by Dirk Baumgartl
Whereas the small Mexican coastal town of Puerto Vallarta is a very popular destination with travellers from North America, it is hardly known in Europe. Wrongly so. The traditional holiday resort on Banderas Bay offers everything you could wish for: local flair, beautiful beaches and a gay scene like the one in Spanish Sitges.
Puerto Vallarta’s old town has retained much of the charm of a fishing village. A visit to the imposing church Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadeloupe, a walk along the shopping street Basilio Badillo and an evening stroll along Malecón with its seahorse statue are worthwhile. Especially just before sunset you see a lot of jugglers, musicians and street vendors.
The dinner show Rhythms of the Night is a very special experience. You can only access the venue by boat. Dinner is served on terraces offering a sea view, before you make your way to an open-air theatre surrounded by tropical vegetation. A Mayan pyramid in the background sets the secene, the show with lots of music, artistry, folklore and fire lasts for about one hour. www.vallarta-adventures.com
The Botanical Garden in the mountains hosting various trees, orchids and other tropical plants invites you to long leisurely walks. You can combine a visit to the Botanical Garden with an excursion to the hinterland, where you can also visit sites of petroglyphs, local markets and tequila distilleries. www.vallarta-adventures.com
The Marietas Islands are a popular excursion destination and are known for the “Hidden Beach”, only accessible from the sea. You find some good areas for snorkelling here but can also observe flocks of sea birds like blue-footed boobies that can otherwise only be found on Galápagos islands. www.puntamitaexpeditions.com
During winter Banderas Bay just off Puerto Vallarta is home to numerous humpback whales that give birth here. The marine mammals are often visible from the beach with the naked eye, but when you get on a whale-watching tour you get very close to the giants. Dolphins can be found all year round. There are special tours on offer that take you for a swim with the wildlife – but only if the dolphins feel like it. www.wildlifeconnection.com
North of Puerta Vallarta you find Riviera Nayarit hosting luxury hotels like a St. Regis or W Punta Mita. The surfer town Sayulita with its neighbouring communities San Francisco (“San Pancho”) and Lo de Marcos are also worth a visit. Here you can find large natural beaches and inexpensive beach bars. www.rivieranayarit.com
That’s as gay as it gets. At Playa de los Muertos most gay tourists sunbathe and bathe. The beach section outside the gay Hotel Blue Chairs and the neighbouring Mantamar Beach Club are the most popular.
Playa los Animas, only accessible by boat, is a beautiful natural beach with several beach bars. If you walk northwards you will reach empty stretches of beach and eventually the small but beautiful beach Los Caballos.
The Wet & Wild Gay Cruise takes place several times a week depending on the season. It takes you to several beaches and also offers a stop for those keen on snorkelling. There are well-trained boys abord who help the guests to apply sunscreen. www.pvsunsetpartycruise.com
Food & Drink
The Boutique Hotel Casitas Maraika, located on Playa de Los Caballos, offers a great beach restaurant on terraces overlooking the sea. www.casitasmaraika.com
The Alquimista Cocktail Room, located in the north of Puerto Vallarta, is a cool meeting place for cocktail lovers from all over the world. There are also excellent tapas. www.facebook.com/Alquimistacocktailroom
La Palapa is one classic beach restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, where the crew of “The Night of the Iguana” was already sipping drinks.The restaurant is the first choice for a romantic dinner on the beach, just a few steps away from the gay beach. www.lapalapapv.com
To get an idea of the diversity of Puerto Vallarta gay scene, you can take part in a Gay Bar Hopping Tour, where you can also meet other gay tourists from all over the world. www.gayvallartabarhopping.com
The Tiki-Bar Mr. Flamingo offers tropical flair and cheap drinks. The ideal place to start the evening. www.facebook.com/flamingospvr
La Noche is known for its drag and go-go boy shows. The large roof terrace is a popular place for enjoying drinks under the starlit skies. www.lanochepv.com
Paco’s Ranch is one of the oldest gay bars in Puerto Vallarta. There are also drag shows and the bar staff wear cowboy hats. www.pacosranchpv.com
Trash meets glamour. At Reinas you can tart yourself up for the evening with wigs, feather boas and make-up. www.facebook.com/reinasbarpv
The CC Slaughters is a Puerto Vallarta’s biggest gay dance club – ideal for night owls. www.facebook.com/CCSlaughtersPV
The dancers in the Stripper-Bar Wet Dreams are greatful for one or another Dollar or Peso note. www.facebook.com/pvwetdreams
The Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa offers direct access to the beach and a huge pool. It takes about 20 minutes by taxi to the gay area. www.marriott.com
The exclusive boutique Hotelito Mio is located on Playa Caballo and can only be reached by boat. Ideal for those who love peace and quiet. www.hotelitomio.com
The small Gay Hotel Piñata is not far from the gay area and is known for its private pool parties. www.pinatapv.com
The Almar Resort is certainly one of the most luxurious gay hotels in the world. The Beach Club Mantamar is part of it and only a few steps away. It guarantees a carefree stay on the beach, offering a pool, restaurant and beach loungers. www.almarresort.com
Shortly after the end of high season, Puerto Vallarta celebrates its Pride in March with parties, LGBT film festival and a parade followed by a block party. www.vallartapride.com
How to get there
Only OneWorld member Finnair offers a non-stop flight from Europe to Puerto Vallarta between December 2018 and March 2019. All not startiting their trip in Helsinki have to change planes there. www.finnair.com
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