First things first, when you visit this wonderful town come and enjoy a relaxed stroll along the Puerto Vallarta Malecon in the historic downtown area. It's a must-visit location that's lovely both day and night, plus it is also where most of the daytime and nighttime action takes place.
You may ask yourself (with good reason) what a "Malecon" is. It is what people normally call a defensive pier wall, but in Mexico, it is the name you give a road or pathway that follows along the edge of the sea, something that in other countries is called "Costanera", a seaboard road.
Malecón details & facts:
- The north end starts off at Hotel Rosita (by The Millennia Statue) and ends by the Amphitheater (Aquiles Serdán Plaza) beside the Plaza de Armas (Main City Square).
- Attractions and sightseeing: statues, the local inhabitants, stores, street, sea-side artists and the panorama: sea, waves, watch the sunset. Check out the restaurants, bars and much more.
- More or less 11 small blocks (750m/2350ft) in the downtown area.
- More than 80% of it is pedestrians-only and bikes.
- Enjoy the Voladores de Papantla (regular shows during the day).
- After 10-11PM it is also the heart of the local nightlife.
- The first part, from the Los Arcos Amphitheater to the Customs Office (that no longer exists, by the lighthouse on Galeana, right on the curve) was built in 1936.
- Initially known as "Paseo de la Revolución" then as "Paseo Díaz Ordaz" and now just called "El Malecón".
- Remodeled and inaugurated on November 25, 2011.
Walking along the Malecon - that some people call "boardwalk" - is a feel-good area right on the oceanfront and it's a fast and easy way to really understand what PV, and even Mexico, is all about. The colors, the sounds, and aromas, all take you under their spell and you can end up just walking around for hours, enjoying a great breakfast, lunch or dinner, eating and drinking here and there, grabbing souvenirs, shooting photos. Time will just fly by, as it does when you are really enjoying yourself.
"El Malecon" - considered by many the best thing to do in Pto Vallarta Mexico - is now closed to vehicle traffic, so you can take a relaxing stroll along this sightseeing paradise walkway with great scenery, beautiful sculptures and friendly people, without having to worry about taxis, cars or buses (do take the bike path into account though).
This recent iteration of the classical Malecon features many more palm trees, that provide much-needed shade during the midday hours (some palm trees on the beach too a nice move), and decorative plants. All spaces have been designed with pedestrians in mind, so there are lots of places you can rest (sit on the edges of the plant "pots", the white "pillows" are made for that) and really take your time to enjoy and absorb the vibe. It is a beautiful walk along the beach in a downtown area that is full of new experiences and colorful opportunities to discover the culture, traditions and lively side of Mexico and Mexicans.
A great Puerto Vallarta landmark that was unveiled during the World Tourism Day events in 2016. A very beautiful sign with colorful letters that spell out "Puerto Vallarta", it flanks the iconic Rafael Zamarripa "Seahorse Statue" on the downtown Malecon.
The original Malecon runs from Hotel Rosita (by the spiral Millennia sculpture) to the Amphitheater and The Arches by the Naval Museum, right beside the main city square in (el Centro) Downtown Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. How long is the Puerto Vallarta Malecon then? It is exactly 2500 ft (760 meters) long.
More recently there's a new section going from The Arches by the Dolphin statue to the Cuale river, which is called Malecon II (Malecón Dos or Malecón 2), by the river there's a nice footbridge (wheelchair and bike-friendly) that goes over the river (also includes a lookout and foot access to the Cuale River Island) and into Old Vallarta (Zona Romantica, Romantic Zone or Colonia Emiliano Zapata) where it follows along the edge of Olas Altas Beach, past Lázaro Cárdenas square and then along the edge of Los Muertos Beach, past the Pier at Los Muertos reaching the last piece of sidewalk by Sí Señor, ending right beside La Palapa.
You can continue a bit more, but it is along the beach on a makeshift path, so that doesn't count... or does it? How long would it be to walk from the northern end of the Malecon to the southernmost place in Old Vallarta by Sí Señor Restaurant? This walk is 6060 ft long (1850 meters).
Even though it is a semi-continuous path, the real Malecon is the one in the historic downtown area, north of the Cuale River, actually north of the Naval Museum and The Arches, not by Playa Los Muertos as wrongly stated on important sites like Expedia and in Google Maps.
PV Malecon Location Map
When you arrive at the Malecón, any questions of "what can I do here" dissipate, there's just so much to see and enjoy. This is a place that is always fun to visit and you never get enough, you'll just have to come back a few more times.
Starting the day the boardwalk is a favorite for joggers and early walks, the air is fresh and wonderfully clean, the sun appearing over the jungle hills is warm but soft and the light is golden. You can enjoy the pelicans and seabirds diving for fish, the soft waves that lap the Malecon beach, then coffee and other aromas will tempt you into one of the many great Puerto Vallarta restaurants where you can then grab a wholesome breakfast, a café de olla, ranchero eggs, tortillas, and fresh-pressed orange juice, for example.
You'll enjoy the impressive and beautiful bronze sculptures and statues of this open-air museum/art gallery, every block along the promenade, many with colorful and wonderful back-stories (read all about them in our sculpture guide), there are also intricate designs with Huichol motifs embedded in the Malecon's surface, these artistic touches were provided by Fidencio Benitez, a well-known artist with works that can be found around town in different art galleries. Basking in the sea sounds and sights you'll immediately notice that it is also a very photogenic area, so bring your best camera (smartphones too nowadays) and shoot away!
Then there are the cultural and artistic shows and exhibitions, there's the Papantla Flying Men, the colorful prehispanic dance to the gods, there are occasional photo exhibitions, showing the long history and culture in this part of Mexico. There are lots of different street performers, sand sculptures on the beach beside the walkway, balanced rocks and more.
As the afternoon draws in, the temperature goes down and you can enjoy a romantic stroll as the famous and gorgeous Puerto Vallarta sunsets bask the boardwalk in their warm light, tinting everything in orange and red, the magical hour.
Los Arcos amphitheater (The Arches) provides a great photo opportunity. Walking along the Malecon at sunset or night also provides some spectacular views and wonderful photo for your scrapbook or Instagram account.
As nighttime arrives, with it many nightlife entertainment options on the Puerto Vallarta Malecon take off. The boardwalk offers a relaxed party atmosphere and even space for a romantic evening and stroll. There are quite a few nightclubs and discos, we can mention a few: Mandala, Senor Frogs, Zoo, La Vaquita and quite a few more, some are open till 3 AM or maybe even longer.
For families during the afternoon and at night there are many more free shows, concerts and events at the amphitheater by The Arches (Aquiles Serdan esplanade) and around the seawall promenade, there'll be a lot of spectators enjoying the various talents, clowns, music, dance, and other shows.
There are local vendors selling paintings, handmade trinkets, souvenirs, balloons, sketch artists, street food and food stalls, simple toys and more along the PV waterfront boulevard. So enjoy a Tejuino or a glass of Tuba, grilled corn on the cob, cotton candy, an ice-cream or maybe a fresh delicious coconut juice.
There are quite a few markets along the way, there are tons of shops and souvenir stands along the way too. I can recommend you visit Plaza Malecon Flea Market (Minute 0:37 on this video)
The shopping is not high pressure, they'll understand cultural differences and how you shop. Due diligence is recommended at times, especially with jewelry and silver arts and crafts, always remember you get what you pay for if you go the cheap way. For expensive items, go to an established store.
Puerto Vallarta is known for its world-class gourmet dining, and everything in between, all the way to the humble but tasty street food and taco stands.
The Malecon offers some great restaurants and many within a short walking distance from it, we can mention and recommend: La Dolce Vita, Layla's, Barcelona Tapas, La Bodeguita del Medio, Cheeky Monkey, Florios, Café Des Artistes, El Arrayán and Mama Rosa.
There are wonderful outdoor restaurants serving $1 dollar Margaritas (and quite good for just a buck), fresh guacamole, tacos and inexpensive cerveza (beer) all for about $20 dollars.
Sometimes you'll encounter some pushy salespeople along the walkway, they normally are timeshare operators offering free tours and such. My way of dealing with them is to just take my time, relax and change the subject to PV in general and get a nice chat with the locals, instead of prying myself away by being rude or ignoring them... might not be the best, but I like it that way. In any case, the people are very friendly and Puerto Vallarta is a very safe place to visit.
If you really want to enjoy your trip to Puerto Vallarta and you seriously want to absorb the local culture, lifestyle and the rhythm of it all, I'd recommend you stay in one of the downtown hotels, you don't need to be right on the Malecon, but you can choose one that is nearby, walking in town is easy and distances are short.
I've stayed in the downtown area and the Romantic zone (just south of the Cuale River) and both are great options, there are hotels in all categories, though all-inclusive is not really available, I would anyway not recommended it all things considered, you have no need for locking yourself in a resort when in town!
Check out our downtown Hotel Map for options:
- Easy access to the Malecon with taxi cabs, Uber and local transportation.
- As always safety first, fluids should be out of sealed bottles.
- Wear a good pair of walking shoes.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, and water.
- Carry a few singles, small bills or 5, 10, 20-peso coins, you may have to pay at the public bathrooms, that are, by the way, always well kept.
- Once you’ve arrived at the Los Arcos amphitheater, walk across the street, to the main plaza, eat an ice-cream or feed the pigeons.
- From the main square, you are a block away from the iconic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Puerto Vallarta's Galeria Pacifico Art Gallery sponsors a Public Sculpture Walking Tour starting at 9:30 AM every Tuesday from November to April each year, starting off at The Millennia sculpture near the Hotel Rosita on the north end of the malecón boardwalk.
You can meet some of the sculptors of the statues and hear them explain their work along the Malecon. Pacifico Gallery owner Gary Thompson often participates as a guide and can fill you in on the current local art scene and Vallarta’s many artists. The Walking Art Tour is every Tuesday from Nov to April, exact dates vary. The tour is free and you need no reservation. Information call Galeria Pacífico Tel: (322) 222-1982. http://www.galeriapacifico.com/