Downtown Puerto Vallarta: Main Sightseeing Attractions

El Malecon, downtown Puerto Vallarta

The Malecon | The Seahorse Statue | Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish | The Main Plaza | Gringo Gulch | Viva Tequila Art Galleries | Municipal Flea Market | Cuale River Island & Market | Camarones Beach

In downtown PV, overhead wires are now underground, though the mess was at a time considered a "traditional" part of the old town, photographers and tourists now enjoy a much better and unobstructed view of the town, sights, architecture and the various attractions.

Malecon is the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta

Now the white walls are interrupted only by flowerpots bursting with colorful bougainvillea, geranium, hibiscus, copa de oro and splendid ferns.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta

The city streets have always been cobblestone, but now, these rounded river rocks are set in concrete, creating a much smoother and durable surface, while still maintaining part of the original city charm and the temperature regulating properties of cobblestone streets.

The downtown area is the oldest part of town and, not surprisingly includes many of the main points of interest for tourist visiting the city. The rest of the article mentions the main ones and you can read a growing list of places to visit & see in town too.

July 21st, 2018, downtown Puerto Vallarta has been declared Cultural Heritage of the State of Jalisco, a protected area, with rights and privileges that protect it in state and federal laws.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta sculpturesDowntown Puerto Vallarta by Google Earth (click for labels & landmarks)

The Malecon (Seaside Promenade)

Since the last century (the 1930's), the Malecon has been one of the city's main and most enjoyable attractions.

First of all, it's free, secondly, it has been completely remodeled and offers a wide, beautiful promenade between the sea and the stores and restaurants. Cars, taxis and other vehicles no longer go through the area, so it's safe, clean and fun. There's even a bicycle lane that's used not only by bikes, but by skaters and even Segways.

Vistas del malecon

Get a glimpse of what living in Vallarta really is like on any afternoon, just stroll down the Malecon. Families with their kids come for a walk, an ice cream and a bit of entertainment, street artists abound, either at the amphitheater or elsewhere along the seaside walkway.

You'll also enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, the beautiful view of the bay, the warm and impressive sunsets, the sculptures and the Papantla birdmen that hold regular shows, sometimes a few times a day during high season, the list of things to enjoy goes on and on.

The Boy on the Seahorse by Rafael Zamarripa (1976) and the City Sign

Visit and buy at many of the stores, have a drink at a bar or enjoy a delicious meal at many of the top restaurants that line the boardwalk. At night things really take off, for those that enjoy bar hopping or nightclubs this is the obvious starting point.

Malecon Bars

The Malecon extends for about a mile, from Hotel Rosita on the north side, all the way to the Cuale River and the Romantic Zone on the south end.

Read more on the Malecon.

The Seahorse Statue and other Malecon Statues

Seahorse Statue Puerto Vallarta (The Boy on the Seahorse) Rafael Zamarripa

One of the city's symbols, a bronze boy with a Mexican sombrero riding on a Seahorse. Don't forget to take your picture with this beautiful sculpture. It's a classic photo op.

Since the 1980's the Malecon has evolved into a long promenade with sculptures almost every block. You'll find soft welcoming ones, strange surreal examples too, walk up to them, touch them, sit on some of them, climb upon them, many have actually been designed for that.

Los Arcos Amphitheater and the Malecon Arches


The list is long, it includes the Millennia Statue, Origin and Destination, Nature as Mother, Nostalgia, The Subtle Rock Eater, The Good Fortune Unicorn, and many more.

Read about them in Statues of the Malecon.

Here's a map with their location and photos

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

The Church, called, Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, on Calle Hidalgo, one block from the Zócalo (main square). A beautiful church that, more than any building in town, symbolizes Puerto Vallarta. A beautiful crown tops the tower since 1965.

More photos and information on the Guadalupe Parish.

The Main Square (El Zócalo)

Relax and eat an ice-cream on the main plaza in Pto. Vallarta, watch people stroll by on the malecón or feed the pigeons that live, as, in any city, in large amounts around the square.

Plaza Fountain

Rest on the benches or take your photo with the green "Kiosko" in the middle of the square, which is normally used for Sunday music.

Banda Municipal

On Thursdays and Sundays from 6 PM on the Municipal Band plays songs from near and far at the Kiosk, and locals and visitors dance "danzón", enjoying the music and the relaxed and happy atmosphere. The band is shown on the picture above.

Ignacio L. Vallarta Statue

The main square is right in the middle of town as is customary in all of America. The town hall is to one side, the Parish on the other, half a block away, the Malecon, the amphitheater and arches on the seaside.

Plaza de Armas - Zócalo

As always in Mexican towns, the plaza is the heart of it all.

Gringo Gulch

Burton Taylor Bridge

Calle Zaragoza 445, Puerto Vallarta. Casa Kimberley is famous because it was bought by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor on her 32nd birthday. Richard Burton lived across the street and they built a bridge so they could visit each other without crossing the street below.

Many expatriates from the United States and elsewhere settled here in the area during the 1950s and 60's, and the name 'Gringo Gulch' soon took hold.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Casa Kimberley was a bed and breakfast for some time and now it's been completely remodeled into a luxurious boutique hotel.

It all started with John Huston and "The Night of the Iguana", read a bit more on Huston and Las Caletas, it is very interesting.

More on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

More on the Gringo Gulch.

Viva Tequila

Art Galleries

Art galleries show all kinds of Mexican and international art. From avant-garde to indigenous art to fine pottery, each gallery specializes in a different genre. If you happen to visit during the art season, from November to April, you'll even be able to attend cocktail parties at the galleries to meet the artists (read more in Vallarta Artwalk). Vallarta's art community has existed more than 60 years.

Read more on Art Galleries.

Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal)

Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale (Flea Market)

Comprising a complete city block along the north side of the banks of the Cuale River is the Mercado Municipal Río Cuale (Rio Cuale City Market), also known as the Mercado de Artesanias. It's an indoor market with 2 stories of vendors, suppliers, and everything from pottery to jewelry, embroidered clothing, and souvenirs.

If you like to bargain, this is a good place to do it, especially if you're looking for crafts at affordable prices. On the second floor, you'll find the food stands. Read more on things to do.

Cuale River Island

Cuale River Island Las Brazzas
There are many stands and stores on the Island

A cool stroll along the river walkway under the bridges that separate the downtown area from the Romantic Zone south of the Cuale river.

Isla del Río Cuale is a natural island on the Cuale River. The island has some restaurants, a museum, an art gallery, a statue of John Huston, and a beautiful fountain... but most people know it for its shops and stands.

Museo del Cuale

Cuale Museum

The Cuale River Island was also famous for its cat population. The island itself was a lower class development until the residents were forced to move during a hurricane in 1971. After that, the island was used for restaurants, shops, and a cultural center.

There's a great bridge that runs from the island up to Gringo Gulch, there are also three hanging bridges that are always fun to cross, when you do, you'll understand.

More on the Cuale River Island.

Camarones Beach (Playa Camarones)

Camarones Beach (Shrimp Beach), Downtown Puerto Vallarta
Camarones Beach, the best beach in downtown PV

A wide beach that starts off south of Villa Premiere and ends just north of Hotel Rosita and the Malecon, it's the most popular beach in the downtown area. The northern part is quite active, with lots of restaurants and activities. You can arrive at the beach on any side street, the further south you go it gets smaller and rockier. The southernmost part is mostly recommended for those that enjoy fishing. It happens to also be one of the cleanest beaches in the bay. Sand covering varies with the seasons, but is normally not very rocky, if at all.

More on Camarones Beach (video, photos, maps and more)

More on PV Beaches

Last modified on Thursday, 10 September 2020 20:07

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