Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, offers vacationers some of the best beaches, countless cultural sights, top luxury resorts, and adventure possibilities. Along with its east coast sister Cancun, the destination has allowed Mexico to remains the number one destination, representing 15% of travelers, for Americans internationally.
Puerto Vallarta, or simply Vallarta to those of us who love her, is one of the brightest gems of Mexico’s resort towns. Nestled snugly between the Bay of Banderas and the Sierra Madre mountains, it joins beach, sun, sand, and jungle seamlessly. Beyond offering the iconic beach experience, Vallarta has preserved and protected its charming colonial. Thanks in part to Elizabeth Taylor and the fame of Night of the Iguanas, the cobblestone streets that pave Vallarta’s Centro and Zona Romantica provide visitors a slice of nostalgic old Mexico. Vallarta is also a vibrant city, with a hopping nightlife, and bursting at the seams with adventure options.
Gay Pride & Events
Like many Latin destinations, Vallarta prepares for Lent with Carnaval. Four years ago, it began to take on new meaning as the local gay community’s de facto pride; a bacchanal of celebrations with floats, a parade, and thousands of spectators lighting up the streets for one fabulous evening.
Even when gay and lesbian travel to Mexico was still in its infancy decades ago, pioneers RSVP Vacations and Atlantis Events had bought out entire resorts for relaxing “gay getaways”. Though not on the calendar for 2013, Atlantis has been chartering resorts in years past for one of the most awaited events in Vallarta –Club Atlantis. Unlike the gay cruises they offer, land charters have a relatively more relaxed feel and pace.
Sights, Sounds and Attractions
Start your visit with a walk up and down the Malecon beachfront. Views of the pacific are accented by fantastical bronze sculptures dotting the boardwalk, with painters and artists selling their craft by the three arches square at the end. Along the way, Vallarta’s Cathedral bearing the imperial crown of Kaiser Maximilian evokes the days of when Mexico was ever so briefly under Austrian rule.
For adventure seekers, a day trip to Las Caletas provides a secluded park with activities that have you climbing, falling, zipping or diving. At dusk, the cove is transformed for the Rhythms of the Night dinner show, with good food and an unmatched romantic ambiance of dinner by the sea. You can try your hand at Zip lining, and no other destination compares to Vallarta for options from beginner to advanced.
Men can also mingle with other gay men on special tours. The Boana Hot Springs evening tour whisks you away late afternoon for over seven hours of relaxation; a quick hour bus ride followed by dinner, then free time to relax and unwind in the springs with an optional massage or facial. For a faster beat, board the floating club Sunset Party Cruise that departs from Los Muertos pier every Wednesday at noon stocked with a full bar and go-go boys.
Clubs, Bars, and Nightlife
Paco’s Ranch is an institution of gay nightlife. This multi-level club is busy every night, but doesn’t get going until later in the evening. Apache’s Bar, while small, has a quaint setting. Garbo exudes a charm all its own, with a lively piano bar. Delectable martinis and original cocktails draw in a somewhat sophisticated yet fun loving crowd. Around the corner, the Palm rocketed to success when it opened by importing famous Canadian drag queens.
Just on the other side of the Rio Cuale, Anthropology is a typical big-city gay bar with go-go boys. Wet Dreams bar has exotic male dancers on stage, sometimes behind glass and under a shower. During the day, the place for gays and lesbians to see and be seen at the beach is the infamous Blue Chairs, now also a hotel near the end of Amapas street. The rooftop bar of the hotel, Blue Sunset, is a great place to see the sunset, the ocean, or just start your happy hour.
Accommodations and Logistics
Hotel Mercurio welcomes all to its central location in the Zona Romantica, and is very popular with gays and lesbians. Casa Cupula follows the opposite approach as a Gay and Lesbian hotel that also welcomes our friends and family, offering an upscale and intimate setting on the hillside. With unrivaled beach access and a good location, the Blue Chairs hotel’s uncomplicated rooms and suites put you in the middle of the action.
Mainstream hotels Los Arcos and its sister property, Casa Doña Susana, provide the best amenity available: location. Los Arcos offers tasteful three to four star rooms right on the beach in the heart of the gay Zona Romanitica. A local secret is the onsite Kaiser Maximilian restaurant, one of the best in the world boasting multiple dining awards without pretention. Casa Doña Susana is one block back from the ocean, behind Los Arcos, with boutique suites and rooms in hacienda style.
If You Go:
Apache’s Bar (Olas Altas 433)
Atlantis Events (www.atlantisevents.com)
Blue Chairs (www.bluechairsresort.com)
Boana Hot Springs (www.boana.net)
Carnaval Pride (Carnavalvallarta.com)
Casa Cupula (www.casacupula.com)
Casa Doña Susana (www.casadonasusana.com)
Garbo Piano Bar (www.garbobar-vallarta.com)
Kaiser Maximilian (www.kaisermaximilian.com)
Los Arcos Hotel (www.arcossuites.com)
Paco’s Ranch (www.pacosranch.com)
Puerto Vallarta (www.visitpuertovallarta.com)
Riu Resorts (www.riu.com)
RSVP Vacations (www.rsvpvacations.com)
Sunset Party Cruise (www.pvsunsetpartycruise.com)
The Palm (www.thepalmpv.com)
Vallarta Adventures (www.vallarta-adventures.com)
Wet Dreams Bar (www.wetdreamspv.com)