Because of its popularity as a tourism destination and second-home real estate market, Puerto Vallarta has outgrown its original borders, with neighboring towns now neighborhoods of Vallarta. Real estate opportunities are no longer limited to within Banderas Bay but stretch up and down the northern and southern coastlines.
The entire region, commonly referred to as Costa Vallarta, is divided into three primary regions: Puerto Vallarta proper, Riviera Nayarit to the north, and Costalegre to the south. Within these three regions, there are 13 primary areas that are popular for tourism real estate and are used by real estate professionals and their MLS service.
Costa Vallarta’s active tourism real estate development has been taking place primarily in or near the town of Puerto Vallarta, which is bordered by the Ameca River to the northwest (which is also the border between the states of Jalisco and Nayarit) and Boca de Tomatlan to the south. Costalegre, the region south of Boca all the way to Barra de Navidad, has seen limited development so far, although that will most likely be changing since the highway system is being improved and an airport for the region is in development. Riviera Nayarit to the north of Vallarta, starting at the Ameca River and encompassing the entire coastline of the state of Nayarit, is where most new development has been taking place. The section that is considered part of Vallarta’s real estate market, however, only reaches about as far as the town of Guayabitos, just over an hour’s drive from the Puerto Vallarta international airport.
For more comprehensive information regarding these regions and the real estate currently available within them, visit www.mlsvalarta.com or www.vallartarealestateguide.com. You may also browse through Puerto Vallarta’s interactive maps and areas sections at www.virtualvallarta.com.
Riviera Nayarit Norte
As you travel north beyond Banderas Bay, the mountains hide the Pacific coastline until the highway zigzags through them to once again connect with the shore. This coastline can also be reached via Punta de Mita, via a back road along the coast from Punta de Mita to Sayulita. Along this road is the new oceanfront FONATUR development of Litibú, which features an 18-hole golf course with preliminary condo, hotel and fairway home opportunities. Farther along toward Sayulita, there are a few small towns and developments built along the rugged coastline. At Sayulita, the road cuts back in and connects with the main highway (Carr. 200 Norte). Whereas Punta de Mita is high-end, luxury real estate, Sayulita is fun and funky with low- to mid-range real estate pricing, a surf destination that is becoming a little more stylish and chic. Next on the coast is San Pancho (San Francisco), where not only do you find gourmet dining but also polo, beaches and boutique hotels. San Pancho is perhaps a little more conservative than neighboring Sayulita, a little more of a typical Mexican town — it’s a nice contrast. Farther down the highway and coastline is Lo de Marcos, which (so far) has not experienced the same tourism real estate growth as the others, but it’s most certainly on its way. The northernmost town in the region we recognize as being part of the Vallarta real estate market is Guayabitos, popular with Canadians and people from Guadalajara. It’s a lively weekend destination for nationals, with some small condo developments but mostly single-family homes.
One of the fast-growing areas of the bay is the region between La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Punta de Mita, often referred to as the “North Shore” (Costa Norte), since it’s the north shore of Banderas Bay. It includes a number of new developments, as well as a few established ones, on a fantastic stretch of sandy beaches and coves. While some areas offer beachfront, others provide oceanfront or ocean-view, with numerous options for a luxurious but laid-back lifestyle. Development here has been mostly high-end luxury homes and, most recently, some larger condominium developments. The only urban areas are at the point of Punta de Mita, where the towns of El Corral del Risco and Emiliano Zapata (also known as El Anclote) are located. There are a few small condominium projects along the beach here, with reasonably priced homes and lots situated behind.
Bucerías – La Cruz
This has been a favorite area for homeowners for many years, especially when Puerto Vallarta started getting too big for some, and people started heading north for the towns of Bucerias and La Cruz. But development has caught up here, too, with a number of large developments now situated between these two towns, as well as a brand-new marina facility. These two towns have plenty of character and reflect the strong culture of Mexico. If it’s Mexico you are looking for, you’ll find it here more so than in neighboring Flamingos or the North Shore. The area has strong markets for both homes and condominiums on the beach, hillside and in the towns. Real estate development for the marina is yet to come.
Nuevo Vallarta – Flamingos
As one of the fastest growing, most successful investment regions in the state of Nayarit, the mega developments of Nuevo Vallarta and Flamingos are known best for the full spectrum of real estate types and amenities they have to offer, including three golf courses and two marinas. They are situated along the longest beach in the bay, stretching from the Paradise Village marina to Bucerias. There are fairway homes and condos, beachfront homes (but mostly condos) and canal-side opportunities. If access to the ocean is important to you, as well as golf, this area is probably your best option. Prices are mid-range for the most part, and there’s plenty to choose from. The southeast border of this area is the Ameca River and the main highway; therefore, the town of Jarretaderas is included, as well.
There are a number of small towns situated in the valley behind Nuevo Vallarta and Flamingos, such as Mezcales, San Vicente, San José and Valle de Banderas. Although not commonly referred to as tourism real estate, these towns are experiencing growth, since the regional economy has been strong. The southeast border for this area is the Ameca River, with Bucerias to the northwest.
On the Jalisco side of the valley, extending from the Ameca River (the northwest border) eastward around Vallarta and Pitillal, is the Valle Jalisco, area. It also includes everything along the highway from Marina Vallarta, around the airport, and back into the valley. This area encompasses mostly low-end residential homes, businesses and farms, with little tourism real estate development. The main small towns on this side of the river are Las Juntas, Ixtapa and Las Palmas. The road through these towns eventually heads into the hills to the towns of the Sierra Madre, San Sebastian, Mascota and Talpa.
Marina Vallarta began with a dream of creating a new level of life on Banderas Bay, where sailboats, yachts and fishing craft could count on a safe harbor. Today, Marina Vallarta is a planned real estate community including residential sites, a shopping mall, a school, condominiums and first-class hotels, with landscaping throughout. Work on the marina itself, with 450 boat slips, began in 1986. And by 1990, the marina was in full swing, even though it was 1993 before it was completed (ahead of schedule). Now, there are high-rise condominiums along the shoreline, marina-front condos, and homes and small development condominiums along the fairways of the Marina Vallarta golf course. It’s an excellent location that’s close to the airport and not far from downtown Puerto Vallarta.
This area is aptly named, since it is where the majority of the hotels have been built as Vallarta has grown over the years. It starts at Marina Vallarta and extends south along the coastline to downtown Puerto Vallarta. However, as Vallarta has grown, there has been extensive development behind the shoreline heading inland, including developments such as Fluvial and Versalles and towns such as Pitillal, along with residential neighborhoods of differing ages and affluence, well-serviced by a number of shopping centers and stores, such as Sam’s, Wal-Mart, Soriana and Costco. Most recently, the coastline has become popular for the development of high-rise condominiums, not just hotel rooms. The location is convenient, easy to reach from both downtown and the airport, as well as the coastal highway heading north and south.
There’s no doubt that living in the heart of downtown is attractive for many who move to Puerto Vallarta specifically for the romantic life suggested by walking along the Malecón on a sunny Sunday, surrounded by the friendly faces of Mexico. This is where tourism real estate began for Puerto Vallarta, with builders such as Wulff and Romero building homes for gringos on the hills behind the town and along the Cuale River (hence the nickname Gringo Gulch). Very traditional homes dot the hillside, offering wonderful views of the town and bay. Although there are a few small condo projects, most are located along Los Muertos Beach to the south of town. This is the town’s most popular beach, with an active day and nightlife along Olas Altas behind the beach. Along the Malecon, which now stretches from one end of town to the other, there are mostly shops, restaurants and nightclubs, with few homes or condominiums. If you like to be close to the best restaurants and nightlife, this is the place to be.
Amapas – Conchas Chinas
Some say the best views in all of Banderas Bay are from the hills of Amapas and Conchas Chinas. For many, that’s the primary reason for living in this exclusive zone just south of Vallarta’s downtown area, nestled into the foothills of the Sierra Madre. For years, Conchas Chinas has offered some of the most exclusive homes and condominiums available around the bay. Recently, Amapas has been following suit with mostly mid-range condominiums. The views are spectacular, and the easy access to town has made this a favorite place to live for many.
Combine the boundless green jungle with the surf-splashed rocks of a coast interspersed with private coves, add a place to view the constantly changing palette of the bay, and you have the South Shore, where rugged, low-density residences, as well as villas and other homes, dot the coastline on the curving road toward Barra de Navidad. Where Conchas Chinas ends, the South Shore begins, stretching south to the small community of Boca de Tomatlan. This is where the region’s first gated hillside communities were built. Today, there are a number of them, offering mostly single-family residences or villas. The coastline has some homes built along the cliffs, but most development has been for condominiums.
At Boca de Tomatlan, the coast highway turns into the mountains, winding its way through pine forests before returning to the coast. Because of the rather windy road and its distance from the coast, development has been limited, with very little home or condominium development. But it will be coming. New roads have been constructed off the main highway to the coastline, opening it up for development. Farther down the highway are a number of small towns and exclusive developments, but only Careyes has an active real estate market. Careyes is about three hours from Vallarta and offers very exclusive, high-end homes perched along the cliffs of Careyes bay.
Increasingly becoming a market of interest, the region behind Puerto Vallarta in the Sierra Madre’s encompasses the small towns of San Sebastian, Mascota and Talpa. These three communities are unique and quite different from one another, each appealing to a different type of homebuyer or investor. But all three offer an escape from the heat and humidity of Vallarta during the summer months, situated high up in the Sierra mountain range. Access to all three towns is now much easier with the development of a new road through the mountains. And Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is only a few hours away. Most of the market is made up of older properties in the villages that need fixing up and modernizing, or large tracts of farmland. Recently, a few small developers have entered the market to build new homes.