Isla Rio Cuale is a highly mysterious place.
Despite being located in the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta, it can NOT be found on Google Maps. You look for this place… and it’s not there.
So for the purpose of putting some decent information out into cyberspace on where Isla Rio Cuale actually is and how to get there, allow me to submit this short piece.
If you are in downtown Puerto Vallarta, starting at say the Malecon or one of the parallel streets, and continue walking South towards old town, you will find yourself nearing very close to this geogrpahical Bermuda Triangle. If you make it across to Old Town, or Viejo Vallarta, you will have had to cross a bridge, whether it be the foot bridge that winds out to the oceans edge on the shorefront, or the traffic bridge one block back from the water on Calle Morelos.
Whichever bridge it was, that expanse of water you crossed, that little inlet from the ocean that’s probably only a block wide… it’s in THAT body of water that lies the tiny, Isla Rio Cuale! If you crossed the foot bridge, trees probably obscured your view of it, but if you crossed the main bridge, you no doubt saw the stairs on either side of the road leading down to some markets and restaurants… THAT’s Isla Rio Cuale. It’s poorly signed but it IS there 🙂
Ok now that’s out of the way…
Isla Rio Cuale is, at first, just another conglomeration of tourist markets BUT if you walk it out, actually a little more than that, a place offering something a little different, and just a touch of local beauty and charm.
Starting out at the beach, you’ll get the market end of the Island. Some reviews said that these markets were better than others in Vallarta but we didn’t see any reason to think so. Unless it’s your first time, just keep walking because the best is yet to come.
Walking a little further, you come out the other side into what could be called, a secret botanical garden. With a few different walking paths through it, you can explore the little garden at your own pace, checking out the local fauna and stopping at one of the bars and restaurants dotted throughout when you’re ready for a rest. You’ll pass by a little square (we passed children in a game of street soccer) and likely some young romantic Mexican couples making use of the island’s privacy.
Finally you’ll reach the Rio Cuale Cultural Center, a small building dedicated to sharing local culture, that on any given day might be the home to displays of dancing, local crafts, or a set of slightly modified versions of the typical market stall.
Don’t go looking for it on your map… but if you’re in downtown Vallarta and looking for something to do in between lapping up the sunshine and knocking back cheap Corona’s, you might want to pay Isla Rio Cuale a visit.