NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Puerto Vallarta article click DailyXtraTravel
Puerto Vallarta is Mexico's most popular gay destination, bar none. The
seaside getaway on the country's west coast is a magnet for gay
tourists from all over North America, but especially those on the west
coast of the US, since most cities are a quick flight away.
The city's gay evolution began just over 20 years ago. That's
when Paco Ruiz opened his namesake gay nightclub, Club Paco Paco. At
the time, there was only one other gay bar in town. Despite being
arrested three times, Ruiz refused to be intimidated by the police
harassment. Eventually the media attention and public sympathy that
followed created a friendlier environment for his and other gay
Today Puerto Vallarta has about 20 gay bars and nightclubs and
more than a dozen gay hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.
Zona Romantica. Almost all the gay businesses are located in the south
end of the city in a historic district called the Zona Romantica.
Everything is easily walkable in this quaint, cobblestoned part of town.
El Centro. This is the city's downtown, located just north of
the Zona Romantica on the other side of the Cuale River. Although some
refer to the Zona Romantica as the "Old Town," El Centro is older. El
Centro is home to three gay bars and a gay B&B.
The Hotel Zone. This is the area north of downtown where you'll
find most of the modern high-rise hotels. Unless you are desperate to
redeem points at a chain hotel, you'll be better off staying in Zona
Romantica or El Centro.
Puerto Vallarta's airport is just north of the hotel zone. A cab ride
from the airport to the Zona Romantica is usually $20 to $25, but you
can save about $5 or $10 by walking across the pedestrian bridge and
taking one of the cabs lined up on the other side of the road. Diana's
Tours (Dianastours.com) offers a pickup service. For $20, a driver will
whisk a group of up to three travelers to their hotel.
Unless you plan to do a lot of driving outside of the city, don't rent
a car. Taxis are plentiful and cheap, although you should agree on a
fare before you get inside. Pay in Mexican pesos for a better rate.
It's not customary to tip taxi drivers, although locals often round up
the fare. Most Americans tip anyway, which is why taxi drivers are so
eager to pick up Americans.
What to see
It's always warm enough to swim in Puerto Vallarta, so, not
surprisingly, the beach is the city's most popular attraction. Puerto
Vallarta's unofficial gay beach is the Blue Chairs Beach. It's on the
southern end of Los Muertos beach, directly in front of the Blue Chairs
Resort by the Sea. A second, smaller gay beach sprung up over a year
ago in front of the Blue Seas Beachfront Resort and Spa, just a few
minutes' walk north of Blue Chairs Beach.
Be sure to walk along the Malecon: that's the boardwalk that
runs from the north end of Zona Romantica, over the Cuale River and
into downtown Puerto Vallarta. Interesting sculptures (including
incredible sand sculptures) dot the Malecon once you reach downtown.
Sculptures of the famous dolphin and the arches that are symbolic of
Puerto Vallarta are across from the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
the city's best-known landmark.
If you take a stroll up the hill behind the church, you will
find the famous pink Puente del Amor. The "love bridge" connected the
mansions once occupied by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The
address is 445 Calle Zaragoza.
Be sure to pick up Gay Guide Vallarta when you get into town. It's
written mostly in English and includes a handy gay map.
Foodies will want to pick up Beck's Best: Puerto Vallarta's
Restaurant Guide. It is written by a gay guy, Gary Beck.
Rainbow high. It's not hard to spot the catamaran run by Diana's Tours,
one of the gay-friendly cruise companies in Puerto Vallarta.
Cruising, Puerto Vallarta style
For 10 years and counting, Diana DeCoste has led gays and lesbians on
tours of Puerto Vallarta's Banderas Bay. Her boat trips attract a mix
of men and women, but the vast majority of the cruisers are gay men.
"I like to go to bed with women, but I can't make money off
them," says DeCoste with her trademark cackling laugh that punctuates
Diana's Tours runs daylong catamaran excursions that depart every Thursday morning from Los Muertos Pier,
two blocks north of the Blue Chairs Beach. Look for the boat flying the
The first stop on the tour is usually Los Arcos, a local
landmark just south of Puerto Vallarta. Los Arcos, which means "the
arches" in Spanish, refers to three giant hollowed-out rock formations
large enough for some small boats to navigate. (When you see arches
used to symbolize Puerto Vallarta, they refer to these natural
The swim-through rock formations rank as Puerto Vallarta's most
popular snorkeling stop. Tropical fish, including angelfish and
damselfish, dart in and out of the crevices, making for a colorful
show. No need to bring your own snorkeling gear, as Diana's Tours takes
care of that.
After Los Arcos, the tour makes another stop at a private beach
complete with a walking trail and waterfall. That's followed by lunch
at a restaurant onshore.
"Now that you are all here," DeCoste often says, as her guests
take their seats, "please listen very closely to this 90-
minute time-share presentation."
She laughs, and everyone instantly gets the inside joke.
Travelers are besieged by people selling time-share properties in
Puerto Vallarta, starting when they arrive at the airport.
After the cruise, DeCoste invites all her guests to enjoy a free
drink and some male strippers at an after-party at the Blue Chairs
Resort by the Sea's rooftop bar. The total charge for the day is $80
DeCoste's success has lead to competition. Another company,
PVRPV (Pvrpv.com), runs all-day gay cruises that include everything
except the after-party. The boat sails Fridays from Los Muertos Pier
and costs $70 per person.
If you're interested in whale watching, openly gay
oceanographer Oscar Frey runs one of the most respected whale watching
tours in Puerto Vallarta, Ocean Friendly Tours.
While his clients are mostly straight, his tours are very gay-friendly.
The four-to-five-hour excursion costs $95 per person, including
beverages, snacks and lunch. Whale watching season runs from early
December to mid-March.
New Year's Eve Circuit Party. This annual event usually starts the day
after Christmas and runs through New Years Day.
Beefdip Mexico. Held in late January, this is PV's annual leather and
Carnival 2010. Held in February, Puerto Vallarta's annual gay carnival
celebration is held in the Zona Romantica.
Latin Fever and Vallarta Fever, two competing circuit party events, are
held over Thanksgiving weekend.
Dance the night away. Nightlife in Puerto Vallarta starts late. Don't
expect to see anyone in any of the city's big gay dance clubs before
Mix it up. Mexicans love Americans and Canadians, and vice versa. Most
gay people in Puerto Vallarta speak enough English to get by, so don't
worry if you only speak the international language of love.
Shop on water. An island in the middle of the Cuale River includes a
long stretch of shops where you can buy souvenirs and more artsy-fartsy
stuff from local artisans.
Eat outside. It's almost never cold in Puerto Vallarta, so dine at one
of the many sidewalk, beachfront and rooftop restaurants. And don't be
afraid to eat like a local at a sidewalk taco stand.
Overlooking the bay, just a block from the beach,
Abbey Hotel (Pulpito 138, Olas Altas; +52-322-222-4488) is a four-star gay facility with 55 rooms and suites, a massage spa, pool, and open-air restaurant.
The legendary Blue Chairs Resort by the Sea (Malecon 4, Playa Los Muertos; US/Canada 888-302-3662) is one of the world's best known gay hotels, with a wildly popular beachside restaurant right at the gay beach. Their popular rooftop patio/bar has nightly shows, and their staff is happy to book local tours and day trips.
Blue Seas (Malecon 1; US/Canada 813-855-0190) is a gay luxury beach-front hotel of suites, beach club and spa with gym, a restaurant and nightly events in the their cocktail lounge.
Hotel (Amapas 325, +52-322-222-
0999), a short walk from the beach, their units include bedroom, two baths, kitchen & salon with water-facing balcony, a romantic pool, and tours can be booked here. Boana-Torre also has budget rooms at Boana 2 starting at just $35; and at their Casa Benito B&B the $55 rates include access to the pool and other facilities of the main hotel.
B&B (Amapas 325; +52-322-222-
0999). Host Benoit offers rooms with baths in
three-level house, with full access to large Boana Torre Malibu pool next door and small rooftop terrace with small pool.
Close to beach, restaurants, and cafes,
luxurious Casa Cupula
(129 Callejon de la Igualdad; +52-322-223-2484) is stylish and intimate, with gourmet food, tempting cocktails, two pools & gym.
Gay-owned and staffed, Hotel
Mercurio (Francisca Rodriguez 168; +52-322-222-4793) has 28 rooms, good location, outstanding service and value, gourmet breakfast, plus a romantic indoor pool with a popular happy hour for drinks attracting guests, visitors and locals.
San Franciscan Resort & Gym (Pilitas 213; +52-322-222-6473), a boutique hotel for luxury at affordable prices.
Also features a gym and a comedy club.
Vallarta Cora (Pilitas 174; +52-322-222-6234) is a men-only hotel
where the socializing is easy at their busy bar, or at the Jacuzzi. This attitude-free haven has a backroom, a clothing-optional area and a private sun terrace too.
For more listings of area lodgings click
Restaurants and Cafes
Archie's Wok (Francisca Rodriguez 130) blends Thai, Chinese and Filipino cuisines, with subtle sauces at reasonable prices.
Cantina (Amapas 147) has contemporary Mexican and International cuisine in stylish, comfortable settings and affable staff. Try chocolate-covered frozen bananas at the ground level Choco Banana. Great people watching at this Amapas/ Pulpito corner.
Bario Sur (Pulpito 122) international Latin cuisine in beautiful garden setting, with take-out options next to the Abbey Hotel.
(Francisca Rodriguez 155, upstairs) authentic regional Mexican cuisine, breakfast, lunch and dinner, full bar and wine selections, and bird's eye view of Olas Altas.
At Casa Iguana Hotel, Boca Bento (5 de Mayo 455) bar and grill, combines Latin and Asian flavors with entrees such as Yellowfish Sashimi, Tuna Tartare and Achiote Miso Sea Bass with Cilantro Chard.
Cafe Bohemio (Rodolfo Gomez 127), patio bar and bistro offers romantic outdoor dining from hosts Chris and Sol with an Mexican and International menu. Two daily two-for-one happy
hours (5 to 7pm, and 11pm to midnight.
Cafe des Artistes (Guadalupe Sanchez 740) Mexican and French cuisine in formal and elegant setting.
Angel (Olas Altas 449), crepes and sandwiches at sidewalk tables.
Tropical (Manuel M Dieguez, the beach at Olvas Altas), European and Mexican food from a Swiss chef. Great sunset views from beachfront
Atop the hill above the Malacon in an old colonial building at Hotel Los Cuatro Vientos,
Chez Elena (Guadalupe Sanchez 740) is part of the old Vallarta of the Liz and Richard days; a small restaurant with big reputation and fine cuisine.
(Rodolfo Gomez 146), for first or last coffee of the
day (try their soy chi latte). For locals and travelers,
an easy-to-make-friends spot with internet access.
Cybersmoothie Cafe (Rodofo Gomez 111, local 3) has fruit, yogurt and protein shakes and you can check your email, 9am to 10pm on their machine, or yours with wifi
(Isla Cuale 16) is an elegant jazz cafe with excellent
service amid lush and beautiful surroundings by the
river, serving International and Mexican cuisine.
Dolores (Olas Altas 534-B) where Rob & Jeff of Kansas City deliver home cooking, atmosphere and location. Dining deck with great people watching. Giant-size fresh fruit juice martinis.
Swedes Bar & Bistro (Pulpito 154) serves great Colleens Breakfast Cafe far, as well as from their own bistro menu with some Swedish specialties from a couple of gay Nordic transplants.
The Sweet Desire Cake Studio (Lazaro Cardenas 234) sells really good, high quality cakes and pastries for special occasions, or just for treats.
Trattoria Michel (Olas Altas 507) owner/chef Michel Ferrari uses only freshest fish, game and meat in traditional Italian cuisine. Fine
wines, fantastic sunsets.
For more Vallarta restaurants, click
North across the bridge, men-only
"gentlemen's club" Antropology
(Morelos 101, Plaza Rio, Zona Centro) is clearly
focused on the study of man, with continuous nude male dancers from 9pm to 4am and good-looking staff too.
(Olas Altas 439) restaurant and bar owners Maryann
& Endra mix gay, straight, lesbian, and artist types
who congregate at sidewalk tables chatting.
Rooftop (Malecon 4, Playa Los Muertos),
on the roof of Blue Chairs Resort. Popular nightly
events include Sunday & Wednesday "Dirty Bitches,
and Thursday & Saturday male strippers.
Casanova's (Lazaro Cardenas 302) has good looking male strippers every night; lots of fun but mixes straight women with the gay men.
(Francisco Madero 388) is an intimate cantina
neighborhood bar popular with local gay expats
and Mexicans both, especially during happy hours.
Encuentros Pizza Bar & Lounge (Lozaro Cardenas 312), a contemporary hideaway with delicious drinks and tasty pizza.
Frida (Insurgentes 301) cozy "only authentic alternative cantina" has inexpensive drinks, meals including Wednesday spaghetti specials. Opens from 1pm downstairs; balcony from 7pm for cocktails and people watching.
(Pulpito 142) is a gay piano bar with live jazz where
regulars meet for cocktails before the clubs.
La Miseria (Lozaro
Cardenas 267-D), an unpretentious cantina with inexpensive drinks, open until 2am, a great place to relax before the serious partying begins.
(Lozaro Cardenas 257), quiet conversational lounge club, usually packed to overflowing each night, often with a crowd spilling from
the classy interior into the street.
(Venustiano Carranza 239) is a friendly upstairs gay cantina with terrace next door to Paco's. No cover, inexpensive drinks.
Los Balcones (Juarez 182) one of Vallarta's original gay dance clubs has returned with new owners, still with unique and beautiful decor. Located in town center, away from main gay district, but worth going out of the way for.
(Venustiano Carranza 290) rules Puerto Vallarta nightlife with drag shows and international comedy routines. Strippers in a showroom beyond the pool.
No Borders (Libertad 221) cowboy theme cantina bar with popular bingo nights across from the new Los Balcones.
(Ignacio L Vallarta 278) is the new evolution of Paco
Paco, one of Puerto Vallarta's first gay clubs.
They're hopping with dancing and shows, plus five bars and a tri-level terrace.
El Pianito (Basilio Badillo 284, upstairs) newest piano bar in town, 6pm to 2am nightly.
(Ingacio L Vallarta 264) is one of the hottest nightspot on two
levels with dance club upstairs, and ground level lounge with restaurant. Weekend drag shows too.
Altas 510) is chic and elegant martini and video lounge with white leather seating and sidewalk patio.
Famous for appletini and chocolate martinis by
(Lozaro Cardenas 267), a tiny modern dance and cocktail bar has events and parties for a young mixed crowd.
Viva (Olas Altas 508) newest club taking over the old Palm location, with entertainment inside and street seating.
Club Zenet (Pino Suarez 235) video lounge with outdoor swimming pool, great sound lights and dancing to top DJs until 6am.
Shopping & services
To look your best on the beach go to Blu By Len
(Olas Altas 513) for everything from cuts and
pedicures to mud wraps and waxing.
Spa (Olas Altas 411) a personal refuge for total relaxation. Walk-ins welcome, and home service available.
Bookstore (Plaza Caracol, North Side) for something to read in English as palm fronds rustle overhead in the warm tropical breeze.
Jewelry (Basilio Badillio 276), an elegant store with original handcrafted designs in the art of bijoux.
Designs (Pulpito 146) with treasures
from all over Mexico -- an interior designer's delight.
Condom House (Lazaro Cardenas 239) the name says it all, with lots of selection, and lubes too.
Galleria Omar Alonso (Leona Vicario 249) gay-owned art gallery with modern and antique Latin photography, sculpture and more.
Galleria Sol y Luna (Lozaro Cardenas 230), art for the uninhibited, with erotic and exotic male form by international artists such as Randy Cooper, Victor
Vera, Abraham Jorge, and others.
(Ignacio L. Vallarta 245 and Basilio Badillo 222) with Diesel and
hot Mexican designs: beach attire, fashion or club
(Francisca Rodriguez 152), a vacation rental and concierge service. Book for gay cruises aboard
comfortable, classic sailboats for a day of music and good food.
Sunglasses (Amapas 114-B) for designer
sunnies from the all over the globe.
Some visitors fall in love and stay in Puerto
Vallarta. Marc Serrao of Tropicasa
Realty (Pulpito 145-A; +52-322-222-6505) offers superb service for those who crave a
little piece of paradise.
God and Toltec king Quetzalcoatl brought
chocolate to the Aztecs. Let Xocodiva
Artisan Chocolates (Rodolfo Gomez 111) send you to heaven with their divine hand-crafted confections.
Need a good Dentist? Dr Francisco Rincon (Pulpito 135; cell phone: 44-322-289-3151) is well-respected in his field, and speaks fluent English.
Getting to town
From the airport, a cab is the easiest way into
town. Exiting the airport you'll find taxi drivers
waiting, trying to get your attention and attempting
to help with luggage. Save your money with "No,
gracias." These drivers must pay airport fees and
will charge you around $25US. Head to the other
side of the highway, by way of the overhead
walkway to the left of the airport building, where
local yellow taxis are waiting. Negotiate the rate
before you head off and you'll pay a lot less.
Organize your day
Area gay nightlife offers a wide variety of
restaurants, clubs, bars, and martini lounges, most
in the Zona Romantica. The scene starts relatively
late, then continues at some locations until 8am. To
follow local custom, take an afternoon siesta before
heading out for a busy night of dinner, drinks,
shows and dancing. Among the many shows are
comedy routines, and drag and stripper shows. The
Olvas Altas sidewalk cafes and bars, close by the
beach, provide a particularly pleasant place to stroll
in late afternoons and early evenings. Later, the
scene moves to the late-night spots further in.
Take care when leaving the clubs late -- travel in
groups or have the club call a cab.
Virgin of Guadalupe Day
Begins December 12
Religious street parades & feasts
until Jan 17
Annual circuit party & weeklong New Years bash.
For this and events in February, July and November, see
An annual festival for bears & friends.
January 24-31, 2010.
Vallarta Fever Carnaval,
February 12-16, 2010.
For this, and Spring Fever dates, see
Mr Gay Vallarta
For the past three years, the
Festival Gourmet de Mexico of Puerto
Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit
has taken place.
Look for details on future meetings of great master chefs & young international talent at:
Buses run north and south for those who want
to explore further out, and renting a Jeep or
Volkswagen convertible is easy and affordable.
Most hotels have excellent concierge service and
can point you in the right direction. Looking for a
day on a secluded beach? There are many local
fishing boats you can charter to take you across the
bay. Ask your concierge to recommend one.
Speaking in tongues
Most locals speak some English, so getting
along without Spanish is possible. But it's always
appreciated when the effort is made to speak the
local language and a few phrases can go a long
The beaches along Banderas Bay are warm and
inviting, even at night. But it is not recommended
to be on the beach past sunset. The government is
strict about enforcing the curfew. Be cautious with
drug use or pickups, too. Accepting a solicitation
for drugs or sex on the street could land you in a
Tired of the beach? Your hotel can arrange
everything from sailing to fishing, scuba diving to
archeological visits. Or a day on a remote island
Or head off yourself on a day trip 12 miles
south of the city on Highway 200. The
Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, is an
educational research center and pleasure garden
occupying 20 acres and boasting 3,000 different
A unique tropical dry-forest ecosystem at
1,300 feet, the area is framed by the peaks of the
Sierra Madre Mountains.
Another tourism option is ATV touring. Unique ATV Tours has trips to the nearby Rio Cuale with it's huge boulder strewn riverbed, swimming, and trails.
For more information
Sites worth checking out include Gay
Guide Vallarta, and
Discovery Vallarta. An English-language
window onto the area's rich history can be found at