Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

A perennial favourite for LGBTQ travellers, it’s no secret Puerto Vallarta is the beloved gay beach capital of Mexico—a vibrant mecca of gay-popular bars, hotels, and beaches that largely centre around Puerto Vallarta’s celebrated gaybourhood: the Zona Romantica. And honestly? It doesn’t take long to understand why all the fuss. A bustling beach town with artistic Bohemian roots, Puerto Vallarta’s string of lush hillsides and sparkling cerulean waters set the backdrop for a city rich in cultural heritage and abounding with natural wonders. Taste-test authentic Mexican cuisine along charming cobbled streets. Sip tequila while whale-watching on an intimate LGBTQ cruise. Or simply while away the day at any one of Puerto Vallarta’s picture-perfect beaches before a riveting night of world-class food, entertainment, and drinks. Gay Puerto Vallarta is many things—boring is never one of them.

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Flanked by dazzling blue Pacific waters on one side and bustling shops and restaurants on the other, both locals and tourists alike flock here for a late afternoon stroll

What to see in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone (aka Old Town) is chock-full of storied white stucco homes, colourful storefronts, and narrow cobblestone streets. It’s all very charming, made even better by the fact that it doubles as Puerto Vallarta’s buzzing gay neighbourhood. As you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in the Romantic Zone, first get your bearings with an amble past the terracotta roofs and fragrant bougainvilleas. From here, make your way to the Malecón, Puerto Vallarta’s mile-long oceanfront promenade. Flanked by dazzling blue Pacific waters on one side and bustling shops and restaurants on the other, both locals and tourists alike flock here for a late afternoon stroll. Continue your informal Puerto Vallarta walking tour at sunset with a trek to Mirador Cerro de La Cruz. The 30-minute hike up steep steps is undeniably strenuous, but the sweeping coastal and downtown Puerto Vallarta views promise a satisfying reward.

Photo: Frida Aguilar Estrada

Photo: Frida Aguilar Estrada

If your inner merman is craving some beach time, then you’re in luck—Puerto Vallarta is home to some of Mexico’s most beautiful sandy spots around. Start your beach-hopping at the ever-popular Playa de Los Muertos. This central beach is always busy, but ignore the hordes of resort-goers and instead make your way south to the iconic “blue chairs.” This is Playa de Los Muertos gay sub-section, an LGBTQ meeting point made famous by the gay beach resort of the same name. We recommend renting a lounger at Mantamar Beach Club and enjoying a sun-dappled day full of sexy wait staff, sophisticated cabanas, and refreshing dips in the infinity pool. Mantamar also hosts hip gay pool parties and themed events that are well worth checking out.

Then there’s Mismaloya, a jungle-fringed cove first made famous for its portrayal in the 1960s The Night of the Iguana. Most say this film and the steamy Elizabeth Taylor – Richard Burton love affair is what transformed Puerto Vallarta from sleepy fishing town into a glamorous tropical getaway. Regardless, Mismaloya remains a lovely little beach, full of al fresco eateries and near to excellent snorkelling and diving at Los Arcos. When you’re ready for a bit more serenity, Playa Las Gemelas and Playa Conchas Chinas are both peaceful options offering serene

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Mexican cuisine is so globally revered that in 2010 it made UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List—an award granted to no other national food group

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican cuisine is so globally revered that in 2010 it made UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List—an award granted to no other national food group. And while we don’t hate the idea of spending a Puerto Vallarta vacation hopping from one taco stand to the next, there’s a better way to take a deep dive into what makes Mexican cuisine so prized. Say hello to Vallarta Food Tours, an intimate three-hour tour that introduces the unique flavours and history behind tacos, chocolate, mole sauces, tortillas and more. If you prefer a liquid diet, Vallarta Food Tours also offers an exciting Mex-ology tour that features local artisanal mezcal, tequila, craft brews, and Mexican-inspired cocktails.

For a mesmerizing evening of world-class entertainment, Rhythms of the Night is a Cirque-du-Soleil style show set on a secluded, private island. The evening begins with an open-bar sunset cruise to a picture-perfect palm-fringed cove. Upon arrival, hundreds of tiki torches and candles illuminate the path to a stone pyramid stage. Live music and modern dance performers then tell dramatic stories of Mexico’s riveting past—all beneath a romantic, starry night sky. Dinner is served after the show to round out the experience. Speaking of open-bar cruises, no mention of gay Puerto Vallarta is complete without a shout out to Diana’s Gay Cruise Excursions. An institution in Puerto Vallarta, Diana has been hosting LGBTQ catamaran rides around Banderas Bay for 19 years. The day includes a visit to Los Arcos for swimming and snorkelling, the occasional whale and manta ray sightings, delicious food and drink, and all around fun-loving vibes. Diana’s tours sell out far in advance for good reason, so plan accordingly.

Photo: Guillermo Leal

Photo: Guillermo Leal

Photo: Frida Aguilar Estrada

Photo: Frida Aguilar Estrada

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Puerto Vallarta has long attracted artists to her colourful streets, so it should come as little surprise that the city is home to more art galleries than any other coastal Mexican town

Our favourite places in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta has long attracted artists to her colourful streets, so it should come as little surprise that the city is home to more art galleries than any other coastal Mexican town. You’ll stumble upon many a gallery while exploring the Romantic Zone, but one of the best ways to experience Puerto Vallarta’s vibrant art centre is via ArtWalk. These self-guided tours happen every Wednesday evening (October through May) and provide a unique opportunity to chat with local artists and mingle with like-minded travellers. If it’s home furnishings you’re after, Elements of Design is an eclectic collection of Mexican-designed decor, with everything from mirrors to rugs to furniture. The boutique emphasizes local and sustainable Mexican craftsmanship, promising high-quality, one-of-a-kind showstoppers.

Many of Mexico’s best bites are from nondescript street vendors and hole-in-the-wall family establishments. That said, Puerto Vallarta has its fair share of Michelin-worthy restaurants—and they do a damn good job at elevating the Mexican fine dining experience. A must-visit on any Puerto Vallarta vacation is Tintoque. From a sleek open-kitchen in glittering Marina Vallarta, PV native Chef Joel Ornelas turns out complex takes on creative, local ingredients.

Photo: Pina Messina

Photo: Pina Messina

Photo: Christine Siracusa

Photo: Christine Siracusa

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Try his famed Fried Shrimp, served in an eel gel and chipotle emulsion. It’s worth noting Chef Ornelas trained at Café Des Artistes, another heralded Puerto Vallarta institution that certainly warrants a meal (or two.) Expect luxurious haute cuisine that’s wowed customers for over 27 years. Finally, Food Park is Puerto Vallarta’s take on the ever-popular contemporary food courts sweeping the global culinary landscape. Between the three food trucks and eight food containers, there’s a little something for everyone here. It’s best to visit on weekends when live music and DJs elevate the trendy foodie experience.

For Puerto Vallarta nightlife, Blondies Loft is worth seeking out. This gay-owned lounge and cocktail bar offers epic sunset views of Banderas Bay—along with an attractive and friendly gay staff. The ambience? A mix of colourful pop art decor and tunes from the 40s. The frozen slush cocktails are particularly popular here, but you can’t go wrong with any imbibement. Another stylish gay cocktail and martini bar is Mr. Flamingo, a tiki-inspired bar that emanates classy Hawaii vibes. With great music and a lively crowd, it’s the ideal spot to either start or end your night.

Photo: Jessie Zurzolo

Photo: Jessie Zurzolo

Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta

Casa Cupula rightfully tops most lists of where to stay in Puerto Vallarta. The city’s first gay hotel, Casa Cupula is also a long-time anchor of Puerto Vallarta’s LGBT community. Thankfully, the luxurious property does not disappoint, combining sophisticated accommodation with fun-spirited gay events. (The stunning hilltop location with glittering ocean views doesn’t hurt, either.) Another gay Puerto Vallarta hotel we can’t get enough of is Piñata PV Gay Hotel, an all-male boutique hotel with clothing-optional pool and hot tub. Stylish rooms feature exposed brick walls, designer artwork, and organic + fair trade soaps. Just a stone’s throw from Los Muertos Beach, Piñata PV’s central location and always buzzing bar make this a friendly place to meet and mingle. Finally, you can’t go wrong with Casa Velas, a fabulous adults-only hotel that has an infinity pool, holistic spa, free golf, and private jacuzzis and plunge pools, Here, every detail has been accounted for, from the complimentary beach transfers to the one-of-a-kind handbag bar. It’s next-level hospitality done effortlessly well.

Photo: Thomas Verbruggen

Photo: Thomas Verbruggen

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