Sunday on Isla Cuale, Puerto Vallarta

One of my favorite places to visit when in Puerto Vallarta is Isla Cuale, an island in the middle of the Rio Cuale, a river/creek (depending on the time of year you visit) that runs through Vallarta, meeting up with the sea. Although it is in the middle of the town, there is actually very little traffic on the island, it is an oasis in a city of noise and traffic, a getaway from the hustle and bustle of what has been a town in a constant state of growth for a number of years.

There are no roads on the island, just pathways that meander through very old growth trees such as the Huanacaxtle, a few restaurants, galleries, but mostly outdoor shops that offer the most amazing display of knick-knacks you’ll see anywhere. While on the island, all sounds of traffic disappear. There are two bridges that cross it for vehicles (one above and one on), but those walking mostly use the swaying foot bridges that connect the island to the other shore in four different locations, including a new modern one that although linking into one of Vallarta’s older neighborhoods, Gringo Gulch, fits in rather nicely.

At the upper end of the island is a small viewpoint with a concrete bench that looks up the river. Sitting here you’d never know you were in the middle of a town of around 300,000 people. At the lower end of the island there is a connecting bridge up to a much larger pedestrian bridge, built a few years ago, that connects the two walking promenades of Vallarta together (another great walk). And if you are there, do walk the promenade south to check out the new Vallarta pier, shaped to look like a sailboat.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Nice, France recently, which reminds me of Vallarta in some ways, at least geographically speaking. Nice, too, has a river running through it that meets the sea, but Nice decided to build over it, so the river now runs underneath. Gardens and walkways, along with a tram, have been built on top, and it’s all rather nice, but I’d take Vallarta’s natural island escape any day.

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