll find the densest concentration of restaurants and nightclubs.

Beyond the naval base at the eastern end of Playa Icacos, the coastal highway makes its way up the Brisas del Marqués headland, home of one of Acapulco’s best restaurants as well as several high-end hotels and luxury villas dotting the greenery-clad cliffs. A short drive beyond and overlooking the sheltered Marqués Bay is Puerto Marqués, a small, chilled-out settlement boasting some wallet-friendly seafood restaurants and a decent sandy beach, flanked by more secluded sandy coves.

Southeast of Puerto Marqués is the spread-out, exclusive neighborhood of Diamante, home to Acapulco’s best luxury hotels, golf courses, spas, condominiums, and private villas, all stretching along a 3-mile long strip of white sand.

The southeast end of Diamante meets Acapulco’s international airport, beyond which lies Barra Vieja. Technically, it’s part of Acapulco proper, but this low-key community is very close to the city and is a popular getaway for foreign visitors and Acapulco residents alike. The seafront boulevard, dotted with a few wallet-friendly beach hotels, runs alongside several sandy beaches before culminating in the seaside village.

Best Places to Stay in Acapulco

Best Areas in Acapulco for…

  • Best Neighborhoods in Acapulco for Sightseeing: Acapulco Tradicional, Pie de la Cuesta
    Most of Acapulco’s attractions are conveniently located in Acapulco Tradicional, the historic center. The city’s biggest attraction are the fearless clavidistas (cliff divers) who perform daredevil dives into churning ocean waters twice daily off the La Quebrada cliffs. Apart from that, there is the historic San Diego fort, with the excellent Museum of Acapulco History inside, and another museum dedicated to masks used in traditional festivals across Mexico. Located away from Acapulco’s tourist neighborhoods but well worth seeking out if you’re a history buff is the Palma Sola ceremonial and pilgrimage site dating back to 450 BC, with some wonderfully preserved petroglyphs. Finally, if you’re more into nature, then Pie de la Cuesta is home to the large freshwater Coyuca lagoon, complete with the Isla Pájaros bird sanctuary.
  • Best Neighborhood in Acapulco for Nightlife: Zona Dorada
    Acapulco’s nightclubs and bars, popular with a younger crowd, are concentrated in the central part of the Zona Dorada, particularly along the Playa El Morro and Playa Condesa, and with a few more lining the Costera a couple of blocks north of Playa Icacos. There are also a couple of popular nightclubs off the Costera, past the naval base, on the way to Brisas del Marqués. All luxury hotels in Brisas del Marqués and Diamante tend to have bars onsite, and if you’re looking for a cold beer by the beach, the palapas (thatched beachside restaurants) in Pie de la Cuesta and Barra Vieja are perfect for just that.
  • Best Neighborhoods in Acapulco for Food and Restaurants: Zona Dorada, Brisas del Marqués/Puerto Marqués, Diamante
    You’re not going to go hungry in Acapulco. Zona Dorada is densely packed with places to eat, particularly along La Costera just north of Playa Icacos. Some of the top wallet-friendly and midrange restaurants showcasing local flavors include Chile, Maíz y Frijol, El Cabrito (where the specialty is roast baby goat), Sabor Guerrero, and Restaurante Terra Luna. Brisas del Marqués is home to some of Acapulco’s best fine dining – both Zibu and Sirocco combine fusion cuisine with stellar cliff views, while Puerto Marqués is home to numerous low-key seafood joints that line the beach. Diamante features numerous, generally midrange restaurants that serve a mix of Mexican and international dishes and cater mostly to an international crowd. Standouts include Paititi del Mar (seafood), La Casa de la Pasta (Italian), La Finca Acapulco (traditional Mexican), and Mizumi (Japanese-style fine dining).
  • Best Neighborhood in Acapulco for Families: Zona Dorada, Diamante
    The best hotels for a beach vacation with kids with facilities such as multiple pools, kids’ clubs, and several water sports are spread out along the beaches of Diamante. There are several midrange and high-end all-inclusive hotels catering to families in the Zona Dorada as well, but depending on the location, there may be some noise from nearby nightclubs. Diamante is a more tranquil neighborhood. Active families on a budget may consider the midrange and budget hotels in Las Playas – a tranquil neighborhood, with 2 excellent beaches within easy walking distance, as well as all the attractions in Acapulco Tradicional.
  • Best Neighborhood in Acapulco to Stay for First Timer: Acapulco Tradicional, Zona Dorada, Diamante
    For a first visit to the city, Acapulco Tradicional is hard to beat, because not only is it home to the famous cliff divers, but also because all of its attractions are reachable on foot. However, if you’re looking to split your time between beaches and historic attractions and if you’re after more upmarket accommodation than most of the offerings in Acapulco Tradicional, then the Zona Dorada is a good bet. If what you’re looking for is primarily a beach vacation, then base yourself in Diamante, where Acapulco’s best beaches are located. Diamante is farther from the historic attractions of Acapulco Tradicional, but still very doable as a day trip.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood in Acapulco: Brisas del Marqués/Puerto Marqués, Diamante
    For a romantic vacation, it’s hard to beat the intimate luxury and design hotels set high up on the green hillsides of Brisas del Marqués. Fantastic ocean views and intimate seclusion are the big draws here; on the downside, Brisas del Marqués feels rather cut off from the rest of Acapulco. Diamante may lack the atmosphere and relatively remote setting of Brisas del Marqués, but it makes up for it in spades in pure luxury; some of Acapulco’s best high-end hotels are located here. So if you’re looking to really pamper your other half, Diamante is also a good bet.
  • Best Neighborhood in Acapulco for a Local Vibe: Acapulco Tradicional, Barra Vieja, Pie de la Cuesta
    With the exception of La Quebrada cliffs that attract tourists staying in all parts of the city, Acapulco Tradicional is refreshingly untouristy. Its streets are worth a wander and its historic plaza is good for people-watching. The seaside village of Barra Vieja is popular with Acapulco residents and local surfers and has a relaxed, low-key vibe. North of the city, Pie de la Cuesta is another rustic beach community. While on weekends it bustles with Acapulqueños, during the week, it’s a serene place to be; you can hang out with local fishermen or go birdwatching on the vast freshwater lagoon.
  • Safest Areas of Acapulco
    While Acapulco has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to crime, all neighborhoods popular with tourists such as Acapulco Tradicional, Zona Dorada, Brisas del Marqués, Diamante, etc, are safe to walk around, particularly during the daytime. After dark, it’s a good idea to take a taxi to your hotel in Las Playas and generally avoid walking anywhere where there are few people. Standard precautions apply at all times: don’t flash or carry lots of cash, expensive jewelry, or electronic gear, and avoid deserted, poorly-lit streets at night; take a taxi back to your hotel if you’re not within easy walking distance and the streets are deserted. Also, watch out for opportunistic pickpocketing and bag snatching in crowded areas and if using public transport along the Costera.
  • Unsafe Areas of Acapulco
    Visitors are advised to stick to the tourist-friendly neighborhoods along the coast and avoid the residential areas higher uphill. One exception is the archaeological site of Palma Sola, right at the top of the city, which is fine to visit during daytime (but ask your taxi driver to wait).

The Best Neighborhoods in Acapulco for Tourists

1. Acapulco Tradicional/Old Acapulco

One of the most walkable parts of the city, Acapulco Tradicional is a compact grid of narrow streets up from the port area, with the Plaza Álvarez – the city’s main square – at its heart. The square itself is missable, but the La Quebrada cliffs are a must-see. Every evening, Acapulco’s famous cliff divers perform their death-defying dives with lit torches. If you’re a fan of Diego Rivera’s art, check out the Casa de Los Vientos on Calle Inalámbrica 8, where you’ll find the artist’s last works in the form of murals outside the villa. Directly above the port is the Fuerte de San Diego, a historic fort featuring the excellent museum devoted to the history of the city, while near the fort there’s another excellent museum dedicated to Mexican ceremonial masks. The only cultural sight that’s not located in Old Acapulco is the archaeological site of Palma Sola. Some boat tours depart from the malecón (waterfront promenade) near the main square. The dining scene here is local and low-key, and accommodations comprise a few budget guesthouses and hotels.

2. Las Playas

All winding, hilly streets on a peninsula just south of Acapulco Tradicional, Las Playas is short on attractions and big on peace and quiet. On the south side of the peninsula are two attractive, sandy beaches, Playa Calatilla and Playa Caleta, popular with locals. Local dining is limited to a handful of restaurants clustered near the beaches, serving a mix of traditional Mexican dishes and seafood, and there are numerous, mostly budget hotels scattered around this residential neighborhood near the two beaches.

3. Costera/Zona Dorada

Stretching along La Costera – the principal avenue that spans the length of Acapulco Bay – is the Zona Dorada, a popular neighborhood for vacationers. The main attraction here is the string of sandy beaches that runs all the way from the ferry port in Acapulco Tradicional to the cliffs of the Brisas del Marqués. From west to east, Playa Tamarindos and Playa Hornos feature a couple of good, casual seafood restaurants, as does Playa El Morro further along. Next up, the sandy crescent of Playa Condesa is quiet and sheltered, while the easternmost beach, Playa Icacos, bustles with holidaymakers from the oceanfront hotels that line its long, white-sand curve. Taxis along La Costera are plentiful, and if you want to try a truly local experience, the public buses plying its length turn into discos on wheels after dark.

4. Brisas del Marqués/Puerto Marqués

South of the naval base that marks the end of the Zona Dorada begin the cliffs of the Brisas del Marqués headland, the most scenic and dramatic part of the city. Intimate high-end hotels and luxury villas peek out from the dense greenery high above the ocean. Southwest of the cliffs, the coastal highway descends to Puerto Marqués, a fishing village overlooking the sheltered Marqués Bay. There’s a handful of low-key hotels here, a scattering of seafood restaurants and 2 lovely coves – Playa Majahua and Playa Hermosa, both just south of the village’s main beach.

5. Diamante

Between Puerto Marqués and Acapulco’s international airport, spread-out Diamante is the city’s most exclusive neighborhood. The 3-mile white-sand beach is arguably Acapulco’s loveliest, and apart from the convenience of being close to the airport, there are all sorts of other creature comforts here: spas, golf courses, and the lion’s share of the city’s luxury hotels. You need to hire a car to get around.

6. Barra Vieja

Past the international airport and stretching south for several miles from the Tres Vidas Golf Club, culminating in the small, eponymous fishing village, Barra Vieja lies just beyond the official Acapulco boundaries. The long seafront promenade and beach is lined with inexpensive, casual seafood restaurants, where you can dig your toes in the sand and watch local surfers hit the waves. There are just a couple of budget hotels and a couple of boutique hotels in the village proper, and you really need your own wheels to get out here.

7. Pie de la Cuesta

Technically not part of Acapulco proper either, but located just 7 miles’ drive northwest of Acapulco Tradicional, Pie de la Cuesta is a rustic beach suburb built on a thin strip of land between the Pacific and the freshwater Laguna de Coyuca. The sunsets and sunrises here are particularly impressive. There’s a handful of oceanfront budget hotels there, as well as numerous palapas (rustic seafood restaurants) overlooking the sea. Nature lovers can take a boat tour on the lagoon to Isla Pájaros, a bird sanctuary, while active travelers can ride horses along the surf.

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Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Mexico Puerto Vallarta › Best Places to Stay
Updated: March 14, 2022

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Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Stretching for miles along the Bahía de Banderas and surrounded by mountains covered in lush greenery, Puerto Vallarta (or just ‘Vallarta’ to locals) is one of Mexico’s most vibrant beach destinations along the Pacific coast. Vallarta’s been attracting tourists since the 60s, when Hollywood royalty starred in Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana at a nearby cove. Today, millions of vacationers come every year to sun themselves on the string of attractive white-sand beaches, take in the fantastic dining scene, peruse the local art in quirky galleries and stores, and to wander the attractive malecón (beach promenade) and the cobbled streets of the historic center. More active travelers seek out adventure activities such as boat trips, horseback rides, scuba diving, and day trips to the interior. When the sun goes down, the pumping nightlife reminds you why Vallarta is the LGBT capital of Mexico. While Vallarta is rather spread out, the proliferation of local transport and taxis makes it easy to get around, and the central neighborhoods are very walkable.

Puerto Vallarta stretches for around 10 miles along the coast, from the international airport in the north to hilly Amapas at the very south of the town. In the southern part of the city, El Centro is Vallarta’s historic heart, consisting of a compact grid of narrow streets and centuries-old plazas, with colorful architecture and some hilly cobbled lanes. It’s fringed by the malecón (waterfront promenade) and is known for its waterfront bars and restaurants, art galleries, and craft markets, and is extremely popular with visitors.

Just south of El Centro, across the Rio Cuale is the Zona Romántica, another historic neighborhood with cobbled streets and traditional shops. The streets closest to the beach have a hipster vibe about them and are dotted with craft beer breweries, bars, and restaurants, while the streets east of Calle Insurgentes have a more local feel to them. Zona Romántica is home to the Playa Los Muertos, one of Vallarta’s most popular beaches, lined with (mostly) midrange hotels, and the bustling nightlife makes this neighborhood a favourite with LGBT travelers.

South of the Zona Romántica and overlooking the southern end of Playa Los Muertos, Vallarta becomes a narrow squiggle of quiet, hilly streets known as Amapas, peppered with luxury villas and a handful of decent hotels. Even farther south is Conchas Chinas, a spread-out, affluent residential neighborhood with villas high up on the hillside.

In the northern half of the city, stretching between the north end of the malecón in El Centro and the sporting complex at the southern end of the Zona Hotelera, the largely residential neighborhood of 5 de Diciembre is quieter than Centro or the Zona Romántica, but easily walkable to the former and a short hop on a bus from the latter. It features the same Old-World architecture as Centro as well as some of the best taco stands in Vallarta, great bars and restaurants, and quality craft stores.

The Zona Hotelera is a rather spread-out neighborhood that straddles both banks of the River Pitillal and consists of a long stretch of beach dotted with hotels, many of them all-inclusive. At the name suggests, this is a popular part of town for visitors. There are a handful of restaurants here, but the dining scene is otherwise limited to hotel dining.

Near the international airport at the very north of the city and just north of the Zona Hotelera is the Marina Vallarta – one of Vallarta’s most upscale neighborhoods that encircles the yacht marina. It’s the newest part of the city, with a brand new cruise ship terminal, plenty of luxury accommodations, and an international dining scene.

Farther north, beyond the airport, Nuevo Vallarta is home to Vallarta’s second cruise ship terminal, a clean yacht marina that attracts wildlife, 2 golf courses, and a mix of beachfront hotels and luxury condos.

Best Places to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Best Areas in Puerto Vallarta for…

  • Best Neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta for Sightseeing/Activities: El Centro, Zona Romántica, Zona Hotelera, Marina Vallarta
    Puerto Vallarta is not huge on sights, though its landmark Nuestra Señora de Guadelupe church in El Centro is worth a look, and if you’re interested in regional history, it’s worth checking out the Museo del Cuale. El Centro’s most popular sight is the malecón, the renovated, pedestrianized waterfront promenade compete with sculptures; at the north end, you’re likely to catch a daily performance by some Voladores de Papantla (“Aztec bungee jumping” probably describes it best!). Vallarta is mostly known for its beaches and outdoor pursuits – world-class golfing in Marina Vallarta, deep-sea fishing (arranged dockside in Marina Vallarta or through hotels and agencies), plus all manner of watersports (snorkeling, whale-watching, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, waterskiing, windsurfing, sailing, and parasailing) that you can arrange on the beach in the Zona Hotelera or Zona Romántica or through your hotel. Finally, the Zona Romántica pier is the departure point for popular cruises (daytime, sunset, and evening), the most popular going to Yelapa and Las Ánimas beaches, or else Islas Marietas); some are family-oriented, whereas others are adults-only and include bottomless cocktails in the price.
  • Best Neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta for Nightlife: Zona Romántica, El Centro, Marina Vallarta
    Vallarta’s Zona Romántica is internationally renowned for its nightlife and its LGBT+ nightclubs and bars in particular that attract a young crowd of locals and visitors alike. Aside from clubbing, this is also the part of town where you’ll find Vallarta’s excellent craft beer breweries and brewpubs such as Los Muertos Brewing and Panchöfurter. In El Centro, there’s a string of bars either overlooking or near the malecón, ranging from sports bars (The Redneck Sombrero, Murphy’s Irish Pub) to bona fide cocktail bars (El Colibiri) and even dedicated mezcalerias (bars specializing in mezcal) such as Bar Morelos. Finally, the Marina Vallarta has a handful of cocktail and sports bars overlooking the marina, popular with international yachties and well-heeled locals.
  • Best Neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta for Food and Restaurants: El Centro, 5 de Diciembre, Zona Hotelera, Marina Vallarta, Zona Romántica
    You’re likely to eat well wherever you stay in Vallarta. In the north of the city, Marina Vallarta boasts an international dining scene with standout options including Sonora Prime and Portobello. While the Zona Hotelera’s dining scene is largely limited to hotel restaurants, there are 2 Michelin-starred restaurants in the neighborhood as well: La Leche and Icu. Just north of Vallarta’s center, 5 de Diciembre particularly stands out for its legendary taco stands (Pepe’s Taco, El Carboncito, Mariscos La Tia) and mid-range traditional restaurants (La Traviata, Meño’s Place). El Centro has a good mix of speciality coffee shops (Puerto Café), hole-in-the-wall taco joints (El Banquito) and a wide range of Mexican and international cafes and restaurants in all budget ranges: Café des Artistes, Chez Elena, and Planeta Vegetariano are all excellent choices. Finally, the Zona Romántica has probably the most diverse dining in Vallarta, ranging from independent coffee shops (A Page in the Sun) and locally famous taco stands that each do one or two things really, really well (Pancho’s Takos, Tacos de Birria Chanfay, Marisma Fish Taco) to traditional Mexican restaurants (Mole de Jovita, Red Cabbage Café) and international joints (La Palapa, Joe Jack’s Fish Shack).
  • Best Neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta for Families: Zona Hotelera, El Centro, Zona Romántica, Marina Vallarta
    If you’re looking for a beach holiday with all the conveniences and facilities of an upmarket or midrange, all-inclusive, family-friendly oceanfront hotel with a choice of water sports, then the accommodations of the Zona Hotelera overlooking either the Playa del Oro or Playa del Holi are a good bet. The high-end beach hotels of Marina Vallarta are another good option. Zona Romántica also makes a good base if you have older kids and enjoy exploring on foot; a number of family-friendly hotels sit right on the excellent Playa de Los Muertos, which is also the jumping-off point for a variety of boat trips. Finally, El Centro is good for travelers on a budget and the waterfront promenade with its street performers and sculptures is popular with families.
  • Best Neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta to Stay for First Timer: El Centro, Zona Romántica
    We recommend either El Centro or the Zona Romántica. The former is the most atmospheric part of Vallarta and very walkable, with an excellent mix of dining, quality shopping, an attractive waterfront promenade and a super-central location. The Zona Romántica is also part of Vallarta’s historical center and makes up for what it lacks in atmosphere with an excellent beach, several watersports, a thriving nightlife scene, and a diverse dining scene. And since the 2 neighborhoods are next door to each other, you can easily stay in one and visit the attractions of the other on foot.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta: El Centro, Amapas
    Its name notwithstanding, the Zona Romántica is actually not Vallarta’s most romantic neighborhood (though it does retain some of its historic cobbled streets and is a popular part of the city with vacationing couples). El Centro is much more atmospheric, with its narrow cobbled streets, leafy plaza overlooked by a landmark church, handsome colonial buildings, and a sensitively revamped waterfront promenade that’s subtly lit in the evenings. Some of the city’s best boutique hotels occupy the houses and mansions that are drowning in greenery on the hilly streets several blocks inland from the malecón, though if you’re after greater luxury and even loftier views, then Amapas is a better bet. The upside (or downside) is that Amapas is much more secluded.
  • Best Neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta for a Local Vibe: 5 de Diciembre
    Just north of El Centro, easily walkable, and well-connected to Vallarta’s areas of interest by public transport, 5 de Diciembre has a low-key, bohemian vibe. It’s quieter than the historic center but still boasts a clutch of good, low-key bars and restaurants, and its tight grid of streets is lined with colorful, one-story buildings. The taco stands here are among the best in the city, but accommodations are limited to several inexpensive beachfront hotels and a handful of family-run guesthouses.
  • Best Neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta for Shopping: El Centro, Zona Romántica
    Mexico produces an astounding range of regional handicrafts, from exquisite ceramics and vibrant artwork to intricate jewelry and fine textiles, and in Puerto Vallarta you’ll see a lot of psychedelic Huichol beadwork and yarn art of varying quality, as well as arts and crafts from farther afield. El Centro has around a dozen galleries where you can buy high-quality art; standouts include Galeria Colectika (psychedelic Huichol beadwork and yarn art), metalwork from Chiapas and ceramics from Oaxaca and Chihuahua, Galeria de Ollas (one-of-a-kind ceramics from Mata Ortiz in Chihuahua), Peyote People (Huichol beadwork, silver jewelry, Day of the Dead figurines, and Oaxacan wood carvings), and Caballito de Mar (hand-woven textiles from Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Chihuahua, hand-painted folk art masks, Oaxacan black clay ceramics, silver jewelry). In the Zona Romántica, look out for Tierra Huichol (Huichol beadwork of superb quality, plus skeletal figures from Michoacán), Mundo de Azulejos (locally-produced, colorful Talavera tilework), and the Manyana lifestyle store (Mexican-made ceramics, stylish linen wear, funky glasses, Mollusc Hemp t-shirts). If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs such as mass-produced crafts and spring break T-shirts with cheesy slogans, head for the Mercado Isla Río Cuale on an island in the river that separates El Centro from the Zona Romántica.
  • Safest Areas of Puerto Vallarta
    Puerto Vallarta has a low crime rate and all neighborhoods popular with tourists such as El Centro, Zona Romántica, Dorada, Olas Altas, Playa Norte, Sábalo, etc, tend to be fine to walk around. Zona Hotelera and Marina Vallarta are safe, particularly during the day. Standard precautions apply: don’t flash lots of cash, expensive jewelry, or electronic gear, and avoid deserted, poorly-lit streets at night; take a taxi back to your hotel if you’re not within easy walking distance and the streets are deserted. Also, watch out for opportunistic pickpocketing in crowded areas.
  • Unsafe Areas of Puerto Vallarta
    There are no specific neighborhoods in Vallarta that visitors are told to actively avoid.

The Best Neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta for Tourists

1. El Centro

Stretching from the Rio Cuale in the south to the northern end of the palm tree-dotted malecón (oceanfront walk), El Centro is Vallarta’s downtown – a busy, relatively compact, walkable neighborhood where you’ll find everything from a diverse clutch of restaurants to art galleries, shops, nightclubs, and the historic plaza with a landmark church. The further you get from the sea, the hillier the streets get, with the profusion of vegetation hiding intimate boutique hotels and high-end restaurants. Refurbished and beautified in recent years, the malecón features contemporary sculptures, creations made of sand, street musicians, and other performers. Towards the north end, the Voladores de Papantla perform a breathtaking spectacle involving a very tall pole and costumed dancers launching themselves from the top, precariously attached with a rope tied to one foot. If you’re in search of Mexican arts and crafts of superb quality, El Centro has the lion’s share of galleries and shops, and during high season, the galleries put on a free weekly Art Walk. Cheaper souvenirs are found at the big market next to the Rio Cuale, as well as on the island market in the river. El Centro is quite a busy, noisy neighborhood that attracts both younger locals and visitors with its nightlife, but there are quieter pockets with inexpensive accommodations that appeal to families who enjoy being close to the action.

2. Zona Romántica

Bordered by the Rio Cuale to the north and east, and the cliffs of Amapas to the south, the Zona Romántica is one of Vallarta’s most popular neighborhoods for visitors and justifiably so. It’s part of the historic center, so you get some cobbled street charm alongside two great beaches (Olas Altas and Los Muertos), a thriving night scene year-round (since the Zona Romántica is popular with locals and expats as well as spring breakers and LGBT visitors), a varied dining scene, and accommodations to suit all budgets. The sail-shaped Los Muertos pier is the departure point for all manner of boat cruises and the beachfront hotels offer several water sports. The western half of the neighborhood is trendy and dotted with boutiques, art galleries, craft beer bars, and clubs, whereas the blocks between Hwy 200 and the Rio Cuale are much more of a local scene with bustling produce markets, locally famous taco stands, and busy local businesses.

3. Amapas & Conchas Chinas

Just south of the Zona Romántica, Vallarta tapers to a point and the Playa de Los Muertos gives way to jungle-covered cliffs and quiet, affluent, mostly residential neighborhoods of Amapas and, farther south, Conchas Chinas. Amapas is a mix of beachfront and hillside villas, and several beachfront hotels – all within an easy (if hilly) stroll from the attractions of the Zona Romántica. Conchas Chinas, dubbed the “Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta” is even more exclusive; accommodations here tend to be luxury villas for rent, plus several luxury hotels, with fantastic views of the coast from their lofty heights. South of Conchas Chinas, a string of hotels and villas dots the coast for miles, right up to the Playa Mismaloya, the beach and fishing village which featured in the movie The Night of the Iguana that originally put Vallarta on the map.

4. 5 De Diciembre

A compact grid of streets hemmed in between the Playa Camarones and the busy Av. Libramiento thoroughfare, the neighborhood of 5 de Diciembre sits between El Centro and the Zona Hotelera. This up-and-coming neighborhood has a bohemian vibe to it and comprises Vallarta’s famous Old-World architecture – narrow cobbled streets and brightly painted one and two-story houses, and the hillier parts of 5 de Diciembre offer fantastic views of the coast. It’s quieter and less touristy than El Centro and the Zona Romántica, yet still close enough on foot to enjoy the best that the historical center has to offer. There’s a decent beach here, as well as terrific street food and a lively fish market with food stalls. The handful of accommodations comprises several midrange beach hotels as well as intimate AirBnb options.

5. Zona Hotelera

Stretching along five golden sand beaches between 5 de Diciembre and the Marina Vallarta, the Zona Hotelera is a spread-out neighborhood with the lion’s share of beach hotels in Vallarta. Created in the mid-20th century in order to attract beach tourism to Vallarta while preserving the colonial architecture of the historic center, the hotels and condos of the Zona Hotelera offer fantasic views over Banderas Bay. Superb beaches and water sports aside, the Zona Hotelera also features two of Vallarta’s Michelin-starred restaurants, though on the whole, much of the neighborhood dining scene is limited to hotel restaurants.

6. Nuevo Vallarta & Marina Vallarta

At the very north of the city, and just south of to the international airport, Marina Vallarta is one of the city’s fanciest neighborhoods. Besides the cruise ship terminal and a large yacht marina, there’s a state-of-the-art 18-hole golf course, two excellent beaches, high-end beach hotels, and a slew of international restaurants and bars. North of the airport, Nuevo Vallarta is the city’s fastest-growing neighborhood popular with well-heeled expats. There’s another cruise ship terminal here, 2 world-class golf courses, luxury condos, a clutch of midrange beach hotels, and arguably Mexico’s cleanest marina, where you can spot wildlife like pelicans, herons, and the occasional crocodile. Water sports are a big attraction in Nuevo Vallarta, with scuba diving, paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking, and kite surfing instruction and equipment available. The downside is that Nuevo Vallarta is quite far from the historic center and Vallarta’s cultural attractions; while Marina Vallarta is well-served by public transport, for Nuevo Vallarta you need your own wheels.

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Tulum Hotel Reviews

MexicoTulum › Hotel Reviews
Updated: March 10, 2022

All Tulum Hotel Reviews

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Where to Stay in Cabo & Baja

MexicoLos Cabos › Best Places to Stay
Updated: February 23, 2022

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Staying in Los Cabos & Baja California – Tips & Info

  • Stretching east for 20 miles from Cabo San Lucas to San José del Cabo, the Los Cabos Corridor is a stretch of coastline that’s still spectacular in places, though much of it has now been built up with all-inclusive resorts and golf courses.
  • At the east end of the Los Cabos Corridor, San José de Cabo is Cabo San Lucas’ quieter, classier twin, with an attractive historic center, fantastic dining scene, and some excellent hotels lining the white-sand beaches of the Zona Hotelera.
  • Instead of heading back north along the Carretera Transpeninsular that cuts through the heart of Baja Sur, take the quieter coastal road north instead. It’s some 60 miles from San José del Cabo to Cabo Pulmo, a tiny village that’s the gateway to the world-class marine park of the same name. The scuba diving and snorkeling is the best in Baja.
  • Northwest of Cabo Pulmo, the coastal road rejoins the Carretera Transpeninsular and passes through the appealing little town of Los Barriles, some 65 miles south of La Paz. It’s one of Baja Sur’s top spots for windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Best Places to Stay in Baja California

    Framed by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortéz, and dotted with cordon cacti and boojum trees, the southern tip of Baja California is a place of considerable natural beauty. Arid landscapes aside, it’s been well and truly discovered by winter sun seekers, water sports enthusiasts, and spring breakers: Cabo San Lucas is renowned throughout Mexico for its spring break but sports fishing, scuba diving, and wind surfing off Baja’s southern shores is also world-class. Add some spectacular white-sand beaches, old-world colonial towns, breezy fishing villages, popular resorts, and a generous collection of hotels to suit every budget, and it’s easy to see why Baja California Sur is an all-round superb destination.

    If you’re driving south from California via the Carretera Transpeninsular – the scenic highway that stretches the length of Baja – you will invariably pass through La Paz, the largest town in Baja Sur. A former colonial settlement with a beautiful historic center, waterfront malecón, and some excellent bars and restaurants, it warrants more than just a pit stop to fill up on gas. It makes a good base for visiting attractions in the surrounding area, too.

    Facing Isla Ceralvo, a short detour southeast of La Paz along Route 286, La Ventana is a one-street village that draws kitesurfers from around the world between November and March with its steady winds. Other draws include scuba diving and wildlife watching.

    If you drive the clockwise loop south of La Paz along the Carretera Transpeninsular, the first place you reach along the west coast is Todos Santos, Baja Sur’s most picturesque little town, some 50 miles farther south. Its cobblestone streets are dotted with galleries, good restaurants, and appealing adobe architecture, while the beaches and the surf breaks appeal to outdoor enthusiasts.

    Continue south along the Carretera Transpeninsular for another 47 miles and you’ll get to Baja Sur’s premier party town, Cabo San Lucas. Here you can party all night at the raucous bars and clubs, hop on a cruise to the arching stone cliffs at Land’s End, sun yourself on one of the white-sand beaches, or partake in a huge array of water sports: banana boating, parasailing, and diving. Just up the corridor is the hip and trendy town of San José del Cabo.

Best Places to Stay in Cabo & Baja

Best beach resort near Cabo San Lucas.
The fantastic Esperanza Hotel near Cabo San Lucas.

What are the Best Areas to Stay in Baja California?

Best Places in Baja California for Sightseeing: Todos Santos, San José del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz
Let’s face it: few visitors come to Baja Sur primarily for sightseeing. But if you’re into colonial architecture, then the towns of San José del Cabo, Todos Santos, and La Paz all have plenty to offer: adobe houses, appealing centuries-old churches, and narrow cobbled streets that are a joy to wander. And while Cabo San Lucas may lack the colonial charm of its neighbor towns, it features Baja Sur’s biggest natural attraction: the natural stone arch at Land’s End, walkable from town and very popular at sunset.

Best Place in Baja California for Nightlife: Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is Baja Sur’s undisputed party town, with bottomless margaritas fuelling the revelry all day (and all night) long. The nightlife kicks up a notch when the spring breakers get into town, with dancing on table tops, jello shooters, and tequila conga lines. Some of the most popular bars and nightspots include the legendary El Squid Roe, Cabo Wabo, The Giggling Marlin, and the Happy Ending Cantina, with many of the watering holes clustered near the marina.

Best Places in Baja California for Food and Restaurants: Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos, San José del Cabo
Baja Sur has come a long way as a foodie destination in recent years, with dining hotspots being Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, and San José del Cabo. In all 3 locations, you’ll find anything from Mexican standards and taco stands to superb fusion and international dining. Standout restaurants include Sur Beach House and Baja Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Flora’s Field Kitchen and La Lupita Taco & Mezcal in San José del Cabo, and Hierbabuena and Carnitas Machin Pescadero in Todos Santos.

Best Places in Baja California for Families: Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos Corridor
Cabo San Lucas may be a party town, but it also has some excellent beaches on the its outskirts and a large number of family-friendly hotels. Hence, if traveling with kids, then all-inclusive options with kids’ clubs, plenty of water sports on offer, and other activities are an excellent bet. Los Cabos Corridor also features numerous high-end all-inclusive hotels, many with plenty to keep kids occupied and white-sand beaches out front.

Best Places in Baja California to Stay for First Timers: Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos, San José Los Cabos, Los Cabos Corridor
Depending on what you’re into, you can’t go wrong with these 3 destinations. If you wish to combine a raucous nightlife with some quality beach time, then Cabo San Lucas would naturally be your first choice. If you’re looking for a hassle-free location away from Cabo San Lucas’ crowds but close enough to enjoy the nightlife and with access to world-class golfing, then Los Cabo Corridor is a good bet. Finally, if you’re after a more local vibe and excellent dining while staying within easy driving distance from Land’s End, then either Todos Santos or San José del Cabo make excellent bases.

Most Romantic Places in Baja California: Los Cabos Corridor, Todos Santos, Cabo Pulmo
It entirely depends on what you want from your vacation. If you’re looking for an exclusive, adults-only, high-end hotel with a world-class spa and private beach access, then there are several excellent options along the Los Cabos Corridor. If appealing colonial architecture and romantic dinners are more your thing, then Todos Santos is an excellent place to stay. And if you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy sunset strolls along wind-swept beaches, then you could do worse than tiny Cabo Pulmo.

Best Places in Baja California for a Local Vibe: San José del Cabo, Todos Santos
Baja Sur has been well and truly discovered by visitors, and crowds of sun-seekers converge on the likes of Cabo San Lucas, particularly during the winter months and during spring break. However, both Todos Santos, and San José del Cabo have managed to retain a relatively low-key charm and feel like proper Mexican towns.

Best Places in Baja California for Water Sports: La Ventana, Los Barriles, Todos Santos, Cabo Pulmo, Cabo San Lucas
Cabo Pulmo is a world-class diving destination, with excellent access to the only Pacific reef in the Sea of Cortez. Visibility is best in October and November, and sightings include whale sharks. La Ventana and Los Barriles both attract windsurfers and kitesurfers; conditions are best between November and March. El Pescadero, a small village just south of Todos Santos, is a surfing hotspot. As for sea kayaking, banana boating, parasailing, and other activities, hotels in Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos Corridor, Todos Santos, and other vacation hotspots can organize those. Cabo San Lucas is also renowned for its deep-see fishing charters.

Best Places in Baja California for Wildlife Watching: La Paz, Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas
Baja California is particularly well-known for whale watching, with grey whales regularly sighted from December to April. While the 3 best spots to see whales – Laguna San Ignacio, Laguna Ojo de Liebre, and Bahía Magdalena – are all located farther north than Baja Sur’s holiday towns, numerous boat operators in Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, and Todos Los Santos organize day trips to the whale watching hotspots. Sea lions and dolphins are frequently spotted en route.

Safest Areas of Baja California Sur: Baja California Sur is generally safe for visitors, particularly compared to other parts of Mexico. Tourist hotspots such as Todos Santos, San José del Cabo, La Paz, etc. are generally safe to walk around at any time of day, though standard precautions apply.

Unsafe Areas of Baja California: There are no specifically unsafe places in Baja California Sur, though driving outside the towns at night is generally not recommended. Bag snatching and pickpocketing does occasionally happen in the likes of La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, so be on guard. Alcohol-related misbehavior is fairly common in Cabo San Lucas.

The Best Places in Baja California for Tourists

Staying in Cabo San Lucas

Los Cabos Beach Resort.
The Pueblo Bonito Pacifica is one of the best beach resorts in Los Cabos.

Sitting between a desert hinterland and a rugged cape after which it takes its name, Cabo San Lucas was a sleepy tuna canning village until tourism exploded in the 1980s. Now it feels more like part of the United States, with ‘snowbirds’ spending the winter here in their second homes, a popular cruise ship port, and spring breakers flocking here for the tequila-fuelled nightlife. Besides the natural stone arch at Land’s End, Cabo San Lucas is known for its beaches lined with luxury resorts, lively bars, and pretty much all water sports, including some excellent scuba diving.

The Best Hotels in Cabo San Lucas

The Best Restaurants in Cabo San Lucas

  • Sur Beach House • Fusion of international and Mexican flavors, with an emphasis on fresh seafood.
  • Baja Cantina • Excellent mix of Mexican dishes, burgers, and breakfast options.

Staying in Los Cabos Corridor

The twenty-mile stretch of coastal highway between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo is lined with exclusive luxury resorts and features several golf courses. The former natural beauty of the area has been rather blighted by the uncontrolled development, but there are still some wonderful beaches here (though access to many can be tricky unless you’re staying at one of the beachfront resorts), including Playa El Médano near Cabo San Lucas and Playa Palmilla near San José del Cabo. Of the beaches, Bahía Santa María is best for snorkeling and diving, Bahía Chileno is great for families, while Costa Azul is the best surfing beach in the area.

The Best Hotels in Los Cabos Corridor

Staying in San José del Cabo

4-star beach hotel with pool.
The Hyatt Ziva is both luxurious and good value, and has a fantastic beachfront location.

The quieter antidote to Cabo San Lucas, San José del Cabo is a former Jesuit mission turned port and agricultural center, centered on the attractive Plaza Mijares and dotted with some eye-catching 19th-century buildings. From the main square, Bulevar Mijares leads to the Zona Hotelera, where the majority of the town’s beach resorts are located. San José’s highlights include high-end boutiques and art galleries, an excellent dining scene, and a more low-key vibe than Cabo.

The Best Hotels in San José del Cabo

The Best Restaurants in San José del Cabo

Staying in Todos Santos

5-star hotel in Todos Santos.
The idyllic Hotel San Cristóbal on a clean, wide beach with lots of privacy.

Halfway between La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos is a beautiful colonial town with sensitively restored, centuries-old architecture. Its population is a lively mix of Mexicans and artistically-inclined expats, reflected in the relatively low-key vibe and a clutch of offbeat art galleries. Palm-fringed Plaza Todos Santos aside, attractions include the local cultural center and the white-sand beaches, though they tend to be better for surfing than for swimming. Todos Santos also features an excellent dining scene and some fine boutique hotels.

The Best Hotels in Todos Santos

The Best Restaurants in Todo Santos

  • Hierbabuena • Traditional Mexican fare using seasonal, organic ingredients from their own and local farms.
  • Carnitas Machin Pescadero • Cheap, delicious, and hearty carnitas, tacos, and quesadillas.

Staying in Cabo Pulmo

One of the highlights of the East Cape – some 80 miles of wild coastline, including some stunning, unpeopled beaches – is Cabo Pulmo, an off-the-grid village that’s the gateway to the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, renowned for its Pacific reef and excellent scuba diving. There is good snorkeling at Playa Los Arbolites near the village, but for even better marine life, head for the Playa Los Frailes cove, some 20 minutes’ drive south of the village.

The Best Hotel in Cabo Pulmo

Staying in Los Barriles

The East Cape’s largest town, Los Barriles is renowned in windsurfing and kitesurfing circles (conditions are best for experienced surfers rather than beginners). There’s a low-key hotel scene and some decent local dining, ranging from taco joints to gourmet restaurants. Sport-fishing is another big attraction here.

The Best Hotels in Los Barriles

Staying in La Ventana

A worthwhile detour to the east coast from La Paz, La Ventana is a blink-and-you-miss-it village. One of several windsurfing and kitesurfing hotspots in Baja Sur, it attracts visitors from all over the world between November and March.

The Best Hotels in La Ventana

Staying in La Paz

The largest town in Baja California, La Paz boasts an attractive colonial center and a particularly attractive malecón (seafront promenade). It’s a busy working town, but there are enough attractions to keep visitors busy for a few days, from the cultural center and Museum of Anthropology to the string of beaches stretching to the port of Pichilingue, the best of which is Playa de Balandra, with calm, shallow waters suitable for kids. La Paz is also a jumping-off point for wildlife watching trips, from all-day whale watching to half-day trips to the nearby Isla Espírutu Santo, where one can spot manta rays, sea lions, and occasional whale sharks.

The Best Hotels in La Paz

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