Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful destination, and the seaside boardwalk known as El Malecón is a showcase for all that the city has to offer. You'll find interesting art, delicious food, beautiful views, and fascinating cultural expressions all along this pleasant corridor. This is the best place to begin your explorations of Puerto Vallarta, and the most convenient way to do it is on a self-guided walking tour.
Officially, the name of this street is Paseo Diaz Ordaz, but you will invariably hear it referred to as the Malecón. This wide waterfront promenade is lined with palm trees and dotted with bronze sculptures and other art. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and outdoor cafes along here if you decide to stop for some shopping or for a drink or a snack. There's free Wifi here too.
The Malecón begins at the corner of 31 de Octubre street. The Hotel Rosita, one of the oldest hotels in town, is located on this corner. This is a good place to stay if you want to be right in the center of the action, or the nearby Villa Premiere, a boutique hotel perfect for a romantic getaway, is located just a few blocks away.
This bronze sculpture by Ramiz Barquet depicts a couple sitting on a bench. Barquet is the author of several publicly-displayed sculptures you will see in Puerto Vallarta, including San Pasqual, Shark in Spiral, and Fisherman. This sculpture was installed in 1984 and was inspired by Barquet's personal love story of reuniting in his later years with a love from his youth.
You can hear the whole story behind this piece and more on the Malecón Sculpture Walking Tour hosted by Gary Thompson, owner of Galeria Pacífico, held on Tuesday mornings during the winter season. Gary also hosts the Vallarta Art Walk which includes visits to several local galleries and is held from November through May on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 10 pm.
The Subtle Stone Eater
A sculpture by Jonas Gutierrez is located on the Malecon at the intersection of Calle Abasolo. This quirky sculpture is made of bronze and obsidian and is entitled The Subtle Stone Eater (El Sútil Comepiedras) and was inaugurated on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk on October 14, 2006.
Another sight you will see as you stroll the Malecon is the Voladores de Papantla, the flying men who perform a dance ritual around a high pole.
Besides bronze sculptures and Huichol designs inset into the floor, on a walk along Puerto Vallarta's malecon you will also see less permanent art, including amazing sand art.
Huichol Collection Gallery
You'll find myriad options for shopping in Puerto Vallarta from art galleries and upscale boutique to markets on cobblestone streets. As you wander through Puerto Vallarta's streets and traditional neighborhoods you'll have no problem finding souvenirs and unique works of art to take home with you.
One shop that's worth seeking out is the Huichol Collection Gallery, not far off the Malecon at 490 Morelos Street. The Huichol people were the original inhabitants of this area, and they are known for their beautiful and colorful beaded and hand-stitched artwork. Here you'll find intricately beaded animals and figurines with the traditional designs of the Huichol people in a range of prices. There is usually an artist at work, so you can see how the art is created.
Don't mistake this guy for a sand sculpture. On a walk along Puerto Vallarta's Malecon you're sure to come across some interesting performance artists and buskers. Like this mime, also known as the sand man, for obvious reasons.
Los Arcos (the arches) is one of the Puerto Vallarta landmarks on the Malecon. You're likely to find musicians performing here in the evenings, so you can enjoy music as the sun sets on Banderas Bay.
Puerto Vallarta Cathedral
As you continue your walk along the Malecon, when you reach Iturbide street, Puerto Vallarta's main square will come into sight, and beyond it is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe). The tower of the church is topped with a crown which is said to be a replica of the crown worn by Empress Carlota.
The Cuale River
The Cuale River winds down from the mountains and through southern Puerto Vallarta, separating downtown Puerto Vallarta from Viejo Vallarta (Old Vallarta). Isla Cuale is an island in the river, and is home to a park, a cultural center, a craft market and several restaurants, including The River Café. Since the Malecon was revamped in 2011/2012, it now stretches farther south, and a pedestrian bridge over the River Cuale along the beachfront links downtown Vallarta and the Malecon with the Romantic Zone and Los Muertos Beach.
Playa Los Muertos
After you cross the pedestrian bridge over the Cuale River, you'll find yourself in the southernmost area of Puerto Vallarta. This area is sometimes referred to as Viejo Vallarta (Old Vallarta) or the Romantic Zone, or the South Side. The Romantic Zone maintains the charm and traditions of times past. Here you can glimpse the Puerto Vallarta that attracted Liz Taylor and Richard Burton to make this their romantic getaway in the 1950s. This part of Puerto Vallarta has a laid-back atmosphere and casual pace.
Playa de los Muertos means 'Beach of the Dead', the name comes from a centuries-old legend about a pirate battle that took place here. This is the most popular beach in Vallarta, with plenty of beach restaurants and bars to choose from. There are lots of vendors on the beach too, so you can do your shopping from your spot on the sand.