To answer which is which, the best decision-making factor will always be determined by how you would like your Mexican Pacific experience to go. Puerto Vallarta offers the rugged, gritty and adventurous side, while Nuevo Vallarta offers an experience that is nothing short of delightful thanks to its more upscale scene. But if you can’t decide on either, they’re both just a 30-minute drive from each other.
Nuevo Vallarta is a unique take on the Riviera Nayarit’s tourism boom, one purely born out of demand, putting the community on a rather special pedestal, especially with its perceived success. A planned residential-resort community right at the heart of the Bay of Banderas, right next to the big charms of Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta is yet another one of Mexico’s tourism success stories.
Just a 30-minute drive north of Puerto Vallarta, the resort city is famed as the Riviera Nayarit’s resort and accommodation central because it houses a slew of all-inclusive resorts almost exclusively. Nuevo Vallarta is a perfect side-trip destination for those visiting around the Nayarit state. Most accounts even suggest that Nuevo Vallarta, due to its government-led development is safer than any other area in the Riviera.
What Makes Nuevo Vallarta Unique?
A Planned Residential Resort Success Story
Nuevo Vallarta, along with a slew of other areas across Mexico was an appointed development by the federal government to boost the country’s tourism landscape. This in turn created many of Mexico’s famous resort cities, communities, and even seaside towns that went through dramatic developments. And the success is evident as Mexico and all its beauty became synonymous with “must-visit travel destinations” attested by countless travel and tourism big shots.
Now Nuevo Vallarta is a shining beacon of tourism success thanks to the residences, resorts, and hotels that call the city home. Dotted with luxury villas, gated estates, canals run parallel to tropical gardens with private docking piers, and other cosmopolitan highs such as shopping, and spas.
Because of Nuevo Vallarta’s resorts, hotels, and residences more and more people choose to stay here or make the city their home base to explore the rest of Riviera Nayarit. Less than an hour’s drive away you can head to Puerto Vallarta, and other nearby cities and towns if you want a bit of culture and authenticity, or you can head down to the waters and take a tour of the nearby aquatic features of the Mexican Pacific.
City of Pure Vacation
Unlike many of its neighboring towns and cities, Nuevo Vallarta lacks the authenticity of a true Mexican seaside city. The city is primarily made out of potential demand for the country’s future as a tourism big shot, and thus the federal government issued out planned communities and cities to hopefully cater to this demand. And Nuevo Vallarta did just that. Nothing but resorts, hotels, gated residences, and luxury villas, the city is mainly a center for vacation and nothing more and nothing less – which is in itself a tourist draw.
With only resort amenities, high street charms, luxury living, tour companies, and the incredible golden beach to boot, Nuevo Vallarta is purely for kicking back, having fun, and savoring the good life with the right kind of R&R. While the neighboring city of Puerto Vallarta is perfect for having more than just the vacation highs, but for the cultural aspect of tourism, and authentic highlights as well, Nuevo Vallarta is ideal for those looking to have all the good fun in a vacation, nothing more, nothing less.
Golden Beach Stretch
Unlike neighboring Puerto Vallarta’s fragmented beaches, albeit beautiful, Nuevo Vallarta has a continuous stretch of golden sand beach that runs parallel along the city’s coast. This has given the city an edge when it comes to beach culture that might even beat the more famous neighboring city of Puerto Vallarta.
Nuevo Vallarta’s five-kilometer beach, (three miles) is nothing short of beautiful because of its uniqueness. The sand is sprinkled with millions of golden pecks that gave a certain gold-like luster or shine especially when viewed from afar. The shores are also soft and smooth, with gentle waves that are perfect for swimming no matter what age.
Riviera Nayarit’s affinity for golden sand beaches is a particular digression from Mexico’s famous white-sand beaches trademark. This gives the region a different flavor, ultimately adding to the country’s diversity in the landscape making it a tourism powerhouse.
Another thing that the city is famous for is golfing, it may not be as big as Cabo’s, but golf tourism here is definitely a big deal. When you come to Nuevo Vallarta, you’ll find that the area that stretches out from the city up to then north all the way through Bucerias and Punta Mita is speckled with golf courses.
Gold enthusiasts tend to bring with them their families and friends in Nuevo Vallarta as it is more convenient because there is always something to do for everyone here. The city is one of the most convenient places for the cosmopolitan type of travelers. You can try out the different golf courses in the area such as the El Tigre golf courses, touted as the most challenging in the country, and the Jack Nicklaus Vidanta golf course.
In all honesty, Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta may be separate cities situated in the same gifted bay in the Mexican Pacific but they are like two peas in a pod. While PV offers everything a well-rounded, adn uber-curious traveler is looking for, NV or Nuevo Vallarta is best reserved for those reserved for a top-notch quality upscale vacation, and nothing else.
Nuevo Vallarta is a resort city that has lived up to the very purpose it has built and might have done more than just that. With its cosmopolitan appeals aside, the atmosphere that offers premier holiday experiences has continuously given the city a massive following that not even PV or other cities in other parts of the country can beat. A success story through and through.
Another one of Mexico’s entries to its quite rich roster of seaside cities, Puerto Vallarta is Jalisco’s answer to Quintana Roo’s Cancun, albeit having fewer hotels, a smaller beach scene, but with a more authentic downtown, and a wide spectrum of draws and charms that enchant all types of travelers from far and wide.
Puerto Vallarta’s best-selling points lie in its local charms that lure waves of visitors looking for that extra authentic vibe of an otherwise famous Mexican seaside city. Thanks to PV’s friendly locals and its abundance of authentic charms the city has stood on top of Mexico’s must-visit places.
One of the things that make Puerto Vallarta so special is how it manages to maintain the richness of its uniqueness while catering to mass tourists. PV is one of the most recognized towns for the LGBTQ+ community, and you can always feel the warmth of tradition and friendliness in the city, thanks to its kind reputation and an approach that keeps loyal to its core. This Mexican Pacific treasure has enjoyed enduring fame since the golden age of Hollywood, and it continues to provide the classic Mexican dream retreat while remaining true to the Mexican character.
What Makes Puerto Vallarta Unique?
The Hollywood Charm
Puerto Vallarta has long been a steady presence on the travel radars of US Americans, long before the many attractions and allures of today, such as beach bars and restaurants, the legendary nightlife, and even the current growth in Real Estate tourism for expats and US and European retirees.
Because of the numerous Hollywood films set in the vicinity, the beach city has become a well-known destination. None, however, are as well-known as the first: 1963’s The Night of the Iguana.
After the filming was completed, A-listers from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor, bought a residence in the city and have been making high-profile visits to the area ever since. Following a spate of tabloid articles about the arrangement, more and more people got a smell of PV’s Pacific pleasures and eventually decided to visit the legendary city, resulting in a following that brought Hollywood knocking on the city’s door time and time again.
Several productions have been filmed in the city, including Perfect Target, Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, and Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger around Mismaloya, and Limitless with Bradley Cooper driving around the Malecon. Puerto Vallarta has also been the setting for a number of TV series.
The City’s Beachside Heart:
If you look up several of Mexico’s seaside cities and villages, you’ll notice that waterfront promenades have always been a popular attraction. For all intents and purposes, none of these beachfront cities and towns has turned their waterfront walks into a hub of culture and identity than Puerto Vallarta.
The iconic Malecon, a mile-long 12-block beachside stroll with vast vistas gazing out into the Pacific, has all you need to explore to have a better understanding of the city. The boardwalk is also restricted to vehicular traffic, making it entirely pedestrian and making exploration easier and more enjoyable.
The renowned Malecon has everything you need to know about Puerto Vallarta and its awe-inspiring attractions. Lined with food stalls, bars, restaurants, cafes, stores, and a plethora of attractions that may provide you with a variety of experiences while also hugging you with the city’s so-called warmth.
Walking and exploring the Malecon as much as you want is perhaps the best piece of advice you can get, as it is widely regarded as one of the most memorable aspects of a visitor’s vacation to Puerto Vallarta. There’s no better way to travel than getting up close and personal with the place you’re visiting.
With the Pacific Ocean just in front of it, Puerto Vallarta, also known as PV by locals and visitors, is one of the best, if not the best, sites to see enormous marine species such as whale sharks, dolphins, sharks, and even giant manta rays.
Puerto Vallarta is recognized for tours and other activities that allow you to come up close to, or at the very least observe, a variety of marine wildlife, including whales. This is a well-known occurrence along the waters of PV, which has given the city its illustrious renown. For obvious reasons, marine animal aficionados make up the majority of the visitors.
The extra clean and tranquil waters, thanks to Banderas Bay’s protection, provide ideal diving conditions for a variety of underwater activities such as scuba diving and whale encounters.
Puerto Vallarta may have all of the attractions you’d expect from a beach town, but what makes it even more unique is its accessibility to a bevy of other lovely destinations just a few minutes to a couple of hours beyond the city boundaries. The western coast of Mexico, particularly near PV, is littered with stunning sites that further contribute to the country’s already unique reputation.
The Mexican government has designated many of these rare locales as “Pueblos Magicos,” or “Enchantment Towns,” for their interesting cultural, geographical, and historical attractions that are wrapped in magic due to their uniqueness.
For the record, Mexico has over 121 Magic towns, but the following are a few around Puerto Vallarta that are just the perfect kind, making them worth the trek merely to add a little additional pizzazz.
Sayulita, a little town known for its surfing, is an ideal escape for the free-spirited, adventurous bunch, particularly digital nomads who work from anywhere. The town’s laid-back, calm small-town living, stylish coffee shop scene, and brilliant gastronomy provide the perfect ingredients for a quiet, peaceful, yet enriching vacation in the Mexican Pacific.
The name alone gives you an idea of what this unpretentious town is all about. Tequila, as the name implies, is the birthplace of the popular drink that is frequently served during parties and festivities. You may take a walking tour of the historic town and discover more about how the drink came to be. Explore vast fields of agave plants before learning how to make the drink and possibly drinking and taking some home. This is the birthplace of the popular alcoholic drink that is revered and adored by many around the world, as the name says. You can take a tour of the magical town and be whisked away by the rich history of the famous drink, passing through vast agave plant fields. You can learn how to make the drink and sample some while you’re there.
This small community set on a hilltop is a simple drive from Puerto Vallarta’s seaside views and deep into Jalisco state’s interior. Just a few hours from the shore, you may experience a climate that is very different from PV’s warmth and sun. Mascota is known for its colorful colonial houses and buildings, which provide a unique setting with panoramic views of Jalisco’s mountainous terrain.
The LGBTQ+ Welcome
If you ask LGBT vacationers and travelers about Puerto Vallarta, it’s likely that they’ve already marked it on their maps and wish lists. This is due to the city’s welcoming and kind attitude toward the community. Local tourism boards even advertise their city as one of the top LGBT holiday spots in Mexico, if not the entire Western Hemisphere. This culture upholds PV’s image as “The Friendliest City in the World,” with no one being left out.
The abundance of places that accommodate LGBT people, such as hotels, beach clubs, and bars, exemplifies this. PV provides a safe environment for the LGBT community to enjoy themselves and be themselves without fear of targeted harm. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, go to the Romantic Zone, which includes more than 20 gay-friendly pubs and even has a gay beach.
Puerto Vallarta may not be as well-known as Cancun and Cabo in Mexico, but this grungy, real, and all-the-more-charming city has earned a reputation for itself through the years. Even hurricanes and Hollywood storms couldn’t stop her. PV is always a wonderful idea, with draws that are exactly the right blend of warmth, humor, and enchantment.
What Is Better – Nuevo Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta?
What makes one better is how different they are and how these differences can appeal to the travelers, because at the end of the day it is a traveler’s desires that can ultimately set the tone for the experiences they want to have. Despite their same second names, PV and NV are like two peas in a pod offering two distinct flavors of the Banderas Bay.
Puerto Vallarta on one hand is famous for those looking to do more than just the occasional laid-back time in the beach and resort. The city’s warmth and authenticity are its best draws, making visitors from all over fall in love with its charms. In PV you can experience what a Mexican seaside city actually is like along with the flair of tourism such as hotels, resorts, tourist-oriented bars, and restaurants.
Nuevo Vallarta, on the other hand, is best reserved for the well-heeled, or the pure holidaymakers – people who have nothing in mind in a tropical destination other than the beach, the resort, the shopping, and other thrilling activities. The planned resort city has become a success because of its downright, straightforward approach to Mexico’s tourism boom: less culture, more R&R.
Nuevo Vallarta vs. Puerto Vallarta Beaches
Despite their proximity to each other and obvious similarities with their second names, Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta’s beaches are incredibly different. For one, Nuevo Vallarta is characterized by its five-kilometer (three miles) continuous sandy beach stretch that sports a golden hue that is shallow with calmer waves. Puerto Vallarta on the other hand has broken beaches some are sandy and smooth, and some are rugged and rocky and are slightly deeper.
Due to PV’s peculiar beaches, some people go the extra mile to look for tranquil beaches outside of the city proper. However, some beaches have just the right conditions for a cozy swim along the hotel zone. NV, on the other hand, offers a better beach scene because of the continuous sandy beach stretch, completely safe with gentle waves and shallow depths.
Is Nuevo Vallarta the Same as Puerto Vallarta?
Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta, despite having obvious similarities in their name are like two distinct places in the region. Puerto Vallarta is a quintessential Mexican seaside city that offers more than just the beach and the sun. Nuevo Vallarta is a planned resort city just north of Puerto Vallarta that has best the purpose of its establishment – providing a premier all-inclusive resort city experience that is mainly centered around the fabled tropical holiday getaway trope.
What Is the Difference Between Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta?
The differences between NV and PV lie in the atmosphere that they possess. If you simply look up online about them, you’ll automatically see the difference. Puerto Vallarta is a traditional Mexican seaside city, warm and authentic. Despite the juxtaposition of the hotels and resorts brought about by tourism development along its blocks, PV is still quintessentially Mexican.
Nuevo Vallarta is a proposed resort community that best serves the purpose of providing a quality resort experience for holidaymakers. And because it is inherently government-planned, the city lacks the authenticity of a Mexican city like its neighbor Puerto Vallarta. However, Nuevo Vallarta still flies high because of the experience it provides to people.