Many people flock to Puerto Vallarta in winter to soak up the warmth on its sun-kissed beaches – sipping on frosty margaritas and swimming in its aquamarine waters.
Plenty of visitors are also drawn to the vibrant restaurant scene and charming cobblestone streets of old Vallarta, complete with an olde-world ambiance.
In short, Puerto Vallarta is a top destination for a fun-filled Mexican vacation, with heaps to see and do.
After several visits to PV, as it’s often affectionately nicknamed, we’ve found ourselves another favorite place to hang out (apart from the beach!) – the Puerto Vallarta Malecon.
What is the Puerto Vallarta Malecon?
With its wealth of terrific art galleries and public art, Puerto Vallarta has become something of a magnet for art lovers in recent years.
El Malecon Puerto Vallarta is a key part of the local arts scene.
Indeed, strolling along the attractive Malecon is one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for art afficionados, foodies and those who simply appreciate amazing vistas.
The Spanish word malecon refers to a path or road that runs along the coast next to the sea. Essentially, it’s a seaside boardwalk.
Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon stretches for a little over a mile, running alongside the Pacific Ocean from Hotel Rosita down to just beyond the Playa Los Muertos Pier.
A charming part of the resort town’s history, older parts of the Malecon date back to the 1930s.
Completely remodeled in the 21st century, it was spruced up extensively in 2011, and some 300 foxtail palms were planted, providing welcome shade.
The Malecon is especially known for its splendid collection of more than a dozen intriguing sculptures.
And today, it’s one of Mexico’s top tourist attractions.
There’s no need to worry about cars, as the revamped Puerto Vallarta boardwalk is a pedestrian-friendly boulevard with a marked bicycle lane. The boardwalk includes a pedestrian bridge too.
If you get tired, plenty of benches invite you to plonk yourself down and relax.
Do make sure to look down as you walk along the Puerto Vallarta Malecon.
You’ll notice the mosaic pavement was created using traditional river stone techniques by local Huichol artists. It’s a work of art too!
Puerto Vallarta Malecon sculptures
Let’s start with those thought-provoking sculptures on the Malecon.
Most are by local and Mexican sculptors, but there are some from international artists as well.
Originally there were 10 statues along the Malecon, but new ones have since been added.
See this map showing the location of the sculptures today.
The following are some of our favorite Puerto Vallarta statues on the Malecon.
1) The Millenia
Beginning at the north end of the Malecon, in front of the Hotel Rosita, the first sculpture is “The Millenia” (Los Milenios) by Mathis Lidice.
A tall, narrow gently-curving piece, it represents time – from the beginning of life to hope for a peaceful future.
A couple of sculptures along, you come to a hauntingly beautiful piece by sculptor Ramiz Barquet.
“La Nostalgia” depicts a couple sitting side-by-side – Barquet’s tribute to his wife Nelly Galvan Duque, a painter. It takes on more meaning when you know the story behind it.
When Jose Ramiz Barquet and Nelly were teenagers, they fell in love and planned to get married. But their parents disapproved of the match. They went their separate ways and married other people (though both relationships ended in divorce).
After a 27-year absence, they happened to meet again at a flower market.
At the spot where this sculpture now rests, they spoke of their love for each other and the life they could have had together – sparking the idea that Barquet would sculpt a symbol of this nostalgia.
The story has a happy ending. Barquet and Nelly married each other and were together for 33 years until Barquet’s death.
He died at 90, still loving Nelly.
Location: You’ll find “Escultura Nostalgia” where Pipila Street meets the Malecon.
3) Triton and Mermaid
Carlos Espino named his sculpture “Triton and Mermaid” but it’s also referred to as “Neptune and the Nereid.”
Espino, a Mexican sculptor, was keenly interested in Greek and Roman mythology.
In this bronze sculpture, Triton (son of the Greek sea god, Poseidon) is reaching out to Amphitrite – his wife, goddess of the sea and the oldest of Nereus’ 50 daughters (one of the Nereids).
Location: Find this sculpture on the Malecon where Mina street meets Morelos Street.
4) In Search of Reason
One of the most popular Puerto Vallarta Malecon sculptures is “In Search of Reason” by well-known Mexican artist, Sergio Bustamante.
It features two balloon-headed, child-like figures climbing a 60-foot ladder to the sky. At the bottom, there’s a larger figure standing on the ground, mouth wide open and arms outstretched.
Are these two children seeking to discover life and all its mysteries? Is the mother on the ground beseeching them to be careful and come back down? Or is she urging them to pursue their dreams?
Try to resist climbing the ladder to get your picture taken!
Bustamente apparently wanted people to interact with his “In Search of Reason” sculpture – so many tourists have indeed climbed up to get photos taken of themselves on the ladder.
Location: The Malecon sculpture “En Busca de la Razon” is located at the end of Corona Street.
5) The Seahorse
“The Seahorse” or “The Boy on the Seahorse” statue in Puerto Vallarta was one of the first sculptures to be placed on the Malecon.
Showing a small naked boy riding a seahorse, it’s since become an iconic symbol of Puerto Vallarta.
The statue you see today isn’t the original though.
Back in 1960, 18-year-old Rafael Zamarripa won Mexico’s national sculpture prize. He created a lovely seahorse statue which was placed on a pile of rocks (Las Pilatas) on Los Muertos Beach.
It was washed away by waves in a storm in 1976, however. Zamarripa (a sculptor, painter and choreographer) was later asked to build another seahorse statue – hence the 10-foot-high sculpture that now graces the Malecon.
And the original seahorse that was knocked off its perch? It was eventually found and restored and is now back on Los Muertos Beach.
So today, there are two seahorse statues in Puerto Vallarta.
Location: “The Seahorse” on the Malecon is found between Los Arcos (the Arches) and the old lighthouse, at the end of Iturbide Street.
Free Malecon sculpture walking tour
If you visit PV between November and April, you can join a Malecon sculpture walking tour. And trust us, it’s one of the best free things to do in Puerto Vallarta in winter!
The weekly tour is led by Gary Thompson, owner of Galeria Pacifico, on Tuesday mornings.
With more than 30 years of experience in the Puerto Vallarta art scene, Thompson knows many of the sculptors personally and explains each of their works.
He shares stories about the artists’ lives, love affairs and scandals, along with information about why they created their sculptures.
We were spellbound! Thompson really breathes life into the absorbing sculptures.
Check out the art in Cabo too! There’s also a great Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo on Thursday evenings in winter
Puerto Vallarta sand sculptures
As well as the bronze sculptures, you’ll see many large and wonderful sand sculptures in the sand below the Malecon too.
These are not like the sand castles you built as a child. No, these are full-on sand masterpieces!
They’re created by street artists (so please tip), and usually they’re crafted around certain themes, perhaps “summer” or “family.”
Each sculpture lasts perhaps 20 days, but new ones are constantly being built.
Other things to do on the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta
Yes, there’s more to experience on the Malecon – after all, it is one of the top attractions in Puerto Vallarta.
The boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta is a major romantic hotspot, a place where lovers can walk hand-in-hand. Share a cotton candy to make the mood that little bit sweeter!
Also watch talented seaside artists at work, and listen to energetic live music from one of the street performers.
You can also pick up a wide range of Mexican souvenirs and handicrafts, such as textiles, pottery and traditional clothing, from enticing gift shops and street vendors that line the city-side of the Malecon.
Perhaps relax in one of the charming coffee shops or cafés as you explore.
Food and drink are abundant along the boardwalk (and the area takes on a whole new level of vivacious appeal as night falls).
Or stop to perch on the edge of a large flowerpot under the shade of verdant palms gently swaying in the breeze, and soak up the ambiance (the Malecon is a great place for people-watching) and beautiful view over the Bay of Banderas.
Don’t miss seeing the Voladores de Papantla ritual, performed several times a day.
Known in English as the “Flyers of Papantla,” five daring dancers wow the crowds with a colorful, tuneful and mystical ceremony.
Rooted in deep spiritual beliefs with indigenous origins, the UNESCO-listed ceremony demonstrates an age-old tradition for praying for rains and rich soil.
Five dancers agilely climb to the top of the soaring pole, clad in traditional clothing with bold colors and patterns.
While one performer stays at the top of the pole, playing almost hypnotic melodic tunes on a flute and drum, the other four dancers complete a stunning aerial routine.
Supporting by a thin rope attached around their waists, the talented dancers mimic the action of rain as they tumble towards the ground in synchronization.
Malecon Puerto Vallarta restaurants
There’s no need to feel hungry or thirsty on the Puerto Vallarta Malecon, thanks to the many eateries on (or near) the walkway.
Grab a quick snack from street vendors, like hot dogs or ice cream, to keep hunger at bay.
Alternatively, check out one of the top-class restaurants below for a more substantial meal.
La Dolce Vita Malecon:
La Dolce Vita Malecon sure oozes the good-life vibes, with a choice of indoor and outdoor seating in a classy environment with prime ocean viewing.
The friendly staff dish up tasty Italian favorites, including pasta, pizza, steak and seafood. And there’s an extensive wine menu with the perfect tipple to complement any meal.
Fancy a taste of Spanish? Check out the highly-rated Barcelona Tapas.
One of our favorite Puerto Vallarta restaurants – within a stone’s throw of the Malecon – it’s where you can feast on delicious Spanish fare in a casual setting. The menu includes soups, salads, paellas and a wide variety of hot and cold sharing tapas dishes.
Sip a glass of wine or sangria while admiring the ocean vistas as you wait for your meal.
Vitea Oceanfront Bistro:
Vitea Oceanfront Bistro is another one of the best restaurants on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta. Right in front of the sea, the gorgeous Art Deco restaurant serves up masterfully-plated, European-inspired food.
Choose between the breezy patio or air-conditioned dining room, and sink your teeth into dishes like rosemary pork tenderloin or grilled fish and shrimp in a lemon parsley sauce.
Vitea is also a terrific place to sip an artisanal cocktail as the sun goes down.
The restaurant prides itself on tantalizing flavors with dishes like truffle seabass, tequila shrimp and pork drizzled in adobo sauce.
The Azteca soup is prepared using a traditional family recipe passed down the generations, and you can watch fresh guacamole made right at your table.
The prices are also very good for the quality of food served.
Malecon Puerto Vallarta nightlife
The Malecon in Puerto Vallarta doesn’t snooze once the sun goes down.
At around 10:00 pm, it’s transformed into one of PV’s liveliest nightlife spots.
After watching the magical sunset and feasting on delectable cuisine, it’s time to get into the partying groove!
Whether you’re looking for laid-back beach bars, pulsating discos where you can hit the dance floor, intimate bars for a romantic escapade or somewhere to have a lively laugh with your mates, the Malecon offers the lot.
Indeed, the Malecon offers some of the best Puerto Vallarta activities for night owls!
Travel back in time at the fun themed eatery and bar of El Jardin de Pancho Villa.
Based around Mexico’s revolutionary era of the early 1900s, the establishment has a top-notch garden restaurant, a karaoke area where you can belt out the tunes and big screens that show sports and music videos.
Colorful lights attract people to Oasis Bay – while the seafood and well-stocked bar keep them there!
For all-out revelry, follow the beat to Zoo.
One of the best nightclubs in Puerto Vallarta, Zoo stays open for fun and frolics until 6:00 in the morning, with dynamic performers, pulsating music, bright lights and much more to appeal to party animals.
If you’re in town on a Sunday evening (in the high season), don’t miss the incredible folkloric dancers at Los Arcos Amphitheater.
Dancers from the renowned Xiutla troupe dazzle the audience with traditional attire and choreographed moves. Performances are free (though donations are appreciated).
Puerto Vallarta Malecon hotels (and hotels near the Malecon)
There’s no shortage of stunning hotels around Puerto Vallarta.
Some of the best boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta are found on (or near) the Malecon.
To be close to the Malecon, check out these hotels and resorts:
Hacienda San Angel:
Hacienda San Angel is a charming gem, housed in an attractive colonial-era building with period furnishings.
Come evening time, the flickering lights from hundreds of candles amp up the ambiance.
Add three beautiful swimming pools and a top-class restaurant and the hotel really is heavenly.
There are several individually styled suites to choose between, each offering lashings of luxury and romance. Some have private outdoor tubs. One suite – the Celestial Suite – was once owned by film star Richard Burton.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa:
The beachfront Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa enjoys easy access to the sandy shore while also being just a short walk from the bustling Malecon.
It features an infinity pool, high-tech fitness center and several onsite restaurants.
Oh, and let’s not forget the beautiful Ohtli Spa where you can indulge in some TLC. Maybe a couples pampering sesh?
Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway:
The luxurious Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway is a tranquil haven for couples only, just a 10-minute walk north of the Malecon.
Its 80 rooms and suites are modern, fresh and filled with light; each has in-room aromatherapy scents and a private balcony to enjoy the stunning views of Banderas Bay. The décor weaves in touches of Mexico with blown glass bowls, hand-woven textiles and sculptures.
Throw in two swimming pools, yoga sessions, a spa, onsite restaurants and a beach out front with Bali beds – and you have the perfect mix of a beachfront luxury hotel close to all the buzz of PV.
Oh, and you can borrow bicycles to leisurely explore the Malecon under pedal power.
To experience Mexican traditions with an authentic air, Puerto Vallarta’s oldest hotel is tough to beat.
At the north end of the Malecon, Hotel Rosita showcases typical architecture and has a pool, restaurant and sunny courtyard.
It’s not as fancy as the other hotels here, but the standard and sea-view rooms are clean and comfortable, with free WiFi and breakfast. And the prices are very affordable.
Have you walked the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta?
What do you like best about El Malecon boardwalk? You can comment below :-).
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Photo credits: 2, 3, 5, 7 to 10, 13, 14, 16 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 22 Terrazzo House Music Bar | Hotel photos courtesy of the respective hotels