Puerto-Vallarta in Mexico is an outstanding holiday destination for gay men. Apart from being a beautiful coastal retreat, the Zona Romantica is the hot spot for ‘our family’. It was in this area, on the cobblestone streets, we found a host of gay bars, a few dance clubs, some piano bars, a gay beach and swimwear shops by the dozen.
Zona Romantica also offers a feast of eating choices, with an assortment of small cafés and large, festive Mexican restaurants, all featuring an easy-going, friendly atmosphere, even in January, the high season for tourists.
Puerto Vallarta has the full range of accommodation from the ultimate in luxury like Signature By Pinnacle, a favourite top of the range gay hangout, to the more modest Hotel Mercurio, our choice for this visit. This small, gay hotel in the Zona Romantica is located approximately 150 metres from the beach. Rooms were indeed modest however, clean and mostly comfortable. Sunday is always the weekly Beer, Boys and Burgers Bash by the pool, a local favourite which gets surprisingly packed. This all inclusive pool party attracts about 70 guests and, for just 200 pesos, all the beer and burgers you can eat between 4pm and 7pm. This is a great opportunity to don your swimmers, mix and dance while the DJ belts out old favourites like It’s Raining Men and We Are Family.
A few local go go boys provide some welcome eye candy but they expect to be tipped for their efforts. Breakfast is served each day around this same small pool area. This hotel has location, location, location and caters exclusively for a gay, male clientele. It is an affordable but definitely not a luxurious stay, if that’s what you are looking for.
At the southern end of Los Muertos Beach, near the ‘blue chairs’, ‘green chairs’ and even ‘orange chairs’, including the very popular Sapphire Ocean Club and Mantamar Beach Club you will find the gay beach. The whole area is quite small and in the high season it’s very difficult to find a space after about 11:00am.
The fact is you will find ‘family’ anywhere along the beach on the southern side of the main town pier. One very popular place to try is La Palapa Restaurant which will hold beds and an umbrella for a luxurious day at the beach but you will need to reserve and pay in advance to secure your spot. Many of the restaurants offer free sunbeds and umbrellas with the expectation you will order food and drinks.
We found Si Señior Bar and Beach Club very accommodating, finding us sunbeds on the busiest of days and they served a sumptuous whole grilled snapper for just US$20. If you want a fabulous snack order a guacamole and drool while one of the super cute waiters brings his mortar and pestle to your table and pounds your avocados and fresh herbs until they are just right for a quick pre-lunch nibble. Delicious!
For a change of pace we tried Mismaloya Beach about a 15 minute Uber ride from Zona Romantica. Although very straight, the beach is quite beautiful and is a popular starting point for fishing and snorkelling tours as well as day visits to the National Park.
We had an excellent beach lunch, a couple of cooling swims and relaxed on the free sun beds provided by the restaurants. Certainly worth a try if you want a break from the crowds on Los Muertos Beach.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of our beach experience in Puerto Vallarta was Yelapa Beach.
This Mexican paradise consists of a gorgeous sandy bay, fabulous affordable accommodation and, even in high season, it’s not crowded.
We spent a few delicious hours on the beach eating freshly shucked oysters and shrimp tacos while taking in the idyllic surroundings.
On our next visit we will stay in this quaint little town outside the main tourist hub for a few ‘escape’ days. The only way to get to Yelapa is by speed boat which takes 40 minutes from the pier.
In Zona Romantica there is a plethora of gay bars. Gay Guide Vallarta will keep you up to date with the latest happenings.
Some of our favourites bars were: the roof top terrace at La Noche for fun drag shows and drinks under the stars, Mr Flamingo for loud and lively music and, for a more sedate pace, piano bars Garbo and Incanto.
Paco Ranch is very popular for late night drag shows and for the true gay cowboys, Los Amigos.
There are a number of venues around town hosting pre and post dinner shows which last about 90 minutes. We found three venues Palm Cabaret and Bar, Incanto and Act 11 Entertainment.
These theatres feature world class artists and they are very well attended, but you really need to go online and book early to avoid disappointment.
We had an excellent therapeutic massage at The Blue Massage Spa in the Zona Romantica. The massage was highly professional, with male masseurs working in a very clean and relaxing spa. There are a range of treatments. Our one hour massage cost 650 pesos.
We also had a dreamy reflexology massage by a strong and handsome beach masseur on Los Muertos for around 200 pesos. There are many spas available around town as well as in house masseurs, especially if staying at gay accommodation.
There are two major gay cruises which will take you to local beaches, national parks and islands. The most famous is Diana’s Tours which is a full day cruise, but it is often booked out for weeks in advance. So try to book online before you arrive. The opposition company is Wet and Wild.
We booked on it but unfortunately they have a reputation for cancelling on the day of the cruise which they did to us. This meant we did not have time to do either cruises but by all accounts they are a lot of fun with Wet and Wild catering for a younger, more lively crowd.
The food in Puerto Vallarta is fabulous, fresh and affordable with a focus on seafood, though we also managed to find some juicy char grilled steaks, ribs and succulent pork chops.
On the beachfront we were wowed by the availability of tangy shrimp tacos, the freshly made spicy guacamole and the crispy whole grilled red snapper.
One of our favourite restaurants in the evening was Joe Jack’s Fish Shack. Ask to go upstairs and be sure to try the delicious salted cod fish cakes and the grilled whole fish.
For great Mexican food and icy cold margaritas try Margarita Grill directly opposite Joe Jack’s. We found great food and excellent service from cute guys who are eager to get your night off to a great start.
Even though we actively avoided it, the hottest eating ticket in town is Pancho’s Takos. Here people crowd together and tuck into meat, meat and more meat.
Situated very much on the street and, for the privilege of eating at Pancho’s, you will have to line up and watch everyone else chow down in order to get a seat, no matter what time you go.
When completely tired of tacos, burritos and guacamole try the very popular Archie’s Wok for excellent Asian food. You won’t be disappointed. One thing is for certain, there are plenty of great eating options, catering for all tastes and budgets.
Puerto Vallarta charmed us so much that, even from Australia, we will definitely return, perhaps not in January but on a shoulder season like March or October. Hasta Pronto Puerto Vallarta.