EXPLORING PUERTO VALLARTA
Puerto Vallarta is very pedestrian friendly; part of the charm of Old Town Vallarta is the ability to walk everywhere you want to go. The bonus is all the friendly faces you will see among the beautiful surroundings.
Old Town Puerto Vallarta has a small town feel; very natural, laid back and family oriented.
There are a multitude of wonderful shops, art galleries and jewelry stores all around Old Town. The sidewalk cafes and beach clubs are excellent for people-watching.
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 you 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 restaurants on the best part of the Los Muertos 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. You can walk all the way to Los Muertos and Old Town Vallarta along the beach.
There is a a well-marked path that takes you up and over a cliff. The hike along the Conchas Chinas coastline is a great walk; very interesting to see the multi-million dollar resort homes from the beach perspective. 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 the historic district downtown.
Or turn inland on Basilio 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
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 car-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
Don’t miss the Pirate Ship and their show of a mock battle and fireworks in front of the Malecon. Some of our villas in Old Town have the perfect view of this nightly ritual.
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 offers world class shopping.
Look for Querubines on Juarez Street; a beautiful store with high end crafts, textiles and pottery.
Back to the Romantic Zone
A pedestrian bridge spans the Rio Cuale that runs through the middle of Old Town. This bridge connects the south end of the Malecon boardwalk to Los Muertos Beach and the Olas Altas Tourist District, an area commonly known as the Romantic Zone.
The Rio Cuale is a picturesque brook lined with tropical gardens and vendors selling crafts. It is also a nature preserve in the middle of town, home to hundreds of birds and iguanas – and cats!. The Isla Cuale in the center 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.
The Romantic Zone is anchored by the bustling Olas Altas and B. Badillo streets described above. The locals call this area Viejo Vallarta.
You will see lots of North Americans in the Romantic Zone who live in Puerto Vallarta year round. 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 martini bars to hot dog vendors to live blues music in the Romantic Zone…and plenty of people-watching to go along with it.
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 nickname Gringo Gulch in the 1950’s because of the influx of North American artists who created an enclave there. Well-known clothing designer, Xavier De La Torre, 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 near The Market. 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 Street in El Cerro. It is now a fabulous hotel; stop in for a look or for dinner and drinks. Look for the “Lover’s Arch” that connected the main house to the pool house, Burton’s lair.
The Lover’s Arch was a custom design requested by the famous couple. Modeled after the “Bridge of Sighs” in Venice, it was reminder of their time in Italy where they fell in love while filming “Cleopatra”, just before arriving in Puerto Vallarta so Burton could film “Night of the Iguana”. They stayed in Casa Kimberly during that production and Burton bought it for Taylor as a surprise for her 32nd birthday.
Sadly, over the years the relationship proved to be too intense. After the second divorce, Richard Burton later purchased another villa in Puerto Vallarta with his next wife Susan Hunt (he stole her away from famed race car driver James Hunt).
Burton didn’t venture far from his original love nest. Villa Bursus (for Burton-Susan) is just a few houses down from Casa Kimberley. It is now the highly rated boutique inn and restaurant, Hacienda San Angel. The irony is Casa Kimberley was also purchased by Hacienda San Angel. So they are all back together in one big happy complex where they belong.
Ring the bell to see if the bar is open; they generally require reservations but may let you in for a peek at the exquisite grounds.
Puerto Vallarta is a very cultural town and boasts an astonishing amount of quality art galleries with many important artists.
From Nov-May the galleries located downtown host cocktail parties and art openings called “Art Walk”, held every Wednesday evening, all located within a 5 block radius.
If attending Art Walk, top off the evening by dining at Cafe des Artistes. Ask the villa staff to make reservations for you. 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 fine dining.
Galeria Dante – extensive collection of paintings and sculpture with inner courtyard and fountains, located on Basilio Badillo in the Romantic Zone
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
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.
Tropical, casual attire is the norm in Puerto Vallarta. For men, knee-length shorts are considered appropriate attire at all Vallarta venues, day and night.
The weather is spring-like from December through March but nights are cool; lows can dip down to the upper 50’s. At night you will want long pants, sleeves and maybe a light jacket. Bring your pashminas and shawls – the perfect lightweight travel accessory that won’t drag you down while strolling.
In April and May the weather is still pleasant but the ocean is now warm enough for swimming. You should not need sleeves by this time of year but may still want a a light wrap in the evenings.
By the end of May and early June, the weather changes. The humidity starts to climb. The rains don’t start until late June, sometimes July, so you will have sunny skies. But stay close to the water during the heat of the day. That lounge with the umbrella at your private pool is calling your name.
During summer months wait until the sun starts to sink to explore town and bring loose cotton clothing in light colors. All the shops and art galleries are open in the evenings
About Vacation Villas of Mexico Founder, Vanessa Cole
Travel Advisor, Vanessa Cole, lived in Cancun for 2 years and Puerto Vallarta for 10 years, where she started in vacation rentals in 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.
This is the type of experience you can count on to help you find the perfect Luxury Villa Rental in Mexico.