Puerto Vallarta is an excellent world-class tourist destination: its hotels are incredibly varied, with international restaurants, malls with departmental stores and a busy nightlife. But behind this cosmopolitan side is the other side of the city, one that will delight those who want to relax and rediscover the flavors of Mexican cuisine or make their trip the Mexican experience.
The first thing is to forget the taxis: while you are here, the bicycle and your feet will be your new means of transport. It is also time to put aside the comforts of the “all inclusive” of the large hotels by the sea and find a boutique hotel, an inn or a hostel in the center, or rent a vacation home and settle in like a local.
For a bohemian atmosphere you have to go to the Zona Romantica, located south of the Cuale River, where you will find narrow, cobbled streets, vines and trees, and white houses with tile roofs that house shops, bars, and restaurants where you can enjoy authentic Mexican food and the best seafood and fish of the region.
The small-town side of Puerto Vallarta
Crossing the river to the north is the Municipal Market, the option to acquire handicrafts, objects and textiles to wear as a “souvenir”, all made by local hands. Of course, we recommend asking prices and entering the corridors, because the closer to the street, they tend to sell at a higher cost.
A few blocks east is the bridge that will take you to the Isla Río Cuale, ideal for walking, taking pictures, buying handicrafts and encountering sculptures such as John Huston’s. Here, the Cuale Museum can be visited, exhibiting archaeological objects from the state, from ceramic pieces to the remains of a tomb in Sayula, Jalisco.
Go back to the center and go to the main square, decorated with a nice kiosk and surrounded by trees, where the locals meet a few nights a week to dance. Opposite from there, you can admire the Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is distinguished by the huge crown that tops its tower and whose construction dates from 1930; the mix of architectural styles and its beautiful facade will surely awaken your internal photographer.
At nightfall, climb to the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz to capture the ocean that unfolds before your eyes and have a panoramic view of the city.
The artist side of Puerto Vallarta
Do not miss the various art galleries that stretch through downtown and the Romantic Zone, there is a score of them! The favorites are Galleria Dante, Majolica Antica, Tierra Huichol, and Galería Colectika. Then visit the Naval Museum – with paintings, maps and models of ships to scale – and walk along the Malecon to see the many sculptures and monuments that national and foreign artists have donated to decorate this pedestrian walkway.
The nature side of Puerto Vallarta
Visit the Botanical Gardens of Vallarta. In this case, you will need a car or bus, because it is 50 minutes (31 km) from the center. However, the trip will be worth it because you will feel that you are transported to a magical universe. Although you will not see fairies and fantastic beings, you will find ponds and glass buildings in the middle of the jungle, diverse species of birds and butterflies, hundreds of plants and trees, and an impressive variety of orchids. The best part? It has a restaurant with such a spectacular view of the gardens that you will forget the world for a few hours.
(main photo story by @karajkeller)