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Vallarta Malecon Boardwalk & Outdoor Culture
Mexico is an open society by North American standards. By this I mean that people, especially in the tropical coastal areas of the country, spend a considerable amount of time with their doors open: visiting with their neighbors, kids playing in the streets, or working outdoors doing physical labor. The Mexicans love to talk, visit, listen to music, drink, play soccer, party and enjoy the company of their family and friends. So there is a lot of activity in Mexican neighborhoods.
Mexico is still a traditional society in many ways. People in their neighborhoods know their neighbors' names and the names of their neighbors' children, which is an amazing fact to anyone who has spent most of their life living in a larger American or Canadian city or suburb. It is not unusual to see an entire neighborhood in the street celebrating the birthday of one of the children: the street will be brightly decorated, there is loud music, food and drink, and often a piñata full of candies and sweets is swinging overhead as the blindfolded kids try to break it open with a stick. Wakes are still often held in the home of the family, with many of the neighbors in attendance through the night.
A local custom to follow from these traditions is the popularity of the downtown Puerto Vallarta malecon and its many local attractions and artwork. The Malecon is the Heart Jewel of the town, the historic center, and its main man-made tourist draw, a one mile long seawall promenade or boardwalk that stretches the length of downtown Vallarta from the Cuale River at the south end to the Hotel Rosita in the north, some 15-16 city blocks. Check out the Map I have below at page bottom. Near the south end of this waterfront boulevard is the large outdoor amphitheater Los Arcos (the Arches) where entertainment and many outdoor attractions occur such as the Xiutla folkloric dancers, live music, cultural events and the ever popular clown shows in the evening. Strolling north, one passes numerous Puerto Vallarta landmarks, attractions and statues including one of this beach town's most beloved pieces, the Friendship Fountain, with its three dolphins by sculptor James Bottoms which was donated to PV by Santa Barbara in 1987 (notice the boy in the traditional Huichol/Cora Indian clothes on the left in the Fountain photo, below right). Then there's the famous nine-foot high statue of the youth riding The Sea Horse, a Puerto Vallarta symbol. Sculpted by Rafael Zamarripa, this beauty has stood for over 35 years in the central part of the malecon since 1976.
One of the more popular additions to the Puerto Vallarta malecon, the sculpture In Search of Reason by Guadalajara artist Sergio Bustamante, has two pillow-head figures ascending their ladder to the sky. People love to climb this one and have their picture taken. Then there's the recently placed group of strange abstract bronze figures by Alejandro Colunga entitled The Rotunda of the Sea with its half human, half alien sea or space creatures. One must see, then sit on them as they are half in the shape of chairs and tables, to experience their odd effect on the senses.
Tapatio Adrian Reynoso's unique blend of bronze and polymer resins, Nature As Mother, a spiraling wave on a snail appears next on the walk north. At last we come to the bronze sculpture of the hetero couple in love immortalized in La Nostalgia, a Puerto Vallarta landmark since 1984 by Ramiz Barquet, which I adore. Barquet (1920-2010) has more public art on display in this beach town than any other Puerto Vallarta artist.
At the north end of El Malecon in
Puerto Vallarta is the local fishermen's open market, where fresh fish
caught the night before can be bought at a good price. Just past that end
of the boardwalk and down the short half block to the beach by the Hotel
Rosita is the 2001 sculpture
The Millenniums by Mathis Lidice. See
the two photos of this beautiful and moving work below.
The Puerto Vallarta malecon boardwalk is popular at sunset and up until around 11pm or so, by which time most people are returning home or headed out to their favorite downtown night clubs. Half the town dresses up and turns out to stroll on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Justin Burch offers his fine assessment of the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk. The malecón can also be a good location to make friends. The south end of the malecon between the boy on his seahorse and The Arches/Los Arcos was once upon a time a more frequented meeting and conversation spot for gay men.
Several years ago the city completed an extension of the malecon, the new Malecon Extension, at the southern end of the old main malecón, so that you can now continue walking along the ocean-front from downtown PV over to the South Side or Los Muertos beach area. Follow the people around the back or front of the Los Arcos/the Arches Amphitheater area and you will go along the seawall promenade to the footbridge over the Cuale River - you soon end up at the northern end of the Olas Atlas area and Los Muertos beach. Along the way there are a number of pleasant art works and sculptures. This area has become a particularly popular hangout as one can catch a bite to eat from one of the food stalls, taco stands and restaurants, or stop at a dessert shop or bar along the way to relax and people watch. In addition there are small shops, vendors, a municipal flea market and street artists creating and selling a variety of Mexican handicrafts, souvenirs, jewelry, trinkets and gifts for friends or family. Furthermore, the New Malecon is quieter than the main malecon as there is no auto traffic.
Take a look at even more Puerto Vallarta malecon pictures (of the Extension and traditional walkway before the 2011 renovations, like most of the images on this page). I will be referring to the newly built, renovated part now as the New Malecon and continue calling the portion from the Cuale River to Los Arcos amphitheater the Malecon Extension.
Note: Go here for a walking-photo tour from the South Side and pedestrian bridge to the north end of the boardwalk with dozens of New Malecon photos.
A leisurely evening walk downtown along the Puerto Vallarta malecon boardwalk is a pleasure and a must thing to do while on vacation holiday here.
September 7, 2011 note on Malecon Progress: Several blocks at the north end of the malecon project are now open; as of October 17 here's a report in the PV Pulse by Luis Dominguez about the renovation with a number of photos. The statues for which the boardwalk is so famous are now being installed. November 23, 2011 final update: The entire length of the remodeled Malecon has been open for a while, though there is still detail work going on in certain areas. City Hall would do well to install some more park benches to sit on as sitting on the seawall or the planters isn't really comfortable enough, but I will say the wooden ones they have set up so far are quite pleasant to the eye and to sit on. They also need to rework the area around Los Arcos to make it friendly and inviting like before and not so rather stark.
Walking Art Tour of El Malecon
The art gallery Galeria Pacifico (since 1987) sponsors a Public Sculpture Walking Tour that starts at 9:30am every Tuesday during the winter months at the Millennium sculpture near the Hotel Rosita at the north end of the boardwalk. You can meet some of the sculptors of the statues and hear them speak about their work along the mile-long malecón. Knowledgeable Pacifico Gallery owner Gary Thompson often acts as your guide and informs you about the current local art scene and PV's many artists. The Walking Art Tour every Tuesday, 9:30am-11:30am, Nov 18 to April 14. Free, no reservation. For further information call the art gallery at Tel: 222-1982
Puerto Vallarta nightclub Hilo
downtown Puerto Vallarta malecon
sculpture La Nostalgia by Ramiz Barquet
Mandala bar and disco
Mariscos Tino's restaurant downtown
Puerto Vallarta sunset from malecon
Los Arcos amphitheater
sculpture of St. Pascual patron of cooks
statue to Xiutla folkloric dancers
Three pictures of the renovated Puerto Vallarta New Malecon in February 2012, looking north (left) and to the south (right)
Puerto Vallarta landmark downtown cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe; photos of sculptures the Rotunda of the Sea by Alejandro Colunga
Feb 2015: Senor Frogs in its new location where Punto V was located; nightclubs Mandala, the Zoo, and La Vaquita
Older photos of Hard Rock Cafe, Mandala, the Zoo and Las Palomas restaurant (La Vaquita bar is now lined up there too)
the Malecon boardwalk El Centro; Los Arcos, the Arches amphitheater; Puerto Vallarta Xiutla folkloric dancers performing
sand sculptures along the malecon; the Angel of Hope and messenger of Peace (now gone); paintings by local artists
Puerto Vallarta pirate ship Marigalante fireworks; payaso/clown; Nature as Mother (no longer on the New Malecon)
the Seahorse downtown Vallarta; In Search of Reason sculpture; Xiutla dancers; La Nostalgia statue
Hannah Colburn has this to say about Bustamante's statue In Search of Reason:
"I love Bustamante's work because it seems to me like creations of a child's imagination coming to life.
He uses his creativity in a unique way that represents a fairy-tale like world of possibilities...
I love how the figures in it, with their triangular heads and wizzard-like cloaks,
look like people from another world. To me it looks like the two figures
climbing the ladder are reaching for the sky, as if summoning god,
searching for some sort of meaning (hence the title)..."
Two views of the beautiful Puerto Vallarta sculpture "The Millenniums" by Mathis Lidice located
just past the north end of the PV malecon along the waterfront near the Hotel Rosita.
The lower part evokes the millennium before Christ, linked to the evolution
of life that originated in the sea. Then there appear different symbols of Christ.
Charlemagne represents the first millennium,
Aztec king Nezahualcoyotl the second millennium,
and a woman holding a dove for the third millennium.
"The whole humankind ascends through time in search of peace."
Handy map of Downtown Vallarta (click for a larger size)
Showing points of interests such as the Malecon, the main plaza, Los Arcos ampitheater,
the Cathedral of Guadalupe, the Municipal flea market, and the new pedestrian bridge
over the Cuale River into the popular South Side,
with its main streets of Insurgentes, Basilio Badillo and Olas Altas.
Noted also are the 5 de Diciembre neighborhood (north/left of the Malecon), Sports Center/Centro de Deportivas,
and the beaches from Playa Camerones in the north to Los Muertos Beach and the Pier in the south.
Plus the location of hotels such as the Premier, Buenaventura, Rosita, Eloisa, Playa Los Arcos,
San Marino and the Tropicana. Some of the banks, gas stations and bus stops as well.
Puerto Vallarta Malecon downtown photos
More pictures of the New Malecon
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