Get to know my new home in Mexico with this Nuevo Vallarta travel guide
Thank you so much for writing to me! I honestly did not expect that someone will look for a Nuevo Vallarta travel guide. In my experience, this is not an area of Vallarta that people visit but I am glad you are interested in it!
In the beginning, I also thought that Nuevo Vallarta will be boring. I’ve been living here for a few months now and I love it! I did not expect it to be a lot of fun!
I hope to answer all your questions in this Nuevo Vallarta travel guide but I also hope you’ll get in touch when you are here – I would love to show you around. I can easily be reached via Instagram direct message.
I moved to Nuevo Vallarta from Sayulita last October 2020 just to change some air. Sayulita became too small for me, and as usual, whenever I feel this way, I always have the urge to move forward. At first, I thought of moving to Puerto Vallarta but I realized it’s too busy of a city for me. I have a car but traffic in PV is a bit too much.
Now, Nuevo Vallarta is between Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta, 2 places where I work. I run a digital magazine in both these towns/cities so I need to go to these 2 places frequently. Since I wanted to avoid the PV traffic and I was sick of living in a small town like Sayulita, I gave Nuevo Vallarta a chance. I actually never thought I’d like it.
The cost of living is cheap and whichever way I go (PV or Sayu), it’s a 30-minute drive. I am perfectly situated in both of the areas I work in but with less traffic and city life. Living in Nuevo Vallarta also gives me access to the beaches. Bucerias is just a 10-minute drive. There’s Mega, Walmart, and La Comer within walking distance to my house. It is perfect and I love it!
In this Nuevo Vallarta travel guide, I won’t be talking about living here but I will give you some reasons to visit my city in the hopes that you’ll love it as I do!
Where is Nuevo Vallarta?
Nuevo Vallarta is located north of Puerto Vallarta (about 30 minutes drive) and is famed as the all-inclusive resort area of the Riviera Nayarit. Long beaches, the marina, and golf are the most popular things to do in Nuevo Vallarta. Situated in the Bay of Banderas, Nuevo Vallarta is a great destination and side-trip for those who are visiting Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta.
What is the difference between Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta?
You will come across a lot of Vallartas in this area (Puerto Vallarta, Marina Vallarta, Fluvial Vallarta, and Nuevo Vallarta) but they’re all different. I will explain the other Vallartas in another post but let’s focus on Puerto Vallarta (PV) vs. Nuevo Vallarta (NV). Even though they are just 30 minutes away from each other, these two cities are located in different states.
Puerto Vallarta belongs to the state of Jalisco. You probably heard about this city in the movie The Night of the Iguana. PV has more colonial architecture and is way bigger than NV. There is more nightlife and obviously, more things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
Nuevo Vallarta belongs to the state of Nayarit. It’s not as popular as PV but the vibe here is all about resort living. It’s truly a vacation area and people opt to visit Nuevo Vallarta for staycations and luxury holidays. As I am currently living here, I have slowly explored the most local parts of NV which I will share later on. I just feel like people shy away from NV because they feel like it is a luxurious and expensive area. But it really is not! At least not 100%.
Nuevo Vallarta COVID update
On January 15, 2021, the state of Nayarit started the 8:00 pm curfew for bars and restaurants until February 5, 2021. We haven’t had this curfew in Nayarit since July 2020. It was really surprising they did this again but according to the state, confirmed cases in Nayarit have now increased to 8,000+. We are not in the top 10 states in Mexico with most COVID cases so it’s only a curfew.
As for the day to day living here, Nuevo Vallarta is not very strict on wearing masks in establishments (except for spas and very confined spaces). There’s not a lot of visitors here and all the bars and restaurants have an open layout.
What type of travelers visit Nuevo Vallarta?
Most of the people living here are foreigners and ex-pats. Upper-middle-class Mexicans also live here. In general, we can conclude that Nuevo Vallarta is a gringo area (learn what gringo means here) and most tourists who visit are families traveling with kids. NV’s layout is very safe for children and lots of Americans/Canadians feel very safe here.
Couples doing their honeymoon is also a thing here. All-inclusive resorts start from $150 USD a night which is not really bad for a luxurious couple escape. I find Mexico very cheap when it comes to honeymoons. You can do a lot with $500 USD a day here!
Big groups traveling together (aka girls’ trips) are also very popular. There are many all-inclusive stays that have spas and wellness treatments so I’d say it’s a really good destination for bachelorette parties.
While these are the most common types of tourists in Nuevo Vallarta, I strongly feel that this is a destination for everyone. I even did a solo staycation here even if it was just 5 minutes away from where I live. It’s nice to have that option of staying in an all-inclusive resort without having to worry about anything.
Is Nuevo Vallarta Safe?
As someone who lives alone, safety is one of my top concerns when it comes to choosing a place to live. For me, it’s all about how I feel, not about the bad news I see or read. So far, I feel very safe in Nuevo Vallarta as most residences here are in a gated community. From living in Sayulita, NV’s safety and cleanliness are really a shock to me.
I walk around here at night with no problems. Again, I base all these on my feelings. I never feel harmed and I never have to watch my back. The people are also very friendly and helpful! The first time I moved here, I did not know where to get drinking water (garrafon) for my house and the people on the street were kind enough to help me. They also give me a living in Nuevo Vallarta crash course on where to get gas, how to pay for electricity bills, etc.
The streets are also wide and well-lit. There’s always police patrolling around my village which isn’t one of the reasons why I feel safe but it could be for you.
Arrival in Nuevo Vallarta
Nuevo Vallarta is about 10 minutes from Puerto Vallarta International Airport. There are many ways on how to arrive here but I have to be honest – NV is kind of a car city. We’re right by the 200 highway where all the public busses pass but I never saw any busses entering the NV area.
Taxi is the best way to go here. From Puerto Vallarta Airport, a taxi to NV costs $7 – $10 USD. I am talking about the white taxis here but you can also do Uber which will probably cost the same. Remember that Ubers are not allowed PV airport so you need to go out in order to meet your driver. I can also recommend my trusted local driver to you – just get in touch and I can arrange for a good price!
For a full NV experience, I highly recommend that you rent a car (around $25 USD per day). I really feel like it will be hard for you to move around NV without a car. There are lots of car rental options when you arrive PV Airport but do not pay more than $30 USD per day. I also know some people here in Bucerias who are renting their second cars for those who want to rent long-term (1-6 months).
Where to stay in Nuevo Vallarta
Oh, wow, there’s a long list but in this section, I will only recommend places I have experience in. I will also include the prices here but most places to stay on this list are all-inclusive resorts. Additionally, they are all beachfront properties.
If you plan to stay in Nuevo Vallarta for a longer time period, I can introduce you to some people who are renting their apartments. This will be way cheaper than staying in an all-inclusive so get in touch!
Huge pool by the ocean view and all rooms, no matter what you pay for also have views of the ocean! What I love about Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is that they have different types of restaurants within the resort: Mexican, French, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisines. There is also a full-service spa. They also offer activities such as pilates classes and kayaking. Their entertainment list includes billiards, karaoke, and mini disco. A night at Grand Velas (all-inclusive) is between $700 – $950 USD for 2 people.
I first wanted to just have dinner here but Hard Rock’s amenities are exclusive for staying guests. What I love the most about Hard Rock is that they have 2 different beachfront pools with excellent service from exemplary staff. They also have a fitness center (gym), full-service spa, and a kids club for families traveling with children. Their room service is also 24 hours so you don’t have to worry about food in the middle of the night! A gold deluxe king room in Hard Rock only costs $319 USD for 2 people.
This is one of the top picks of all-inclusive resorts in Nuevo Vallarta. I think it’s because this resort is famous for gold tourism in Mexico. Yes, they have a golf course! Paradise Village has 2 spas, 4 restaurants (all really good!), a gym, an outdoor pool with waterslides perfect for kids, and a water sports center. Strangely, Paradise Village is a solo traveler’s favorite according to positive reviews online. A studio suite at Paradise Village for 2 people only costs $148 USD but it’s not the all-inclusive rate.
Not really my favorite just because of the interior design but overall, amenities are great! They also have a golf course close to Marival. My favorite things about Marival: they have 7 restaurants, they have a full-amenity spa and salon, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts. I plan to go back to Marival in a week so stay tuned for my full experience! A double room at Marival starts at $494 USD for 2 people.
Where to eat in Nuevo Vallarta
Now, I’ve seen a lot of Nuevo Vallarta travel guides online and most of them only show the restaurants that are inside the all-inclusive resorts. The thing is, if you are NOT staying in an all-inclusive resort in NV, the restaurants are off-limits. Although there are many other places to stay in Nuevo Vallarta apart from the resorts, you will also find a lot of dining options in the area. Mind you, these places are very local!
Located in Nopal beach, Eddie’s Place is a Mexican, seafood with a mix of Lebanese style restaurant. Price range is from $7 – $10 USD but the plates can be good for sharing.
I come to Loma 42 a lot because my nail spa is right next to it. I probably tried most of their burgers (they have different types) and you can also choose your own bun (vegan, black buns, etc). Loma is also on UberEats so it’s very easy to order if you want to stay in. This restaurant has good interiors so I highly recommend you try the dine-in experience.
This one is no stranger to me since they have a branch in Sayulita and San Pancho, too. Barracuda is a very Mexican restaurant but what I love about them is that each of their branches has different menus! The Barracuda brand is pretty solid and their food is always exceptional. If you’re in the Nayarit area, try all the Barracudas and see how distinct they are from each other!
Mariscos 8 Tostadas
Like Barracuda, Mariscos 8 Tostadas has a few branches all over the country. Just in the Vallarta area, they have 3! In Mexico, a tostada means crispy tortilla (like a tortilla chip) often used in popular Mexican cuisine like the ceviche. This restaurant does not serve everything with tostadas but there are lots of seafood variants. I don’t really come here for seafood but I always order their tortilla soup. It’s my Mexican favorite!
Nuevo Vallarta Nightlife: local bars I recommend
Accustomed to the crazy Sayulita nightlife, I never really expected to have the same environment when I moved to NV. One of the reasons of my move here is that I couldn’t do the intense partying in Sayulita anymore. Though, really, it’s not the place’s fault. It’s just hard to get off it. When I moved, all of my friends from Sayulita said Nuevo Vallarta is boring because of the lack of nightlife but I wasn’t after that. I was really fine without it.
As soon as I started connecting with people living here in NV, I realized how I can have a more chill nightlife here without going to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita. Sure, it isn’t as hardcore but the important thing is there are some cool bars in my area where I got to meet a lot of people. Below are the bars I frequent:
With over 100 branches all over Mexico, their branding is everything for $20 MXN ($1 USD). Food, local beers like Corona, as in everything is only for a dollar. No wonder this is a favorite. I don’t really like the food as I am doubtful about super cheap food but if you are only going for drinks, Cerveceria Chapultepec is the place!
This is one of the hotspots in NV because of its super cool interior and comfortable seating. They have a long list of tequilas (from blanco to reposado), gin, cognac, brandy, whisky, rum, and vodka. I consider Condesa as one of the best places to meet people who are living here. One time, I even ended up hanging out at someone’s place since they close at midnight.
I was really excited when I found out that there’s a karaoke bar where I live! Karaoke bars are not common in Nayarit (there’s zero in Sayulita/San Pancho) so this made me really happy! You can order food and drinks while singing away to your favorite songs at La Regadera. Their location is pretty nice since it’s a complex where they share with other bars and restaurants.
This might be a very short list but I will update this once I get to know NV better. I only want to recommend local bars in the blog since Nuevo Vallarta is always known for luxurious dining and resorts. Bookmark this post and keep it here! If you are ever in the area, I would love to buy you a drink!
Things to do in Nuevo Vallarta
There aren’t really a lot of things to do within the Nuevo Vallarta area. Most tourists take tours to Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, Punta de Mita, and San Pancho. However, here’s my shortlist of things to do and I promise to update it as I go!
Catamaran Cruise to Marietas Islands
This 7-hour private cruise will take you to the famous Marietas Islands located in Punta de Mita. The Bay of the Banderas is my favorite thing about living in Riviera Nayarit – the water is beautiful and there are lots of caverns and archways. On this tour, you will also visit Majahuitas beach (a very secluded beach located in Puerto Vallarta). Gears like a snorkel, kayak, and paddleboards are also included.
Luxury sunset sailing
Sunsets here are beautiful and even if I am easily seasick, I always go to sunset cruises in the area. There are lots! For only $100 USD per person, this luxury sunset cruise includes an open bar and snacks for the whole trip. This activity is perfect for people traveling together.
Nogalito Canopy ziplining
Experience our ocean views through a 660 feet zipline. There are over 10 ziplines on this tour. It’s a perfect activity for families traveling with kids. Don’t worry, the guides are highly trained so I can assure you that this is a safe activity.
Visit all the Nuevo Vallarta beaches
Most of the all-inclusive resorts in Nuevo Vallarta have private beaches but there are also public beaches within the vicinity. The entrances of these beaches might look very intimidating as they look like the resorts own them but don’t worry – you can go in.
Nuevo Vallarta money exchange, travel budget, cash, etc.
Mexico’s currency is called New Mexican peso (MXN). $1 USD = $19.67 MXN as of January 18, 2021. To understand this conversion, I’m going to give you an idea about some basic prices in Nuevo Vallarta:
Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the center: $10 USD
1 cocktail drink in a downtown club: $5 USD
1 beer in neighborhood pub (500ml or 1pt.): $1.90 USD
Cappuccino in a specialty coffee shop: $4 USD
1 package of Marlboro cigarettes: $3.55 USD
Money exchange in Nuevo Vallarta
Surprisingly, the closest money exchange in Nuevo Vallarta is in Bucerias. It’s called Centro Cambiario de la Bahia. I’ve tried them once and they have good conversion rates. Intercam bank is also an easier and most convenient way to exchange USD for Mexican pesos in Nuevo Vallarta. I do not always encourage people to bring USD in Mexico since the rates here are low (especially in touristic areas like Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta). The best way is to take cash upon arrival at Puerto Vallarta International Airport.
Atm withdrawals in Nuevo Vallarta
For those who are staying in all-inclusive resorts, almost all of them have ATM machines within the resort. There are lots of banks within Nuevo Vallarta (Santander, BBVA, Bancomer) so you don’t have to worry about finding cash machines. They are all in the area of Paseo de los Cocoteros. As for the currency exchanges for each bank, I feel like Santander gives me the best rates but check Intercam as well! Some of them will charge a small fee per withdrawal, about $5 USD per transaction. It really depends on your bank but this is based on my experience. My American friends said they never get charged for withdrawals!
Credit and debit cards
Most establishments in Nuevo Vallarta accept credit and debit card payments. However, most of them still do cash transactions. In my experience in Mexico, the merchants don’t always avail a credit card machine because it’s rather costly. Paying in cash is still the culture all over this country. Make sure to always have cash, especially if you’re not staying in the all-inclusive resorts.
Tipping in Nuevo Vallarta
Tipping in Nuevo Vallarta is not mandatory but is recommended. 10% is a really good tip but you can go up to 20%. Just don’t go overboard since we want to teach the Mexicans that gringos don’t always mean dollar sign. I know Mexico is cheap for many Americans and Canadians but I’d love for you to moderate your tips. Some tourists tip exaggeratedly and that’s not what we want to encourage here in Mexico.
When to visit Nuevo Vallarta
You can visit Nuevo Vallarta all-year-round. We are truly blessed with this amazing tropical weather! You should know the high and low seasons though. The high season opens on October 29th and ends on June 1st. The season starts with the day of the dead celebrations followed by Christmas and New Year’s. During the high season, expect hotel and accommodation prices to double. Make sure to book it ahead of time so you’ll get great deals!
By January, lots of Americans and Canadians who want to escape the cold come to Nuevo Vallarta for the not so intense heat. Our high season is the best because of spring-ish weather while still enjoying the sun. It can really get cold at night (up to 6 degrees) so make sure to bring a jacket! I do, however, observed that lots of Americans don’t feel cold during this time. They said the weather is just right to be on the beach!
The low season starts from June 1st – October 15th, which is also summer in Mexico. Expect extreme humid weather: it’s really hot here during these months! However, you will enjoy the not so crowded beaches and cheap accommodation prices. Most expats who live here travel to their “second homes” since they can’t take the heat in the area.
What's next after Nuevo Vallarta?
Riviera Nayarit is a beautiful place with different Mexican beach towns close to each other. If you come to Nuevo Vallarta, make sure to also visit the following:
A small beach town just 30 minutes from NV, Sayulita is never to miss. Though I must warn you that this is a party pueblo, but not as Spring break crazy as Tulum. Sayulita has beautiful beaches within walking distance from town. There are also lots of jungle treks and this is a very family-friendly destination!
Just 10 minutes from Sayulita is another small town called San Pancho but you’ll often see San Francisco on Google. They’re just the same. Unlike Sayulita, San Pancho has a more chill vibe (and probably more hippie). The town is very colorful and is filled with bars, restaurants, and Balinese-style hotels. I’d recommend you to spend a whole day here!