Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is one of the most gay-friendly destinations in Mexico and is known as the San Francisco of Mexico. 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.
The Hotel Zone
So, first things first, where do you stay when you are gaycationing in Puerto Vallarta? I have stayed at a variety of places and there is certainly something for everyone regardless of your 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 popular Marina Vallarta, just minutes from the airport to the Hacienda Hilton Puerto Vallarta. 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 Diamond, all-inclusive adults-only property the Hotel Mousai. Many of these properties are TAG certified and are members of IGLTA.
Each property offers a 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 for a day.
Puerto Vallarta is also home to several gay-owned or ran 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 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.
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 LGBTQ 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 on the Malecon. If you have time, try the Puerto Vallarta ArtWalk and 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 for the night.
The bar scene in PV is quite extensive 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 you. 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 Mr. Flamingos, which plays 90’s music and normally gets packed early in the night.
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.
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. At Gaby’s Restaurant, guests are invited to discover Mexican food by taking a cooking class. Barcelona Tapas offers an international fusion menu with arguably the best sangria in Puerto Vallarta. Not to be missed is El Arrayan. These ladies have traveled Mexico to get 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 Artistes and try its tasting menu.
Places You Don’t Want to Miss
The 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 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 work by important national and international artists.
Puerto Vallarta’s Gay 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.