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Rio Cuale Island: Our Verdant Downtown Oasis

Published Feb 8, 2007 - (Updated Dec 11, 2012)


Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Spring 2007 issue.

When we think of the most spectacular cities in the world it is difficult to dismiss the stunning parks and green areas that have been carefully laid out within them. Names like New York and Central Park or Boston and the Fenway Gardens go hand in hand. These park systems serve a multiple purpose, providing citizens with a breather and the city itself with clean, fresh air, not to mention a protected place for local flora and fauna to develop. Puerto Vallarta is no exception. In the very heart of town, connecting the mountains to the sea, lies Puerto Vallarta's own emerald necklace, the Rio Cuale Island.

Barely six blocks long by one wide, the island is not the result of careful city planning and development, as is the case with its much revered counterparts. It may, in fact, have appeared by chance during one of our rainy seasons, the river overflowing and arbitrarily creating a second ocean-bound stream, thus surrounding a thin wedge of land with water. Today, the Rio Cuale Island separates El Centro from South Side and can be easily accessed through I. Vallarta and Insurgentes streets, the pedestrian bridge along the Malecon, or a handful of suspended bridges, a favorite draw for children.

Most folks are familiar with the western side of the island, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Insurgentes street, where you'll find a few restaurants and a busy flea market. The eastern side, however, has remained a peaceful and quiet haven, often frequented by locals and waiting to be discovered by tourists. Take an easy afternoon stroll through its carefully trimmed winding paths and you will encounter an unexpectedly serene setting to sit back and take a break from your day's activities. Stray cats on the ground and iguanas in the trees provide leisurely entertainment during the daytime, while outdoor performances and film screenings at the city's cultural center at the eastern tip provide ample entertainment and a handful of art-related courses you may wish to pursue.

Progress has at times threatened the island’s well-being, with city officials producing various proposals for its development, but the will of concerned citizens and outspoken environmentalists has prevailed. From flea markets to gourmet restaurants, from stray cats to iguanas, the island has many different draws. But at heart it is the one centrally located green area in Puerto Vallarta where we can all break free from our daily routines.

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