By Bill Malcolm
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is a premier LGBTQ+ resort destination in North America, and it’s also a bargain. Food and drinks are about half what you would pay in the United States and the hotels are much cheaper than other warm-weather destinations. It’s located on the Pacific Ocean on the largest bay in Mexico. 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 you will find the gay beach.
WHAT TO DO
Sailing on Banderas Bay with Vallarta Adventures is a great way to see wildlife like whale sharks, 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.
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 unique plants and trees. They feature tropical plants like the sunburn 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 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.
Photo by @jpcharming88
I saw the fabulous Kim Kuzma at the Palms Cabaret, who did her British Invasion show featuring songs from Annie Lennox, Adele and other UK 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 www.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 that 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% off.
Up the hill are two rooftop bars located in condos but open to the public that feature great views of the sunset—the Pinnacle Rooftop Bar and The Signature Lounge, both with great happy hours.
Old Town has 32 LGBTQ+ bars with something for everyone.
From the airport, catch the city bus to town for just 10 pesos (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 very 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 p.m. to 7 p.m. Happy Hour starts daily at 3 p.m. They also have a swimwear store. Even if you can’t stay there, stop by for a meal or drink or to buy a swimsuit. You will find them at Francisco Rodriugez #168.
I have also stayed at the 50 Callejon del Amendro condos.
Other options include the La Terraza Inn and The Almar Hotel, although the latter apparently now has an $8 resort fee.
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Pick up a copy of Gay PV or read it online (www.gaypv.com). The city also has a Gay Guide. (www.gayguidevallarta.com).
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.
Featured image by @mjshannon82