El Centro: Culture and Tradition
Considered the heart and soul of Puerto Vallarta, no visit to our destination would be complete without exploring in depth the wide diversity of cultural, gastronomic, historical and entertainment options available here. A great sensory fiesta to experience and enjoy, El Centro’s attractions are eclectic and bohemian, with extraordinary performing arts and abundant nightlife. Its narrow cobblestone streets are a lot of fun, but walking along them can be a real challenge, especially those that run east to west up the mountain. Its southern border is the Cuale River, whose small natural island is home to a market, restaurants, craft shops, a museum, an active cultural center and relaxing green spaces.
Puerto Vallarta’s El Centro has more landmarks than any other part of Banderas Bay. The Malecón, especially after its remodeling in 2011, is its most popular feature and leads to some other sites of interest, such as the Plaza de Armas (the main square), Los Arcos Amphitheater and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Along this walkway there is a series of bronze sculptures, such as El Caballito (The Seahorse), an icon of our destination. A morning walk here, with the refreshing sea breeze, is an excellent way to start the day. Now, if you have a more adventurous spirit, other options to get to know this area on foot include hiking up to the Mirador de La Cruz (for a breathtaking view of the city) or venturing into the streets of Gringo Gulch (known for hosting the residences of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the famous Hollywood actors who positioned Puerto Vallarta on the international scene during the filming of the movie The Night of the Iguana in the ‘60s). For something a little tamer, we recommend a walk to explore the city’s historical center.
Although its name is not commonly used (and it isn’t popular for swimming), the beach in front of Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón is called Playa Dorada. Farther north, in the 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, residents use it more for taking walks and swimming, easily accessing it via several streets.
El Centro has perhaps the most restaurants in the entire destination to pamper your appetite, from the simple to the gourmet. Its wide variety of establishments offers exquisite specialties that range from typical Mexican food and traditional seafood and fish dishes prepared with regional recipes, to fusion and international cuisines, as well as Italian, Asian, Hindu, Israeli and more, a true explosion of flavors for the palate.
On the streets around the Malecón, there are many galleries with different types of art, as well as renowned boutiques with glamorous and boho-chic designs. Artisans’ markets, as well as typical candy stores, are ideal for buying souvenirs to take home.
During the course of the afternoon, visiting one of El Centro’s thematic museums is highly recommended. When you leave, find your favorite spot on the Malecón and prepare to enjoy the performances of urban artists until the time comes to admire one of the extraordinary sunsets that characterize our destination.
Afterward, a romantic or family dinner can be had at one of the many high-end restaurants in the area. If your plan includes more fun until dawn, the clubs and bars are a good option for entertainment with friends or as a couple.
El Centro is the destination’s foremost site, an incredible area to enjoy, its streets and buildings still preserving much of what Puerto Vallarta was in its infancy, so don’t miss the opportunity to visit it.