Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is the premiere LGBT resort in North America and winter is a perfect time to visit. It’s the dry season and temperatures are in the low to mid-80s every day. Your cost would be half what you would pay for a similar vacation in Florida. It’s on the Pacific Ocean on the largest Bay in Mexico and is a steal. The food is excellent with lots of seafood and Mexican dishes. And did I forget to mention that Tequila comes from a small town nearby of the same name?
Nestled in the Zona Romantica (old town) is the LGBTQ district with its many charming hotels, bars and restaurants which are all steps from each other on cobblestone streets. Don’t miss the farmers’ market on Saturdays and Art Walk Wednesday nights. The Malecon, a sculpture-lined beach walkway, leads you to the Playa de los Muertos beach and pier. South of the pier is the gay beach.
What to do
Sailing on Banderas Bay with Vallarta Adventures is a great way to see wildlife like the whale sharks, sting rays (which the locals call manta rays), pelicans, blue-footed booby birds (which dive for fish) and dolphins. Our sailing adventure stopped to paddle board, snorkel and swim on a great beach on the northern part of Banderas Bay. The trip leaves from the Marina Nuevo Vallarta. Book your adventure at vallarta-adventures.com.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a 50-minute bus ride down the coast and up into the mountains at 1,500 feet. It is a “dry season tropical forest” with lots of plants and trees. They feature tropical plants like the sun burn tree (the Gumbo Limbo) as well as swimming in the bottom of the canyon in the Rio Sendero. Have lunch at the fabulous Rooftop Restaurant featuring local fare. Don’t miss the Orchid Conservatory as well as the Vanilla Plantation walks. To get to the gardens, catch the El Tuito bus at Carraza at Aguacate Streets. The fare is around 40 pesos.
There are several beach clubs on the beach catering to the community including the Blue Chairs and the Green Chairs (Ritmos). It’s never a dull moment as peddlers stop by try to sell you souvenirs. You can order lunch under the beach umbrellas as well as drinks. It makes for a great day.
You can work out daily at The Fit Club which features day passes as well as longer-term pricing options.
I saw the fabulous Kim Kuzma at the Palms Cabaret who did her British Invasion show featuring songs from Annie Lennox, Adele and British singers and groups. You can see the show Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. The cabaret is at 508 Olas Altas, the main street in the Zona Romanica (Old Town). Tickets at thepalmcabaret.com.
Many of the bars are on Lazaro Cardenas Street including Mr. Flamingo (347 Lazaro Cardenas on Vallarta) and CC Slaughters. The others are down the street in the Zona Olas Altas including the Anonimo, a video bar which has three floors and great views of the street scene. Catch the nightly drink specials including the 50-peso Cosmos on Sunday. Then grab a slushie drink at the nearby Blondies Bar.
Swedes Restaurant and Bar features Cosmos for 40 pesos all night Wednesday and also serves excellent food. Show your Palm Cabaret ticket for 15 percent off.
Up the hill are two roof top bars located in condos but open to the public which feature great views of the sunset. They are the Pinnacle Rooftop Bar and The Signature Lounge both which feature great happy hours.
Old Town has 32 LGBT bars that are quite varied.
I took Southwest Airlines via Houston on the way down and via Denver on the way back. American Airlines and Alaska Airlines also has service to Puerto Vallarta as does United.
From the airport, catch the city bus for just 10 pesos (50 cents US) to town (look for the sign on the window saying Centro or Tunnel). You will find the stop just to the left as you exit the airport.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Hotel Mercurio in the heart of Old Town. The rates are reasonable and the rooms surround the pool which has a great bar and restaurant. Sundays is the beer bust (Beer, Boys, and Burgers) which also features a drag and a strip show from 4-7 p.m. Happy Hour starts daily at 3 p.m. Book your room at hotel-mercurio.com. They also have a swim suit store. Even if you can’t stay there, stop by for a meal or drink or to buy a swim suit. You will find them and Francisco Rodriugez no. 168.
I have also stayed at the 50 Callejon del Amendro condos (book at pvrpv.com which also offers other condos such as the V399 where my friends stayed).
Other options include the La Terraza Inn and The Almar Hotel although the latter apparently now has a $8 resort fee. (I boycott hotels with such surcharges.)
Where to eat
Daiquiri Dicks has great views of the beach as well as excellent Mexican and American Food.
Barra Light features great salads and fresh carrot juice.
Dees Coffee near the Pier and Vallarta Coffee Roasters both have excellent coffee drinks.
The Hotel Mercurio has the best breakfast in town. The selection varies daily but is authentic local fare. My favorite was the beef picadillo, a beef hash with vegetables and lots of spices. Plus, the fresh fruit which included papaya.
Puerto Vallarta is a bargain. Food and drinks are about half what you would pay at home and the hotels are much cheaper than other warm weather destinations.
There are around 18 Mexican pesos to the dollar. One hundred pesos equals around $5. (Drop the zero and divide by two to go from pesos to dollars).
Out and About Puerto Vallarta (O&APV) is the monthly magazine filled with adventure ideas.
This was my third trip to Puerto Vallarta and it won’t be my last.
Bill Malcolm’s LGBTQ syndicated value travel column is run by publications around the U.S.