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Every time we plan an escape from cold winter weather to sunny Puerto Vallarta, we always make sure to spend a lot of time on the Puerto Vallarta Malecon. We always have such a great time, checking out the beautiful art, eating like kings, and simply exploring the vibrant boardwalk.
There is an incredible number of things to do on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, and it is impossible to do everything without spending an entire week there. Imagine great shopping, vibrant bars, artwork, and of course, breathtaking views! It’s no wonder visiting the Malecon is one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta!
We have spent a lot of time on the Malecon over the years, and based on our experience, we have compiled this list of our favorite stops, activities, and tips to make the most out of your visit!
So, if you are planning a trip to Puerta Vallarta and want to visit the famous Malecon, this blog is for you!
About the Puerto Vallarta Malecon
The Puerto Vallarta Malecon is a kilometer-long boardwalk running along the coast of central Puerto Vallarta. In fact, the word “Malecon” translates into “boardwalk.” Here, you can find countless shops, restaurants, art exhibits, cultural sites, and entertainment to keep your time here fun and exciting. Not to mention the beautiful views of the ocean!
The Malecon is steeped in history. People travel from all over the globe to see the sculptures and art exhibits that have made the Malecon such a famous destination. Dare I say, Puerto Vallarta has the most beautiful Malecon in Mexico!
The Puerto Vallarta Malecon is also a safe place for tourists to hang out. With plenty of security and police stationed around the area, you can feel safe with your camera in hand capturing the beautiful scenery. You’ll also find some of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta on the Malecon – so be sure to stop for food!
Things to do at the Puerto Vallarta Malecon
1. Free Art Sculptures Walk
- Runs: All year.
- Times: Anytime, but is best during the day.
- Price: Free!
There are a ton of art sculptures along the Puerto Vallarta Malecon that visitors can enjoy simply by walking from one end to the other. Stop, take some photos and continue enjoying the interesting sculptures! However, for those who want more info, there is a free tour on offer too!
I can say, without any hesitation, that the Malecon Sculpture Walking Tour is one of the best art tours that I have ever been on. The sculptures were unique and had stories behind them that moved many guests to tears.
The man leading these tours, Gary Thompson, is the owner of Galeria Pacifico. His tour is exceptional – Gary’s interactions with the artists and tour guests made this informative, exciting, and intimate.
Not only did I learn a lot about each of the sculptures, but I felt as though I had also gotten to know some of the people who had created them. Everyone we talked to on the tour agreed that these meetings were especially memorable.
The free art walk is on every Tuesday morning from November to mid-April. We enjoyed the Tuesday morning tour so much that we also joined his Thursday night art tour held in the historic center, which I highly recommend to anyone, even if you aren’t usually interested in art and culture. The tours differ slightly, so each felt equally engaging and entertaining.
The Malecon art tour is between an hour and a half and two hours long. Our tour traveled along the Malecon boardwalk, so we were able to enjoy a beautiful sunny morning as well as the sunset on Thursday! Gary gave a deep history of each sculpture, explaining the meaning and overview of the artist for each piece of art.
The Tuesday morning tour begins at 9:30 am and begins at the Millennium sculpture next to the Hotel Rosita. The tour is on from November to mid-April.
2. Watch the Danza de Los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers)
- Location: On the beach across from Chicos Dive Shop on the Malecon.
- Times: Every day from 10 am to 2 pm and again from 6:00 pm to 10 pm, weather permitting.
- Price: Free but tips are welcome!
Every night and throughout the day, five men dressed in traditional Mesoamerican clothing climb an almost 30-meter (100 feet) pole and perform the Danza de Los Voladores.
This performance consists of one man dancing, playing drums, and a flute at the top of the pole, while the other four fasten themselves to the pole with a rope. All at once, these four men launch themselves off of the pole. Their descent starts with a scary, head-first dive, and then the men slowly spin to the ground, hanging only from one of their feet!
The descent takes somewhere between two to three minutes, with the men swinging around like the blades of a fan until they make it all the way down to the beach. It is exhilarating to watch! My partner and I were biting our nails the entire time, even knowing that this is something the men are well-practiced at!
According to a local woman that I was lucky enough to chat with, the Danza de Los Voladores is a very old ceremony that was said to bring rain in times of drought. It is so culturally significant to the Mesoamerican culture that, in 2009, the United Nations added it to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage catalog to be safeguarded.
Even if it isn’t usually your sort of thing, this is one pole dancing routine that you should make time to see at the Malecon!
3. Watch a show at Los Arcos Amphitheater
- Location: Southern end of the Malecon.
- Times: Events are during the day and night.
- Price: Free, but tipping the performers is encouraged!
Los Arcos Amphitheater was one of my personal favorite parts of our time spent at the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta. There was always something going on, from small show productions to clowns handing out balloon animals. Not wanting to miss the fun, I asked one of the clowns to make a balloon giraffe – it turned out great!
We found that it wasn’t always super easy to figure out what events were happening and when. The best way to find out what is happening at the Amphitheater is to check bulletin boards in the area for flyers, listen to the local radio station, and check out one of the many magazine publications with information about Puerto Vallarta. Or, just ask your hotel.
While some of the smaller daily events weren’t listed, the larger productions were almost always listed in one of these ways. We managed to see an incredible show during Dia De Los Muertos!
4. Shop for art
- Location: along the entire boardwalk
- Times: store hours vary
- Price: as much or as little as you would like to spend!
There is not a lack of amazing art in Mexico, and a lot of these unique pieces can be found and purchased at the Puerto Vallarta Malecon. Some of the most distinctive pieces in my home came from my first trip to the Malecon – including my bedroom hammock, where I can read for hours.
You can often find traditional art like this elsewhere, but I love knowing that the money from my purchase goes directly to the artist. Buying from the street stalls on the Malecon is a surefire way to support the artist so that they can keep on creating beautiful things.
You can find art stalls all up and down the Malecon, including near the Danza de Los Voladores dancers I mentioned above and also at the Amphitheater. These stalls usually sell paintings; however, head into one of the many stores for crafts.
One of the most prevalent types of art found at the Malecon is the traditional beading work from the Huichol style of artwork. In addition, I found some jewelry that I wear all of the time, especially in the summer. The jewelry is bright, beautiful, and remarkably well-made.
One of the shops we visited also had incredible beaded sculptures of different animals (above). They were too large for us to bring with us at that time, but they would be great statement pieces in your home. Some day, I will go back for one!
Related Read: While here, consider doing one of the fun ATV tours available in Puerto Vallarta!
5. Shop at Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale
- Location: Southern end of the Malecon.
- Times: From morning to late afternoon.
- Price: as much or as little as you would like to spend!
The Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale is the place for all things souvenirs and local fares. This is my go-to place for getting gifts for my friends and family. They have a bit of everything here at great prices (although you’ll have to negotiate!)
For example, here is a list of things my partner and I were able to buy at one of our Municipal Rio Cuale hauls: a colorful dress, straw hat, Puerta Vallarta t-shirt, beaded necklace and earring set, an adorable wooden turtle bobblehead knickknack, traditional style blanket, a sugar skull pencil holder, three kinds of tequila, and a plate of tacos.
If that doesn’t sound like one of the most successful shopping trips ever, then I don’t know what is! Plus, that was just the tip of the iceberg of what was actually available.
Even if you aren’t looking to make very many purchases in Puerta Vallarta, it is just a lot of fun to peruse the different items and visit the shopkeepers. They were all so friendly and a great source of information about things going on in the area.
The Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale is located just off the Malecon, you can access it via a set of stairs near the bridge to the Romantic Zone.
6. Visit the ChocoMuseo Puerto Vallarta
- Location: Puerto Vallarta Malecon.
- Times: 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
- Price: Museum tour is free, workshops vary in price.
I am a total fiend for everything and anything chocolate, so this was a stop that I had been looking forward to for weeks! There are a few different ways to experience the ChocoMuseo Puerto Vallarta, and I can vouch that all of them were a lot of fun and super delicious.
We tried a few tours, and I think that if you can only pick one, then the Chocolate and Truffles workshop is an absolute gem. The chocolatiers teach you the chocolate-making process from beginning to end. Then, you actually make your own chocolates to take home!
I ended up making most of mine with some combination of salted caramel, peanut butter, and chocolate ganache. That was perfect for my sweet tooth, but there were many great options that someone could cover in their yummy chocolate.
As a bonus, they also had chocolate body lotion and lip balms, which are so luxurious.
We did the full two-hour tour, but they have another tour called Bean to Bar, which I have also done at one of their other locations in Miraflores, Peru. It’s great if you have young kids – so it’s a really awesome stop for just about anyone visiting the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta!
The only people who might not enjoy themselves here are people who don’t like chocolate… but those people don’t actually exist, right?
7. Enjoy some fantastic food!
- Location: Central Malecon
- Times: 11:30 am to 12 am Monday to Saturday and from 4 pm to 11 pm on Sunday.
- Price: Prices vary at each restaurant.
If I told you that some of the best Italian food I have ever had was not actually in Italy, but in Mexico, would you believe me? If you don’t, make sure to visit La Dolce Vita Malecon so that you can become a believer.
It can be hard to pick since everything looks so delicious when you eat here. My favorite dishes are simple and let the ingredients shine, so I ordered the Insalata Capri, which was a perfect combination of creamy fresh mozzarella and fresh tomatoes, and their house-made ravioli. It was incredible. Don’t skip this.
Some other great places we ate at were ALL GUSTO and Restaurant El Malecon. ALL GUSTO was a cute little cafe with a great breakfast menu. If you want fresh fish and beach views, then we like Restaurant El Malecon. We came here a few times to order small plates and a few drinks while looking out at the ocean.
These were just a few of our favorites, but there are so many restaurants in the area that you are sure to have some awesome meals on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta!
8. Have a drink at Senor Frog’s
- Location: Central Malecon.
- Times: 9 pm to 12 am daily
- Price: Prices vary.
Senor Frog’s has earned a reputation as a favorite tourist stop in Puerta Vallarta for its fun atmosphere, excellent service, and giant drinks! I am sometimes hesitant to spend too much time in touristy chain restaurants, but Senor Frog’s does not disappoint!
This place is also family-friendly! They will make any of those huge margaritas without alcohol, and there are even clowns visiting tables and making balloon animals and hats! Since I had already gotten a giraffe at the Amphitheater, I made sure to leave with something different this time. My balloon hat was huge and topped with a big red heart. It was hilarious.
Most people agree that the margaritas are the best part of the dining experience, but I also always order chips and guacamole! The servers make it right at the table, and it always tastes really fresh.
9. Party in one of the clubs
- Location: Central Malecon.
- Times: After 10 pm the clubs get busy
- Price: A beer costs $5 USD and cocktails $12
I don’t consider myself a huge party animal, but the nightlife on the Malecon could bring it out of the squarest of the squares. They know how to party on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, that much is for sure!
Most of the stops on the Malecon are family-friendly during the day, but a handful of them kick things up a few notches at about 10 pm. The three that we recommend are Zoo, Mandala Puerto Vallarta, and Bar Morelos Mezcaleria. All were nights to remember (as much as I could after a few tequilas, anyway!)
Bar Morales is more upscale, with a stricter dress code and bottle service. We found that we all had a great time and really enjoyed our drinks (the mango mojito was to die for). Lots of locals were also there partying, which added to the fun!
We also went to the Zoo for a themed party. This bar is wild, as you would hope for with a name like Zoo. They have frequent themed parties – foam parties, animal parties, and glow parties. I actually went for ladies’ night with some friends and had an absolute blast. The drinks were pretty inexpensive, and the dancing was so much fun!
Mandala is a huge club with a center dancefloor and amazing drink service. It’s an expensive place to drink, but they offer bottle deals on a screen in the bar with the timer on them – so keep an eye out for something you want. Oh, and if you order an entire bottle, they do a huge dance before giving it to you!
All the clubs have around a $10 cover (although girls get in free most of the time,) and drinks run from around $5 to $12 USD, depending on the drink specials and whether you’re getting bottle service.
10. Get a photo with the Puerto Vallarta sign
- Location: Southern Malecon
- Times: Open 24/7
- Price: Free
I mean, if you don’t get a photo with the Puerto Vallarta sign, did you really even visit Puerta Vallarta? You know what the kids say – pics, or it didn’t happen!
We weren’t totally sure where to find the sign, but we found it easily by asking some of the store owners on the Malecon. This is a great opportunity just to have a silly photo up! We took a bunch while trying to synchronize jumping into the air, which was way harder than it looks!
11. Look for dolphins and whales
- Location: Banderas Bay
- Times: During whale season from December to April (the best time is January to March).
- Price: Free without a tour.
The first time I saw a dolphin up close, it was love at first sight. I was eight and was even able to pet the dolphin’s head. They are just magical creatures! And you can see both dolphins and whales from the Puerto Vallarta Malecon during certain times of the year.
The best time to try and see whales in Puerto Vallarta is during whale season, which is from December to April. Since I am from a place with cold weather, this is also the best time for me to visit sunny Mexico, so I was lucky enough to be there in February when whale watching is at its peak. If you see any, the whales that you can expect to see are typically humpback whales.
They come in pretty close to the shore, so keep an eye out. If you see a few boats grouped together, that’s usually an indication they have spotted a whale.
If you don’t want to leave this experience up to chance, then join this whale watching tour in Puerto Vallarta. It’s one of the best-rated tours in Puerto Vallarta, and the expert guides know exactly how to find the whales in Banderas Bay. You’ll really get your money’s worth on this tour because it also includes free drinks (yes, alcoholic ones too!) and a buffet lunch for $99 USD.
12. Watch the sunset
- Location: All along the Malecon.
- Times: Between 5 pm and 8 pm depending on the time of year.
- Price: Free.
Some of the best things in life are the simple ones. Along the beach, with the warm beach air, watching the sun go down… it is a really breathtaking view.
The best part of watching the sunset is that there are so many ways to enjoy it! We spent one sunset sipping margaritas at one of the beachfront restaurants. Another, we packed a picnic with our favorite tequila, limes, and fresh fruit and watched the sunset with our toes in the sand. The colors of the sunset against the blue ocean are incredible.
10/10, would recommend it. Mother Nature does it best!
13. Tequila tasting
- Location: All along the Malecon.
- Times: Between 10 am and 10 pm.
- Price: Free.
A lot of people don’t think that they like tequila, but a lot of tequilas on the market taste nothing like the real stuff in Mexico. So, even if you don’t usually like tequila, you might become a fan of the real stuff in Mexico!
One great place to learn all about tequila while tasting the subject matter is at the Museum of Tequila. On this $25 USD tour, there are a few stops where you learn the process of making tequila, the differences between different types, and how to pair with tequilas. All while sipping on the good stuff!
If you are looking to do more tasting and less learning, then we really enjoyed the vibe at Chile Tequila. They had so many different types and flavors to try, and the staff was so friendly and helpful. My favorite was their mango tequila – so yummy!
14. Check out the sand sculptures
- Location: Central Malecon.
- Times: During the dry season once it stops raining.
- Price: Free, but tips are encouraged.
The sand sculptures found on the Malecon’s beachfront are not like any sandcastle you have ever seen before. Instead, the sculptures here are all intricate, beautiful, and meticulously built by mostly local artists.
Appreciating the finished sculptures is a lot of fun, but it is a special treat to see an artist building a new sculpture on the beach. We saw artists using regular sandcastle tools and more unusual items, like a melon baller and razor blades for line detailing.
The sculptures don’t last forever, of course. A sand sculpture can be expected to last a few weeks before being flattened and made into something new. While a little bit sad, this also means that we saw lots of new sculptures every single time we visited!
There were some huge sandcastles, mermaids, pyramids, and other incredible feats of creation. One sculpture was of two men playing chess! I am still not sure how the artist managed to create that one!
You can find these sculptures all year, but it’s best from December to May when there is very little rain. This is a really fun activity that is different every single time, so we highly recommend that you check these out at least a few different times.
Checking out the sculptures is always free, but tipping the artists is customary and appreciated. They are creating these sculptures for everyone to enjoy for free, so supporting their efforts is something we find to be very important.
15. Eat at the food stands
- Location: Southern end of the Malecon.
- Times: Evenings
- Price: Items of food are cheap.
Throughout this article, you have probably been able to discern that I really, really like eating good food. So, the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta was a great experience for me. There are delicious restaurants, bars, and last but not least, food stands along the boardwalk.
There is something especially awesome about the food stands for me. They leave behind all the frills and just focus on making delicious treats. The food stands on the Malecon are no exception – what they lacked in seating, I found they almost always made up for in mouthwatering food.
I ate too many food stand tacos to count, but there were also all sorts of other treats like ice cream, grilled corn, hamburgers, corndogs, and even crepes. I can’t recommend just one. I recommend trying it all and just walking an extra lap around the Malecon to work it off. Totally worth the extra calories!
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Here are some of the best hotels you should consider in Puerto Vallarta:
Low-Budget Hostel – Oasis Original Hostel
This hostel offers dorm beds as well as private air-conditioned rooms (for less than $30 USD!) It’s in a great central location, the staff are incredibly helpful, and breakfast is included! You can book it on either Hostelworld or Booking.com.
Low-Budget Hotel – Posada de Roger
We love this hotel! It is located in the heart of the Romantic Zone and is super affordable. All rooms have to air-conditioning and they even have a pool that gets tons of sun. There is a shared kitchen that guests can use too which is a huge bonus. Honestly, this is our go-to place to stay in Puerto Vallarta. If you want to stay here, be sure to book in advance because it is almost always fully booked.
Mid-range Budget – Amapas Apartments Puerto Vallarta
This adults-only hotel offers self-contained apartments. It is located in my favorite area (Zona Romantica) and is very close to the beach, restaurants, nightlife, and shops. They have a pool on-site and all rooms are air-conditioned. A studio apartment goes for less than $100 USD a night, but book quick, this place almost always books out!
Luxury – Grand Fiesta Americana
This all-inclusive adults-only resort has it all! It is located right on the beach and also offers an outdoor pool and on-site restaurant. They also have a late-night club with a DJ, tennis court, and gym. The reviews are impeccable and the location is still close enough to town to easily access!
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Mexico in 2019, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your renal will be much cheaper!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
The Puerto Vallarta Malecon is the centerpiece of Puerto Vallarta and one of the best places to enjoy a walk. The above 15 activities on the Malecon are my favorites that I am sure you will enjoy!
I hope you loved this blog, and my love for Puerto Vallarta shows in my writing! If you found this blog helpful, why not plan more of your Puerto Vallarta trip while here? Check out these related blogs: