Visiting Historic Puerto Vallarta in a Wheelchair

Part of the allure of Puerto Vallarta is its Spanish colonial cobblestone streets. They lend a charm to this tourist town that can also challenge those in wheelchairs.

Many folks can be seen being pushed along the historic Malecon, as this is not only a very scenic waterfront area but also flat and easy to roll along. How much more interesting might it be if these folks could know more about the many bronze statues they pass along the way and the stories that inspired them.

Then there are the strange symbols in the concrete of the Malecon that some do not even notice, let alone understand how they are an important representation of the history of the local culture.

As a local tour guide, I realized that Vallarta’s exciting history and culture could be made available to those in wheelchairs if they had someone to show them where to go and what they were seeing along the way.

Two years ago, I designed a route for “rollers and strollers” that could get these folks off the Malecon and further into the historic areas of the town.

Some years ago, the city started removing corner curbs and replacing them with ramps for easier access when crossing the cobblestone streets. Where these new corners are, however, can be hard to find. Also, many of the sidewalks in this area are not always flat as tree roots push up the concrete, holes can appear overnight, and other obstructions may get in the way of a wheelchair traveler.

As a Puerto Vallarta tour guide for the past 14 years, I knew most of the back streets around the city center, so I designed a flat and safe route that would also include the many cultural sites that might interest a wheelchair traveler.

The route follows my popular El Centro Walking Tour while avoiding steps and hills a wheelchair could not maneuver.

In addition to this wheelchair-friendly route, stops to visit artisans along the way enhance the immersion nature of this tour.

I love introducing local merchants and artists to my clients while focusing on only authentic Mexican folk art, Oaxacan tapestries, handwoven baskets, indigenous works of the local Huicholes, embroidery, original Talavera pottery, and food representative of Mexico. This includes chocolate samples, vanilla history, coffee drinks, and cigars for those interested.

The new Insurgentes bridge ramp to the Rio Cuale Island allows wheelchairs to visit this previously unavailable beautiful oasis easily. For a bit more adventure, the swinging walking bridge is taken to the island with help from my strong partner. This help is especially appreciated by those accompanying the wheelchair person as they might not be strong enough to push the chair over the swinging bridge.

The Rio Cuale Island is a delightful ending to this tour as the statue of John Huston, director of the movie, ‘Night of the Iguana,’ is located here among many varieties of plants and trees. That movie, filmed in 1964, put Puerto Vallarta on the international map and started the arrival of tourists that we still see today. The island has also been beautified over the past year by efforts of the local volunteer group, Friends of Rio Cuale Island, which is now part of the Puerto Vallarta Garden Club.

To learn more about my Wheelchairs Welcome tour, visit the Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours website or contact me at


  • Sandra Cesca

    Sandra Cesca, freelance writer, cultural photographer, author, and tour guide, has two passions - international cultures and plants. They inspire her writing, photography, and her seasonal walking tour business. Her guidebook, Tropical Plants of Puerto Vallarta, is in its 3rd edition.

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