Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The number one landmark in Puerto Vallarta is The Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The modest Cathedral towers over the center of town with it’s iconic mushroom crown and it is the town’s most distinctive landmark. You’d be hard pressed to find a postcard rack without cards of the Cathedral.
The construction of the church took 12 to 85 years (depending upon who’s perspective), with construction beginning in either 1903 or 1929). Back in 1903 there was already a very small church on site, which needed expansion. The existing foundations were straightened and reinforced, and by 1917 they were finished with the new frame. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the structure was totally completed (sans the lateral towers). The first ever Church service took place on December 12th, 1951, and in 1963 the original, and now iconic,concrete crown was installed. In 1987 the lateral towers on each side completed the church we see today.
Due to wind, rain and time, the crown was in need of restoration and it was repaired in 1981. However in 1995 a 7.5 scale earthquake shook it from it’s perch, and the crown and was completely destroyed. Recognizing the importance of the icon, the public and private sector came together and quickly commissioned a temporary replacement fabricated out of fiberglass. Unfortunately, the designed was flawed so it now has a bit of scrunch to it, and the community is again raising money to restore it to it’s original elegance.
Inside the modest interior of the church is hand-carved columns, decorative moldings, gold accents, an oil painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted by Guadalajara artist Ingacio Ramirez in 1945, along with beautiful stained glass windows and other rich detailing.
Those of strong Catholic faith may want to visit between December 1st-12th when the town fills with thousands of Pilgrims, streets are closed and a carnival atmosphere erupts with festivals and processions ending with The Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, known in Spanish as Dia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.
The church resides in the center of town just a few blocks north east of the central plaza. Once in downtown, just look up and you can’t miss the Church.
Mass is presented in English every Friday at 5pm and the 10am Sunday Service is bi-lingual (mostly in English).
Another long standing PV attraction is a neighborhood called Gringo Gulch where the homes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once stood – they owned two situated right across the street from one another. It was here where the two courted each other while filming The Night of the Iguana. Sadly their houses are gone but you can still enjoy the neighborhood which overlooks the town and bay. To get there you can take the stairs on the south side of the The Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Gringo Gulch is on the east-side hill above and behind the town church. You can get there easiest by either by following the stone pathway uphill (past the HSBC bank) north of the upstream Río Cuale bridge, or by going east along Calle Zaragoza, the street that runs along the main downtown plaza’s south side. Be advised this attraction has been greatly diminished by the closing of the museum and bed and breakfast at Casa Kimberley (the former home of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor).
Our second favorite standard PV attraction is the city’s Boardwalk (Malecon), which is an eight block ocean front promenade lined with palm trees, taco stands, artists, night clubs, iconic statues, merchants and restaurants all with absolutely perfect views of the beautiful Bay of Baneras.
In 2011 the city upgraded the Malecon … it’s now even better than ever.
The west side of the street is a wide sidewalk that meanders alongside the water, while the east side plays host to shoulder to shoulder shops and restaurants. Most of the restaurants are on the second story providing customers with incredible views of the bay.
The artists include spraypaint, watercolor and some local crafts. Along the rocky water side you will often find a local making some incredible sand sculptures and another stacking rounded coblestones into seemingly impossible towers. And walking the Malecon you can’t miss the half dozen or so iconic Puerto Vallarta statues which line the boardwalk.
All kinds of Performance art happens nightly at the Los Arcos Amphitheater which is situated in the center of town just south of the Town Plaza on the Ocean’s edge. The performances include everything from comedy, child shows, mimes, singing groups and everything in between.
The walkway is kept impeccably clean and is very safe at all hours of the day and night. The most popular time runs from dusk to 10pm nightly, often culminating in fireworks shot from the water. This really is one of the most perfect places to spend an evening in Puerto Vallarta.
Playa los Muertos Beach
The beach walk of Playa los Muertos is our favorite standard PV attraction. The walk begins just south of the Malecon with a bridge spanning across the Rio Cuale. The beach walk will take you down Puerto Vallarta’s most popular beach which is lined with palapas serving you food and drink while staring out at the ocean with your toes in the sand.
The farthest section of this beach is called “the Blue Chair” with chairs right outside of Ritmos Beach Cafe, which is Mexico’s most popular gay beach.
Beach vendors casually peddle their wares up and down the sand, so the shopping mall comes to you. At times this can be a little overwhelming but if you give a polite but firm “no gracias” they will quickly move along .
Many activities originate from Playa los Muertos such as; remote beach tour boats depart from the pier and para-sailing, jet ski rentals, and banana boat rides are available.
The water is calm and the sand eases it’s way gradually into the Bay making it a perfect all purpose beach.
Waverunners: $35 per 1/2 hour
parasailing: $35 for 10min ride
Banana Boat ride: $15 for 10min ride
Small sailboat: $40-50 per hour