Puerto Vallarta: Magic on the Malecón

Native beaded animals. Photo by Fyllis Hockman
Native beaded animals. Photo by Fyllis Hockman

By this time, I was delighted to imbibe in a refreshing glass of tuba, coconut milk flavored with pecans and apple. Couldn’t help but think how even better it would be mixed with tequila. But then, isn’t everything?

Near the end of the Malecón is a small amphitheater where performers entertain most weekend nights, but more on that later. Now, it’s time for lunch.

The Malecón ends at a large beach, and the hotels lining the street, umbrellas crowding the sand, music blaring from the bars and the cries of children playing in the waves add a very different character to the far more relaxing and less touristy stroll that got us here. I felt I had left the real Puerto Vallarta behind, but there was a beach bar, and hunger won out. Though not without its challenges.

The cordoned-off beach at our hotel protects its guests from the overly aggressive, ever-optimistic vendors hawking everything from purses to pottery, sombreros to sunglasses, trinkets to toys, jewelry to…hmmm…okay, junk. Not so at the public beaches of which the Malecón is one. I was at a loss as to how they could come up with so many things to sell – some easily recognizable, others more questionable – and all of it “almost for free!”

Especially ironic are the many venders selling food items – pastries, grilled fish on a stick, nuts and candies – to people actually sitting at tables and ordering food from the menu. A poorly thought out coals-to-Newcastle marketing venture, I thought.

A suggestion: Do not make eye contact, and be prepared for some minor whiplash just from shaking your head no. And do not order that third margarita – no telling what you may end up buying! Be prepared also for the bizarre — there was the woman at the table next to us having her hair braided into multiple strands while eating lunch. Want some highlights with your hot dog? A little beauty parlor in your dining parlor?  One more reason to love the Malecón.

One of many skeletons along Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo by Fyllis Hockman
One of many skeletons along Malecon. Photo by Fyllis Hockman

You can, of course, forego the pleasure of eating with your toes in the sand and dine off the beach. You may not hear the waves as well, but you’ll dine in relative quiet. A lunch for two people with two beers will run you about $11 U.S. The entertainment is free. And post my margarita-laden lunch, a siesta on the sand was a perfect way to round out the afternoon.

Puerto Vallarta Malecón at Night

So on to the Malecón at night, when yet another whole world emerges. The sun goes down, the lights go up, the crowds pour in – and the good news is they are not just tourists. Or at least not just American tourists. You’ll find families by the droves with balloons, light rays and ice cream; couples young and old holding hands; people sitting at the water’s edge gazing at the city skyline off in the distance and multitudes of all ages, sizes and ethnicities dancing to the music at the square, the variety of dance steps as diverse as the people executing them.

The amphitheater is home to entertainers ranging from folklore dancers to Mariachi bands to clowns – or as we were surprised to find ourselves in the middle of, a protest rally against Mexico’s president. It reminded me a little too much of home. I certainly didn’t have to come to Puerto Vallarta for that!

That’s the thing about the Malecón – it’s unexpected. Sand sculptures are one thing – stone art another. Precariously placed boulders of varying size and shape balanced one upon the other – I had no idea what they meant but the visual was surprisingly impressive. During the day, your attention is on the permanent appeal of the Malecón, shops and gardens and sculptures of various kinds; at night, it’s all noise and moving parts.

Not exactly an isolated beach. Photo by Fyllis Hockman
Not exactly an isolated beach. Photo by Fyllis Hockman

At dinner in a second story restaurant looking down upon the boardwalk, I watched a man in a monkey suit taking pictures with tourists, a violin player, bikers and inline skaters trying to keep from crashing into each other, grown-ups wearing outlandish hats made from balloons as though coming from a toddler’s birthday party, a sculpture of a bronze man sporting a sombrero and a rifle – until he moved and became a mime instead. I hardly had time to focus on my margaritas. And then, an unexpected explosion in the sky – fireworks! Who knows why – it’s the Malecón. There doesn’t have to be a reason.

If You Go
For more information, visit http://visitpuertovallarta.com.

Author Bio: Fyllis Hockman is a multi-award-winning travel journalist who has been traveling and writing for over 30 years — and is still as eager for the next trip as she was for the first. Her articles appear in newspapers across the country and websites across the internet.