The couple of blocks of Avenida Olas Altas and side streets around the Hotel Playa los Arcos are alive with a welter of T-shirt and artesanías (crafts) stores loaded with the more common items—silver, onyx, papier-mâché, pottery—gathered from all over Mexico.
A few shops stand out, however. On Avenida Olas Altas, a block north of Hotel Playa los Arcos, find Safari Accents (Olas Altas 224, tel. 322/223-2660, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. daily). Inside, peruse a delightful trove of the baroque, including brilliant designer candles, angelic icons, bright metal-framed mirrors, a rainbow of glass lampshades, and gleaming candelabras.
For a different kind of excellence, head uphill along Badillo. After a block and a half, on the south side of the street, step into Galería La Indígena (tel./fax 322/222-3007, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) for a brilliant display of fine native ceremonial crafts. Here, you can appreciate bright Huichol yarn paintings and masks; Tarascan art from Ocumichu, Michoacán; Nahua painted coconut faces from Guerrero; a host of masks, both antique originals and new reproductions; pre-Columbian replicas; and Oaxacan fanciful wooden alebrijes (animal figures).
Continue half a block to the corner of I. Vallarta to admire the eclectic collection of designer Patti Gallardo (250 B. Badillo, tel./fax 322/222-5712 or 322/224-9658, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat., closed Sept.–Nov.). Although Patti’s creations extend from fine art and jewelry to clothing and metal sculptures, she’s especially proud of her collection of colorfully designed handmade carpets.
Walk a few doors uphill and across the street to view the eclectic sculpture collection at Galleria Dante (269 B. Badillo, tel. 322/222-2477, fax 322/222-6284, www.galleriadante.com , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat.). Exquisite wouldn’t be too strong a description of the many museum-quality pieces, from neoclassic to abstract modern. Across the street, step into Galería Pirámide (10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 6–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), which specializes in fine Huichol pre-Columbian reproductions.
Next to Galería Pirámide, look into Viva (274 B. Badillo, tel. 322/222-4078, 10 a.m.–11 p.m. daily), the life project of designer Mary Sue Morris. Take your pick from lots of handmade men’s and women’s shoes and sandals, and one-of-a-kind designer jewelry.
Continue north to Insurgentes and Arte Indias (near the southwest corner of Madero, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. daily) for an interestingly eclectic selection, including much women’s cotton resort wear, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and Tiffany-style lamps.
Tucked away on a quiet residential street a block uphill from Insurgentes, find Mundo de Azulejos (Carranza 374, tel. 322/222-2675, fax 322/222-3292, www.talavera-tile.com , 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat.). It offers a treasury of made-on-site tile and Talavera-style pottery at reasonable prices. Unique, however, are the custom-made tiles—round, square, oval, inscribed and fired as you choose—with which you can adorn your home entryway or facade.
Detour back downhill along Lázaro Cárdenas to Olinalá Gallery (Lázaro Cárdenas 274, tel. 322/222-4995 or 322/228-0659 to make an appointment, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat.). Founded by Mexico-lovers Nancy and John Erickson, Olinalá Gallery is now in the hands of new owners/managers Brewster and Carmen Brockman. Although the “Olinalá” name originated from the famed Mexican lacquerware village where the Ericksons originally got most of their pieces, the present collection, a mini-museum of mostly ceremonial and festival masks—devils, mermaids, goddesses, skulls, crocodiles, horses, and dozens more—comes from all over southern and western Mexico. All offerings, moreover, are priced to sell.
For a big selection of glassware, continue uphill to Insurgentes and Mundo de Cristal (Insurgentes 333, tel. 322/222-4157) for an all-Mexico selection, including glasses, goblets, vases, mirrors, lamps, and much more, all at reasonable prices.