Several of Puerto Vallarta’s memorable sights lie downhill, on or near the Malecón (seafront walkway). First, let the much- photographed belfry of the main town church be your guide. Named La Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, for the city’s patron saint, the church is relatively new (1951) and undistinguished except for the very unusual huge crown atop the tower.
Curiously, it was modeled after the crown of the tragic 19th-century Empress Carlota, who went insane after her husband was executed. On the church steps, a native woman sometimes sells textiles, which she weaves on the spot with a traditional backstrap loom (tela de otate).
Head across the main town square, the Plaza de Armas, flanked by the Presidencia Municipal on its north side, and the Los Arcos (The Arches) amphitheater, marked by the arches picturesquely set at the seafront, at the beginning of the Malecón.
Although interesting enough by day, Los Arcos frequently form a backdrop for a colorful flurry of evening snack stalls, sidewalk arts and crafts, playful clowns, and free evening music and dance performances.
From there, the Malecón stretches north along the seafront about a mile, toward the Zona Hotelera, which you can see along the curving beachfront.
The Malecón marks the Bay of Banderas’s innermost point. From there the shoreline curves westerly many miles on both sides, adorned by dozens of sandy beaches. At its wave-washed extremities you can see Punta Mita on the distant northwest horizon and Punta La Iglesia to the far southwest.
A number of far-out modernistic sculptures highlight the Malecón; so many of them seem to depict extraterrestrial beings that it’s interesting to try and puzzle out what the various sculptors had in mind.
The Malecón action regularly climaxes in the evening, and especially Saturday nights around 10 p.m. when everyone in town seems be either strolling the sidewalk or riding in a car. Kids chase each other, octogenarians hobble along, lovers embrace, souped-up cars blow hot flaring exhausts from their tailpipes, and the volunteer sand sculptors build their fantasies on the beach below.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition