Puerto Vallarta Listings: El Centro North & South
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El Centro (Centro North)

You can’t get closer to town than El Centro. El Centro is town. From the Rio Cuale at the south, north to the end of the Malecon (Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk), El Centro encompasses the heart of the city. And it is a vibrant area, indeed, rivalled only by Olas Altas for its nightlife. Everything you could need is within easy walking distance: shops, cafés, restaurants, nightclubs, markets, theaters, and more.

This is the real Puerto Vallarta. The streets are cobblestone, the buildings, authentic. The population is a mix, but probably more Mexican than gringo. For the young urbanite, El Centro is pretty close to heaven. Get anything, walk anywhere, party anytime. For those with a more rural bent, El Centro will be unbearably noisy, crowded, hot, and smelly. And it can be quite expensive to boot. Old Vallarta style villas start in the $500,000 range, and the few condominiums available start at $300,000.

El Cerro / 5 de Diciembre

El Cerro – El Cerro is the area of Puerto Vallarta just to the east of El Centro, where the flat streets of El Centro begin their upward climb into the mountains beyond. El Cerro shares many of the benefits of El Centro: it’s convenient, it’s vibrant, and it’s the real thing. The streets are cobblestone (where they aren’t dirt), the houses fairly old with the classic look of Mexico.

There are plenty of young Americans and Canadians here; the area appeals to an art-loving, almost bohemian crowd. And perhaps that’s for the best. Like many of the older areas of Puerto Vallarta, El Cerro is hit-or-miss. One block will be filled with well-maintained, attractive homes, the next with tin-roofed shacks, mangy dogs, and barefoot children. Though some homes are fairly expensive, good deals are to be found. Several new condominium buildings are in process at the top of the hill featuring spectacular views and prices starting in the low $200,000 USD range.

Gringo Gulch

Gringo Gulch was the original American settlement in Puerto Vallarta. It was here that the legendary romance of Burton and Taylor grew into a passion that spanned several marriages. Other famous Americans, such as Peter O’Toole, once lived here. And Gringo Gulch is still primarily an American (and Canadian) stronghold.

The neighborhood runs along the hilly northern bank of the Rio Cuale, just east of the center of town. It’s an easy walk down to shops, restaurants, and markets, but a bit of a trek back up. Cabs are cheap and easy to come by, however, and the beauty of the setting more than offsets the inconvenience. Perhaps more important, Gringo Gulch is an area steeped in the history and culture of Puerto Vallarta. Like most such areas it has its rough spots and can be a bit rustic, to use a well-worn euphemism. But for many Americans, it is the only place actually in Vallarta that they would consider home, and although prices can be quite high, occasional bargains can be found.


LOS MUERTOS (Centro south)

Not a neighborhood exactly, but a beach. Playa Los Muertos is the largest and most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta. And for good reason: it’s right in town, accessible to everything (and everyone), home of many nightclubs and restaurants, and according to many the best place to view the sunset. That said, it’s also expensive, congested, noisy, and very touristy. Still, there’s something to be said for convenience, and if it can be found in Puerto Vallarta, you can find it within a few blocks of Los Muertos beach. Everything you need, and glorious views, too. How can you go wrong?

Los Muertos is exclusively condos and rentals, with a few time-shares thrown in for good measure. Prices range from moderately expensive to more expensive and the residents are mostly Americans and Canadians. 2 bedroom beachfront units start at the $400k range, but if you are looking for a solid investment, and a great rental, this is the first place to look.

OLAS ALTAS (ZONA ROMANTICA)

If Puerto Vallarta had a Greenwich Village, Olas Altas would be it. Along this street one block east of Playa Los Muertos one can find half a dozen cafés, many restaurants, and galleries galore. The cafés are usually filled with expatriated Americans enjoying a cappuccino and a pastry, playing chess, or reading a book. Everyone is on at least a nodding acquaintance with everyone else, and its not unusual to end up in a long conversation with the person sitting at the table next to yours.

At night, Olas Altas really comes alive. The sounds of revelry can be heard up and down the street. Lines form outside popular restaurants and the discos begin to heat up. And though it’s one of the most touristy areas of Puerto Vallarta, it’s also the one area where the expatriates may outnumber the tourists.

A place on or near Olas Altas is not for everyone. It offers tremendous convenience, from the expanse of Los Muertos beach, to the variety of restaurants, shops, and markets. And it is a wonderful place to hang out, party, or shop. But it is also congested, noisy, and filled with tourists. City folks will love it. Rural folk and suburbanites, come to visit, but stay elsewhere. Again a supurb investment area, but if you are interested in this area, be prepared to act quickly, properties are often listed and sold in the same day.

EMILIANO ZAPATA

East of Insurgentes, south of Lazaro Cardenas, running east almost to the river and south to the foot of the hills and Alta Vista, Emiliano Zapata is home to many Mexicans and scattered Americans and Canadians. It’s best features are moderate prices and easy accessibility. Shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and the Cine Bahia are an easy walk. The people are friendly and taco stands abound.

Of course, lower prices usually come with a few inconveniences. In Emiliano Zapata, it’s noise. This is a real Mexican neighborhood, and when the work day is done, the locals take to the streets to talk, to walk, and to play. Street football until the early morning hours is a possibility. Light sleepers might want to consider earplugs. But for those who long to experience the charm of Mexican living on a budget, Emiliano Zapata has much to offer.

ALTA VISTA

In the southeastern part of Puerto Vallarta, south of the Rio Cuale and just starting up into the hills, is a small neighborhood known as Alta Vista, High View. Alta Vista borders on Emiliano Zapata, but is a cut above it both in altitude and price. The villas here can be quite expensive, but they offer a jungle setting, beautiful views of the city and the bay, and easy walking access to town. It’s a bit quieter than Emiliano Zapata, too. The population is a mix of Mexicans, Americans, and Canadians. Several nice comdominiums are in process with prices starting in the low $300´s, but private homes are hard to find, and prices start at $500k and can go up quickly.