Puerto Vallarta is nothing short of a gorgeous, art-driven city packed with all kinds of charm and no visit would be complete without a stroll along the Malecon (boardwalk), its cultural gem. Located on the edge of the historic section of the city, but beginning just a few miles south of the newer section of town known as Nuevo Vallarta, the Malecon is easy to get to from many of the resorts. Being only a mile long it’s also very walkable and the perfect way to get out and experience more classical Mexican culture any time of day.
In the morning, fresh sea breezes from Banderas Bay can help you wake up and feel refreshed. Late afternoon strolls come with warm weather, sunshine, and plenty of lunch options, and evenings are highlighted by the beautiful sunsets for which Puerto Vallarta is famous. Whether you’re in search of art, eats, ocean views, or people watching – you’ll be well rewarded.
Some of the most famous features along the Malecon are the sculptures that dot your path every 100 feet or so. Think of it as a walking, outdoor, interactive art gallery. You won’t find any “do not touch” signs here. These sculptures are meant to be felt, sat on, and sometimes even climbed. Some are classical, others are whimsical, and are even a bit odd, but each one makes a great photo opp. There’s more than a dozen to check out, each with its own story.
The Pacific borders the entire span of the Malecon, so pedestrians are never in want of ocean views. That said, there are a few places we think are worth mentioning. The Los Arcos Amphitheater is an easy one to spot with its four grand stone arches, and it’s an ideal resting point on your walk. Located right off of the main plaza downtown, there are often free concerts, cultural performances, and impromptu shows to enjoy — all with a beautiful blue Pacific backdrop. When you make it to the south end of the Malecon, you’ll find yourself at the base of the Los Muertos Pier. It’s a spiraled architectural wonder, very photogenic, and a great place to watch birds, people fishing, and water taxis drive by. The pier also marks the starting point of Los Muertos Beach which is lively, popular with locals, and a great place to cool off.
Shopping can be found all along the span of the Malecon, too. Our favorite spot? The flea market on Isla Rio Cuale, without a doubt. You do have to wander a couple of blocks away from the ocean, but there’s a sign marking the staircase you need to take right along the boardwalk, so it’s not too tricky to find. The Cuale River forks around the island, and its jungle-like plant life will make you feel like you’re in a completely different place. Not to mention, it’s a shaded haven in the heat. The shopping here is some of the best in terms of local, hand-crafted Mexican wares and is a much more pleasant experience than your hotel gift shop. We promise!
We’re firm believers in the “calories don’t count on vacation” mindset, so we definitely suggest sampling lots of local fare. Many of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta are along the Malecon, or very near to it. There is a wide-range of cuisine to be found, so whether you’re on the hunt for seafood, tacos, or something super foodie, you’ll find it. If you want a spot to sit and have a nice dinner, a few of our favorite choices are: Café des Artistes for a unique blend of French and Mexican cuisine, La Palapa for dinner with a sunset ocean view and amazing seafood, or Si Señor for some seriously authentic Mexican dishes that you’ll be dreaming about long after you get home.
When the sun goes down, a new side of the Malecon comes out. Live music can be heard almost the whole mile-long stretch of boardwalk, and nightclubs aren’t hard to find on the north end of the Malecon. If nightclubs are your speed, La Vaquita and Mandala are two of the trendiest. For live music, there’s The Jazz Foundation which features both local and international musicians playing beachside almost every day of the week. If you want live music and dancing, no problem! Check out La Bodeguita del Medio for its Cuban influence, mojitos, salsa dancing, and contagious amounts of fun.
Taylor is part of the Communications Team at Sun Country Airlines. What she loves most? Sun Country’s love of all things Minnesota and the airline’s focus on making everyone – from crew to passengers – feel right at home. If she were hopping on a flight tomorrow, she’d be headed west to Portland or south to Puerto Vallarta.