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As frigid temps descend upon North America and Europe in November, thousands of gay guys flock to the shores of Puerto Vallarta seeking some Latin heat. Located between the stunning Bay of Banderas and the lush Sierra Madre Mountains, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the high season for Puerto Vallarta gay getaways.
Puerto Vallarta has it all for the LGBTQ traveler: crisp air, sunny weather all winter long, modern amenities and Mexican charm. And let’s not forget the boys are hot and the nightlife is wild.
If that’s not enough, here are nine more reasons we suggest a Puerto Vallarta gay getaway over the holidays.
1. Puerto Vallarta is an easily accessible, affordable gay beach destination.
Getting to Puerto Vallarta couldn’t be easier, as direct flights from cities like Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco depart daily to this tropical heaven. The 20-minute ride from Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport to Old Town is pretty easy. You can hop in a VIP service car or a yellow street taxi at the airport exit. Unless you have previously arranged pickup with your hotel or host, pay no attention to those timeshare salespeople who will “welcome you” at the airport.
The city is also one of the main stops for 270 cruises that arrive in Puerto Vallarta each year.
You will want to exchange your dollars into pesos. The best way to do so is by trading directly at banks (to avoid high fees) or by pulling your money directly from an ATM. The American dollar is solid and the highest it’s been in years, so vacationing here will be cheap as chips.
If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t worry! Almost everyone in town speaks English because Puerto Vallarta’s economy is mostly dependent on American and Canadian tourism. It wouldn’t hurt to learn the basics, though, as you don’t want to get rip off by street vendors. (And here’s a crash course in gay Mexican slang, for those who will find themselves on Hornet during their Puerto Vallarta gay getaway.)
2. You really never have to leave the Zona Romantica.
Puerto Vallarta is home to a ton of gay bars and dance clubs, gay-owned hotels, restaurants, stores and services in the city’s southern end, known as the Zona Romantica or Old Town. Here you’ll find everything you need to have a spectacular gaycation.
3. Puerto Vallarta offers plenty of top-notch gay hotels.
The city has many upscale resorts, hotels and B&Bs that cater to the LGBTQ crowd.
Casa Cupula is Mexico’s first high-end LGBTQ property. Since it was opened in 2002, this five-bedroom guesthouse — a true oasis for gay travelers — has grown into an 18-room full resort. With sophisticated amenities such as Pump Gym & Spa, Taste Restaurant and the new Pool Club, Casa Cupula has elevated Puerto Vallarta’s reputation as a gay vacation mecca.
Ronnie and David, owners of Piñata PV Gay Hotel, a men-only property, have created a fun, safe and kitsch sanctuary for uninhibited gay men. This self-described art boutique hotel now has a steam room, lockers, hot jacuzzi and a pool that non-guests can also enjoy. Regardless of where you are staying, the Piñata PV Concierge Service aims to connect guys with adventures only found in gay Puerto Vallarta. From massages to matchmaking, dining experiences to excursions, I’ve tested first hand the #PiñataPV experience, and trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
Casa Muni is a gay bed-and-breakfast that opened a couple of years ago. Guests can expect gourmet breakfast, fresh orange juice and coffee with your stay, plus a spectacular view of Playa Los Muertos. With Hermès glassware, Restoration Hardware embroidered sheets and original artwork, this place is ideal for the swanky traveler’s Puerto Vallarta gay getaway.
Travelers who want to enjoy the luxurious comfort, unique design and style of a boutique hotel along with full resort-style amenities and services should look into Pinnacle Resorts 220. It’s walking distance to several restaurants, stores and Playa Los Muertos, and the view from the rooftop pool and bar is unbeatable.
4. Relax on the beach and make friends during your Puerto Vallarta gay getaway.
In the Zona Romantica you’ll find Playa Los Muertos, the city’s largest public beach. The gay section of the beach is located at its southern end, in front of the legendary Blue Chairs Resort. (Just look for the rows of blue chairs and the men in bulging speedos.) Before you head back to your hotel, you’ll want to grab a cocktail at Blue Chairs’ rooftop bar, because the sunsets from up there are incredible.
Are you flying solo and want to make new friends? Take a seat at Green Chairs (its formal name is Ritmos Beach Cafe), where the drinks are smooth and the beach food isn’t bad. You can use a chair and umbrella free of charge if you order something to eat.
Find a more upscale beach experience at Mantamar Beach Club. You’ll find an incredible pool and pool deck service. They also have lounge chairs and umbrellas; they’ll cost you but it’s totally worth it.
For those seeking beach downtime, Sapphire Ocean Club is relaxing and quiet. It’s gay-owned, and its beach services include an umbrella, chairs and soft drinks for a small fee.
5. Puerto Vallarta gay nightlife is always bustling.
The nightlife options in PV are endless, and the best part is that they’re all walking distance from each other in the Zona Romantica. But as in most of Latin America, the scene doesn’t really take off until about 11 p.m., usually running ’til 4 or 6 a.m.
La Noche Bar is the ultimate gay lounge: nice cocktails, entertaining drag shows, hot go-go boys, several levels and a beautiful rooftop garden. Make it your first stop after dinner.
Continue the party at Paco’s Ranch and CC Slaughters, two of the most popular Puerto Vallarta gay dance clubs. For beers and Mexican appeal, stop by Los Amigos Bar. If you’re looking for a more peaceful evening, enjoy a cocktail and show tunes at Garbo Bar.
On Sundays, go to Hotel Mercurio’s Happy Hour/BBQ. A mere 150 pesos will get you unlimited beer and hamburger sliders. The crowd is on the older side, while the staff and servers are pretty young. Last time I was there, a guy showed up to sing with his guitar rather unexpectedly, and he finished his number shirtless. What can I say? He obviously knew his audience.
The Puerto Vallarta gay zone is well lit and rather safe overall, so you shouldn’t have any problems walking around at night.
6. Puerto Vallarta has a ton of places to meet sexy guys looking for fun.
Cruising is rather common in the gay community, of course, and Puerto Vallarta isn’t shy about it. The fun typically starts once the sun goes down. Walk beyond Playa Los Muertos to Playa Conchas Chinas and you’ll find guys looking for more intimate encounters.
If you really want to be naughty, you can visit Spartacus Bath House. Spread out over several floors with a rooftop pool, steam room, large dark room, cruising area and private cabins, this spot is clean and has a bar. It gets busy around 7 p.m., just after the locals get off work.
Wet Dreams and Anthropology are two spots where you’ll find hot muscled Latino go-go boys shaking what their mamas gave them. At Wet Dreams, dancers show off everything, and there’s a back room for private lap dances.
Since prostitution is legal in Mexico, companions and escorts are rather common in PV. A lot of guys use social apps or Craigslist to advertise their services. If you want to arrange a meeting with an escort, remember to lock up your valuables and let a friend know who you’re going to meet.
7. Puerto Vallarta offers a ton of activities to make your trip unforgettable.
One thing you simply have to do on your Puerto Vallarta gay getaway is walk down the Malecón in the evening. Start at Los Muertos Pier, snap some photos and stroll down the boardwalk until you hit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a beautiful landmark.
If you want to get some urban art on your Insta, take a walk along the Rio Cuale. The past few years have seen restoration projects and the rehabilitation of some walls, which local artists have used to paint murals along the entire river. You can enter by walking down the stairs at the bridge that leads to Old Town as an extension of the Malecón, then walk all the way up from Oscar’s restaurant to the Cuale Cultural Centre.
Thirty minutes away from Puerto Vallarta you’ll find the “magical town” of Sayulita. A favorite of hipsters and surfers, this vibrant spot offers cultural sites and beautiful beaches. The town is home to the Pachamama Wings, a mural painted by Huichol artist Javier Muvieri Quetzal, found on Delfines Avenue, a block away from the beach.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens — tucked away in the Sierra Madre Mountains, south of Puerto Vallarta — are truly a hidden gem. At this tropical ecosystem you can enjoy jungle trails, an Orchid House and the recently opened Cactus and Succulent House. Guided tours are available to visitors every day at 1 p.m. Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit so you can dive into the chilly, crystal clear Rio Los Horcones. You’ll take in incredible mountain views from the visitor’s center and the restaurant, Hacienda de Oro.
Each winter, humpback whales migrate from the Arctic to breed and rear their young in the sheltered coasts of Banderas Bay. Excursions begin in December and run through mid-February or early March. There are many whale tours in Puerto Vallarta, but Vallarta Adventures is the only company in the Banderas Bay with a spotter plane, which makes it so much easier for their guides to spot the whales, giving you the highest probability of catching these magnificent mammals on camera.
8. Puerto Vallarta is a culinary paradise.
Puerto Vallarta is home to over 350 restaurants, ranging from internationally renowned fine dining to mom-and-pop eateries offering unique delicacies and local dishes that have been handed down for generations. There are so many great restaurants that it’s hard to narrow down the best, but here are some great suggestions.
For breakfast and coffee, El Sofa Café has been a staple in the gay community for 12 years. It offers locally grown Mexican coffee, a variety of teas and made-to-order food including bagels, pancakes and sandwiches. Find delicious homemade sweets, treats and dark roasted Mexican coffee at Dee’s Coffee, just steps away from the pier. The health-conscious can find a balanced breakfast and a variety of smoothies at Salud Super Food.
For lunch or dinner, La Palapa is a no-brainer. Its beachfront location, attentive service and quality make up for the food being slightly overpriced. Swell Beach Club has good bites at affordable prices, and it’s long been popular with the gringo expat community. El Mole de Jovita on Basilio Badillo is owned by boyfriends Sergio & Robert, and they serve delicious traditional Mexican dishes.
For dinner, take a taxi or Uber to reach Bonito Kitchen. This new and stylish Asian-style restaurant features small plates that are perfect for sharing and hands down the best cocktails in town. The Swedes Restaurant and Bar is ideal for a lovely tablecloth dining experience, especially if you’re vacationing with a large group of friends.
Casa Kimberly, Elizabeth Taylor’s former Puerto Vallarta home, has an incredible ambiance, exceptional service and delicious food. The dress code is enforced, and a reservation is required. Even on busy nights you can always count on getting a table at Fajita Republic. Start with chips and salsa, which come in a cute little paper cornucopia, then move on to the extensive menu, which offers Tex-Mex classics and around 10 different fajitas.
For late-night cravings, Pancho’s Takos are a must. The salsas are full-flavored and the tacos offer tender meat on delicious corn tortillas. I have been here — and I’m Mexican — so I can personally vouch for how amazing this place is.
9. Winter holidays are the perfect time for a Puerto Vallarta gay getaway.
The winter holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve are the most popular time of year for gay men to visit Puerto Vallarta. Nothing can’t beat guaranteed sunshine, fantastic food and some of the most anticipated events of the season.
On Thanksgiving weekend, join thousands of gays for Beach Bash (previously called Latin Fever weekend). Parties take place from Nov. 23–26, and highlights include Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party Sunset T Dance pool party at Mantamar with superstar DJ GSP from Athens, Greece.
Casa Cupula is cooking up a Thanksgiving feast where for around $35 you can enjoy a delicious buffet with American classics like turkey and pecan pie. Or join Incanto for your favorite holiday dishes, where dinner will be served in the intimate piano bar space on the second floor with live entertainment.
La Navidad, or Christmas, is widely celebrated throughout Mexico. In Puerto Vallarta, the nine days before the religious holidays are celebrated in joyful anticipation of the special day with Las Posadas, or processions, throughout the streets to symbolize Mary’s and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. People of all ages gather in El Centro on Christmas Eve at Our Lady of Guadalupe church. They come with piñatas and colorful clothing to listen to music and partake in the exciting festivities that carry on into the night.
On Dec. 28, Steve Grand makes his Puerto Vallarta debut at Act II stage. Located in the heart of the Zona Romantica, this entertainment complex boasts a 180-seat theater where original productions and musical performances are presented. Another act not to be missed: Emmy Award winner Chi Chi Rones and New York Times-acclaimed impressionist JoAnna as the Dueling Drag Divas. They’re back in the city for their fifth season, and their all-new show opens Dec. 31. It’s an all-live singing and comedy cabaret show that is guaranteed to make you laugh.
On Saturday, Dec. 30, dance the night away at Mantamar for Nights Over Egypt, featuring New York DJ Tony Moran. The party features performances throughout the night and bronzed go-go boys.
On New Year’s Eve, Puerto Vallarta gathers on the Malecón, the city’s preferred spot to watch the fireworks display. That same night, the Carnaval comes to Oscar’s Restaurant for the Will Gorges NYE PVR 2018 party. Expect stunning carnival strippers, shows and fireworks. Miami DJ Kidd Madonny will be on the decks.
Most of the gay bars and clubs in Puerto Vallarta host special events for New Year’s Eve, so make sure to check local listings.
This city offers a party-driven gay getaway, but local businesses and the resident Puerto Vallarta gay community have put a lot of effort into making PV a great place to work and live. It’s to their credit that Puerto Vallarta is always a friendly and exciting destination for those who visit.
Featured image courtesy of Lucas Entertainment