By Derek Carkner
“What’s the best area to live?” is a question many realtors get asked in Puerto Vallarta. And the answer depends on what you like and/or need. Many clients want to live close to the water but never consider the marina as a viable option. Often, they (wrongly) think that they might be required to own a boat to do so. Others worry about the lack of culture beyond the maritime stereotypes of birds, fishing nets and a lighthouse. Puerto Vallarta’s marina certainly has those things, but it is also known for its abundance of cafes and restaurants, ranging from inexpensive brunch favorites like Mr. Cream to higher end stalwarts like Sonora Grill Prime or Porto Bello.
The El Faro Lighthouse offers a bird’s eye view of the marina from its cocktail bar every day from 5:30pm. And of course, a plethora of birds, iguanas, and even a couple of crocodiles can be seen as you stroll the boardwalk. But the marina offers an array of art, especially public art, that is often under-appreciated or ignored by visitors and residents alike.
WHALE WATCHING IS A PEDESTRIAN SPORT
Recently, a client dismissed the marina as an option because they wanted to be inspired by art and culture beyond the natural beauty of the area. I insisted on taking her for a short tour to discover the marina’s myriad of art, welcomed by the well known bronze sculpture of “La Ballena y su Cría” (The Whale and Her Child) by local artist Oscar Gonzalez Gutierrez. Gonzalez is a prolific artist and has many sculptures throughout the marina (and other areas in Vallarta, including the main boardwalk, or Malecón). Across from Velas Vallarta Hotel on Avenida Paseo de la Marina Norte, Gonzalez’ “Las Orcas” can be seen, prominently featured on the median by the upscale hotel’s entrance. Four bronze killer whales of various sizes, here shown swimming in their natural habitat, reveal Gonzalez’s love of sea life which is notable in his work.
His most recent sculpture of two smaller whales (pictured right) is on display across from Nima Bay Condominiums, at the end of Popa Street. At the inauguration for this work in 2015 (which included the mayor), the president of the Marina Vallarta Residents Association, Enrique Camargo, boasted that “with this second whale sculpture we intend to move forward until we have the world’s largest bronze whale sculpture collection… with more of them installed along Paseo de la Marina, from Tres Mares Condominiums to Bay View Grand.” The community is slowly becoming an outdoor gallery to behold.
HAVING A “WALL” OF A TIME
Closer to the seventh hole of the marina’s golf course is another hidden treasure. Stretching along the wall of Albatros street, you may recognize the beautiful mosaic work of Natasha Moraga. Her colorful Episodio 2 (2015) extends for blocks with a total area of over 500 m2 and is considered to be the second-largest mosaic mural in Mexico. Moraga specializes in the trencadís technique which is mosaic work using broken tiles. Her other designs include the new meter-high letters that spell “Puerto Vallarta” heralding your arrival in the city from the north, and Parque de Azulejos in Zona Romantica where the benches of Lazaro Cardenas Park are covered in beautiful mosaic designs.
For more approachable art, the marina boasts many galleries to peruse and purchase local creations. The International Gallery boasts paintings, small sculptures and crafts. Glass Gallery EM features beautiful glass and ceramic designs. Galeria Amores offers classes in sculpting and painting as well as showcasing national and international painters and sculptors. Blvd. Francisco Medina Ascencio houses many high end galleries at the marina’s periphery, including local favorite, Monteón Galería. And of course, among the marina’s restaurants and cafes are many jewelry shops, highlighting local crafts, customs and wearable art. The Thursday Night Market in high season offers yet more artisans selling hand-made works from apparel to housewares. Jewelry is also abundant at the market from the more than 150 vendors. Art abounds in the marina and will stimulate your imagination whether you explore the area by car or by foot.
Leaving the marina area, one realizes how family-friendly it is as well, as one gives a parting glance to its most recognized bronze sculpture in Plaza Neptuno. La Ballena y su Cría, Gonzalez’ epic maritime work represents the family and its importance, especially the mother whale who is the center of the family and who devotes herself devoutly and unconditionally to her children. It weighs 12 tons and is 8 meters high and 13 meters long and is Vallarta’s largest sculpture. At the time of its recent restoration, the artist described the meaning of this iconic landmark. “This work is a tribute to all the women in the world, to all, but especially to my daughter. It means that women are the backbone of humanity, society and family. They are the ones who maintain balance and harmony. This is the woman.”
THE “ART” OF THE DEAL
As my client prepares to move into her new (ocean view) marina condo, loving an area she once thought was perhaps devoid of culture, she asked how I was able to pick up on her hesitancy and sell her on the area’s aesthetic benefits so confidently. I responded with a slight grin as I shrugged and revealed: “It’s an art!”
Interested in properties in the marina or elsewhere in Puerto Vallarta? I’d be happy to help you find the perfect place in Paradise.
Contact me at [email protected]