Art can be found everywhere in Puerto Vallarta, and you can bring home a signed painting by Ernesto Aguirre, resident artist at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa — Photo courtesy of Ernesto Aguirre
The resort town of Puerto Vallarta is known for its beautiful beaches, marine life and water sports. But, thanks to a growing number of murals, world-renowned galleries and the Malecon – its instantly-recognizable coastal promenade dotted with photo-worthy sculptures – the city has also become a destination for those who collect art and those who simply appreciate it.
“Puerto Vallarta has always had a vibrant art scene, from the naif paintings that Manuel Lepe sold Elizabeth Taylor back in the 1960s to the modern mural movement,” says Kevin Simpson, an expat who owns three prominent art galleries in the city.
“Traditional folk art handcrafted in small villages by Indigenous people has become extremely collectible, and new infrastructure, cellular technology and access to the Internet have made it easier to connect with these artists. This change can also be seen in their art, with new colors and materials enabling them to express their ancient traditions and beliefs in a way that rivals contemporary art. It’s very exciting.”
Here are 10 must-see pieces that represent the eclectic artwork that defines Puerto Vallarta.
“Caballito de Mar” and Puerto Vallarta Letters
The famous Seahorse Statue welcomes you to Puerto Vallarta — Photo courtesy of Ben Matthews
The original sculpture, “El Nino sobre el Caballo de Mar” by Rafael Zamarripa, is located in Las Pilitas in Playa Los Muertos. After a heavy storm, it was lost at sea and the artist recreated a larger replica. The original was eventually recovered and relocated to its home, where it still stands.
“Caballito de Mar,” as the newer one is known, pays tribute to Puerto Vallarta’s welcoming nature and the fact that people always return. The letters were created by Carlos Terres and feature design elements based on the art of Manuel Lepe Macedo, the city’s most beloved artist.
Parque de los Azulejos
Parque de los Azulejos is Puerto Vallarta’s first tile park — Photo courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
Parque Lázaro Cárdenas has been transformed into Puerto Vallarta’s first tile park, and artist Natasha Moraga has filled this mosaic oasis with lots of symbolism, meaning and vibrant color. And, because the park is federally protected, it will remain intact.
This exciting public art installation is an inviting spot to explore, photograph or just sit on a bench and enjoy. In fact, you can sponsor a bench and take a workshop to personalize it yourself, ensuring you’ll always have a place to call your own in this special city.
This powerful mural graces the outside wall of Colectika Art Gallery — Photo courtesy of Kevin Simpson
Artist Adrian Takano is part of a significant muralist movement in Puerto Vallarta that is being recognized internationally, and this breathtaking mural of his on the outside wall of Colectika Art Gallery shows why it’s gaining so much momentum.
The piece was commissioned by Colectika owner Kevin Simpson, who also leads mural tours around the city. “From the mouth of the shaman come the words that heal the earth, and these wise words migrate from generation to generation, transcending time,” he says. “So does this work of art.”
“Searching for Reason”
“Searching for Reason” towers above the Malecon — Photo courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
This distinctive 60-foot high statue by Sergio Bustamante is, literally, a stand-out, towering above the Malecon, near Corona Street and Paseo Diaz Ordaz.
Impossible to miss, the “ladder sculpture” was inspired by the writings of Nobel laureate and philosopher Bertrand Russell, and depicts two figures on their quest to reach beyond. Bustamante, one of Jalisco’s most enduring and well-known artists, encourages people to climb the ladder themselves, saying, “I like getting people to interact with it, with my art. It’s about freedom.”
Puerto Vallarta mural
Acclaimed artist Manuel Lepe Macedo painted this mural — Photo courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
This gorgeous mural by Manuel Lepe Macedo, Puerto Vallarta’s most celebrated artist, graces the old City Hall building, which is now home to the Mayor’s Office.
Macedo, who was named “Mexico’s National Painter” by Mexican president Luis Echeverria and “Favorite Son of Vallarta” by the city itself, was internationally-renowned for his naïf (naïve) style depicting a simple and innocent vision of Puerto Vallarta. His works are so cherished, UNICEF uses them to promote the well-being of children worldwide.
Macedo died tragically at the age of 48, leaving behind more than 2,500 paintings, many of which have been scooped up by everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Queen Elizabeth.
“Bailarines de Vallarta” (Dancers of Vallarta)
“Bailarines de Vallarta” do the Mexican Hat Dance on the Malecon — Photo courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
American artist Jim Demetrio was inspired to create this life-sized bronze sculpture of traditional Jalisco dancers after watching the Xiutla dance troupe perform the “Jarabe Tapatío” (Mexican Hat Dance) on the Malecon under the direction of their instructor/choreographer, professor Enrique Barrios Limón.
Although he studied their performances carefully to make sure he captured the dance realistically, it wasn’t the moves that mattered most to him. “Mainly, I have been focused on commemorating the artistic beauty Mexicans in Puerto Vallarta are known for. The artistic beauty around us draws our community together. It inspires the best from us all.”
“Dream of the Gods”
“Dream of the Gods” is a stunning example of traditional yarn paintings — Photo courtesy of Kevin Simpson
Hilaria Chávez Carrillo, a Huichol Indian artist, created this beautiful Nierika – a traditional yarn painting – which measures four feet by eight feet and hangs proudly on the wall of Kevin Simpson’s folk art gallery, Peyote People.
Natural glue, made from tree resin and beeswax, is applied to a board, and yarn is pressed into it and left to harden. The designs and symbols are based on the myths, stories and daily activities of the Huichol Indians, Indigenous people from the Sierra Madre mountains of Western Mexico.
“Pepe” and “Canela”
Tierra Huichol sells authentic Huichol art like these beaded figures, Pepe and Canela — Photo courtesy of ENroute Communications
Beadwork is another signature Huichol art form, and this basset hound and xolo (Mexican hairless dog) by Librado Carrillo are a beautiful representation.
Their traditional work featured animals, masks and ceremonial bowls carved out of wood, coated with beeswax, then covered in hundreds of tiny glass beads. The beads are painstakingly set in place one at a time in a spiritual movement, creating patterns and images that were meaningful to their ancestry. Today, they also make more contemporary beaded figures.
Café des Artistes by Thierry Blouet
At Cafe des Artistes, the food and the decor are all works of art — Photo courtesy of Cafe des Artistes by Thierry Blouet
This iconic restaurant has been a Puerto Vallarta treasure for more than a quarter of a century, and its décor is as much a work of art as its award-winning culinary delights.
Gorgeous artwork fills the walls, ceilings and floors of Café des Artistes’ interior, but its outdoor space, where the beauty of nature sets an incomparable aesthetic, is just magical.
Channel your inner Frida Kahlo at a painting class at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa — Photo courtesy of Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
After being inspired by all the art you see around the city, check in to the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, where the Viva Frida Package gives you exclusive access to a Frida Kahlo Portrait Art Class, complete with a flower crown.
Taught by resident artist Ernesto Aguirre, this step-by-step class helps you channel your inner Frida and bring home your own masterpiece which pays homage to one of Mexico’s most beloved painters.