Looking to plan the perfect gay Puerto Vallarta holiday?
Mexico’s most popular LGBT beach resort offers a lively gay bar scene, handful of gay luxury boutique hotels and friendly gay-owned businesses such as restaurants, barbershops and tour operators.
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Best Time to Visit Gay Puerto Vallarta
The most popular time to visit gay Puerto Vallarta is when it’s cold in Canada. Snowbirds looking for sunshine arrive to the beach in droves between November and April. Locals encourage would-be visitors to book a trip in the shoulder season (October and May), to enjoy a more affordable and quiet atmosphere on the beach and streets.
Looking to visit Puerto Vallarta to enjoy a gay festival or event? These are the most popular times of year for gay travellers to visit the Mexican beach resort.
- Beef Dip: Puerto Vallarta’s bear week takes place each year between late January and early February. The festival attracts beefy, scruffy men, and their admirers.
- Puerto Vallarta Carnival: runs late February to early March. Throughout Mexico, this annual celebration takes place during the days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. In Puerto Vallarta, Carnival is a huge street party, which includes a parade featuring energetic dancers dressed in bright Caribbean costumes.
- Puerto Vallarta Pride: Orgullo Vallarta Pride is an annual event celebrated the last weekend in May. It was launched in 2013 to celebrate the diverse LGBT community that both lives in and visits Puerto Vallarta. The festival features a colourful rainbow parade and is the largest gay festival in Puerto Vallarta each year.
- White Party: There are two gay “white circuit parties,” that take place in Puerto Vallarta at Mantamar Beach Club: American Thanksgiving in late November, and over New Years Eve.
- Semana Santa: during Easter holidays 1 in 5 Mexicans, around 20 million people, travel throughout Mexico during Holy Week. While the holiday isn’t exactly a gay festival per se, Puerto Vallarta’s gay resorts fill with LGBT Mexican’s who come here to party.
- Day of the Dead Festival: Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated in early November across Mexico. Puerto Vallarta celebrates by erecting massive skeleton sculptures along the lively Malacon. The city also offers free Mexican folk dance shows and a lively parade.
History of Gay Puerto Vallarta
Wilson explains, “Puerto Vallarta’s rise to fame began in the 1960’s with the 1964 filming of Night of the Iquana by Tenessee Williams, a gay Hollywood film writer. Of course his elite gay Hollywood friends followed him to the unknown fishing village and once here they discovered a beach where they could be themselves. Puerto Vallarta was so small and unknown that they were not followed by the Hollywood press. A few of the Americans bought houses and started living here in centro area, also called gringo gulch. Eventually bars opened and small gay owned hotels and businesses formed and it has been building ever since.”
Were there any particular businesses that helped jumpstart Puerto Vallarta’s LGBT offering? Wilson adds, “Some of the first gay business pioneers who increased gay tourism in Vallarta were the founders of Paco Paco dance club, seen today as Paco’s Ranch on Ignacio Vallarta. Other important impacts came from The Gay Guide Vallarta, Blue Chairs Gay Hotel, and Mark Rome from The Palm Cabaret. Peter Deep of Club Manana was one of the first big party promoters who put the city’s amazing night club scene on the map in 2005.”
Wilson goes on to describe Puerto Vallarta’s LGBT celebrities, “Some of the long time drag queens like Diva Divine and Cassandra Castro live here. We also have the best cabaret scene in all of Mexico, with resident performers like Mama Tits, Hedda Lettuce, and Miss Conception.”
Has Puerto Vallarta’s gay demographic changed over time? Wilson chirps, “Originally many of the gay visitors were American and Canadian. Recently we are seeing more Mexican nationals, South American and some European visitors due to the increased airline connectivity to Puerto Vallarta. The National visitors are younger under 40 while the International visitor is normally over 40.”
Best Gay Puerto Vallarta Itinerary
Looking to plan the best gay Puerto Vallarta holiday? We suggest giving yourself a week to explore all Puerto Vallarta has to offer.
During the week, spend your cooler mornings exploring the city’s top attractions or book yourself onto a delicious taco tour. When it heats up in the afternoon, relax by your hotel pool or visit one of Puerto Vallarta’s popular gay beach clubs.
During high season, November to April, there are so many gay tourists in Puerto Vallarta that you can go out any night of the week. If you’re looking to enjoy a vacation where you party hearty as well as rest and relax, we suggest dedicating your weekend nights to exploring Puerto Vallarta’s gay bars and clubs. You’ll find on weekends more locals will be out to enjoy the city’s lively gay bar scene.
We’d suggest avoiding all-inclusive resorts as the food quality and drinks tend to be of low quality. It’s important to support the local economy so visit local food markets, dine out at family-owned restaurants and tip your bartenders and waiters well.
Best Gay Hotels in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta has the largest number of gay hotels and resorts in Mexico. There are also a handful of gay-owned hotels that are straight friendly too. You’ll also find resorts that cater to gay families traveling with children. There’s a gay-friendly accommodation option for everyone in Puerto Vallarta!
- Casa Cupula 5 STARS: this luxury boutique hotel sits perched over Puerto Vallarta’s gaybourhood. The chic property just launched a new signature restaurant, by the lesbian couple behind popular Bistro Teresa. During high season Casa Cupula hosts a popular clothing-optional pool party every Saturday featuring go go dancers and DJ. The price point for rooms here are higher so the clientele tend to skew older.
- Marriott Puerto Vallarta 4 STARS: located at the marina, the Marriott Resort is an ideal hotel for gay families on holiday. The property features Puerto Vallarta’s largest pool, beautiful beachfront and a handful of excellent restaurants. The Marriott offers fun kid programming throughout the day, perfect for gay parents looking to ensure their children have a memorable holiday.
- Hotel Mercurio 3 STARS: located a 10-minute walk from Los Muertos Beach, Hotel Mercurio is a great option for gay men on a budget. Hotel Mercurio features a 24 hour adults-only pool and complimentary buffet breakfast. Check Reviews
Puerto Vallarta Gay Beach Clubs
No beach holiday is complete unless you’ve spent an afternoon partying in the sun at one of the best Puerto Vallarta gay beach clubs. All three of Puerto Vallarta’s gay beach clubs are located on the southern stretch of Los Muertos Beach.
- Mantamar Beach Club: owned by Almar Resort, Mantamar is Puerto Vallarta’s best gay beach club. The luxurious beach club offers similar quality service, food and beverage program, and VIP exclusivity as you’d expect in Ibiza. Mantamar Beach Club hosts Puerto Vallarta’s best white parties and is the place to be on New Years Eve.
- Sapphire Ocean Club: is a more intimate gay beach club offering in Puerto Vallarta. It features a recently renovated pool, restaurant and massage spa.
- Blue Chairs Resort: is Puerto Vallarta’s historic gay beach club as it was the destination’s first LGBT hotel. Blue Chairs Beach Club is an excellent option for gay men on a budget. It’s the place to be if you want to enjoy a beach day but are keen to avoid the entrance fees at nearby Sapphire and Mantamar.
Puerto Vallarta’s gay bars are all located in the neighbourhood of Zona Romatico, on the southern tip of Los Muertos Beach.
With over 20 gay bars and clubs in Puerto Vallarta, it can be daunting to navigate the LGBT nightlife scene. Tim Wilson, founder of Gay PV Magazine, hosts regular gay bar hopping tours in Puerto Vallarta.
Joining a gay bar hopping tour is a great way to meet other gay and lesbian tourists on holiday. The group usually meets around 9pm and the tour ends at 1am. By the end of the tour you’ll have visited 4 or 5 unique bars and clubs. Puerto Vallarta’s gay clubs are busiest between 1am and 6am. Tim does a great job at learning about what kind of vibe you’re looking for. He’ll then suggest the best bars to enjoy the rest of your night on the town.
Puerto Vallarta also offers two strip clubs, Anthropology and Wet Dreams, and a bathhouse called Club-Sauna Spartacus.
- Best Gay Dance Clubs: CC Slaughters, Industry, Co-De
- Best Gay Hole-in-the-Wall: Anonimo Video Bar, Bar Frida, Apache’s Martini Bar
- Best Gay Mexican Cantina: Los Amigos, La Cueva Cantina
- Best Gay Watering Hole: Mr. Flamingo, Kooky Karaoke Bar, Garbo’s Piano Bar, Margarita Bar, Blondies, Bar Reinas, Velas Lounge
- Best Drag Shows in Puerto Vallarta: Paco’s Ranch, La Noche, The Top Sky Bar, The Palm Cabaret
Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
Looking to dine at the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta?
We suggest first discovering the city’s flavourful culinary scene on the streets, eating your way through Puerto Vallarta’s best taco stands. There are also plenty of excellent gay-owned restaurants worth visiting, such as El Arrayan, The Top Sky Bar at Almar Resort and Bistro Teresa at Casa Cupula.
If you’re looking to indulge in fine dining, join the parade of starry-eyed old-Hollywood gays who head to Casa Kimberly for a fancy feast. The boutique luxury hotel was formerly the residence of Elizabeth Taylor, and connected to Richard Burton’s house by a bridge. The interior screams glamour, filled with crystal chandeliers, frothing fountains and portraits of the Hollywood legend. The Iguana Restaurant pays homage to the film where the two stars met and offers some of Puerto Vallarta’s prettiest plates.
There’s no better way to explore Puerto Vallarta’s unique Mexican food culture than by booking a fun, tasty and informative food tour. While there are a handful of tour operators offering culinary experiences in Puerto Vallarta, our favourite is gay-owned Vallarta Eats.
Eric Wichner is the founder of Vallarta Eats, a friendly, food loving American gay who in his past life worked for an AIDS research non-profit. Vallarta Eat’s most popular tours in Puerto Vallarta include thematic itineraries such as Tacos, Mole, Craft Beer, and a discovery of local Chocolate and Vanilla.
We think the best culinary tours in Mexico take place in the streets, where authentic dishes are enjoyed by locals at bargain prices. Wichner agrees, but saw a need in the tourist market for a more upscale offering. His Tasting Vallarta tour allows foodies visiting Puerto Vallarta to enjoy a restaurant hopping tour to Wichner’s favourite high end eateries. On this unique food tour guests enjoy a taste of the city’s best fusion fare alongside creative cocktails.
Whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner or gaggle of food loving friends, booking a food tour of Puerto Vallarta offers an entertaining way to explore the city’s finger-licking-good food culture. And why not nibble through the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta while you’re at it?
- Signature Taco and Street Food Tour in Puerto Vallarta: on this 3.5 hour daytime walking tour learn how the locals eat while an expert foodie guide leads you on foot to family-owned eateries and taco stands.
- Tacos After Dark Food Walking Tour in Puerto Vallarta: on this 3.5-hour evening walking tour of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town, have your your fill of tacos and other delicious street food at night.
- Mole & Pozole Food Tour: on this 3 hour tour pop into 4-6 family-style eateries, and sample foods, such as enchiladas, tacos, tamales, mole and pozole.
- Craft Brew and Bites Tour: experience Mexico’s burgeoning craft beer scene sample up to 15 artisan-produced microbrews on this 3-hour evening tour of Puerto Vallarta.
Calle Rodolfo Gómez 122, 52-322-222-8554
Located in the heart of Zona Romantica, Barber and Booze is the best gay barbershop in Puerto Vallarta. While many tourists tend to get their hair cut at home before going on holiday, we suggest getting a fresh fade at Barber and Booze.
The trendy gay barbershop features exposed brick walls, white and black checkered floors, vintage antiques and old school barber chairs. Handsome barbers offer a series of treatments, which are priced at around half of what you’d pay back home.
Barber and Booze is unique in that it has its very own craft cocktail bar. Dapper gents swirl and sip craft beer, fine wine or muddled Negroni while having their hair snipped and beard trimmed.
Puerto Vallarta’s landmark basilica is a Roman Catholic church, and national shrine of Mexico.
It famously houses the cloak containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The 1709 shrine was built near the hill of Tepeyac, where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.
Considered one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites, Puerto Vallarta’s basilica and cloak are visited by several million people every year, especially around 12 December, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast day.
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe sits perched over Plaza de Armas, Puerto Vallarta’s main square. Located in the Old Town, Plaza de Armas is where most of Puerto Vallarta’s festivals take place.
During the Day of the Dead, Plaza de Armas was transformed into a whimsical cemetery featuring skeleton statues, live Mexican bands and street food vendors.
The square features a bronze statue of Ignacio Vallarta, the Jalisco attorney and namesake of the city. Miguel Carmona’s sculpture had previously been located at Park Aquiles Serdan. It was donated by former governor Juan Gil Preciado and was inaugurated in 1964.
The best place to people watch in Puerto Vallarta is along the beach boardwalk known to locals as the Malecon.
We suggest strolling along the Malecon both during the day and at night. During daylight you’ll find buskers performing, restaurant patios buzzing and plenty of local gift shops. At night the Malecon gets packed just before sunset. Many locals and tourists come here to photograph the city’s famous sculptures with a jaw-dropping sunset as a backdrop.
Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon is considered unique thanks to its world-class sculpture park, which stretches from the north side at Hotel Rosita (The Millennia Statue pictured above) to the Amphitheatre beside Plaza de Armas. The Malecon stretches 11 blocks, or 800 metres of Puerto Vallarta’s downtown, with 80% blocked off for pedestrians and cyclists.
Be sure to stop to take a photo at the famous Puerto Vallarta sign, which flanks the city’s artistic icon, Rafael Zamarripa’s “Seahorse Statue.”
There’s one unique experience on Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon that you won’t want to miss. Each day a colourful ritual takes place, the Flying bird-men of Papantla (also known as Mexican pole flyers).
The jaw-dropping display is simultaneously colourful, spectacular and dangerous, a centuries-old tradition from a small town in northern Veracruz.
The ancient ritual of the Papantla Flying Men was created with a specific purpose: to offer gratitude to Chi’chini (the Sun God), Xipe Totec (God of Spring and Fertility) and Tlaloc (Rain God). It is as much a dance as it is a prayer, an expression of love for the Earth, its bounty and its natural forces.
Initially, the Mexican ceremony was held during the spring equinox, in the third week of March, but with the arrival of the Spanish, the natives were forced into a religious compromise. The dance was transformed and integrated into the Roman Catholic Corpus Christi celebration, held during the first week of June.
Today, visitors to Puerto Vallarta can experience this special Mexican death-defying dance ritual starting at noon, between Leonora Vicario and Pipila Street.
Venustiano Carranza 239, 52-322-260-9718
Looking for the best craft brewery in Puerto Vallarta? Monzon Brewing Company was launched in 2014 by a couple from Seattle who moved to Mexico, keen to offer locals fresh and flavourful craft beer.
Skip inside Monzon Brewing Company and you’ll find a choir of fermentation tanks, which sit under a massive mural featuring a giant octopus devouring a beer barrel at sea.
We suggest hopping up at the bar and ordering a beer flight to find your favourite brew. The brewmaster here produces a variety of craft beer styles including Kolsch, Blondes and hoppy IPAs. You’ll also find creative beer recipes such as Jalapeno Margarita Gose and Coffee and Cinnamon Stout.
If you’re feeling peckish, pair your pint at Monzon Brewing Company with tacos, poke, ceviche, guacamole, vegan tostada or sweet churros.
Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez 128, 52-322-223-4052
Fans of chocolate should head straight to Puerto Vallarta’s ChocoMuseum. The three-story space features a chocolate tasting bar, gift shop, cooking school and cafe.
If you’re keen to book a cooking class in Puerto Vallarta, ChocoMusuem offers unique chocolate inspired classes. Popular culinary workshops include Bean to Bar, Chocolate Truffles and Mole Poblano. We suggest booking the Mole Poblano Workshop if you’re keen to learn a new savoury recipe that you can recreate for friends and family at home.
The mole cooking class begins at Puerto Vallarta’s food market. Your chef and guide help you purchase all the ingredients you need to create authentic Mexican mole in the kitchen. The group will pick up produce at a local farm stall, spices at a friendly dry goods shop, fresh tortilla at a family factory and poultry at the butcher.
Back at the ChocoMuseum, students don an apron and chef’s hat as the resident cook walks you through the process of making mole. Mexico’s most exotic sauce is prepared with a long list of ingredients including, freshly ground cocoa, a variety of dried peppers, spices, nuts and vegetables.
The group celebrates all their hard work with a mole feast accompanied by Mexican rice, tortilla and fresh fruit juice. The recipe makes enough mole so everyone can take a jar home to enjoy.
Looking for the best place to go shopping in Puerto Vallarta? Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale is the city’s bustling craft and art market. Straddling the north bank of the Cuale River, Puerto Vallarta’s market is the perfect place to purchase locally made Mexican gifts.
It’s here you’ll find everything from Taxco silver, to huaraches (woven leather sandals), sarapes (blankets worn as a cloak), wool wall hangings, blown glass, and artsy portraits of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
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Located in Old Puerto Vallarta on Lazaro Cardenas, Mercado Emiliano Zapata is the city’s local food market.
Skip around the market in the morning and you’ll find locals purchasing everything they need for their Mexican kitchen. Dance around towers of tomatoes, bright green limes, jars packed with spices, busy butchers and a family-run tortilla factory.
Mercado Emiliano Zapata is also one of the best places in Puerto Vallarta to enjoy brunch. A corridor of the market is lined with local food vendors, who offer affordable and authentic Mexican dishes such as birria de res (beef stew), huevos rancheros, chile relleno, pozole and chicken mole.
Are you a water baby or tan fan looking to explore Puerto Vallarta’s best beaches?
Vallarta Adventures, the region’s largest tour operator, offers a snorkel adventure on a luxurious yacht. The cruise departs from Pueblito Nautico and begins with a one hour sailing to Majahuitas Cove.
Friendly staff start serving margarita’s and pina colada’s to sun-kissed holidaymakers at 9am, setting the scene for a relaxing day at sea. Upon arrival, Bob Marley songs blast off as guests hop into the water to snorkel for an hour with colourful tropical fish.
Once back on board the cruise drops anchor at nearby Majahuitas Beach, a private stretch of sand featuring a bar, comfy beach couches and swaying hammocks. Guests have the opportunity to sip a beer on the beach or go for a swim, snorkel, paddleboard or banana boat ride. As the snorkel cruise sails back to Puerto Vallarta, guests are treated to a bento box lunch featuring fresh salads, shrimp ceviche and chocolate brownie.
Prefer enjoying a gay Puerto Vallarta cruise? Diana’s Tours is the only LGBT operator offering a full day cruise at sea. Owner Diana DeCoste has been offering gay cruises in Puerto Vallarta for 20 years. Your gay day at sea includes a continental breakfast, snacks, unlimited beer and open bar, lunch on shore and snorkeling.
We suggest booking a Diana’s Tours gay snorkel cruise on one of your first days in Puerto Vallarta. It’s a great way to befriend other gay and lesbian travelers who you can join at the bars and clubs during the rest of your beach holiday.
Paseo de las Palmas #39, 52-322-226-8413
Our favourite experience in Puerto Vallarta is Rhythms of the Night, an unforgettable evening featuring a cruise, buffet dinner and al fresco Cirque du Soleil-style show.
Guests begin the journey by boarding a one hour cruise, which sails across The Bay of Banderas at sunset. Enjoy bottomless margaritas, rum punch or beer before docking at Las Caletas, a private park owned by Vallarta Adventures.
Upon arrival, skip across the beach to an open air dining room where guests feast on traditional Mexican dishes under the twinkle of stars.
So what’s on the Rhythms of the Night menu? Guests can prance through a beautiful buffet featuring a selection of salads, salsas, guacamole, chicken mole, spiced skirt steak and steaming seafood. If you can manage to find room, there’s a Mexican dessert table, best paired with Kahlua spiked coffee.
After dinner guests are seated at an outdoor amphitheatre, which warps around the crumbling Mayan pyramid of Chichen Itza. Written and directed by Gilles Ste-Croix, co-creator of Cirque du Soleil, Rhythms of the Night is a celebration of spectacular acrobatic skill, pulsating rhythms, vibrant dance, amazing costumes and Ste-Croix’s breathtaking interpretation of the Aztec creation story.
Av Paseo de la Marina Nte 435, 52-322-226-0076
Looking to pamper yourself on a gay Puerto Vallarta holiday? We suggest booking a spa day at Ohtli Spa at Marriott Resort. The luxury hotel is located at Puerto Vallarta Marina and features the city’s top destination spa. Ohtli Spa offers contemporary therapy techniques with ancient healing traditions and treatments.
Arrive a few hours early to enjoy Ohtli’s spa facilities, which include a relaxation room, Swedish sauna, Eucalyptus steam room, hot tub, foot bath and hot and cold plunge pools.
Ohtli Spa’s treatment menu features body scrubs, facials, waxing, body wraps, manicures, pedicures and massages. The spa’s signature massage treatment is its 4 hands therapy. What decadence! Two therapists work the kinks out of your body at the same time using a synchronized rhythm and flow.
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One of Puerto Vallarta’s hidden gems is a church located in the neighbourhood of Pitillal. The colourful streets here are a short 10 minute taxi drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta.
Pitillal is located away from the beach, between downtown Puerto Vallarta and the Marina. It’s known for offering more affordable rents so it’s where most of the city’s hotel and restaurant staff call home.
Many tourists visit Pitillal on taco tours, as some of the city’s best street food is served to the local community who live here. No visit to Pitillal is complete unless you’ve skipped up the steps to Iglesia De San Miguel Arcangel.
Pitillal’s famous church sits perched on Avenue Emiliano Zapata. It was once a palapa-roofed church, but is now a stone church with two brick bell towers and a clock in between. Skip inside and your jaw will drop when you encounter a massive wood-carved sculpture. The 26 foot tall resurrected Jesus was carved from one piece of wood and hangs impressively over the altar as though it’s floating in air. The sculpture was unveiled in the church on March, 1992 and remains the pride and joy of all who live in Pitillal.
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