Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is one of the most gay-friendly destinations not only in Mexico, but in the Americas. From its eclectic bar scene to its indulgent properties, it is one of my favorite places to visit, and I do often. Having spent many Gaycations roaming around the city everywhere from its gayborhood to the high-end properties in the South to the decadent yacht getaways around the Bay of Banderas, I have found some spots NO ONE visiting Puerto Vallarta should miss.
Where to Stay
So, first things first, where do you stay when you are Gaycationing in PV? I have personally stayed at a variety of places, and there is certainly something for everyone, regardless of individual needs or tastes.
If you’re looking for one of the international chains, you’ll have plenty to pick from across the city, from Casa Velas, Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, and The Westin Resort and Spa Puerto Vallarta in the popular Marina, just minutes from the airport, to the Hacienda Hilton Puerto Vallarta in the “hotel zone”.
Further south, in the city’s Historic Center and South Side you can find the legendary Casa Kimberly, the Grand Miramar, the Hyatt Ziva and the destination’s only 5 Dimond, all-inclusive adults only property the Hotel Mousai. Many of these properties are TAG certified and members of the IGLTA, like the Costa Sur Resort which has had an active LGBT friendly campaign for over 5 years.
Each property offers its unique take on hospitality, from one-of-a-kind spa treatments, to cooking classes, tequila and raicilla tastings, wellness programs and even your own rent-a-Valentino-purse offerings. There is much fun to be had.
Puerto Vallarta is also home to several gay-owned or -run hotels, including the very upscale Almar Resort, which sits on a hilltop, and is home to the very popular Top Sky Bar and Mantamar Beach Club. Smaller properties like the Blue Chairs, La Pinata and Hotel Mercurio are just steps away from the Los Muertos Beach, where you can mingle with the likes of Ross Mathews, Mama Tits, Hedda Lettuce and many of the RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants who often vacation in this city. On the weekends, don’t miss the Adam and Steve show at Puerto Vallarta’s original luxury gay boutique hotel, Casa Cupula.
Where to Play
Of course, you can’t go to Puerto Vallarta without going to Playa Los Muertos beach. The gay section of the beach officially starts in front of the popular LGBT hotel Blue Chairs and spans just past the Mantamar Beach Club. This is certainly the place to be if you want to see half naked bodies tanning during the day. Steps away, you will find Basillo Badillo street, where you can buy a unique souvenir from local designers like Casandra Shaw or Sergio Bustamante, who also did many of the statues located in the Malecon. If you have time, try the Puerto Vallarta ArtWalk, to start your evening with some wine and international artwork window shopping. Continue the day with a local taco tour with Vallarta Food Tours and mingle with the locals before heading out of the night.
The bar scene in PV is quite extensive, offering something for everyone, regardless of the night of the week. You can certainly get into some trouble if you aren’t careful! My suggestion would be to bop around the city, checking each one out until you find one that works for what you like. The “gayborhood” is manageable, and it is easy to get to most of the clubs as you hop from one to another. Most people start the evening at Flamingos, which plays 90’s music and normally gets packed early in the night. Margaritas is right next door and is a nice breather between stops.
One of my favorites is La Noche, which has three floors, each with a different feel. This is a great place to start your evening. There is a gorgeous roof deck with spectacular views of the city that will add an awe-inspiring backdrop to your experience.
Ready to dance? I have two favorites that will help you get your groove into overdrive while having a great time in PV. The first one is CC Slaughters, which has a great gay scene and is always a good vibe with house music and easy-on-the-eyes dancers.
Feeling a bit more circuity? Industry and CO*DE are the newest kids on the block; they are reminiscent of the old NYC clubs and are often on the grand scale. Perfect locations to dance the night (and morning) away! No matter where you end up, you will meet some super friendly (and sexy) people, guaranteed! Check out the local LGBT publications to see what entertainment options you have. Bars are always opening and closing.
Looking for a more private experience? How about a luxury yacht getaway? Hire your private yacht to cruise over to Yelapa and enjoy the day on the Bay of Banderas and its many secluded beaches or stop by Los Chicos Beach Club in Yelapa or do a day pass at the gay owned Casa Pericos or a wellness retreat at Xinalani Retreat. You can also book a tour with Vallarta Adventures for visits to many of the towns located in the south or their private beach club in Majahuitas or the popular Las Caletas Beach where Sports Illustrated shot their Swimwear issue this year.
Where to Eat
Puerto Vallarta has more than 370 restaurants, ranging from the upscale to mom n’ pop’s dining. Gay owned Sapphire Beach Club and Azafran offer chef-oriented dining experiences. Barcelona Tapas offers an international fusion menu with arguably the best sangria in Puerto Vallarta. Not to be missed is the lesbian-owned El Arrayan. These ladies have come Mexico to offer you the best dishes around. For beach-front dining you can’t beat La Palapa or El Dorado. If you are a true foodie, you must visit Café des Artists to try its 5-7 dish French cuisine menu. Finger licking good, to be true.
Places You Don’t Want to Miss …
A first stop for all visitors to Puerto Vallarta is the world-famous Malecon, the boardwalk that hugs the historic downtown and the coastline of the Bay of Banderas. It is a must-visit location where visitors and locals alike can immerse themselves in the flavor, color, and 24/7 activity that embodies the Puerto Vallarta vibe. The north side of the Malecon starts off at Hotel Rosita and ends by the Amphitheater beside the Plaza de Armas. Attractions include local artwork, statues, seaside artists, shopping, restaurants, bars, and the perfect vantage point from which to view the legendary Pacific Coast sunsets. After 10 p.m., the Malecon also becomes the heart of Puerto Vallarta nightlife as entertainment spills out into the streets for all to enjoy. The Southside of the Malecon includes the colorful Los Muertos Pier and the Rio Cuale crafts market which make the perfect backdrop for a selfie.
Puerto Vallarta has established itself as a center of creation, exhibition, and promotion. An important contribution to the city’s art scene is the weekly ArtWalk, which is held every Wednesday from 6 to 10 p.m. during high season. Low season offers visitors the opportunity to do the tour on their own and include other galleries not included in the regular schedule. The participating galleries in Historic Center exhibit works by important national and international artists.
Puerto Vallarta’s Annual Vallarta Pride festival takes place at the end of May. The 10-day event includes an anti-homophobia march, a Pride Rally, concerts, fashion shows, drag shows, weddings and women’s parties.