Americans began their love affair with Puerto Vallarta in 1964, when Elizabeth Taylor arrived there to film The Night of the Iguana. During her stay, she carried on a very public extramarital affair with soon-to-be-husband, Richard Burton, that became tabloid fodder for the fans back home. The ensuing whirlwind of scandal and romance helped put the seaside Mexican resort on the map.
Indeed, it is easy to fall in love with PV (a common nickname used by English-speakers). In fact, Puerto Vallarta is the kind of place that makes Southern Californians—a population very much associated with beaches—fly there to go the the beach. Its tropical weather, vibrant nightlife, and friendly locals are all reasons why this seaside paradise continues to attract vacationers of all stripes. For LGBT travelers specifically, Puerto Vallarta has historically been Mexico’s most welcoming destination, making it a favorite getaway for residents of nearby Guadalajara, Mexico City, the U.S., and Canada. About half of the city’s economy is supported by tourism, which means travelers have a lot of options choosing the kind of experience they would like to have. And, pretty much everything from luxurious pampering at a quiet resort to a fun-fueled weekend of in-your-face gay is on offer. (Usually I find happiness somewhere in the mix of those two extremes.) With that in mind, here are three very different PV vacations to inspire you:
ALL GAY ALL THE TIME
If spending time with others in our tribe ranks high on your preference list, then there are a few notable events that happen throughout high season worth heading to PV. Perhaps choose to kick off the year at Puerto Vallarta’s very popular the New Year’s Eve Party. A few weeks later, the bears migrate to town for BeefDip, January 28-February 4, 2018 (photo below). And, Gay Pride generally wraps up high season in late April or early May.
The Blue Chairs Resort, the city’s first LGBT beachfront hotel and, probably, its most well-known, routinely sells out thanks to its prime seaside real estate and close proximity to the Zona Romantica (where most of the gay clubs are). The experience I had staying there, however, stands out as being one of the worst in my career as a travel writer. (Although, I must admit, that was more than two years ago and radical improvements may have been made.)
However, if an all-male clothing-optional hotel is what you crave, choose to stay at the Piñata Resort, (above) a modern, charmingly cute place to rest your head and mingle poolside with other guests.
The dining room at No Way José felt animated and joyous, giving our dinner a celebratory feel, despite not having any special cause to celebrate. The contemporary Mexican cuisine – such as the complex, flavorful Moctezuma soup and the tender beef medallions in mulato chile and raicilla steak sauce – is excellently prepared and the staff is attentive and diligent. End the meal in a truly flamboyant fashion by ordering the flaming Sexy Coffee, which is prepared table side.
After a recharging disco siesta, head to the Zona Romantica and bar hop to your heart’s content. Start at Reina’s, a casual bar that offers lighthearted millinery fun while you drink.
Except for the one (I’m guessing) coked-up stripper who kept forcing my hand on his crotch and then insisting I give him money, the men that work at Wet Dreams are exceptionally hot. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re feeling a bit grabby. In fact, you may want to give them more than just the tip.
Paco’s Ranch, is a great spot if you feel like dancing; Mr. Flamingo is a notably fun spot for cocktails; and, there’s some excitement building for the impending opening of Mr. Fuego, that we can only assume will be…ahem…hot.
THE FIVE-STAR EXPERIENCE
For the traveler who enjoys a high thread count, check into Casa Velas (above) is an all-suite luxury resort that is also all-inclusive. This means that all your dining—not to mention that keep-em-coming stream of margaritas (or whatever your drink is)—are included as part of your stay. The on-property restaurants are quite good and, during our stay, we got to attend an in-house food festival that featured dishes from the chefs at Casa Velas and its nearby sister properties.
Speaking of food festivals, consider planning your trip to coincide with the 23rd Annual International Gourmet Festival (November 10-19). This is a great way to experience the best of Puerto Vallarta’s great local cuisine.
Spend a day or two working on your tan at the Sapphire Ocean Club. A day pass includes Wi-Fi and towel service, not to mention plenty of eye candy to entertain you as you sip delicious cocktails from the comfort of your beach chair or cabana.
Alternatively, start your day strolling through the Pueblo Viejo Mercado de Artesanias or artisan market, a treasure trove of souvenirs and local handmade goods like the intricately beaded pieces (below) made by the Huichol, a local, indigenous people. When you’ve had enough shopping, head back to Casa Velas for an afternoon of pampering yourself at the resort’s extensive and straightforwardly named, SPA.
The Riviera del Rio is a magnificently quirky boutique hotel with over-the-top design details and an M.C. Escher-ian system of staircases that must be seen to be truly appreciated. Originally built in the Seventies as a private home and crash pad for the rich and glamorous (think Raquel Welch), the Riviera del Rio offers guests spacious suites, a rooftop pool (above), a whirlpool for ten, as well as an indoor lap pool and made-to-order breakfast.
For an afternoon of outdoor fun, hop the short boat ride to Canopy Las Animas Adventure Park. Once you’ve arrived, you enjoy a nice lunch followed by an adrenaline-inducing afternoon of zip-lining through the trees, crossing the “monkey bridge”, plus a handful of other activities set amidst the stunning backdrop of a tropical jungle.
Snag a reservation at Azafrán, one of Puerto Vallarta’s newest restaurants and current culinary darling. Chef Andreas Fisher’s dishes are so visually stunning it may feel like digging into them would be a crime. However, once you try the complex offerings like the lime coconut soup, or the octopus and prawn with mango risotto, any guilt you felt will have passed away rather quickly.
For more information on things to do and see, go to VisitPuertoVallarta.com.