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Top Dining & Art Diversions in Puerto Vallarta

PV showcases a thriving downtown cultural and culinary scene

In Puerto Vallarta, you can bargain for goods in the markets and with beach vendors, but not in the shops.
Though Puerto Vallarta’s coast is lined with luxurious resorts for tourists, an authentic local experience still lives in its downtown area. Locals and visitors alike stroll along the Malecon, the seaside promenade, where the city’s colonial character remains intact. But in addition to the picturesque cobblestone streets, red-tiled roofs and white-washed buildings, visitors will find the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s dining and art scene downtown as well.

Mexican artists and artisans display their work in a range of shops, from upscale galleries filled with works of art to mercados packed with hand-made objects that make for unique souvenirs. Start at the pedestrian-only island in the middle of the Cuale River, to browse stalls selling an array of crafts, jewelry, folk art, and clothing. Where the river meets the sea is the small but worthwhile Museo Cuale, a must-stop for early pottery, clay figures, and other ancient objects. At the sea, turn right to walk along the Malecon past its series of bronze sculptures.

Puerto Vallarta is one of the best places to find arts and crafts by the indigenous Huichol people, known for their yarn paintings and beaded pieces. Representations of these works can be found at Peyote People in Old Town and Huichol Collection on the Malecon. For more authentic native Mexican crafts and folk art as well as a collection of masks, check out the display at Olinaia.

Food lovers will find much to please their palates downtown, which buzzes with a diverse restaurant scene featuring everything from street food to five-star plates. Dining recommendations range from the cosmopolitan Cafe des Artiste to Trio, a local favorite with a rooftop terrace. Other good choices include Vista Grill, Vitea Oceanfront Bistro, and Mariscos Polo.

In addition to its dining scene, Puerto Vallarta also hosts the International Gourmet Festival Puerto Vallarta, which showcases some 30 chefs from four continents. Gourmet fans can enjoy chef’s tables, winemaker dinners, chocolate pairings, cooking demonstrations, and tequila and wine tastings during the 10-day event, which runs November 13-22 this year.

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