Puerto Vallarta is very pedestrian friendly; part of the charm of discovering Vallarta is the ability to walk everywhere you want to go.
Los Muertos Beach
Let’s start at the beach. One of the best features of Puerto Vallarta is the beach clubs on Los Muertos. Settle into a lounge chair under an umbrella just a few steps from the water and let waiters bring your food and drink.
Los Muertos beach is the center of activity in Old Town Puerto Vallarta, day and night, popular with locals and tourists alike.
The perfect beach for all ages, here you will find a great spot to camp out for the day, play cards, people watch
or hire a banana boat for the kids.
Order a ceviche made with fish caught that morning and a margarita hand-mixed with fresh limes, then sit back and watch the parasails lift the adventurous up for a bird’s eye view of the bay.
La Palapa, El Dorado and Swell are famous beach restaurants on the best part of the beach, located side by side just south of the pier.
Conchas Chinas Beach
One of the most sought-after areas of Banderas Bay is located on the southern edge of Old Town Vallarta. From the beachfront villas of Conchas Chinas You can walk along the coastline north to Old Town. No restaurants on Conchas Chinas Beach but the trail ends at Los Muertos Beach in the Olas Altas tourist district of Old Town Vallarta.
The hike along Conchas Chinas to Los Muertos is an incredibly pleasant walk and you can stop to swim along the way at beautiful beaches. It is also interesting to see the multi-million dollar resort homes from the beach perspective.
Once you make your way to the north end of Conchas Chinas Beach (heading towards town) there is a well-marked path that takes you up over a cliff. On the other side is Los Muertos Beach; you now deserve a cold drink at one of the palapa restaurants on Los Muertos!
Just follow the locals if unsure where to go
After an afternoon at Los Muertos Beach, put on your bathing suit cover-ups and take a stroll down Olas Altas street, a fun tourist district parallel to the beach, lined with boutiques, sidewalk cafes, book stores and spas.
From Olas Altas, you can keep walking north along the water’s edge all the way to the Malecon boardwalk in El Centro. Or take a right on B. Badillo Street for more shops, gringo bars and art galleries.
When ready to head back to your villa, jump in a taxi, they are found on every corner
Walking Tour of Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is incredibly pedestrian friendly. It is one of the town’s most enticing features; you can walk everywhere you want to go and will see friendly faces amongst beautiful surroundings.
There are many wonderful shops, art galleries and jewelry stores all around Puerto Vallarta.
The focal point of the city is the Malecon Boardwalk, Main Plaza and Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Malecon is almost like a park, a completely pedestrian free zone in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s historic district that lines the ocean’s edge and stretches from one end of Old Town Vallarta to the other.
We highly recommend taking one evening to stroll the Malecon. A time honored tradition with families in Puerto Vallarta, you will see all ages – from toddlers to seniors – soaking in the paseo. Try to get there for sunset.
Ask the staff to tell the taxi driver to drop you at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Main Plaza or “Plaza Principal”. Please take time to look inside the church, you can’t miss it, with the iconic “crown” steeple. It is inspirational.
Then walk across the plaza to the beginning of the Malecon.
Look for the “Boy on the Seahorse”
and the “Flyers from Papantla”
Public art, swaying palm trees and a 360 view of the bay add to the ambience of the Malecon. An amazing array of bronze sculptures create a walking art tour.
Magic shows, live music and folkloric dancing can be found at the seaside amphitheater. Food booths offer strawberries with whipped cream and roasted ears of corn slathered in a special mayonnaise mix with crumbled white cheese.
Late night the strip becomes alive with music, dining and dancing, all on display to the people promenade.
During the day, the Malecon area is great for shopping.
Look for Querubines on Juarez Street; they have a great selection of high end crafts, textiles and pottery.
Back to the Romantic Zone
A pedestrian bridge spans the Rio Cuale and connects the south end of the Malecon to Los Muertos Beach and Olas Altas Street.
The Rio Cuale is a picturesque brook lined with tropical gardens that runs through the middle of Old Town Puerto Vallarta. The island in the middle of the river, the Isla Cuale, is a beautiful area to stroll and a short cut from Gringo Gulch to the beach.
Look for the swaying foot bridge for some real fun.
On the south side of the Rio Cuale is the popular tourist district known as the Romantic Zone, with the bustling Olas Altas and B. Badillo streets described above at its core.
You will see lots of North American ex-patriates in this area; the after-work crowd can be found at the sidewalk cafes on Olas Altas every day for sunset happy hour. And it doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. After dark, you will find everything from martinis to hot dog vendors to live blues music in the Romantic Zone…and plenty of people-watching to go along with it.
At the corner of B. Badillo and I. Vallarta are several fabulous shops; look for Galeria Dante and Cassandra Shaw Jewelry.
The neighborhood above the Church and Main Plaza is known as El Cerro or “The Hill”. It is bordered by a winding cobblestone street the runs inland on the north side of the Rio Cuale.
This area was given the moniker “Gringo Gulch” in the 1950’s because of the influx of North American artists who created an enclave there. One well-known clothing designer gave lavish parties behind the stately walls of the Villa Leonarda.
In the 1960’s Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton took Gringo Gulch by storm, turning it into a mecca for their jet set friends, many of whom bought villas built by in-demand architects of the day Guillermo Wulff and Fernando Romero.
This colonial district is still a fashionable residential area with a magic all its own and a distinct style that combines old world and new – Europe and the tropics, tradition and happening scene. Gringo Gulch is one of the special things about Puerto Vallarta that makes it so unique for a resort beach town.
From the Rio Cuale Island, head inland and take a left on Insurgentes at the north bound bridge. On Guerrero Street turn inland again; you are now in Gringo Gulch proper.
Or from the Main Plaza, walk up any of the picturesque stairs on the pedestrian-only streets on either side of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Hidalgo Street.
Elizabeth Taylor’s villa, Casa Kimberley, is on Zaragoza.
Look for the “Lover’s Arch” that connected the main house to the pool house, Burton’s lair.
Richard Burton later purchased another villa with his next wife Susan Hunt (he stole her away from race car driver James Hunt). Burton didn’t venture far from his original love nest. Villa Bursus (for Burton-Susan) is just a few blocks down. It is now a famous boutique inn and restaurant, Hacienda San Angel. The irony is Casa Kimberley was also purchased by the hotel. So they are all back together in one big happy complex.
Ring the bell to see if the bar is open; they generally require reservations but may let you in for a peek at the grounds.
Puerto Vallarta is a very cultural town and boasts an astounding amount of art galleries with many important artists.
From Nov-Mar the galleries located downtown host cocktail parties and art openings called “Art Walk”, held every Wednesday evening, all located within a 4 block radius.
If attending Art Walk, we highly recommend ending your evening at Cafe des Artistes restaurant. see more info below.
Please try to visit a few art galleries while on your trip; you will be impressed.
Galeria Pacifico – Aldama Street, inland from the middle of the Malecon
Galeria Uno-Morelos Street and Corona, one of the first art galleries to discover famed international artist Alejandro Colunga.
Corsica Gallery – Leona Vicario Street has become a true art scene boasting four galleries in the same block next to the famous Café des Artistes restaurant. Look for the castle tower. The perfect evening of fine art and food.
Galeria Dante – extensive collection of paintings and sculpture with inner courtyard and fountains, located on Basilio Badillo in the Romantic Zone
No Rental Car Needed
Because of the ease of taxi service and the narrow cobble stone streets and hills of Old Town Vallarta, we do not recommend renting a car. Staff will call taxis for pickup service at the villa.
Local Yellow Taxis are very accessible, inexpensive and reliable. A yellow cab can be found on every corner in the downtown area. Puerto Vallarta taxis are safe; you will find that most drivers grew up in Vallarta and are friendly and helpful.
Mexican Taxis do not have meters; instead they have set rates per zone.
Taxi fare one way from your villa will be about $6 usd; within the downtown area is usually $4-5 usd. Taxi drivers are notorious for not having change; when possible try to be prepared with exact change or small bills.
The villa staff will also give you instructions on using the local bus service. It is an easy and economical way to explore the bay and widely used by tourists. The drive south is breathtakingly beautiful and cost is under $1 usd.
If you decide to make some day trips to Sayulita, the staff can arrange for private driver or taxi.
WHAT TO WEAR AND THE WEATHER
Comfortable shoes are imperative for walking the cobblestone streets of Vallarta, regardless of the season. High heels are for doorstep-to-doorstep in a taxi. Cute flats, wedges and platforms will dress up your wardrobe enough at night and still allow you to navigate the cobblestones. Just don’t forget your flip flops!
Tropical, casual attire is the norm in Puerto Vallarta. Bohemian “hippy chic” is a common look found here. If nightclubbing, you may want to step it up a bit; you can never go wrong with black.
For men, shorts are considered appropriate attire at all Vallarta venues. Khaki knee-length shorts, jeans or linen pants are more suitable for some of the higher end dining establishments.
Mid December through mid-March nights can be chilly and breezy, with average daytime temperatures in the upper 70’s/mid 80’s, lows at night in the upper 50’s/mid 60’s. During the winter months, once the sun goes down and the wind picks up, you will want long sleeves or a light jacket. Pashminas and shawls work great, are easy to pack and carry around while walking.
You will feel the cool weather more because the architectural style of your villa is very open. Bedrooms can be closed off and have air conditioning.
On the other spectrum, June to October is humid and hot. Puerto Vallarta is located below the Tropic of Cancer. The sun is more intense at this latitude, humidity can be oppressive. Best to stay under an umbrella next to your pool or within steps of the ocean during the heat of the day. Light weight natural fabrics such as cotton are a must. Bring loose clothing in light colors. For women, sleeveless tops, skirts and shorts de rigueur.
Rainy season runs mid-June thru mid-October, with sporadic downpours and tropical storms taking place mostly in August and September. Tropical rains are actually very refreshing and help cool things off. The jungle covered mountains turn a vibrant green. It can be exhilarating to experience a thunder storm in the tropics. The sunsets are unusually intense this time of year, the atmosphere charged.
Rains usually begin in the late afternoons or evenings, so the better part of the day is sunny. Typical with tropical climates, it will pour for 20 minutes and then the sun will come out. It can’t hurt to pack a travel umbrella, sturdy shoes and clothing geared for rain when traveling to pedestrian-friendly Vallarta during rainy season.
About Vacation Villas of Mexico Founder, Vanessa Cole
The founder of the company, Vanessa Cole, lived in Puerto Vallarta for 10 years and in Cancun for 2 years. She has worked in Luxury Vacation Villa Rentals since 2001.
Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Vanessa earned a degree from the University of Texas in Austin, majoring in International Business and Latin American Studies. Fluent in Spanish, she has worked and traveled all over Mexico and South America.
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