Beginning in the north at Hotel Rosita the Malecón is a 12-block, 870-metre oceanfront esplanade leading down to the Zona Romántica.
Nearly all of the palm-edged Malecón is free of road traffic and is constantly being furnished with new public art, plants and benches.
The vistas of the Bahía de Banderas a joy, not least when the sun is going down behind the bay in the evening.
All day the promenade buzzes with life, and it can take some time to wander from one end to the other as you’ll linger to watch street performers and papantla flyers.
Restaurants line the way, and there are also plentiful stands stocking aguas frescas, ice cream or Jaliscan tejuino, a cold regional drink made from fermented corn.
Get a snap of Los Arcos, a set of four arches framing the view of the bay.
Since the early 2000s the Zona Romántica, south of the Río Cuale, has become one of Latin America’s biggest LGBT escapes.
A curious thing about this remarkably green pocket of the city is that even though it’s newer than Puerto Vallarta’s downtown, the Zona Romántica feels more like a traditional Mexican pueblo.
On its latticework of cobblestone streets are quaint bakeries, cafes, scores of restaurants, a helping of art galleries and an easy-going atmosphere in high season.
Also from November to May there’s a weekend farmers’ market at Lázaro Cárdenas Park where you can pick up artisan chocolate, organic fruit and vegetables, hand-pressed tortillas, cheese, soap, ceramics and jewellery direct from the producers.
In 1926 the Río Cuale swelled and forked into two branches, leaving a new island in the middle.
This was completely separated from the rest of the city in the 70s when the riverbed was dredged.
In the intervening years the Isla Cuale only has been sparsely built up and is a lush sanctuary at the boundary between the Zona Romántica and the downtown.
There are a few places to eat, and a continuous line of open-air stalls selling souvenirs.
The island is linked to the city by a series of crossings, the most recent of which was completed in 2012, joining the Centro Cultural on the east side with the Gringo Gulch quarter (named for its foreign inhabitants in the 50s) on the river’s right bank.
The bridge slopes sharply down to the island, and the upper section is a good vantage point for the Zona Romántica.