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Meet the Cuale River Island

By Paco Morás

July 21, 2022

Puerto Vallarta creates in locals and visitors all kinds of memories. You know, memories of adventures through paths and mountains, warm memories of sunsets. The fresh flavors of its food stands vibrate in your mouth months later.  The strolls along the Malecon bring back lively and merry nights. However, there is a place where you can buy tangible memories. Here, colored and textured details are available for you. They will get you back to this magical bay even if you are hundreds of kilometers away. This is the Cuale River Island.

At the beginning, there was no Cuale River island…



What today is the Cuale River Island appeared in 1926. With time the river divided itself in two arms leaving an island in between. Thus, this river is the natural barrier dividing Puerto Vallarta downtown from what we now call the Romantic Zone. The island has this name because of the river that springs about 40 kilometers up the mountains. Also, it has had names as Santa Clara Island or Children’s Island as it was once a park and recreative area in 1970’s. Cuale was a mining town archaeologists believe was the site of pre-Hispanic settlements, according to objects they have found in the area.

By the end of the 1960’s the washing women, or lavanderas, were a fixture on the island and the river. They went there to wash their clothes and those of other families. A few years ago, sculptor Jim Demetro created a bronze work to pay them homage. In 1971 the area got its first dwellers. With the years it has become a touristic icon. You can tour its commercial areas with shops and stands offering silver, ceramics, hats, and all kinds of souvenirs and presents.

Art thrives here; you can find a sculpture of John Houston, an homage for the 25th anniversary of the film “The Night of the Iguana”, which put Puerto Vallarta on the world tourism map in the 1960’s. A bust of Elizabet Taylor was recently unveiled, a work of local sculptor Gustavo López, Gulooch. The westernmost tip houses the Vallarta Culture Institute, with art lessons and a small theater for the performing arts.

The bridges are unique


A distinctive feature of the place is the hanging bridges connecting the island with downtown Vallarta. The flora of the area is very varied, with outstanding bamboos, while fauna is scarcer. You can find iguanas and garrobos, squirrels and possums, although there is also a large number of transplanted cats, which people feed every day.

In 2012, city government built a pedestrian bridge to connect Gringo Gulch with the island, and it offers spectacular views of the Romantic Zone, the mountains around it, the Cuale River, and as far as your eyes can see.

Thanks to its history details, its restaurants and shops, its kind people, its handicrafts and souvenirs, its nature and placidness, the Cuale River Island becomes an ideal spot for all types of activities, from light shopping to a romantic walk with your better half, and why not, working out to care for your body and mind, everything in a well-located place.





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