There are plenty of shops and superstores in Puerto Vallarta to buy souvenirs, produce and household goods at, but many of the locals prefer to shop at the weekly outside markets called tianguis. The word tianguis is derived from the Nahuatl word “tianquiztli” which means day market.
These open-air markets take place throughout the city and neighboring towns on different days of the week. Since the majority of the shoppers are local residents, you’ll find all manner of household items, small furniture and clothing for purchase. While cheap rayon clothing and plastic dish racks won’t appeal to most visitors, there are some great deals to be had for the savvy shopper.
If you’re staying at a hotel or condo with a kitchenette, you might want to shop for fresh local produce, fresh seafood and bread. Many of the local farmers sell their produce at these markets and you can find a bounty of fruits and vegetables for a very low price. Shrimp is also sold by the kilo and are great for grilling in your condo’s BBQ area or boiling.You’ll also find Mexican sweets, rolls and spices. Make sure to pick up some local, organic Nayarit coffee too!
If you are looking for a practical gift or souvenir of your own, you can pick up great lime squeezers, tortilla warmers or a molinillo, a Mexican hot chocolate frother, for very little money. If you find the right vendor, you can purchase a beautiful stone mortar and pestle or a large manual orange press for making fresh OJ.
Much of the clothing is what you’d find at any flea market in the United States, but you can also find some wonderful traditional cotton clothing, such as dresses and blouses embroidered with bright floral and animal designs. There are cool linen and cotton pants, skirts, button-down shirts and more for both men, women and children, much cheaper than you would find in any local boutique.
These are just some examples of the great items you can find at the local tianguis. You can also find brightly colored hammocks, ceramic bottled water dispensers, handmade furniture and decor and toys for children.
You almost assuredly will see Huichol artisans selling their stunning and intricate beadwork and yarn paintings. The Huichol are famous for their beadwork, especially animals forms where the beads are pressed into wax, creating brightly colored jaguars, dolphins and other creatures. They also make lovely jewelry and wall hangings.
It’s best to get to the market early in the day, before it gets too hot. You’ll see most vendors packing up by 2pm or so. If you get hungry while you shop, there are plenty of stalls barbecuing meat for tacos, selling tamales or sandwiches. Just make sure that the vendor is using proper food safety techniques, such as hand washing, using gloves and not touching money while preparing food. The busier stalls are usually the safest.
Here’s when and where you can find the local tianguis:
Sunday: A small tianguis in the Remance neighborhood and in Bucerias, a small town about 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.
Thursday: Tianguis take place on Libramiento (AKA the tunnel road that circumvents downtown Vallarta). The market is just on the north side of the tunnel. It also takes place on Saturday. There’s another fantastic tianguis in La Penita, about 75 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta on Hwy. 200. The La Penita market offers more arts and crafts than many of the others.
If you have the time and really love to shop for Mexican crafts, take a trip to Tonala, part of the Guadalajara metro area. This massive market is open every Thursday and Sunday, but the local factory stores are open every day.