Puerto Vallarta may be most famous for its beautiful beaches, but any visit to the Bay is incomplete without a day (or at least a lunch!) on the river. The Bay of Banderas is home to at least 20 rivers, but the most famous that runs through the downtown Puerto Vallarta area is the Rio Cuale. Today, I’m going to share my Top 5 favorite spots to relax along the beautiful Cuale River.
1. Babel Bar
I just love this hidden gem! Babel Bar is a restaurant and bar located at the far eastern end of the Cuale River island. Not only is the food delicious, they have really created a relaxing space with hammocks and lots of shady spots with tables set up to relax by the river. Over the years, they have become a fantastic venue for afternoon live music by wonderful artists. Just a short distance from downtown and bustling Romantiz Zone, your tranquil getaway awaits you.
2. The mouth of the Cuale River
This downtown PV river spot is definitely the most traficked of all my recommendations. Where the river meets the ocean, it is a very popular spot! Nonetheless, it is a fantastic locale to people watch on a Sunday afternoon. A favorite spot amongst the local children to swim in calm waters, it is a hub of activity in the spring when the waters are clear and calm. Find a shady spot under the bridge, choose a snack from your favorite beach vendor, and enjoy the happy vibes!
3. El Salto Waterfall
This one is for the true adventurous hikers out there! Find a local tour company or long time resident of PV to take you up the Cuale river to this most amazing swimming spot. El Salto is a gorgeous waterfall that runs year round. However the best times for swimming are January through May when it is dry season and the current is mellow. You wont find any restaurants or bars up here, so bring plenty of water and a tasty picnic to enjoy one of the most beautiful locations in Puerto Vallarta.
4. El Rio BBQ
This BBQ restaurant can be found just 10 minutes inland from downtown PV in the the town of Paso Ancho. Perched right on the river, patrons can enjoy a swim in a really lovely spot along the Cuale. The best part of this river spot is the rope swing. Local kids put on an amateur show of truly incredible tricks and stunts. 50 ft cliff jumps and flips off the rope swing are part of the entertainment. Dont forget to tip your pint-size performers! El Rio BBQ is also known for its live music acts. Get ready to rock and roll most days around 4 pm when the bands roll in and plug in. Dance floor gets crowded!
5. Las Pilitas
This is a great little waterfall and rustic restaurant spot located about 10 km up the river from downtown Vallarta. Technically, it’s not located on the Cuale River, but on a smaller tributary called the Vallejo. It can be reached by a bumpy dirt road taxi ride! This lovely little spot is best in rainy season or early winter when the the current is stronger. A great complement to the El Salto Waterfall. ATV and mountain bike tours head to this great little place in the mornings, so an afternoon visit would be best if you’re looking to have the place to yourself!