Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Cher Travels to Mexico

April 2022

After a two year COVID break, we again spread our wings to worlds beyond via our favorite mode of travel: cruising!

This stop: Puerto Vallarta!

During our short time here, our third stop on this cruise vacation out of Port of Los Angeles, we visited the historic city center and beachfront and sampled the local culture. Our other two cruise stops were Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan.

Puerto Vallarta Malecón / Sea Wall.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22

Puerto Vallarta is a stunning resort town located on Mexico’s Pacific coast in Jalisco state. Known for its spectacular beaches, marine life, water sports, and local resorts, It is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world and just a short jaunt from Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan

Our Itinerary on the Mexican Riviera

The “Mexican Riviera” refers collectively to twenty cities and lagoons lying on the western coast of Mexico. Coined by the tourist industry to promote the area for cruises because of association with the Italian and French Riviera. Much like its European counterpart, the area provides many ocean front resorts, popular with tourists.

Our cruise left the Port of Los Angeles with stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta with three days at sea to enjoy the Pacific Ocean as it edged past the Baja Peninsula.

Boy on Seahorse sculpture (by Rafael Zamarripa, 1976) by the letters of Puerto Vallarta.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Being the first time we had visited Puerto Vallarta, we decided to get a feel for the culture and history of the city. We were blessed with a wonderful guide who lead us along Puerto Vallarta´s charming Downtown and Oldtown districts. We discovered some of the unique sites that made this somewhat typical Mexican city stand apart from the others we visited – primarily how they incorporated art into every corner of their life.

The Port of Vallarta

Port of Vallarta

As we watched the sun rise over the horizon, the approach to Puerto Vallarta from our balcony was enchanting!

Puerto Vallarta entrance into the port.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Sunrise greets us at the Puerto Vallarta entrance into the port.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Puerto Vallarta entrance into the port.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Puerto Vallarta entrance into the port.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Town Square

Town Square

As with all Mexican towns we explored, a quaint, picturesque gazebo was the focal point of the Town Square. This was the most impressive and one of my favorites!

Gazebo in Town’s Square.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

The iconic Malecón Arches “Los Arcos del Malecón” are 4 large, decorative stone arches on the ocean front by the Open Air Theater. This important landmark was brought to Vallarta from a colonial hacienda close to nearby Guadalajara. On the oceanfront, it is across the street from the Main Square) on the Malecón Boardwalk.

These arches provided a grand entrance to the Town Square.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22
Vallarta

The city is named for Ignacio Luis Vallarta Ogazon (1830-1893). A Mexican jurist and governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco, The city changed its name from Las Penas (The Rocks) to Puerto (port) Vallarta in 1918 to honor him.

Looking to the ocean from the Town Square.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Ignacio L. Vallarta by Miguel Miramontes Carmona (1964) graces the entrance to the Town Square.

Statue of Vallarta facing the ocean with gazebo and church in the background.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the highlight of the Town Square. The crown atop the bell tower is a city landmark and was designed by Rafael Parra C., José E. Ramírez G. & Carlos Terres (2009)

Vallarta church. and gazebo in the Vallarta Town Square
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Our visit to this Vallarta church was on Maundy Thursday, Holy Week before Easter, providing a meaningful place and time for prayer.

Interior of Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Festive, handmade Paper Banners (Papel Picado) fluttered in the breeze as they adorned the space above the streets around church and the square in honor of Holy Week.

They reminded me of cut out paper doilies we make in Minnesota to look like snowflakes!

Festive Flags in the courtyard.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Old Town Shops

Vallarta’s Old Town along the beach walk was filled with shops for all tastes – and all budgets! The atmosphere was lively and intoxicating!

Town Square shops and church.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Old Town shops.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22
Old Town shops.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22
Old Town shops.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22

Cuale River Island

The “Isla del Río Cuale”, the Cuale River Island, currently is a peaceful and relaxed shade-rich oasis in the middle of downtown Puerto Vallarta.

Yes, Cuale River Island is an actual island within old town Vallarta. Our guide was particularly excited to share this site with us. She shared memories of how, as a child, she loved playing along its banks!

At this point, the River Cuale splits forming this island connected by bridges to both sides of old town. This narrow slice of island boasts of art galleries and restaurants.

We experienced the island from the bridge and through the eyes of our guide. My bucket list for our next visit to this fun and art-filled city is further exploration of this intriguing spot!

P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22

Malecón

The Malecón is a 12-block, mile-long esplanade that winds along the Vallarta beach front. It is filled with shops, cafes and bars, sandy beach, lots of sculptures – and great views!

Malecon.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22

Papantla Pole Flyers performed while we walked down the Malecón . An impressive, color-filled, dangerous and ancient Mexican ritual, a priest and four flyers climb an 80-foot pole, tie themselves with ropes, and launch into the air. Originally created to ask the pre-hispanic gods to end a severe drought, today they primarily entertain.

Papantla Pole Flyers.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22

The parasailing kites provided a festive atmosphere as we enjoyed a beach break sipping a cold, local beer. Tables with umbrellas were set up right on the sand close to the water. The only drawback was that this was “public” space so we were continually approached by locals selling their wares.

Beach break.
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22

Colorful, local native dolls were just some of the vendors set up on the beach, adding to the fun atmosphere.

Beach vendors.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Mosaic Park

Vallarta’s newest attraction, Mosaic Park, is one of the most impressive collections of urban art, anywhere! Just a block off the beach walk, it is a great meeting spot!

Mosaic seating encircled the grassy center knoll.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

The entire area shimmers and sparkles with Mexican themes, covering everything from the columns to the benches.

Mosaic seating was paid for by local sponsors whose “ads” were embedded in the art work.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

The space continues to expand as more mosaic art is added.

Mosaic seating.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Mosaics covered the planters.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

Malecon / Seawall Sculptures

Being a lover of art – especially sculpture – the sculpture along our beachfront walk was fascinating! We had a chance to stroll the length of the Malecon to see their collection of sculptures by local and international artists. It ranged from permanent pieces in stone, metal and cement as well as the ever-changing ones made daily from rocks and sand. There were so many – here a few of my favorites!

Rock Sculpture

Sculptures made with rocks balancing on top of one another with no adhesive were fascinating! Watching the sculptor at work was intriguing.

Rock Balancing sculpture on the beach with artists.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Rock Balancing sculpture.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Sand Sculpture

Sand sculpture is created – and refreshed – every day to keep it looking new and fresh. Having personally endeavored to create sand castles over my lifetime, these caught my attention and full admiration!

Sand sculptures.
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Boy on Seahorse

The first sculpture placed on the Malecon, it is one of the two symbols of the city, along with the church. Standing 9′ high, and in the center of the letters spelling out Puerto Vallarta, it welcomes the viewer to the city and the waterfront.

“The Boy on the Seahorse” by Rafael Zamarripa (1976)
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Boy on Seahorse. Google Images 6/2/22
Good Fortune Unicorn

Unicorns as good luck charms that bring good fortune to those that possess one – including Vallarta – was the ancient legend that inspired this sculpture!

“The Good Fortune Unicorn” by Anibal Riebeling (2011).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Vallarta Dancers

The Mexican Hat Dance is highlighted in this colorful sculpture. It was created to honor the many colorful traditions of Vallarta so they can be remembered for all time.

“Vallarta Dancers” by Jim Demetro (2006).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Lluvia / Rain

Welcoming all visitors with a huge embrace, this young man stands with outstretched arms and looks upward into the sky (or rain). He represents the connection of humans and nature and may also remind the viewer of the huge statue, Christ the Redeemer, in Rio de Janeiro.

“Lluvia (Rain” by Jovian (2020).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Triton & Siren

Classical mythology and the human form are both alluded to in this delightful bronze sculpture.

Tritons are a special type of mermen, a group of fish-tailed sea-gods in the train of the god Poseidon.

Sirens were counterparts of mermaids. Dangerous creatures who can charm the winds, they lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.

It was a favorite of visitor photo ops – so much that I missed out on the opportunity!

“Triton & Siren” by Carlos Espino (1990).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
In Search of Reason

One cannot pass this monumental, 30 ft high sculpture without stopping to take notice – and look up, up, up! It is both controversial and interesting, strange and fun, all at the same time!

The three strange, pillow-headed figures and a ladder on which two of them are climbing, begs for further explanation. One idea is that they are looking for an answer farther and above the normal limits of humanity, maybe in the sky or beyond. Or…??? It is anyone’s guess…

“In Search of Reason” by Sergio Bustamante (2000).
P.C. Cher B 4//14/22
Stone Eater

Explanations of the story behind this sculpture varied as I researched them on my own. But the one I like the best was the one give by our guide. She said that A mother used to bring her children to play at the beach. Sometimes, the beach was littered with rocks and other times, it was fine sand. How was that possible? asked the children. Their mother answered that the Stone-eater came early in the morning and ate the stones so that there was just fine sand for the children to enjoy.

“The Subtle Stone-eater” by Jonas Gutierrez (2006).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Origin & Destination: the Group

This group of sculptures is said to have been born out of the concept of time. The new millennium – humans and time and its relationship with history – what we’ve done in all that time – and the dreams we try to make a reality.

Group of sculptures: “Origin & Destiny” by Pedro Tello (2011).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

The 5 sculptures in the group are said to represent the beginnings of humanity. Boat = humanity’s search for new horizons. Whale = rise of humanity in the new millennium. Obelisk with the hourglass = work of humanity through time and history.

I thought the Wheel and the Chimera were the most interesting!

Origin & Destination: Wheel

The wheel in this group of sculptures symbolizes humanity’s technology and science

Part of a group: “Origin & Destination” Wheel – by Pedro Tello (2011).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Origin & Destination: Chimera

The one that intrigued me was the interactive chimera depicting the rise of machines. With the proper human action, the sculpture’s tongue would come out and water would spurt from a spout on its head!

Part of a group: “Origin & Destination” Chimera – by Pedro Tello (2011).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22
Nature as a Mother

This curved abstract sculpture is said to represent nature, evolution and life. Not sure how that all fits together, it was a delightful shape with bird-like qualities that looked great against the water!

“Nature as a Mother” by Adrian Reynoso (1997).
P.C. Cher B. 4/14/22
Andale Bernardo: the Burro

This fun, life-size sculpture, depicts two boys, a helping little dog and a very stubborn burro. The artist explains that it is meant to honor the hard-working burros who, in the past, helped in moving salt from the sea to the mines up in the Sierra. More recently, burros hauled building materials up the hills of the town. This honor also includes workers, residents, and visitors that make Puerto Vallarta such a wonderful place.

“Andale Bernardo” by Jim Demetro (2014).
P.C. Cher B 4/14/22

The sculpture is meant to be interactive for visitors to climb on his back to get their photo taken. However, I did not see this occurring, and missed the opportunity for myself. Maybe next time…???

There is much in Puerto Vallarta that we did not get to see and experience due to our limited time. Next time we visit, we’d like to explore the beaches and more of the local cuisine, culture, the Cuale River Island – and of course bask in the glorious weather!

Sources
  • Photos by Cher B unless otherwise noted. 14 April 2022.
  • Puertovallarta.net – details about the sculptures
  • Walking Tour by “Santa” our wonderful guide to “Discover Puerto Vallarta” booked through NCL
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