Puerto Vallarta (PV) has long been known as one of the top LGBTQ+ travel destinations in the world. Aside from the warm and sandy beaches on the coast of Jalisco, PV wins over visitors with its romantic charm, bohemian cobblestone neighborhoods, and thriving nightlife. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, a trip to PV is somewhat of a right of passage, where you learn about the city’s rich history and how an actress by the name of Elizabeth Taylor (you may have heard of her) created a shift in the beach city of Jalisco that now makes it one of the safest and most visited places around the globe.
During the making of John Huston’s film “The Night of the Iguana” helped popularize Puerto Vallarta as a destination. It was the off-screen drama of the film’s star, Richard Burton, bringing his fiancée Elizabeth Taylor with him to the location that began to make waves for the town. Both had left their spouses to become one of Hollywood’s power couples, and Taylor wanted to keep a closer eye on Burton while he got up close and personal with his co-star Ava Gardner on screen.
Huston set his actors up in a home hidden away from the comforts of luxury resorts in a place he owned called Casa Kimberly, located in the Colonia Emiliano Zapata. This torrid love affair became the catalyst for why PV’s Colonia Emiliano Zapata is now more commonly referred to as Zona Romantica (Romantic Zone). Fascination with Taylor has since created a travel boom to PV, by LGBTQ+ folks especially, as a way to soak up the essence of old Hollywood and to pay homage to Taylor for being a lifelong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and an HIV/AIDS activist.
Fun fact: Vallarta Pride is now one of the biggest and most attended Pride celebrations around the world. Its initiative to create an Association that promotes and defends equality for the LGBTQ+ community is much more than an exciting event full of fun and entertainment. It includes cultural and artistic events, film festivals, sports, fashion shows and more to celebrate the diversity to feel proud every day.
Everyone assumes I have partied it up in PV many times–but contrary to popular belief, it has taken me all of 38 years to finally make a pilgrimage to gay Mecca south of the border. As the son of two Jalisciences, it was exciting to let my little queer Tapatio heart indulge in everything I know I’ve always been promised by PV.
I punctuated summer with a quick weekend to PV and immediately discovered why those who visit fall in love with charm. Thanks to my friends at ENroute Communications and Visit Puerto Vallarta, my first trip to PV was jam packed with an unforgettable experience that keeps me longing to return.
Part one of this included luscious accommodations, decadent gastronomy and breathtaking activities. It’s a trip that is summed up in two parts!
From nightlife, to adventure and more delicious cuisine, here’s a look at some of the ways you can make the most of your next, or first, trip to Puerto Vallarta–even if for just a weekend.
PARTY | Nightlife
Those who make their sacred gay trek to PV will likely want to visit any of the many gay watering holes that PV is famous for. After your all day partying at any number of gay beach clubs, you can venture out to find some more fun after dark. If you’re not sure where to go, you will know you’re in the right place when the rainbow flags get bigger and more plentiful as you walk the streets of PV.
Many of the iconic locations are appropriately located in PV’s Zona Romantica stretches of Basilio Badillo, Lázaro Cárdenas, and surrounding areas. Here is where you will find events during Vallarta Pride’s block party such as all the PV circuit parties (White Party, Beef Dip Bear and Leather, Jubileo, H20, Vallarta Heat and more!
But if you’re heading to PV’s gay Zona Romantica outside of Pride week, spots like Mr. Flamingo, STUDS Bear Bar, Cc Slaughters, Wetdreams, La Noche, Blondies, and Co-De are some of the most sought after locations that gaggles of gays flock to nightly.
If you’re not sure where to start or need a little help getting the party started, Gay Vallarta Bar Hopping will help guide you on where to find the most popular bars, learn the tipping etiquette, best times and days to visit each bar. It’s also a great way to make new friends and get the VIP treatment without having to wait in lines.
A special note about the nightlife in PV: If you’re visiting for the first time, do your research! Figure out what kind of vibe you like and what kind of experience you want to have. There is something for everyone with over 30 bars/clubs to keep you busy. And take it from me–one weekend is NOT enough time to fully experience PV nightlife. You’re gonna want to put in for some more vacation days at work.
If there is anything that you can be certain of when you visit a Mexican beach destination is that you will encounter some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever laid your eyes on. You may catch a glimpse of the breathtaking pink and orange hues while having dinner or taking a stroll around the Zona Romantica. But you will undoubtedly find the best seat in the house for an unforgettable sunset if you take a sunset cruise.
Vallarta Adventures offered a luxurious experience on their catamaran yacht that takes you through the Bay of Banderas where the Pacific Ocean, PV city skyline and Sierra Madre mountains come together. The experience includes an open bar for some liquid sailing courage and delicious hors d’oeuvres for those who get peckish before dinner. You’ll enjoy it all with the eclectic playlist of music that the crew has prepared for each trip–and they take requests!
This cruise is perfect for any occasion. Friends, couples, family, and strangers who will get to know each other after lots of drinking! Oh–you will get wet!
A special note about Luxury Sunset Sailing with Vallarta Adventures: Our sunset tour started off with an ordinary summer downpour that we thought was going to originally ruin our time on the water. The crew was excellent at keeping everyone safe and comfortable until the rain stopped. When it stopped–it was all worth it.
DREAM | Cafe des Artistes
From the vision and philosophy of chef Thierry Blouet, Cafe des Artistes has been a PV hotspot for over 32 years. Nestled in the heart of Puerto Vallarta, this magical gem of gastronomic discovery and whimsy specializes in French cuisine with a Mexican fusion. Cafe des Artistes guests to dine among an imagined rainforest and be transported to a place where food meets fantasy.
Cafe des Artistes is a premiere PV location where celebrity sightings are certain. Here every dish is a work of art, accompanied by nightly entertainment from tableside violin, to harp, to piano. It’s definitely a vibe! The menu features decadence with the freshest ingredients and cocktail and wine pairings. Cafe des Artistes also offers seasonal menus that present special tastings into something surreal and sublime.
A special note about Cafe des Artistes: This place is absolutely mesmerizing for any group size and occasion. Whether you’re indulging in a meal with friends, having a moment with someone special, or celebrating an important life milestone, the space will transport you. During our dinner, a couple got engaged right next to us with the violinist serenading them with the song “A Thousand Years”. This meal was a major highlight of my weekend in PV–and I will definitely return!
FANTASIZE | TiLT
If you’re looking for a fun escape away from shopping and excursions, TiLT is a nice surprise! TiLT A Tracy Lee Stum Museum PV is the first 3D art host in Puerto Vallarta, where visitors are welcome to interact with the artworks, take photos and share them with the world. This is an effort to bring art and enjoyment to everyone through hand-painted, experiential 3D artworks. It really is a selfie-takers dream! As you explore the variety of backdrop installations, you will transport from a jungle, to a house of cards, into outer space, onto a wrestling ring, as a painter using Frida Kahlo as your muse–and so much more!
To get you in the mood, TiLT has a sensational bar with creative alcoholic concoctions that will help you channel the dreamworld you’re about to step into. It’s a boutique mixology experience that allows you to taste a work of art.
A special note about TiLT: Don’t be fooled by the unassuming lobby at TiLT. The experience is much more fun than expected and you won’t believe how much you will enjoy being uninhibited for a few minutes while you try to capture the perfect snapshot of a fantasy world!