What’s new in… Puerto Vallarta
by Mark Chesnut
Long the most popular destination in Mexico for international LGBT travelers, Puerto Vallarta continues to up the ante with new reasons to visit. With a never-ending array of hotels, restaurants, art galleries, shops, bars, clubs, and adventure activities (not to mention a fun gay beach), this is clearly a destination that is poised to grow.
The Puerto Vallarta Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.visitpuertovallarta.com), the destination’s official tourism organization, has confirmed its commitment to the gay travel market, with its recent membership in the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). The organization also introduced a microsite (www.visitpuertovallarta.com/services/gay-pv) as part of its main website, to make it even easier to find gay and gay-friendly businesses. Additional information is available on Gay PV (www.gaypv.mx), which has partnered with the CVB for the new microsite.
The destination is also making unprecedented efforts to increase its profile with LGBT travelers. In 2012, the Puerto Vallarta CVB worked in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) as a sponsor of the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards, in San Francisco. Puerto Vallarta’s regional and national LGBT media campaign also included a trip giveaway for two that featured a stay at Casa Cupula (129 Callejon de la Igualdad, Colonia Amapas. Tel: 866-352-2511. www.casacupula.com), one of the most luxurious gay-friendly hotels in the city.
Indeed, the wide array of accommodations is one of the big draws for LGBT travelers. Casa Cupula, for example, recently opened Taste, a new restaurant that serves a diverse menu; the entire resort was closed for a major renovation and reopened in October 2012 with even more amenities, including upgrades to its swimming pool area, pool cabanas, and the Pump Gym, a fitness center that also sells day passes for non-hotel guests. The property is within walking distance of Blue Chairs, the gay beach, as well as lots of gay bars and restaurants in the Zona Romántica neighborhood. “Taste restaurant has received a full makeover for the season,” said Don Pickens, the company’s founder, adding that Casa Cupula has added “luxurious cabanas to its main pool area, which has also received a facelift. Even if you can’t afford to stay there, you can afford a day at the pool in a luxury cabana.”
Pickens also noted that the new Los Muertos Pier, which extends from the beach area, was scheduled to be completed by this fall, “offering great views of the surrounding shore and a place to depart for destinations like Yelapa (a remote fishing village with excellent swimming and sunbathing) for a day trip.”
Another popular gay hotel is Blue Chairs Resort by the Sea (Malecón y Almendro No. 4. Tel: +52-322-222-5040. www.bluechairsresort.com), which not only offers lodging, but also beachfront, gay-popular dining at the Blue Chairs Beach Club Restaurant & Bar. The Blue Sunset rooftop bar, also open to the public, is a popular place for happy hour drinks while enjoying beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
Blue Chairs Beach is the gayest place to sunbathe, relax, and swim in the Playa Los Muertos beach area. After dark, visitors continue to enjoy their evenings in the blocks nearby, where nearly all of Puerto Vallarta’s gay nightlife takes place. With such a wide array of choices, it’s easy to tailor an evening according to one’s tastes. Among the recently revamped nightspots is La Noche (Lázaro Cárdenas at Ignacio López Vallarta. Tel: +52- 322-222-3364), which has expanded from a 50-person capacity to 400 person venue, but maintains its pleasant upscale lounge ambiance and décor. It’s a preferred place to begin an evening of bar hopping. Also worth a visit is Garbo Martini Bar (Púlpito #142, Emiliano Zapata. Tel: +52-322-223-5753. www.garbobar-vallarta.com), which serves an extensive cocktail menu from 6 P.M. until 2 A.M. every day.
When it comes to dancing, among the best choices is Paco’s Ranch (Ignacio López Vallarta 237. www.pacos-ranch.com), which sports a loosely interpreted vaquero (cowboy) theme, complete with a pair of mirror-ball-encrusted cowboy boots over the dance floor and steer skulls with red lightbulbs for eyes. Head to the second-floor balcony for the best people watching, but get close to the stage for the best views of the drag shows and go-go boys.
Another fun place to hit the dance floor is CC Slaughter’s (Lázaro Cárd-enas #254. Tel: +52-322-222-3412. www.ccslaughterspv.com), the relatively new version of a popular club based in Portland, Oregon. At the Vallarta location, the evening usually starts with a drag show in the corner bar, before the larger dance floor section opens. (Editor’s note: if you go to CC Slaughters on the exact date of your birthday, they’ll give you two free cocktails!).
First-time visitors to Puerto Vallarta looking for an overview of the nightlife scene might want to join Gay Vallarta Bar-Hopping (Tel: +52-322-138-9863. www.gayvallartabarhopping.com), which offers guided tours of the best spots to imbibe and dance. Tours include admission to various bars and clubs, insider travel tips, and a wristband that provides discounts at various stores.