October 20, 2023
We present the following guide to Puerto Vallarta's Day of the Dead festivities. Among the more than 50 free activities that will be programmed during ten consecutive days, we have selected those that are concentrated in the heart of the city: Downtown and El Malecon, as well as the Romantic Zone and the traditional Colonia 5 de Diciembre neighborhood.
In order to better enjoy the El Festival de MuertosPuerto Vallarta 2023, we suggest six different itineraries for each day and according to the activities that will be carried out in each of the areas. We also include some additional recommendations on where to go, eat, see and other must-see fall events in Puerto Vallarta.
Start your Day of the Dead celebration in Puerto Vallarta off on the right foot. Start in the Colonia 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, just north of Downtown.
The Cinco de Diciembre Market (San Salvador St. corner of Brasilia St.) will host a colorful exhibition of altars of the dead that you can visit from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. If you are looking for fresh seafood, seasonal fruits and other delicacies produced in the Puerto Vallarta area at very affordable prices, this mercado, also known as “El Mercado del Mar” (Sea Market), is a must.
Stop for breakfast like a local at El Taquito Hidalguense (1179 Prolongacion Brasil; cash only) before continuing your tour. Hidalgo-style barbacoa tacos served on handmade tortillas are the specialty of this modest family restaurant. Pair your taquitos with a warm consommé, a birria quesadilla, and an agua fresca, and discover why they have been a Vallartense favorite since 1989.
On the cobblestone streets of Colonia 5 de Diciembre you will find beautiful murals by renowned local and international artists, such as Misael López (15 de Mayo Elementary Public School), Tony Collantez (Teatro Vallarta), Noise + Nick (Basketball Court. Argentina St. and Colombia St.), Bué the Warrior (1302 Colombia St.), El Chico sin Cabello de Pan (Basketball Court. Argentina St. and Colombia St.), among many others.
It is very important that you wear comfortable shoes and clothes, that you protect yourself from the sun and, most importantly, that you stay well hydrated. A hundred percent natural and very healthy option is coconut water. Go to the Cocos Fríos stand (1422 Colombia St.; cash only), where you can drink it straight from the coconut or ask for the pulp in pieces with chili, lemon and salt to take home.
At the end of the day, don't miss one of the main activities of the El Festival de MuertosPuerto Vallarta 2023: The Grand Opening of the Altars and Catrinas, which will take place at 8:00 pm in the Malecon area in front of the City Hall. The Day of the Dead celebrations in the "Friendliest City in the World" will officially begin with this event.
The small plaza of the Emiliano Zapata Municipal Market (Camichín St. corner of Lázaro Cárdenas St.), open to the public from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, will be filled with the unmistakable aromas of palo santo, copal, incense and fresh flowers. Located in the heart of Old Town Vallarta, this mercado is notable for its frequent cultural and culinary events. Once there, take the opportunity to visit the many fruit stands and those that sell tasty antojitos mexicanos in the mornings.
Puerto Vallarta's Dia de los Muertos celebrates Mexican traditions at their best. Head to Pulqueria Chingaquedito (494 Lazaro Cardenas St.; cash only) if you are in the mood for a refreshing and nutritious drink of ancestral origins during your tour of the neighborhood. This is one of the few pulque (a PreHispanic alcoholic beverage made from the lightly fermented sap of the agave) outlets in Puerto Vallarta, located just a few blocks from the Emiliano Zapata Market. This is where you will find the “Drink of the Gods” in both its natural and “curado” (flavored) versions. For those unfamiliar with its characteristic fermented flavor, oatmeal, passion fruit, red fruit, marzipan, and marigold are just a few of the flavors we suggest you try. ¡Salud!
Saturday, October 28, marks the beginning of the 2023-2024 season of the famed Olas Altas Farmers' Market. It is undoubtedly one of the events not to be missed in Puerto Vallarta. The market brings together a wide variety of local producers in its fifteenth annual season. Everything has been carefully selected by the organizers in order to add value and to comply with the motto of this producers' market: "home-made and handcrafted". The offer is rich and varied, from organic foods, crafts, textiles, fashion designs and works of art to musical instruments, handmade jewels and home decor. The location: Every Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm in Lazaro Cardenas Park.
After the Olas Altas Farmers' Market, how about sitting down to fresh seafood on the banks of the Cuale River at one of Old Town Vallarta's most traditional restaurants? Balam Balam (177 Rivera del Rio St., cash only) has been serving the freshest seafood on a picturesque riverfront terrace since 1986. Their specialty is the catch of the day. It can be grilled Vallarta style or over an open fire. Start with delicious fish ceviche tostadas, fresh oysters or guacamole & chips. Wash it all down with an ice-cold cerveza or a Mal Paso raicilla and enjoy the attentive service of the owner, Señor Tony Balam. Have a bon appétit!
On the last Sunday of the month of October, the pre-All Saints celebrations move to the Cuale River Municipal Market, Puerto Vallarta's oldest and most traditional mercado. From 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, merchants and vendors will present a colorful display of altars and traditional offerings.
Take the opportunity to have breakfast in one of the family-owned restaurants located inside the market, on the upper floor, if you decide to get up early to see the altars. Fonda La Marina (cash only) is one of the favorites of Vallartenses. Their breakfast menu is made up of typical Mexican dishes with a homemade touch, such as chilaquiles, eggs, birria, and quesadillas. Their specialty, however, is the menudo rojo—it is served with onions, lime, cilantro, and handmade tortillas. The best thing about it? Service is efficient and attentive, and prices are affordable.
Next to the Cuale River Municipal Market, just past the suspension bridges, you'll also find a wide variety of stalls and shops selling all kinds of handicrafts, jewelry, clothing, and much more. This traditional market is a great place to pick up a locally made souvenir that reflects the creative spirit of Mexican artisans. Be sure to carry cash at all times. Credit cards are not accepted by the vast majority of vendors at the mercado.
If you feel like staying active during your Sunday, a recommended activity of moderate intensity is to take a walk through the cobblestone streets of Old Town Vallarta and the Gringo Gulch—the neighborhood that is located in the upper part of the downtown area of Puerto Vallarta. It is very easy to get to its alleys from the stairs that are located at the eastern end of the Cuale River Island. Enjoy the peaceful small streets, traditional Puerto Vallarta architecture and some of the most Instagrammable facades in the neighborhood.
A short distance from Gringo Gulch, and always uphill, is the Cerro de la Cruz lookout. From the cobblestone streets of Downtown Puerto Vallarta to the shimmering waters of the Pacific Ocean and the mountains surrounding Banderas Bay behind you, this popular attraction offers a majestic panoramic view. It is highly recommended that you wear comfortable shoes for the hike and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.
At the end of your Sunday walk along the Cuale River Island and Gringo Gulch route, there is nothing better than a delicious Mexican dinner in the heart of Puerto Vallarta's El Centro. From 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm, El Campanario (339 Hidalgo St.; cash only) offers a special dinner menu of antojitos mexicanos: tostadas (chicken, beef or pork), tamales, tacos dorados, sopes, flautas, pozole and other homemade dishes. The portions are generous and the service from the proprietors is warm and attentive.
The activities of the Dia de los Muertos 2023 will take place on Monday, October 30th, at the main square of the Old Town Vallarta. A display of mini altars of the dead will be set up near the Cuale River Municipal Market by the neighbors and merchants of the neighborhood. Look for this special display along Agustin Rodriguez Street from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Don't miss the opportunity to see and photograph one of the neighborhood's most distinctive works of art at the beginning of Agustin Rodriguez Street. A tribute to all Vallartenses who dedicate themselves to the noble craft of fishing is the sculpture "Isidro, the fisherman" (Ramiz Barquet, 1996.) The sculptor Ramiz Barquet is also the creator of "Nostalgia", one of the most famous works of art to be found on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta.
If you are in the mood for a fresh and light snack after noon, head to the intersection of Guerrero and Matamoros streets on your walk through Downtown Puerto Vallarta. Look for a three-wheeler with a big parasol that specializes in tostadas with a variety of fresh seafood: ceviche, shrimp, octopus, with the house hot salsa mulata or the lighter pico de gallo and a horchata or hibiscus agua fresca. But get there early. Tostadas and hot seafood cocktails (!) are usually in high demand at lunchtime.
At sunset, the traditional parade popularly known as the "Maleconeada" takes place along the El Malecon boardwalk. Groups of Puerto Vallarta's charros and skirmishers parade on horses through the city streets, dressed in the national sport's characteristic costumes and decorated with Day of the Dead motifs.
Starting at 6:00 pm, the charro contingents begin their cavalcade from the Municipal Cemetery in front of the Cinco de Diciembre Market; they ride down San Salvador Street to the intersection of Mexico Avenue and from there head toward Downtown Puerto Vallarta, crossing the Malecon to the Romantic Zone.
A traditional show full of folklore and Mexican tradition, the "Fiesta Charra" on the Malecon is definitely a must see!
On the first day of November—All Saints Day—the activities of the El Festival de MuertosPuerto Vallarta 2023 will focus mainly on the Malecon, making for a very colorful, artistic, fun and very Mexican evening.
More than 40 different types of giant Calavera Catrina skeletons will be on display along Puerto Vallarta's Malecon. The creation of each Catrina involves the city's major hotels, restaurants and shops. Some of them are decorated with motifs that allude to the sea and to the privileged nature surrounding the “Friendliest City in the World”. Others are dedicated to the most iconic figures of popular culture.
Together, they capture the deep essence of Dia de los Muertos, a festival declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It also allows locals and visitors to enjoy the city transformed into a massive art exhibition.
The impressive figure of the "World's Tallest Calavera Catrina" is, of course, the highlight. For the second year in a row, this 75.5 feet high artwork, carefully crafted by nearly 50 local artisans, returns to the El Faro esplanade at Puerto Vallarta's Malecon.
Puerto Vallarta's monumental Calavera Catrina holds the 2022 Guinness World Records as the tallest in the world. For this occasion, the Great Lady of the Malecon will debut a new gala costume inspired by the Day of the Dead tradition. The official inauguration of the Catrina Walk and the Monumental Catrina is scheduled for Wednesday, November 1 at 8:00 pm at the Malecon Lighthouse (El Faro esplanade.)
The building of the City Hall, which is located in front of the amphitheater of Los Arcos del Malecon, will house on its exterior about 40 different altars of the dead. Schools and universities of Puerto Vallarta participate in this activity. Usually, the best assembly of the traditional ofrenda is awarded. Incense, candles, marigold flowers, water, salt, fresh seasonal fruits, pan de muerto, sugar skulls, papel picado and a variety of food are some of the characteristic elements that you will be able to spot in each altar.
One of the most anticipated events of the season is the Wednesday night Art Walk in Downtown Puerto Vallarta. A total of 16 of the Historic Center's main galleries present exhibitions featuring the highlights of their catalog of Mexican and international artists from October 25, 2023 through June 26, 2024. Traditionally, several of the galleries display works that allude to the permanent duality of life and death during the Día de Muertos festivities. The Historic Center Art Walk can be an excellent addition to your Day of the Dead tour of the Malecón and surrounding areas.
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