Five Places Not to Miss in Downtown Puerto Vallarta
Photos courtesy of Tom Bastek
On Mexico’s Pacific coast lies the beautiful and historic city of Puerto Vallarta. What was once a haven for pirates and smuggling is now one of the premiere resort destinations on the Mexican pacific coast. No matter if you are staying at an all-inclusive resort or just stopping for the day with a cruise ship, there is plenty for you to explore in the historic downtown area.
The number one activity/area in Puerto Vallarta is just a short drive from any resort or hotel in town. The Malecon is a 12 block-long walk right along the water in downtown Puerto Vallarta. Peppered with street performers, art statues, and sand sculptures, The Malecon is a pedestrians-only place to see and be seen. Lined with restaurants, bars, shops, and more, during the day you can meet tour guides, and tequila peddlers, and at night the fun turns up a notch with clubs and bars abuzz with activity. On Sunday evenings, take in the locals who come out in force for the Paseo, a gathering of the family for socialization and fun. There is also entertainment every night of the week at the amphitheater here.
Don’t Miss: The Papantla Bird-men. These acrobats sing a song, say a prayer, and launch themselves off a platform 75 feet in the air. Gracefully spinning around, slowly making their way to the ground, all the while playing their instruments for the gods. All that for the price of a tip in the passed hat. Awesome.
The spiritual center for the Catholics in town, this is as much as a pilgrimage for the locals as much as the tourists. Constructed on and off between the 1920s and the late 1940s, the building was finished with the exception of the towers, which were not completely finished until 1987. The church has been through much, but has always survived to offer both Spanish and English masses on Saturday and Sunday.
Don’t Miss: The crown at the top of the tower is technically the third. The first was placed in 1965, due to erosion restored in 1981, then only to be knocked off by an earthquake in 1995. It was then replaced with a temporary fiberglass crown until the famed Jaliscan aritist, Carlos Terres could sculpt another.
There are plenty of places that claim to be “flea markets” downtown but the one you really want to go to if you are looking for something artsy/crafty to bring home is the municipal market that is located along the north banks of the Cuale River. This two story building has everything you could possibly want from authentic leather goods to silver jewelry to chachkies to take home to the kiddies. Upstairs there are food stalls and vendors to boot.
Don’t Miss: The art of tactful negotiations. The vendors here already have pretty cheap prices here, so go easy on the locals, but that doesn’t mean you have been offered their best price. A well-timed sigh and an artful offer can go a long way. Don’t be afraid. The worst they can do is say no.
Just a short walk to the island in the middle of the Cuale River are the open air stalls of the Isla Cuale. Along this well-shaded and cool strip of shops you will find a continuation of the municipal market with some larger items as well. There is also a restaurant, art gallery, and a fountain that is certainly photo worthy.
Don’t Miss: The hanging bridges. Wood and net swinging bridges appear occasionally along the river to let pedestrians get to island. They are bouncy, wobbly, and fun!
The south side of Puerto Vallarta is often referred to the Romantic Zone and for good reason. There are more restaurants, bars, art galleries, and boutique hotels here per square foot than anywhere else in town. The food options here are abundant and if you are thinking about getting street food anywhere in PV, this is the place. The nightlife is bustling in this area as well. Take note, the streets here are narrow and the footing is a little unsteady at times with sometime high curbs and cobblestone streets.
Don’t Miss: The Pier at Playa Los Muertos. In addition to offering access to water taxis and sailboat trips, the pier lights up at night and is great for a stroll, day or night.
There you have it, five places to get you going in Puerto Vallarta. There are many more, and with Puerto Vallarta being a very safe city to begin with, do not be afraid to explore a little on your own. The locals are easy to talk to and the food is phenomenal. Puerto Vallarta is more than just a pretty face! Get to know some of the culture, the history and the fun of this beautiful Pacific Coast town.
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