Puerto Vallarta Digital Nomad Guide
A few years ago, we spent a month working remotely from Merida and wanted to get closer to the beach. We weren’t crazy about the vibe of Playa Del Carmen and starting looking elsewhere in Mexico. We stumbled on a great airbnb in Puerto Vallarta advertising fast internet and booked on a whim.
Puerto Vallarta quickly turned into one of our favorite relaxing spots in Mexico and, along with Merida, easily one of the best digital nomad spots in all of Mexico.
I had expected it to be another tourist trap like Cancun. I was wrong.
What’s to love about Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta, while indeed touristy, has a lot to offer for a range of travelers. Accomodations from luxury resorts and private villas to backpacker hostels and cheap airbnbs; gorgeous beaches, a lively nightlife, charming downtown, friendly locals, great food, and plenty of day trips to nearby surf spots, cute beach towns, secluded beaches, and a delightful botanical garden. Plus an international airport makes it a convenient base.
How much does it cost to live in Puerto Vallarta?
You can live comfortably on a low to midrange budget. We spend more in Puerto Vallarta than in Southeast Asia or in other cities in Mexico, but less than Europe, South America or the US. A good minimum range would be $400-800/month for rent and $150/week for food, around $100/month for transportation. Expect to spend more if you wish to experience the nightlife, book tours, or eat non-Mexican food. Add on another $130/month for coworking if you wish to reserve a spot.
Plan for this to make up the biggest chunk of your budget. If you will stay 6 months or longer, and don’t mind a more local neighborhood away from the Romantic Zone, you can easily find an inexpensive place.
We stay a 20-30 min walk from “Gringo Gulch,” ie the main tourist area, in a local neighborhood. For our modern 2-bedroom apartment with a nice kitchen, in a secure building with a swimming pool, rooftop lounge, laundry facilities and super fast internet (20-50mbps), we pay around $800/month. Keep in mind we are two digital nomads with steady jobs, in our 30s, splitting the rent, preferring to have more space, and we are quite picky about the standard of our rental (we like a little luxury).
We only rent it for about 6 weeks at a time, during high season, so this cost could be cut to $600-700, if staying outside of Dec-May. If you were willing to book a studio apartment you could easily find one in a nice part of town for less than $300-500/month. You can find a decent private room in a shared house for $150-400/month.
Finding accommodation in Puerto Vallarta:
Each time we’ve visited we’ve opted to use Airbnb since we rent short term and prefer to have a private apartment. If you are looking for something more long-term we recommend arriving and getting acquainted with the city before making any decisions. Once you’re on the ground you can easily find rentals. You might also want to join the local expat group on facebook and keep an eye open for people advertising rentals or make an inquiry. You can also check out Craigslist Mexico or Facebook Marketplace.
The Grateful gypsies wrote a helpful post on cost of living
Puerto Vallarta offers an extensive range and variety of dining options. If you plan to mostly eat local food you can get by extremely cheaply. A hearty lunch at a taco stand will certainly cost you less that $5. Non-local food and eating in the touristy areas is much more expensive. A meal at our favorite healthy fusion restaurant tends to be around $8-10. A nice dinner out including drinks, appetizers, a main course and dessert averages $15/person. However even if you’re on a small budget, you’ll be able to eat quite well.
If you plan to cook meals yourself, the cost of groceries are quite reasonable. Fresh produce tends to be much cheaper, fresher and better than what you’ll find in America. Stick to the local produce markets for these things as large grocery stores are more expensive and less fresh. If you plan to stay a month or more, you can stock up on specialty items and quality imported food at Costco.
Fun fact: getting a membership at the Puerto Vallarta Costco is only $20/year and your membership card will work at all other Costcos in or out of Mexico. We would stock up on things like frozen berries, chocolate, almond butter, healthy snacks & nuts, and wine at Costco and buy our fresh fruit/veggies and meat from local markets.
The internet in Puerto Vallarta, and Mexico in general, is very hit or miss. Expect an average of 10 mbps on the higher end. While most hotels and airbnbs in Puerto Vallarta will have WIFI, you can’t expect to get lucky and automatically have a great connection. If you depend on a solid connection like us, you’ll need to do your homework. Our rental had 50 mbps (when plugged in via ethernet), but most places where we inquired offered 10 mbps or less.
Be sure to contact your host before committing or plan on getting a place near a coworking space. We prefer to get a rental with a private modem that offers the ability to connect directly via ethernet cable if necessary.
Cell phone & SIM cards:
We typically use our Google FI data and I’ll buy an additional local SIM if I need it for backup while teaching online. I always buy my SIM and data from telcel, which sets me back about $30 for a starter plan, with the occasional $5 topper here or there.
Coworkings spaces and cafes to work from
The digital nomad scene is definitely not as large and varied as Playa Del Carmen. However we’ve been very pleased working from Vallarta Cowork. Having a smaller group often means it’s easier to meet people. Vallarta Cowork offers regular lunch outings and events to help you get to know fellow nomads. The space is comfortable, well located, friendly and well equipped.
On our most recent visit we noticed another coworking space had opened up in a different neighborhood–Cowork Natureza
A Page in the Sun: Well-located, friendly and tasty drinks/snacks. We’ve worked from here many times
The Green Place: Vegetarian cafe with a nice vibe
Metate Cafe: Comfortable atmosphere, fast wifi
Staying fit in Puerto Vallarta:
While we are the types who prefer walking, running and working out at home (Youtube fitness videos!), Puerto Vallarta offers some options.
Crossfit Zapata: Highly rated crossfit gym in centro
Vivefit: Nice facilities with new equipment and interesting fitness classes
Yoga Vallarta & Pilates: Highly rated, but expensive, studio in the Romantic Zone
Everytime we are in Puerto Vallarta we like to go to the dentist for checkup/cleanings. We found a very professional dentist that costs a fraction of the price it would in America. We recommend: Advanced Medical Center
What are the best areas to live in Puerto Vallarta?
Anywhere in or around the area known as “El Centro,” or downtown, tends to be well located. If you want to be in the heart of the tourist zone, look for hotels or rentals in Zona Romantica. This area will have lots of restaurants and cafes with wifi and bars and shops. It’s also quite close to the main beach.
The past few years we’ve stayed in Agua Azul, which is located a bit further from the beach and tourist zone, but still within a short drive, bus ride or 20-30 min walk.
We also like the neighborhood around the municipal stadium as its cheaper than Zona Romantica, but located reasonably close. Additionally, the neighborhood called Versalles is lovely, near great restaurants and a bit more quiet.
Is Puerto Vallarta Safe?
We think so! Like with anywhere, use common sense; avoid flaunting your wealth, be aware of your surroundings, be careful when consuming alcohol and avoid wandering around late at night. Most of the violence in Mexico is directly related to the drug war and does not involve tourists. For every bad story you hear in Mexico, there are 100 good ones. Try not to let your paranoia get the best of you. We’ve not had issues of any kind here, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t always a possibility–so be smart. Out of all our travels, we’ve met the sweetest, most caring and welcoming local people here during our collective +12 months visiting Mexico.
Want to know more about life in Puerto Vallarta? Check out our First Timer’s Guide to Puerto Vallarta