The heart and soul of Puerto Vallarta, or commonly known as "El Centro", this is where the action is, a sensory and cultural feast never to be forgotten. Eclectic and bohemian in feel with world-class offerings, its dining and art scenes are extraordinary, the nightlife abundant, no visit here complete without a stroll and people-watching session on the popular oceanfront Malecon. Dotted with fascinating monumental public art, one side is lined with intriguing shops, restaurants and bars, a gorgeous bay vista on the other. The local color here so rich it's absorbed by osmosis, performances of all stripes take place here every evening, spectacular events frequent at the Los Arcos outdoor amphitheater across from the main plaza all free of charge.
El Centro's narrow cobblestone streets are great fun and can be challenging to navigate, especially those running east to west up the mountainside in the El Cerro and Gringo Gulch neighborhoods the latter where Liz Taylor and Richard Burton lived. The tiny Isla Rio Cuale, offers a flea market, restaurants and shops as well as an interesting museum, an active cultural center, and relaxing green spaces.
South of the island you will find Vallarta at its funky best, featuring Los Muertos, the bay's most popular beach, thriving English-language theater and gay scenes, and what many consider the town's best restaurants, bars and specialty shops. What's especially neat is that this is clearly a real neighborhood, one of Puerto Vallarta's oldest. Gas and water trucks announcing their arrival with bells and loudspeakers, and burros hauling goods the same way they did a century ago are just a few examples. The new Malecon extension and pedestrian bridge mean you can walk all the way from the Hotel Rosita to near the south end of Los Muertos along it, a very pleasant stroll indeed. There's a wide range of places to stay, bed and breakfasts, small- to medium-sized hotels and rental apartments and condominiums, long-term rentals common where so many snowbirds roost every winter.
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