The historic Romantic Zone is perhaps the area of Puerto Vallarta that most clearly represents the best of old world Mexico. This beloved colonia, known affectionately to locals as “Old Town,” is characterized by its cobblestone streets and diverse assortment of boutiques, shops, cafes and art galleries that line them, and the neighborhood consistently enchants visitors into making Puerto Vallarta their home on an extended or permanent basis.
The Romantic Zone was a significant portion of the original Puerto Vallarta, before its decades-long evolution from a sleepy seaside fishing town into a global vacation and travel destination. As a result, the colonia retains the high, relatively narrow sidewalks intended to prevent flooding during rainy season as well as the overhead power lines that have become one of the signature sights for locals in the area.
The Romantic Zone thrives with a near-constant supply of excitement generated by visitors to the city as well as area residents, who fill the streets with electricity until the wee hours of the morning. The district claims numerous points of interest including the Olas Altas diners’ row, which helps give the colonia more bars and restaurants than any other area of the city.
However, there’s little doubt that the premier attraction in the Romantic Zone is the world-renowned Los Muertos Beach, one of the largest beaches on the Pacific Coast. The mile-long Malecon that connects the northern neighboring colonia of 5 de Diciembre with downtown Puerto Vallarta leads seaside strollers directly to these inviting sands, which offer a staggering range of activities from water-sports to a simple afternoon in the tropical embrace of Puerto Vallarta.
It’s virtually impossible to avoid a trip to the Romantic Zone on your trip to Puerto Vallarta. Airport taxis departing from directly outside arrival terminals are readily available to incoming tourists, and can provide transport to the Romantic Zone via Boulevard Francisco Medina Ascensio for less than 300 pesos. City cabs can also offer convenient travel to Old Town within city limits at an even more preferable rate.
Reaching the Romantic Zone using the city’s network of public transportation routes is equally simple once visitors have arrived in the city, as virtually every bus route provides passage to Old Town. Buses marked “Centro” will follow the main boulevard into the city, while buses marked “Tunnel” will turn inland at the southern end of the Hotel Zone and use the bypass around downtown Puerto Vallarta to arrive in the area of Olas Altas.
The Romantic Zone offers a full suite of services such as pharmacies, convenience stores, ATMs and other amenities aimed at satisfying the everyday needs of visitors. It is one of the most active parts of town with convenient access to every major entertainment venue in the area as well as an extensive complement of outstanding restaurants from humble and delicious to high end and spectacular.
Los Muertos Beach is an overwhelming positive for residents of the area, forming one of the most dynamic backdrops in the country. The beach is prominently marked with the installation at Los Muertos Pier, a sail-like sculpture that is illuminated with a colorful light show after sunset, and the pier itself extends into the Banderas Bay to provide visitors with unforgettable views of this picturesque seascape.
Another point of interest for visitors and residents alike is the Isla Cuale, a tiny strip of land suspended in the river that connects the city’s southernmost river to the Pacific Ocean. The island is rich with interest for travelers, featuring a marketplace where local artisans display handmade goods and an upscale restaurant offering diners appetizing views to go alongside their gourmet menu. Isla Cuale is also home to a small museum as well as an activity center where visitors can experience special presentations of cultural crafts and customs.
Basilio Badillo Street is of particular interest as well for visitors interested in learning more about the character of Old Town. The strip leading inland from Los Muertos Beach boasts a broad range of art galleries, boutiques and special presentations at the Act II Theatre, which specializes in musical exhibitions, English and Spanish language theatre, and drag shows. Visitors who find themselves on this lively strip on Fridays throughout the winter and spring are particularly lucky, as these establishments jointly present a biweekly street fair known as the South Side Shuffle.
The sheer diversity of the Romantic Zone area makes it a neighborhood worth considering for any visitor looking for a short or long term home in Puerto Vallarta. There is practically no end of entertainment options throughout the day and night, making it an attractive area of the city for vacationers, couples, remote workers, and younger travelers to call home.
Cultural aficionados will be pleased to find extraordinary expressions of local flavor at every turn in this captivating colonia. The area hosts a highly anticipated seasonal farmers’ market every Saturday, known simply as the Old Town Farmers’ Market. Here, shoppers can purchase locally sourced produce as well as unique crafts, experiencing new and rare delights as they support the economy in the area.
Visitors seeking luxury accommodations during their time in Puerto Vallarta will find no shortage of options in this hotly desired neighborhood. Among the range of premium options for guest to the city is the multi-storied Alta Vista building, perched in the hillside directly overlooking the scenic city, along with the Amapas Apartments, which greet guests with finely appointed rooms and one of the most centralized locations in the Puerto Vallarta area.
This neighborhood is also especially friendly to its LGBT visitors. Puerto Vallarta is known worldwide as one of the most community-friendly vacation towns in Latin America, and Old Town is emblematic of this liberal attitude. In fact, many businesses in the Romantic Zone go as far as to certify themselves as LGBT friendly businesses, welcoming alternate lifestyles with open arms. Los Muertos Beach is particularly attractive for these visitors, as the northern end of the beach is a popular meeting place for the community.
Lovers of film and local history will also find special interest in the area of town known as Gringo Gulch. Once a somewhat secluded area a few blocks inland from the shore, this humble neighborhood was the site of a new age dawning in Puerto Vallarta after legendary director Richard Burton fell in love with the small fishing town during filming for his silver screen classic, “Night of the Iguana.” Eventually, stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor found love in the neighborhood as well, and the fate of Old Town and Puerto Vallarta at large was soon changed forever.
The Romantic Zone is possibly the most celebrated neighborhood in the city of Puerto Vallarta, and for good reason. Travelers who take up residence in the area benefit from a practically peerless array of amenities along with a vibrant local culture and access to one of the best beaches in all of Mexico. For those fortunate enough to call the Romantic Zone home, it delivers a nearly unbeatable everyday experience.