Apr 042018
 
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Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

A peaceful oasis on a sand island in downtown Puerto Vallarta
offers shopping, shade, culture, and street art

The Rio Cuale divides the northern and southern areas of central Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Isla Cuale is a small sand pedestrian island in the river where it joins Banderas Bay. The island offers handicraft shopping, shade, cultural activities, and relaxation. Lush greenery and a quiet stillness give a feeling of being miles, not just a few steps, away from the streets of Puerto Vallarta.

Activities

At the western end of the island nearest Banderas Bay, you’ll find shops and a flea market.

Shops on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Handicraft stalls on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Market on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Centro Cultural Cuale building and plaza on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Centro Cultural Cuale

A cultural centre sits at the other end of the island. Centro Cultural Cuale promotes quality artistic, cultural, and educational projects. It offers a variety of artistic classes, including photography, drawing, painting, sculpting, dance, and a variety of musical instruments, and stages assorted performances.

Artists working on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Artists painting in the park area in front of Centro Cultural Cuale

There are also a few restaurants on the island.

Oasis

large banyon tree on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Large banyan tree in the market area

Iguana in the tree on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Look for iguanas in the trees just west of Ignacio Vallarta Street

Park area on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

The shade of mature trees and a gentle breeze feel refreshing as soon as you enter the island, but it is the park at the eastern end of the island near the Centro Cultural Cuale that truly feels like an oasis. It is is nice spot to read, sketch, or just sit and relax.

Rio Cuale at Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Sculpture on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Street Art

The buildings of and area around Centro Cultural Cuale form a gallery for some interesting street art.

Street art on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Street art on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Street art on

Street art on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Street art on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Street art on Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Street art on

History

The Cuale River is one of seven rivers that start in the Sierre Madre Mountains and end in Banderas Bay. A tornado created Isla Cuale in 1926. The island was settled until 1971 when precipitations from passing Hurricane Lily caused the river to grow and flooded the island. Residents were moved. The riverbed was dredged in 1975 and a permanent island created. It was also called Children Island because it was used as a recreational area. It later became a cultural space.

Children playing in the Cuale River where it joins Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta

On weekends children still play in the river where it joins Banderas Bay and families picnic

Washerwomen sculpture by Jim Demetro near Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

This sculpture by Jim Demetro is not on Cuale Island, but nearby on the Malecón Extension. It is a tribute to the washerwomen who were a fixture on the island until the end of the 1960s.

Getting There

Isla Cuale is accessible by foot via stairs from the Malecón Extension, Ignacio Vallarta Street, or Insurgentes Street. Ramps at Insurgentes allow access without climbing stairs. There are also a couple of suspension pedestrian bridges and an interesting staircase/bridge built in 2012 connecting Cuauhtemoc Street in the Gringo Gulch area to the island. There is no road or vehicle access to the island.

Pedestrian bridge/stairway from Gringo Gulch to Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta's Island Oasis

Pedestrian bridge/stairway linking Gringo Gulch and Isla Cuale

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  18 Responses to “Isla Cuale: Puerto Vallarta’s Island Oasis”

  1. Didn’t know about an island oasis in Puerto Vallarta. Isla Cuale looks just like that! Love the quiet spots, the Centro Cultural, and the markets.

  2. Isla Cuale looks like such a fun place! I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta a couple of times, but don’t recall being there. Now I’ll definitely have to go back!

  3. Looks like a wonderful place. Relaxing yet alive and colorful.

  4. We didn’t get to visit this part of Puerto Vallarta when I was there with NATJA a few years ago. It looks so interesting! I love the market area and all the art and murals. This “island oasis” will be on my list if I return to this lovely part of Mexico.

  5. Puerto Vallarta never ceases to amaze me. There is so much to see and do, and always some hidden treasure to discover. Thx for sharing your experience at Isla Cuale with us, Donna.

  6. Those banyan trees are incredible! What a special spot Isla Cuale is – My aunt is an artist in Puerto Vallarta and her studio overlooks the river and its amazing to see how lush it is year-round.

  7. What a beautiful location. I appreciate you showing me Isla Cuale. If I ever make it to Puerto Vallarta, I will defiantly visit this beautiful oasis!!

  8. So happy to read they’ve changed the island’s flavor to culture from commercial — it used to be a gauntlet of shops, “Hey, Lady. . .you want. . .???” and that new bridge is spectacular. It used to be a narrow swinging rope type bridge that took a bit of courage to cross. Loved this post, Donna.

    • Jackie, there is still the commercial aspect at one end of the island, but it didn’t feel as pressured to me as the other markets in the city.

  9. You are sure seeing a lot of beautiful places while in Puerto Vallarta–Isla Cuale looks wonderful. Oasis is an appropriate name.

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