A day spent amidst the Malecon mayhem
So I heard that you could spend from dawn to dusk on the seaside promenade known as the Malecon, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and never get bored.
And I thought, “OK, I’m up for that challenge.” And yes, the Malecon is a 1.5-mile delight, bordered by shops on one side and the Bay of Banderas on the other.
I was initially struck by the preponderance of unusual brass sculptures that dominate the landscape. There are sculptures everywhere — clowns, mermaids, unicorns, lovers — celebrating relationships, history, Spanish culture, religion, animals and just plain fun.
Chilo, our guide, transfixed us with the many stories surrounding each and every creation, but after a while, they tended to flow together, not unlike the waves hitting the shore as we walked.
A sand sculpture wishing well, accompanied by the sign: “Your tips are my salary,” especially caught my attention. That combination, I thought, was an interesting double-dipping marketing ploy. Both the tip jar and the well get coins tossed into them.
I look up and see five men atop a pole, about to perform an ancient Indian religious ritual. One man plays the flute and drum, while the other four descend from above, flying in concentric circles, symbolizing the seasons and the cycle of life. Did I mention they are hanging by one foot upside down?
The Malecon 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 — display a very different character from the far more relaxing and less touristy stroll that got us here.
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 — OK — junk.
Not so at the public beaches, including at the Malecon. 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!”
A suggestion: Do not make eye contact with vendors, 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!
Vibrant night life
Another world emerges when the sun goes down: The lights go up, the crowds pour in. The good news is they are not only tourists.
Families by the droves carrying balloons 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, where the variety of dance steps is as diverse as the people executing them.
During the day, your attention is on the permanent appeal of the Malecon — shops and gardens and sculptures of infinite variety. At night, it’s all noise and moving parts.
While having dinner in a second story restaurant looking down on 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.
And then, an unexpected explosion in the sky — fireworks! Who knows why? It’s the Malecon. There doesn’t have to be a reason!