Eight Hours in Puerto Vallarta
If you’re arriving on a cruise ship, or hurrying through, and all you have is a day in Puerto Vallarta, you can still enjoy yourself, taxiing and strolling around old town, mostly around the south end.
Along the Río Cuale
Take a taxi to the upper bridge (Av. Insurgentes) over the Río Cuale. Spend some time among the handicrafts stalls in the Municipal Crafts Market just downhill from the bridge. Head upstream from the bridge, along the mid-stream island. Pass the landmark Restaurant Le Bistro on the right.
Continue uphill, passing the small gallery of the Centro Cultural Vallartense on the left, and continue to the airy upper point of the island. Pause to enjoy the breeze and the river and mountain view.
Back downstream at the bridge, head left, then right at the first street, and walk downhill about a block to the suspension bridge. Head right over the swaying span, back to the island.
Continue downhill, past the handicrafts stalls. At the downstream bridge (Av. Vallarta), pause to admire the artists’ creations for sale beneath the bridge.
Continue under the bridge downhill, look around inside the small Museo Río Cuale about a block farther, and continue to the quiet downstream end of the island, where (during the summer rainy season) the river ripples into the bay.
Back uphill at the Avenida Vallarta bridge, climb the stairs to the left and continue a few steps to the showplace Hotel Molino de Agua entrance, to the left on Avenida Vallarta. The hotel’s garden restaurant is a good spot for a refreshment or lunch.
Stroll around the hotel grounds for a few minutes; don’t miss the monumental old hule trees with their hairy air roots hanging down nearly to the ground. If you have your bathing suit, take a dip in the pool by the restaurant.
South of Río Cuale
Now head for a stroll along the beach: From the hotel entrance, go left, then walk along the bridge to the first accessible street on the left. Head toward the shore and the pedestrian walkway over the Río Cuale. Go left (south) across the river, and you’ll be on Playa los Muertos, so named because legend says that pirates long ago left some of their victims on the beach.
Now, however, all is calm; sunbathers snooze, kids play, frigate birds soar, and boats come and go from the New Pier (walk out to see who’s catching what). Back on the walkway, perhaps take a table at one of the many beachfront restaurants (Hotel Playa los Arcos, La Palapa) and plan the rest of your day.
North of Río Cuale
If you’re interested in Puerto Vallarta’s irresistible arts and crafts offerings, head north of Río Cuale by taxi ($3) along downtown Avenida Juárez, and take a look through the Querubines and La Reja shops at the northwest corner of Galeana and Juárez.
From there, walk north one block along Juárez to the northwest corner of Corona, turn left and walk downhill, checking out the excellent Majolica, Arte Mágico Huichol, and Casa de Feng Shui shops.
Round out your art and handicrafts mini-tour by visiting a pair of Puerto Vallarta’s finest art galleries, Galería Uno at the corner of Corona and Morelos (downhill, across Morelos from Casa de Feng Shui) and Galería Pacífico (continue a block north on Morelos to Aldama, turn right and continue uphill a few doors; it’s on the right, upstairs).
On the other hand, if you’d enjoy more town sights, hail a taxi to take you to Gringo Gulch and Casa Kimberley, on the hill directly above the town church. Casa Kimberley, now a private Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton museum, also offers bed-and-breakfast lodging. Afterwards, stroll the quaintly cobbled streets that wind among the picturesque hillside homes.
If you still have an hour or two, Terra Noble massage and healing center would be well worth a visit, if only to enjoy the gorgeous garden setting and the panoramic town and bay view.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition