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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Ignacio L. Vallarta by Miguel Miramontes Carmona (1964) graces the entrance to the Town Square.
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)
Our visit to this Vallarta church was on Maundy Thursday, Holy Week before Easter, providing a meaningful place and time for prayer.
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!
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
Colorful, local native dolls were just some of the vendors set up on the beach, adding to the fun atmosphere.
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!
The entire area shimmers and sparkles with Mexican themes, covering everything from the columns to the benches.
The space continues to expand as more mosaic art is added.
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!
Sculptures made with rocks balancing on top of one another with no adhesive were fascinating! Watching the sculptor at work was intriguing.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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!
- 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