Colorful facades in Old Vallarta (Romantic Zone), Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone, also known as Viejo Vallarta (Old Vallarta), Old Town and the South Side, is just south of downtown Puerto Vallarta and is one of the busiest parts in town, the streets are smaller and there is a higher concentration of cafes, bars, shops and restaurants per square foot than almost anywhere else in the city.
Your trip to Puerto Vallarta is not complete without enjoying this neighbourhood (barrio) in the Romantic Zone, as with the downtown area, this is where you’ll experience the heart and soul of this, the once sleepy fisherman village and its Mexican culture.
Olas Altas Street, Romantic Zone, Puerto Vallarta
The signature Mexican cobblestone village streets crossed over from north of the Cuale River and extend into this, a newer development (from around the 1950s and 60s) in a traditional Mexican design with a pueblo-like feel. The older buildings take you back to simpler times and the people here are extremely welcoming and friendly, so you’ll find yourself coming back time and again, plus there is always something going on in this part of town.
Here you’ll find many of the smaller hotels, posadas and inns (less luxury, but much more friendly and laid-back) – you can check our hotel map – and you’ll see many are between Olas Altas street and the beach. I recommend this option for those that want to experience a more authentic Mexico.
Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta), Puerto Vallarta, Google Earth
There’s no need to be walled up in a resort here, all the nightlife and excitement is just a step away and for the daytime meals you can really take advantage of the different food and budget options either at one of the many restaurants or even tacos and other food stands you can find in the houses or streets.
Enjoy walking around the place, the sidewalks can at times be challenging, though quite recently the city government improved many of the sidewalks on the main streets, unifying the design with the ones north of the Cuale River.
How to get there
Viejo Vallarta (Old Vallarta), Old Town, the South Side, Colonia Emiliano Zapata, now also called the “Romantic Zone”, is just south of the downtown area of downtown area of Puerto Vallarta. It’s the busiest part of Puerto Vallarta, streets are smaller, there are more shops, cafes, bars and restaurants per square foot here than anywhere else in town.
It is surrounded by the Rio Cuale to the north, Santa Barbara Street to the south, Insurgentes Street to the east, and Los Muertos beach to the west. It is also known as the South Side and Colonia Emiliano Zapata.
You’ll notice you cross bridges over the Cuale river when going south from downtown Puerto Vallarta, that’s when you know you are arriving at the South Side “Zona Romantica”.
If you walk along the Malecon past the Arches and the Naval Museum, you’ll get to a pedestrian bridge with a lookout that crosses the river too. That’s another way of getting to the Old Town of PV.
What to do
You’ll find innumerable art galleries, shops (jewelry, antiques, handicrafts, shoes, Talavera and tiles), bookstores, markets, coffee shops (cafés), bars, large and small restaurants and many street-side taco stands on the side streets that are also part of the general scenery. There are also ice-cream parlours (I love the lemon (lime) ice cream from La Michoacana), bakeries, barbers, Tequila and the list goes on. Old Vallarta is my preferred place when it comes to breakfast options, there are many great options and you can’t go wrong.
Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta), Puerto Vallarta, Google Earth
Another important attraction of this part of town are the beaches, in this case, Los Muertos Beach, Olas Altas, Las Amapas and further south Conchas Chinas too. If you have to stay in an all-inclusive hotel, it will be best you choose Marina Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zone. If you really want to enjoy Mexico and the true Puerto Vallarta experience, then the Romantic Zone (Zona Romántica) is where it’s at.
This is the part of town most recurrent visitors stay at and the ex-pats enjoy at night.
Don’t forget to include a shopping excursion to the Isla Río Cuale Flea Market, on the north side of the Romantic Zone on Cuale Island. Here you’ll for sure find the perfect souvenir and many unique options of artisan treasures, for example, great blown-glass drinking glasses and pitchers, serving platters, dinnerware or glazed clay mugs, plates and dishes painted in typical and colourful Mexican patterns, all kinds of textile options, sarapes (traditional Mexican shawls), leather products (sandals, purses, wallets), hammocks, Mexican toys, beachwear, jewelry in silver or pewter, hand-beaded bracelets and earrings, Mexican vanilla and much more.
Margarita Grill, one of many Romantic Zone restaurants
Los Muertos Beach
Los Muertos Beach (Playa de Los Muertos) and the Pier, Romantic Zone, Puerto Vallarta
Playa Los Muertos is the top attraction in Old Vallarta, the beach is crowded compared to the rest of the beaches in Vallarta, but that also means that if you enjoy people watching, you’ll have fun here, vendors, activities, food, beers, parasailing, a swim in the ocean (the waves aren’t big, play in the sand with your kids.
Then enjoy the bars and cafés, at night there are quite a few very good restaurants on the beach and with famous and romantic Vallarta sunsets.
Other landmarks on this beach:
Read the full Los Muertos beach article
Pier at Playa Los Muertos
After almost three years, the Pier at Los Muertos Beach has been inaugurated with fireworks, music, and fun, on January 4th, 2013.
Los Muertos Beach Pier, located in Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta)
The pier is one of the main elements in an ambitious renewal program for downtown Puerto Vallarta that includes a series of important projects around the town. These will add to the main existing attractions for both local and international visitors.
Pier at Los Muertos Beach, Romantic Zone
In this case, the pier has become an important attraction for Francisca Rodríguez street and the surrounding areas and both the streets and pedestrian access has been improved.
Read the full Los Muertos pier article
Old Town Farmers Market (Tianguis Cultural)
Old Town Farmers’ Market has become one of the best weekend attractions in Puerto Vallarta, locals and ex-pats enjoy purchasing and sampling fresh local produce.
Old Town Farmers Market Puerto Vallarta Paper Mache
The Market is a producer-only market, which means all vendors must make, bake or grow the products they sell here, no Walmart or Soriana here. Phew!
Old Town Farmer’s Market Video
You’ll find a great selection of organic vegetables, exotic fruits, chocolates, coffees, cheese, ice cream and local meats, handmade tortillas, cookies, pies and more. Local artisans sell their jewelry, soaps, paintings, pottery and more.
Old Town Farmers Market Romantic Zone Puerto Vallarta
You can also eat lunch and enjoy local foods, enjoy some “aguas frescas” or fresh-pressed juices, baked goods, tamales, burritos and much more.
Old Farmer’s Market is wheelchair accessible, pet-friendly, you can park under Lazaro Cárdenas park. Live music adds a vibe to the market.
Old Town Farmers Market Puerto Vallarta Food stands
Open every Saturday from the first Saturday of November to the last Saturday of April between 9:30 am and 2 pm. Now located at Lázaro Cárdenas Park.
Cafe Street (Olas Altas)
Puerto Vallarta Romantic Zone Bars & Restaurants
Romantic Zone (Old Town/Old Vallarta) Location Map