Have you been to Provincetown? Even if you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s a cross between P-Town, Rehoboth Beach, and the French Quarter in New Orleans with lots of Mexican flavor. It’s arguably one of the gay-friendliest cities in the world.
Located on the Pacific Ocean, the winter temperatures are in the mid-80s every day and it is the dry season. The Zona Romantica (or Old Town) is where you find the LGBTQ community as well as the LGBTQ beaches and a charming village of cobblestone streets.
Even if the beach scene is not your cup of tea, there are shows to see, a great botanical garden, and restaurants galore. All at uber-bargain prices.
I took Southwest Airlines through Denver although PV as they call it is served by all the major airlines. I like Southwest since they don’t charge for bags, don’t have any ticket change fee, and the employees are always nice. You are also never on a regional jet operated by another company.
From the airport, the premium taxi to town is around $18 ($340 pesos) although you can also take the city bus for just 10 pesos.
Where to stay
I stayed in a condo in the Zona Romantica in the Amapas area, home of the LGBTQ scene. Check out pvrpv.com for condo rental ideas. Across the street from our condo was the Hotel Tropicana which is very nice. LaTerraza is also good and has a breakfast restaurant open to all. The San Marino is another popular choice.
What to do
Take the El Tuito bus for just 30 pesos to the Vallarta Botanical Garden about 45 minutes south of town. Bring your swim suit for a swim in the river after a hike to learn about the tropical trees. Visit the orchid display including learning about my favorite orchid, vanilla. Enjoy lunch in their restaurant featuring authentic dishes. For the less adventurous who want to skip the local bus, the new Botanical Delights Tour and Culinary Adventure is also offered this year which picks you up in a nicer bus albeit without the local color. Check it out at tours.vbgardens.org to schedule the tour or vbgardens.org for general information.
Other fun stuff
Wednesday nights is the Art Walk in the historic center.
On Saturdays, the Olas Altas Farmers Market at Lazaro Cardenas Park in Old Town is a must. I had the paella which was incredible. They also have free music.
Visit the beach. There are several options. The A List will be found at the Mantamar Beach Club which also features a pool. It is part of the Almar Resort. We chose the green chair beach, The Ritmos. You can order lunch delivered to you in your rented beach chair. The avocado, tomato, and shrimp salad is to die for. Vendors plying lots of stuff will come by. My friends like the sunglass vendor.
There are several places to see shows. The Incanto had Thirsty Burlington as Cher while I was there. We went to see the fabulous Kim Kuzma at the Palms. Brandon and James (a musical duo) are another must. Their show is called The Greatest Showman. They also have a new show which will appeal to the tons of Canadians in town (LGBT and otherwise) called Oh Canada. The prices for all the shows are very reasonable (around $30 US). For details, see thepalmcabaret.com.
For a visit to the real Puerto Vallarta, head above the beach area to the hills or take the bus to nearby Pittillal. It’s a nearby town that is very authentic. You won’t find any tourists but lots of local flair and great local restaurants.
Whale watching is another option. Diana’s Cruise and the Wet and Wild cruises are other options.
Keep in shape at The Fit Club which sells days passes for 240 pesos (around $13).
Where to eat
Everything is good and is a bargain. $7 shrimp dinners plus $3 for a glass or wine, and it is the best shrimp I have ever had.
I liked the NoWay Jose Mexican Restaurant (nowayjosemx.com) which features traditional Mexican food and great margaritas.
Fajita Republic is another good Mexican restaurant and is welcoming to groups.
The salads at Barra Light are very good.
The new Eclecticos gets rave reviews although you need reservations.
For breakfast, try the Pancake House which has a Mexican flair and great local fruit plates.
Fun at the bars
Enjoy a Cosmo for just 40 pesos at Swedes Bar on Pink Wednesdays. They are at the bottom of the Gondola.
The happy hour at the Signature Bar is another must, if only for the sunset and ocean views. You take the gondola up the hill to the bar which is near Swedes. Wine is just 55 pesos during happy hour.
Enjoy a mixed drink for 25 pesos at La Reina Bar. CC Slaughters is also a lot of fun.
You can withdraw pesos at ATMs with your U.S.ATM debit card. Many establishments do not take credit cards so be sure and stock up. Bank ATMs are recommended as opposed to unaffiliated ones. Also let your bank know (as well as your credit card issuer) that you will be travelling to Mexico. There are 18 pesos to the U.S. dollar.
Your cell phone will be subject to roaming charges unless you elect an international plan (as I did with AT&T) which costs $10 a day. My friends have T Mobile and their plan includes Mexican phone and text service. Put your phone on airplane mode to be safe that you are not inadvertently roaming onto a Mexican carrier without such a plan in place. Many establishments offer free Wi-Fi so you can easily keep in touch.
While Puerto Vallarta is safe, watch your step on the cobblestone streets and sidewalks. And don’t drink too much tequila.
Don’t get in a taxi without agreeing on a fare. There are no meters. Also, the new Governor of Jalisco (the state PV is in) has vowed to get rid of Uber although so far it is still available.
You owe it to yourself to visit “PV” soon if you have not already been. And I don’t mean on a cruise ship. The dock is far from the LGBTQ village.
For more information, check out gaypv.com for the Gay PV Guide. They also have a quarterly magazine. The Out and About Magazine is another resource (outandaboutpv.com). Another weekly is the Vallarta Tribune (vallartatribune.com).