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Puerto Vallarta vs. Nuevo Vallarta – Here’s Where to Visit

Puerto Vallarta vs. Nuevo Vallarta – Here’s Where to Visit

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If you’re planning a trip to the Puerto Vallarta area, you’ve probably come across an area called Nuevo Vallarta (which has been newly renamed Nuevo Nayarit).

And because they’re so close together, it might also be hard to decide which one is best for your vacation.  

Nuevo Vallarta is located in the state of Nayarit, whereas Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco. Don’t be alarmed though, even though they’re in different states, they’re right next door to each other.

Nuevo Vallarta is only 20 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. And you don’t have to worry about crossing state lines – in fact, you won’t even notice you’re in a different state. 

This post will help you decide whether Puerto Vallarta or Nuevo Vallarta is better suited for your next trip to Mexico. 

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and make a purchase I may make a small commission. I only share information about things I know, love and trust!

The Main Differences Between Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta

City vs. Resort Stretch

The biggest difference between the two is that one is a city that eventually became well-known for tourism, whereas the other was purpose-built for tourism.

If you look at a map comparing Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta, you’ll notice that Nuevo Vallarta is not a city, but instead an area developed specifically for beach hotels, resorts and golf courses. There is no downtown or central plaza here. 

Conversely, Puerto Vallarta is a small, bustling city with many lively neighborhoods, tourist attractions and nightlife throughout the southern part of Banderas Bay. 

In a more tranquil setting, Nuevo Vallarta is spread out over a long stretch of beach anchored by large hotels and resorts.

In recent years there have also been several condo complexes built in the same area, in which many retirees, expats and snowbirds now live. 

What Nuevo Vallarta is Known For

Nuevo Vallarta is where you’ll find the larger all-inclusive resort properties, similar in size to what you would find in Cancun or the Riviera Maya.

It’s newer, more modern looking and more Americanized compared to Puerto Vallarta.

Nuevo is primarily appealing to tourists looking for a relaxing beach vacation who want to mostly remain on the resort, go golfing, take part in one or two excursions and take a taxi into town or the Marina to visit the markets once or twice. 

What Puerto Vallarta is Known For

Puerto Vallarta on the other hand, is the main coastal city, home to both locals and tourists. It’s known for its Spanish colonial charm, markets, friendly people and vibrant colors.

Here you’ll find bright painted building, colorful flags that adorn the streets and unique architecture.

There are several different neighborhoods where tourists stay, so it depends on what type of vacation you’re looking for. 

There’s the hotel zone, which is just 10 minutes south of the airport. Here you’ll find a selection of hotels like the Sheraton, Hilton and Secrets brands, as well as independently owned hotels.

These hotels are a little smaller and older than what you would find in Nuevo, but closer to the action in town if you intend to visit a few times. 

The other two main areas where tourists stay in Puerto Vallarta are downtown (centro) and the zona romantica.

Here you’re more mixed among the locals, but it’s still ‘touristy’ enough. This is where you’ll find the lively Malecon (seaside boardwalk).

Within these neighborhoods you’ll find smaller boutique hotels and lots of Airbnb or condo rental options. 

By staying in Nuevo Vallarta, you’ll miss out on the vibrant charm of Puerto Vallarta. 

Distance from Airport

Nuevo Vallarta is 20 minutes north of the airport. 

The first stretch of tourist areas in Puerto Vallarta is only 10 minutes from the airport (the zona hotelera).

As you continue south towards centro and zona romantica, this could be anywhere from 20 – 40 minutes from the airport depending on traffic. 

Swimmable Beaches

The ocean in Nuevo Vallarta is very swimmable. This is where you could walk for miles along a creamy sand beach that’s shallow and calm enough to swim in. 

The beaches in Puerto Vallarta are shorter and smaller, as they’re broken up by rocky areas.

The ocean water along the main Puerto Vallarta beaches is also not as clear as you would find elsewhere.

To find better beaches, you’ll have to go north or south of Puerto Vallarta proper. 

I recommend a visit to Bucerias, a charming beach town 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.

It’s known for its wide stretch of beautiful beach as well as cheap beach massages. 

While Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta offer different types of beach vibes, each of them have beach bars where you can enjoy a cold drink with your feet in the sand while you listen to the waves.


If you want to stroll through cobblestone streets, find street tacos, quaint local restaurants, and visit different beaches, you definitely want to choose staying in Puerto Vallarta; specifically centro or the zona romantica. 

While Nuevo Vallarta has many walking paths, it’s not really walkable to any amenities.

It’s essentially one long stretch of beach, lined by large all inclusive resorts and timeshare complexes.

Opposite from the beach though, you’ll find some condo complexes in which there are palm tree-lined walking and bike paths, which are flat, long and smooth. 


If you want a relaxing and easy vacation, I recommend choosing a resort in Nuevo Vallarta.

The beach is nicer and you have several resorts to choose from that have great pools for kids. 


If you’re scared of the idea of visiting Mexico or want a vacation in which you never have to leave the resort, Nuevo Vallarta should be your destination of choice.

It’s very safe to visit, as you’ll find only Gringos here (tourists from USA, Canada and the UK).

In general, it’s much more quiet with a lot less traffic, and therefore many people enjoy cycling, walking and jogging here.

The roads and paths are flat with no cobblestone, making it much easier to be active. 

Puerto Vallarta is also very safe to visit, and in fact safer than many US cities.

However, it’s much busier and more densely populated so to some people (especially first timers), it may seem unsafe. In reality, it’s just a foreign country that’s different from home.

You’ll be completely fine walking around the neighborhoods. Like anywhere, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, and there are some scams that tourists should know about before visiting. 

Vidanta Puerto Vallarta vs. Nuevo Vallarta

Vidanta has developed two resort destinations in Banderas Bay: Puerto Vallarta and Nuuevo Vallarta. 

Vidanta Puerto Vallarta

Vidanta Puerto Vallarta is a smaller complex, with one main hotel called the Mayan Palace.

It’s located in the Marina Vallarta, which is very close to the airport.

In just over 5 minutes you can walk to the various restaurants, bars, shops, spas and pharmacies at the Marina, or take a 15 minute taxi ride into downtown Puerto Vallarta.

While clean and maintained, this hotel is older (about 25 years) and could use some updating.

However, if you prefer a smaller resort that’s easy to navigate, than you’ll love Mayan Palace.

If you want a brand new resort, you should choose the Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta instead. 

Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta

Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta is a massive resort destination that could almost be described as an entire community.

This property offers an upscale and lavish experience for guests. There are 5 hotels to choose from, three golf courses, a shopping and entertainment district, a plethora of pools and restaurants, a waterpark and a massive beach area.

This area is so bug that there’s a gondola to transport guests from one area of the property to another. 

What is Better Nuevo Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is Better for…

If the main goal of your vacation is eating local cuisine, enjoying nightlife, visiting local markets and shopping, sightseeing in old neighborhoods and easy access to excursions and activities, then Puerto Vallarta is better.

Everything you could need you’ll find on every street corner – restaurants, convenience stores, fresh produce, pharmacies, etc.

The Malecon is the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta so you should choose to stay somewhere within walking distance of the Malecon.

It’s also very easy to catch the local busses here – they’re cheap, convenient and run all day long.

Nuevo Vallarta is Better For…

Alternatively, if you want to relax poolside, walk along the beach for miles, ride your bike or walk for hours, and dine in restaurants only steps from your hotel room, Nuevo Vallarta is a better choice.

If you plan to explore Puerto Vallarta, south attractions such as Los Arcos, the Botanical Gardens and Yelapa; and northside beach towns such as Bucerias and Sayulita, Nuevo is a great hub to explore both the north and south ends of Banderas Bay.

For active travelers, golf courses are close by, and the pickleball courts by the beach are fantastic.

There’s a large community of American and Canadian condo and timeshare owners here.

If you’re planning to stay long term (over one month), you’ll probably find you’ll need a car to get around Nuevo Vallarta.

The stores, banks and pharmacies are all spread out compared to downtown Vallarta, and it’s a little more difficult and expensive to get taxis and Uber drivers in Nuevo Vallarta. 

More Puerto Vallarta Posts

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