By Marcia Gage

The Bay of Banderas measures the same distance from the equator as Hawaii’s Big Island and the Caribbean Sea. This global treasure with its incredible natural beauty, Sierra Madre Mountain Range, and nearly perfect weather possesses all the elements of what we might call Paradise. But, it wasn’t until 1963 when John Huston landed in the area to make a little flick called Night of the Iguana that those of us in the States, Canada, and across the Atlantic decided to vacation there and eventually, for some of us, make it our home.

Since 1963, cities and towns along Banderas Bay have transformed from sleepy fishing villages to vacation meccas, retirement destinations, and places young families and working professionals call home.

For some, Puerto Vallarta represents the perfect vacation spot…but it’s not for everyone.

Puerto Vallarta represents one of the most popular places to vacation and live, but some find the hustle and bustle of PV a bit overwhelming when it comes to day-to-day life. With Puerto Vallarta, you get a combination of the Old World charm (such as cobblestone streets and rustic structures), ultra-modern new condos, colorful flora and fauna, and wildlife residents including pelicans, frigate birds, lots of lizards, iguanas, and even the occasional humpback breaching pretty darn close to your beachside table.

But, especially during the high season, tourists pouring into PV from the U.S. and Canada turn it into a party town. And, some people thrive on that kind of energy. But, for those who want a more serene backdrop for their daily lifestyle, plenty of alternatives exist along the Bay to give them just that.

Nuevo Vallarta represents one such place that continues to gain popularity with vacationers and full-time dwellers alike.

Where is Nuevo Vallarta?

Many consider Nuevo Vallarta a suburban area or neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta even though you need to cross state lines to get there. When you travel about 15 to 20 minutes from the north end of Puerto Vallarta, you’ll cross into the state of Nayarit and the town of Nuevo Vallarta.

The Mexican government started planning Nuevo Vallarta about 20 years ago, and it continues to grow in population more than any other city or region in Mexico. It isn’t easy to measure the actual population since many of the people you see enjoying the pristine beaches technically are tourists, whether there for two weeks or six months. However, the number of full-time residents also continues to grow.

Nuevo Vallarta consists of a lot more than just three miles of the world’s most beautiful beaches. It seems the planners knew this community would house more than just vacationers. The Nuevo community also boasts shopping malls, two professional golf courses, two fully equipped marinas, and a zoo. Plans continue to expand Nuevo Vallarta to the north, making it a prime opportunity for investors.

Who Lives in Nuevo and Why?

Don’t let anybody tell you that living in Nuevo Vallarta isn’t really living in Mexico. If you’re looking at the Sierra Madres and Banderas Bay and you spot a humpback breaching in the distance, you know you’re definitely living in Mexico.

However, you won’t get some of the authentic features that Puerto Vallarta offers, like the cobblestone streets with varying levels of steepness. As a relatively new community, Nuevo Vallarta is paved and flat. People using wheelchairs, canes, and those with mobility issues, in general, appreciate the more walkable pathways.

The Mexican government planned the infrastructure of Nuevo a short two decades ago, so they knew from the start that their community’s weather and natural beauty would continue to attract tourists and residents from all over the globe. Contrast that with Puerto Vallarta, which officially became a city in 1918. John Huston and his camera crew still wouldn’t show up for over four decades. In 1963, no one imagined the growth that Puerto Vallarta would experience.

Better infrastructure in Nuevo Vallarta not only means better roads, sewer systems, and reliable water supplies, it also means state-of-the-art high-speed internet that doesn’t go out during downpours or when a dump truck passes by your window.

The Banderas Bay area, in general, represents a relatively safe area to live and vacation. But, again, Nuevo Vallarta wins the prize when it comes to its residents feeling safe due to the very low crime rate.

You will find retirees who prefer Nuevo due to mobility issues and those looking to lead active lives. Younger professional expats, both single and with families, also often choose Nuevo Vallarta as their home. Professional Mexican nationals such as attorneys and doctors love the quiet and beautiful homes Nuevo Vallarta offers to enjoy the beautiful Bay after a hard day’s work.

Cost of Living in Nuevo Vallarta

You will not likely find a quirky little gem to call home for $500 a month like you might find in Puerto Vallarta when you go apartment hunting in Nuevo Vallarta. You will find that whatever type of abode fits your lifestyle will cost you about half of what it does in the States. In Nuevo Vallarta, you could rent an immaculate two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with a pool and mountain view for about $1,200 a month. Of course, you can also spend a lot more for added luxury or property on the ocean.

You may find a small hacienda-type home to buy for about $150,000, but most homes cost between $200,000+ to over two million. But, you’ll get a lot more house for the money as compared to the United States or Canada.

Nuevo Vallarta doesn’t offer many tacos stands where dinner costs you under three dollars. But, groceries and restaurants will typically cost you a lot less than in the States.

Nuevo Vallarta also offers a pretty cool farmers’ market on Tuesdays between November and April. At the Riviera Nayarit Farmer’s Market, you’ll find great deals on authentic food, clothing, and crafts while listening to some pretty terrific music.

Gasoline represents the main thing that may cost more than back in the States. But, remember what a bargain the bus or an Uber represents for getting around town or going over to Puerto Vallarta.

Added Benefits From Living in Nuevo Vallarta

Just because Nuevo Vallarta boasts a more peaceful vibe than Puerto Vallarta doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do. Besides a plethora of shopping malls, spas, grocery stores, banks, and other establishments you need for everyday life, world-class restaurants offering a variety of cuisines continue to pop up in Nuevo all the time.

For the active types, you’ll find everything from gyms, bike paths, and golf courses to keep you fit. And, if you’re even more adventurous, a wide variety of water sports and mountain activities also await you.

Of course, you’ll witness the wonders of nature every day, but for an extraordinary wildlife adventure, check out the humpback whales on Marietta Islands from December through March or the turtle sanctuary at Bahia del Sol. Turtle release parties typically take place from late winter to early spring.

And, if you reside in Nuevo Vallarta and occasionally crave a little more cultural stimulation or just want to party, Puerto Vallarta awaits you, and it’s only 15 to 30 minutes away. If you don’t feel like driving, there’s the bus, taxi, or Uber, and there’s even a water taxi that will take you right to Los Muertos Pier.

But perhaps you want a little more Mexican culture in a more relaxed atmosphere. You don’t need to travel very far north from Nuevo to make it to the charming, authentic, and very laid-back town of Bucerias.

Wherever you live along the Bay of Banderas, you’ll experience nearly perfect weather between mid-November to mid-May if you like Fahrenheit temperatures between the high seventies and low eighties during the day and high fifties to low sixties at night. Throw in some tropical breezes, and you just defined Paradise.

Many people also enjoy the steamier temperatures of the rainy season. The rains cool things down and happen mainly in the evening. They also bring with them fantastic lightening shows provided by Mother Nature. The long stretch of beaches in Nuevo Vallarta delivers the perfect place to witness the storms coming in.

If you love Puerto Vallarta for vacations, but you’re not quite sure if you could live there, go ahead and explore Nuevo Vallarta. You could have the best of both worlds.

Featured Image Copyright: ©iStock/teodorapopa

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