Marina Vallarta, in Puerto Vallarta, was developed in the late 1980s and at the time was one of the first mega developments in Mexico. It became a model for similar communities to be developed in other places such as Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Ixtapa and Cancun. A “mega development” can be defined as a self-contained tourist community where nearly everything that a resident is available. Marina Vallarta is built around two anchoring entities, a large 450 slip marina and a 18-hole golf course. Its situated conveniently next to the Puerto Vallarta International airport, alongside the main highway that leads from the airport to downtown Vallarta and the Hotel Zone, and has more than a kilometer of beachfront, which is lined with hotels and condominium projects.
Along the highway and near the airport is the Plaza Marina Vallarta shopping center, with a Commercial Mexicana supermarket at its anchor, along with numerous shops, offices and restaurants. Around the marina is a promenade, great for walks, that is lined with condominium projects, with restaurants and shops featured on the ground level facing the marina. Marina Vallarta is very centrally located, being next to the airport and about 15 minutes from downtown.
At a Glance
- Anchored by a 450 boat-slip marina with full marine services
- 18-hole golf course
- Plaza Marina shopping centre
- Marina promenade with shops and restaurants
- American School
If arriving by air, Marina Vallarta is easy to find as it is right next to the airport, with the best option being to just take a taxi to your hotel or property in the Marina. If arriving by car from the north (Guadalajara and Tepic), Marina Vallarta is situated right next to the international airport. As you past the airport you’ll see the Plaza Marina Vallarta shopping center on your right. Just past this is the main entrance to the Marina. You can’t miss it as there’s a large whale sculpture at the entrance. Marina Vallarta is also home to boaters, many arriving in the fall from the U.S. and Canada. The entrance is clearly marked, but watch for traffic as the entrance is also shared with three cruise line docks; when in town that make a difficult to miss landmark for where the entrance is.
Landmarks, Sights & Activities
There are three distinguishing landmarks for Marina Vallarta. When arriving by vehicle, the first you’ll see is a large whale sculpture at the Marina’s main entrance. It was built by Octavio González in the early 90s and paid for by local Marina businessmen. The prominent landmark is a lighthouse, built alongside the marina promenade and at the end of Calle (street) Timon. The lighthouse has a bar at the top and is a wonderful place to have an evening cocktail and get a great view of all of Marina Vallarta. The marina promenade is very popular with strollers, enjoying the many boats in the marina, and the many restaurants available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you are interested in fishing, finding a boat won’t be difficult. Many of the operators hang out around the lighthouse, just go there and you’ll find someone to help you out. TFor more information on what activities are available in Marina Vallarta, visit our What to Do page. For those staying at one of the hotels, the concierge will also be able to assist you.
Culture: Arts, music, cuisine
Most of the cultural experiences can be found on the marina promenade, which is lined with numerous restaurants. Some have live entertainment, although there are always passing trios or mariachis who are ready to perform for you. In the evenings artists display their works as well along the promenade. For dining, there’s a wide variety of cuisine types available, best idea is to simply walk the promenade and read their menus. The marina especially comes alive in the evenings, with people and families walking the promenade before selecting a place for dinner.
Marina Vallarta began as a development of Grupo Situr, a large real estate development company out of Guadalajara who were active in the late 80s to mid’ 90s. Marina Vallarta was their first “mega-development”, developed in the late 80s and would become their most successful project and a model for other similar projects to follow, such as Marina Ixtapa, Marina Mazatlan, Playacar and Bajamar. It was the first private development of its kind. There had been other similar type major projects, but they were developed by the federal government under FONATUR – Marina Vallarta was the first private endeavor and became a model for many other private developers in future years. Situr began to have fiscal problems that were escalated by the economic problems of Mexico in late 1994, from which Situr never did recover. Fortunately by this time Marina Vallarta was mostly built out with the marina, golf course and many of the sub-developments securely in place. Situr’s other projects throughout Mexico did not do as well and eventually, ended up taking the company down.
The beach in front of Marina Vallarta is only accessible to the public at one end, alongside the airport. There is limited parking here. Most of the beach has been taken up by large hotel and condominium projects, and this is also where most tourists stay.
Where to Stay
Most of the hotel accommodations available in Marina Vallarta are situated along the beach and are at the Four, Five or Gran Turismo level. Some of Vallarta’s finest hotels can be found here such as the Westin Regina, Melia, Marriott CasaMagna, Velas Vallarta and Casa Vela. Rentals are also very popular, especially with the condominium units along the beach or the marina promenade. They can all be booked directly or on Travelocity.com or Expedia.com. TripAdvisor.com is a good source of information of what people who have stayed at these hotels have to stay, and you can do bookings there as well. Many of these hotels provide excellent package deals of air and room, available through travel agents.
Marina Vallarta Golf Course
Marina Vallarta has a 18-hole course designed by Joe Finger, situated in the middle of the development, which offers a marvelous mix of typical tropical ambience of the Pacific coast with views of the Sierra Madre and Banderas Bay. The Marina Vallarta golf course is owned and operated by Club Corp who also have two 18-hole courses, called Vista Vallarta in the hills behind Vallarta. The clubhouse is situated on the main entry road, follow it until you have to turn and its on your right. Contact for tee times: 322-221-0073 or email: .
Marina Vallarta Marina
Centrally located, close to the airport and 15 minutes from downtown, the marina at Marina Vallarta is a favorite for boaters, for both long and short term rentals. There are 450 slips ranging in size from 30 to 140 ft. Some are privately owned in the marina (both in the main marina or in front of oceanfront homes and townhouses), others are rented on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Services include electricity, satellite TV, water, honey barge, security and laundry service. Opequimar provides a fuel dock, full marine services with a 88 ton travel lift capable of lifting ships up to 95 feet. Contact for the Harbormaster is: (322) 221-0722.
There is a wide variety of real estate options available in the marina, and along with it close proximity to the airport and downtown Vallarta, it is a favorite for many. Older condominium projects line the marina and golf course, with newer product available situated along the beach in towers. Single family homes can be found along the fairways of the golf course. For those who may be moving to Vallarta and have children who are school age, an advantage to Marina Vallarta is that the American School is located here and can walk to school from most parts of the development.