The Romantic Zone is the portion of the downtown area of Puerto Vallarta that is bordered by the Rio Cuale on the north, Santa Barbara Street on the south, Insurgentes Street on the east, and Playa de Los Muertos on the west. Other common names for this area are Old Town, The South Side, and Colonia Emilano Zapata. The Romantic Zone is greatly favored by frequent tourists, expats, and locals alike because of its vibrant, colorful and relaxed ambiance along with the incredible number of amenities available within one defined area of the city. Here you will find the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in all of Puerto Vallarta. And for accommodations there are a good number of great budget hotels, a few hostels, very lovely boutique hotels, as well as a fantastic inventory of rental condo options, most of which are within walking distance to the beach. The whole of the Romantic Zone just bustles with activity and Mexican cultural flavor. Those vacationers looking forward to sprawling resort properties will not find those types of accommodations in the Romantic Zone. Those types of resorts are located in the Hotel Zone, with the the mega all-inclusive properties primarily located in Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. But make no mistake about it, the Romantic Zone is a very special place and many visitors find that forgoing a stay at a large luxury resort complex outside the Romantic Zone is well worth the trade off of being in the center of all the action.
Visitors will find that there is no shortage of things to do and experience in Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone. During the day visitors can relax on the golden sands of lively Los Muertos Beach and beach-chair shop from a whole host of beach vendors walking by, or enjoy taking a stroll down the narrow cobblestone streets of downtown, browsing the numerous boutiques and unique shops before stopping for lunch and drinks at any number of excellent restaurants, bars or taco carts. Food prices and offerings range from budget to gourmet, so there’s something for everyone. And if you’re wondering what types of food are available, here is a quick sampling: Mexican, Seafood, International, Mediterranean, Pizzas, Japanese, Chinese, Hamburgers, American, Italian, Argentinian, German, Spanish, Cuban, Vegetarian, Fusion, Steakhouses, Delis, and more. In the Romantic Zone you can enjoy a meal on the beach with your toes in the sand, or dine at a restaurant with a terrace that offers panoramic views of the ocean. When it comes to types of food and dining experiences, the options are limitless!
At the south end of the Malecon there is a bridge that crosses over the Rio Cuale River. The photo above shows the stairway in the middle of the bridge which leads to the tiny island: Isla Rio Cuale. Simply descend the stairs and follow the path past Oscar’s Restaurant and the River Cafe and you will reach the darling Rio Cuale Flea Market.
Shopping in the Romantic Zone is an experience not to be missed. It’s highly recommended that your shopping excursion include Mercado Isla Rio Cuale, which is the famous flea market area at the north end of the Romantic Zone on the Isla Rio Cuale (the tiny island surrounded by the waters of the Rio Cuale river). Visitors looking for the perfect souvenir will discover many unique artisan treasures such as glazed clay pots, serving platters and dinnerware all painted in spectacular colors and patterns, beautiful blown-glass pitchers and drinking glasses, an array of gorgeous textile products, Mexican-style blankets, purses, all types of decorative art, lacy white hammocks, a variety of Mexican toys, tropical beachwear to include shirts and dresses, silver jewelry, hand-beaded bracelets and earrings, bottles of Mexican vanilla and so much more.
Another beautiful attraction in the Romantic Zone is the brand new Los Muertos Pier which was completed in January 2013 as part of Puerto Vallarta’s downtown renovation project. The pier’s landing dock can accommodate 6 medium-sized boats which provide transportation to many of the area beaches which are accessible only by water. The new pier also has a large pedestrian area with some seating that’s open to the public. This affords locals and visitors an opportunity to enjoy beautiful city and ocean views from the pier which are exceptionally stunning at night. Each evening Los Muertos Pier is illuminated with gorgeous colored lights that rotate slowly between various shades of red, green, purple, blue, etc.
It’s easy to see why the Romantic Zone attracts a multitude of international visitors each season. As American and Canadian Baby Boomers retire and start flocking south for the winter, the more popular hotel and condo properties throughout the area tend to book up fast. For the high-season months of November through April, it’s not uncommon for long-term-stay rental condo reservations to be made 12 months in advance to secure the very best accommodations for the following year.