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2023 Guide to Day of the Dead in Puerto Vallarta

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Wondering about celebrating Day of the Dead in Puerto Vallarta? Let us help! We’ve been living in Puerto Vallarta for over eight years collectively and have celebrated Día de Muertos many times in Mexico.

Celebrating the Day of the Dead in Puerto Vallarta is a fascinating cultural experience.

From the beautifully adorned altars to the flicker of candlelight guiding spirits home, the scent of marigold petals, and the melody of heartfelt songs, Puerto Vallarta embraces this age-old tradition with an authenticity and warmth that resonates deep within the soul.

As this artistic city fills with art, music, and the delightful flavors of traditional cuisine, visitors are invited to partake in one of Mexico’s most beloved traditions. This Day of the Dead travel guide has everything you need to know.

Puerto Vallalrta Mural
Photo by Sasha Savinov

History of Day of the Dead

Known in Spanish as Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead goes back thousands of years to the Aztecs.

They had a festival dedicated to the Goddess of the Underworld named Mictecacihuatl. Try saying that one three times fast.

Initially, it took place in the 9th month of the Aztec calendar. Not surprisingly, the colonizing Spaniards weren’t so fond of this indigenous celebration.

They moved the festival to the end of October to associate it with the Christian holiday of Allhallowtide. These days, the Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.

day of the dead mexico

While the Christian observances during Allhallowtide have always been a bit mournful, Día de Muertos is a far more joyous affair.

It’s a time to celebrate those who have left this physical world and the lives they led, not a time to sit around and mope.

This is because it’s believed that the deceased actually return during this special holiday. If they came back to see everyone sitting around crying, it wouldn’t be a very fun time now, would it?

At midnight on November 1st, the pearly gates open to allow the spirits of children to return first.

That’s why the first day of the holiday is called Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels).

Meanwhile, the spirits of adults can return on November 2nd. That’s why the Day of the Dead celebrations goes on for a couple of days. Preparations start days or even weeks in advance, though.

people dressed in skeleton costumes for day of the dead in mexico

How Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated in Puerto Vallarta

Many locals will go to the cemetery in the days before the holiday. They go there to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones.

In the lead-up to the Day of the Dead, the 5 de Diciembre neighborhood cemetery is bustling with visitors. It’s OK to walk around the outside, but it’s not exactly appropriate to go in unless locals invite you.

Something you’ll see everywhere is the Mexican marigold. It’s also known as Flor de Muerto (Flower of the Dead) for its popularity this time of year. Some even leave a path of them from the graveyard to their home to help guide the spirits.

One of the most important customs is the building of colorful altars. These are called ofrendas, and each one is unique. People use flowers, incense, candles, trinkets, and pictures to create these altars for their loved ones who have passed.

Day of the Dead altar
Photo by Sasha Savinov

Around the time of the Day of the Dead in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll see ofrendas all over town. Many of them feature decorative skulls called calavera.

In fact, the calavera has become such an important symbol of the holiday that local artists have started painting more large-scale versions to be put around town. Strolling along the Malecon boardwalk, you’re sure to spot a few vibrant calaveras.

calaveras in puerto vallarta mexico

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mexican holiday without some special food. The pan de muerto (bread of the dead) is a sweet, soft bread often decorated with bone-shaped pieces.

If you’re around during the Day of the Dead, you’ll notice bakeries all over town selling this traditional sweet bread. Grab some and a cup of atole, a hot corn-based drink with cinnamon and vanilla.

Day of the Dead Puerto Vallarta Events

With the success of the huge Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, our little city by the bay decided to follow suit. These days, there are many different public events throughout Puerto Vallarta from late October to early November.

While it’s hard to top the parade in the capital, PV decided to go big in another way. In 2022, the city broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the tallest Catrina ever.

Known as La Calavera Catrina (the Elegant Skull), this famous symbol of the Day of the Dead started as a satirical cartoon. It was meant to poke fun at the upper class and politicians who tried to act more European in the early 1900s.

 large Catrina on the malecon in puerto vallarta surrounded by tourists
The record-breaking Catrina | Photo by Sean Beaulieu

In 2022, the city constructed a 25-meter-tall Catrina on the Malecon. It’s a whole 10 meters taller than the current record holder, so PV should hold it for a while. You can see a video clip of it here!

You can even become Catrina yourself, as face painting has become one of the more popular activities. There are plenty of artists around town who can do some amazing Day of the Dead-themed face paint.

face painting day of the dead puerto vallarta

How to take part in Day of the Dead Puerto Vallarta

There are plenty of other festivities going on throughout the week. This includes musical performances, folkloric ballet, and even a Day of the Dead parade of our own.

Visit the Altars and Ofrendas

During the Day of the Dead, beautifully decorated altars and offerings, known as “ofrendas,” are created in homes, businesses, and public spaces.

These altars are adorned with marigolds, candles, photographs, and favorite foods of the departed, creating a path for their return.

Attend the Parade

Puerto Vallarta’s Day of the Dead parade is a colorful spectacle that captures the spirit of the celebration. Participants dressed in traditional costumes, dancing, and vibrant floats create a lively atmosphere you won’t want to miss.

Explore the Art Exhibits

Local artists and artisans often display their work in galleries and street fairs, showcasing the creative essence of the holiday. From intricate sugar skulls to hand-painted ceramics, the artistic expression of the Day of the Dead is truly mesmerizing.

sasha by a Day of the Dead Mural in puerto vallarta
Photo by Sasha Savinov

Indulge in Traditional Cuisine

Taste the season’s flavors with special dishes like Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead) and traditional mole. Many restaurants and local vendors offer themed menus that honor the culinary traditions of the holiday.

Participate in Candlelit Vigils

Join the community vigils at local cemeteries where families gather to remember loved ones. The glow of countless candles, soft music, and heartfelt prayers create a serene and profoundly touching experience.

Discover Cultural Performances

Enjoy dance, music, and theatrical performances that tell the stories and traditions of the Day of the Dead. Local theaters and public spaces often host events that provide insight into the cultural significance of the holiday.

Take a Walking Tour

Guided walking tours are a great way to explore the city’s various altars, decorations, and traditions. Knowledgeable guides can share the history and meaning behind the symbols and customs of the celebration.

Reflect at the Beach

Spend some time at Puerto Vallarta’s beautiful beaches, where the gentle waves may inspire reflection on the universal themes of life, love, and remembrance.

FAQ: Day of the Dead in Mexico

Does Puerto Vallarta celebrate Day of the Dead?

Yes, Puerto Vallarta celebrates Day of the Dead with traditional altars, parades, art exhibits, and various cultural activities throughout the city.

Are there activities on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta for Day of the Dead?

The Malecon in Puerto Vallarta often hosts Day of the Dead festivities, including parades, art displays, and live performances, making it a lively spot during the celebration.

Where can I see Day of the Dead in Mexico?

Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico, with notable observances in cities like Mexico City, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, and Puerto Vallarta.

In which part of Mexico is the Day of the Dead most popular?

The Day of the Dead is especially popular and traditionally celebrated in the southern regions of Mexico, such as Oaxaca and Michoacán.

Why is it called Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta?

Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta gets its name from a legend involving pirates and a battle; it’s not directly related to the Day of the Dead celebration.

Should I visit Mexico during Day of the Dead?

Visiting Mexico during Day of the Dead offers a unique cultural experience filled with vibrant traditions, art, and cuisine, and it can be a memorable time to explore the country.

Is it safe to walk on the Malecon Puerto Vallarta?

Walking on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta is generally considered safe, and it is a popular spot for tourists and locals to enjoy.

Where is the biggest Day of the Dead festival in Mexico?

Mexico City hosts one of Mexico’s largest Day of the Dead festivals, with a grand parade and extensive cultural activities and displays.

Final thoughts: Dia De Los Muertos Puerto Vallarta

The Day of the Dead in Puerto Vallarta is more than a celebration; it’s a vibrant tapestry of love, respect, art, and tradition. It’s a time when the veil between worlds grows thin, allowing us to touch the intangible and feel the heartbeat of a culture that reveres both life and death in beautiful harmony.

As you can see, this is a fascinating and cheerful time of year to be here. Visitors are invited to participate in the festivities and enjoy this vibrant Mexican holiday alongside the locals.

As long as you’re respectful (i.,e. not walking around the cemetery snapping pictures), you’re welcome to join the celebration. Embrace the Day of the Dead, and let it awaken a newfound appreciation for life’s beauty, fragility, and eternal connection.

Planning for more travel tips for Puerto Vallarta? Check out these posts!

candles with overlay text that days day of the dead puerto vallarta


  • Sasha Savinov

    Sasha is a teacher, writer, and video producer from Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State (Go Green!) and has since lived in China, Indonesia, Mexico, and Colombia. Sasha and his wife Rachel run Grateful Gnomads, where they write about teaching ESL, digital nomad life, long-term travel, live music, and more.

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