Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular destinations on the Pacific coast of Mexico, glorified for its pristine beaches, luxurious resorts and robust nightlife. Even though it becomes instantly clear once you get there by the countless rainbow-colored flags, what most people don’t know before visiting is that the scenic coastal town is also a long-standing, world-class LGBTQ haven. Nowadays, there are numerous gay-friendly hotels, beaches and bars as well as tours, events and romantic activities designed to cater exclusively to the LGBTQ community.
How Puerto Vallarta Became an LGBTQ Paradise
Puerto Vallarta’s story as a gay destination begins as early as the ’80s with an orchestrated move by both the local LGBTQ community and a considerable number of American and Canadian citizens who relocated to the city’s “Old Town” with the scope of starting all kinds of gay-friendly businesses. Rejuvenated, the picturesque district gradually started seeing more visitors waking its narrow cobblestone streets. The tourism industry was more than eager to follow suit and soon enough, the first gay-friendly bars and hotels started popping up. Thus began Puerto Vallarta’s branding as an LGBTQ retreat, that resulted in the Old Town being affectionately nicknamed “Zona Romantica”.
When local authorities decided to legalize civil unions for LGBTQ couples in 2013, it became clear that gay tourism was not just a transitory trend and that the town’s new identity was unmistakably deep-rooted. The rest happened all too quickly. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2016, gay-friendly beach clubs, exclusive LGBTQ resorts and nightclubs were set up to meet high touristic demands and the town became known worldwide as a refuge for respect, activism and freedom. Puerto Vallarta is now feverishly getting ready to celebrate its sixth annual Gay Pride Festival.
What to See & Do in Puerto Vallarta
It’s All About the Beach
The first thing you’ll hear about as an LGBTQ visitor when reaching Puerto Vallarta is that you shouldn’t omit spending a day at the “Blue Chairs”. It is a section of the cosmopolitan Playa de los Muertos that is probably the most popular LGBTQ meeting point throughout Puerto Vallarta. The name comes from the blue chairs set there by the homonymous gay resort. Here you can grab a cocktail, mingle with the multicultural crowd and party all night long.
Following Blue Chairs’ example, more gay beach clubs and cafes have recently made their appearance on the shores of Playa de los Muertos. Sapphire Ocean Club is perfect for some sunbathing on a lounger, Almar Resort’s Mantamar Beach Club features a sparkling infinity pool and top-notch restaurant and Ritmos Cafe or just the “green chairs” is the place to head if you’re looking for a concert with an ocean view.
LGBTQ Festivals & Events
During high season, there are LGBTQ events and parties taking place all over Puerto Vallarta, especially within the Zona Romantica, including music festivals, beach parties, fashion shows and even LGBT Business Expos. However, there are some notable events you definitely don’t want to miss. First and foremost, Puerto Vallarta Pride Week that is scheduled to take place from May 20 to May 27 in 2019. If you are in a party mood, be sure to attend the annual White Party Thanksgiving Circuit Event and the annual “Beef Dip” gathering, both hosted by Mantamar Beach Club. Finally, the glittering Puerto Vallarta Carnival that will begin on March 5 this year.
LGBT Exclusive Tours
There is an abundance of LGBTQ-exclusive tours and activities in Puerto Vallarta. Food tours, cooking classes, hikes, “booze cruises”, snorkeling, sailing trips, bar hopping and beach day trips are only some of the exciting options offered by local operators and the town’s resorts. If you’re looking for a truly memorable experience, make sure to check out Diana’s famous “All-Day Gay Cruises”. Diana’s tours include a full day at sea with water activities, lunch at the shore, a cruiser full of beer and an open bar. Needless to say, Diana’s cruises have become one of the most popular LGBT activities in Puerto Vallarta and they’re fully booked several months in advance.
LGBTQ-Friendly Resorts in Puerto Vallarta
Casa Velas Puerto Vallarta is an adults-only, secret oasis with a magnificent location close to the airport at the heart of the city. It’s nestled amidst charming tropical gardens, only a few seconds away from a spectacular beach and right next to Marina Vallarta Golf Club. The resort offers an abundance of amenities, including a private Ocean Club with a marvelous swimming pool, jacuzzis and a swim-up aqua bar, a first-class fitness center and a state-of-the-art spa. Apart from playing golf on one of the country’s best courses, hotel guests can also take yoga, fitness and cooking classes or join culinary tastings.
Casa Cupula is one of the region’s most stylish and exclusive resorts. The luxurious, gay-owned boutique hotel is standing on a private hill in Zona Romantica that overlooks Playa de los Muertos. It features Puerto Vallarta’s only swimsuit-optional pool club as well as an awarded restaurant and wellness center. The salt-water zen pool and a steam room will provide some moments of peace and relaxation after a boisterous night out in the city.
Secrets Vallarta Bay
The sophisticated Secrets Vallarta Bay is located right on the golden sands of Playa Camarones and only a few minutes away from the iconic El Malecón boardwalk. It’s world-class spas, dazzling swimming pools and opulent accommodation options make it the ideal choice for a romantic getaway. The resort also features a recently opened casino, an open-air theater, several cocktail bars and endless daytime activities. If you’re planning for this trip to be the most special one, Secrets Vallarta Bay also offers facilities specifically designed for wedding ceremonies with all the planning taken care of by a professional, on-site wedding coordinator.
Crown Paradise Golden
Crown Paradise Golden is an adults only, all-inclusive resort located on Banderas Bay. It offers over two hundred rooms and suites, some of which are equipped with large jacuzzis and private balconies. There is also a spectacular heated infinity pool with an oceanfront bar that offers astonishing sunset views. Crown Paradise Hotel also boasts five different specialty à la carte restaurants that host entertaining theme-night dinners and a breakfast buffet on the terrace.
Located in the heart of Zona Romantica, Almar Resort promises a luxurious LGBT beachfront experience. Oceanview suites with breathtaking views, gourmet dining, exceptional service and unique experiences are what make this gay resort stand out from the competition. Almar features its own beach club called Mantamar on Playa de los Muertos, equipped with lounge beds and a sensational infinity pool. The exclusive “Top Sky Bar” on the roof of the resort is a great place to enjoy the view over the beach, relax at the sauna table, have some top-shelf cocktails or party under the sounds of famous DJs.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
The upscale Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa is situated on the seafront, just across the street from Marina Vallarta Golf Club and the famous boardwalk on the other side. Its guests have access to several swimming pools, including an infinity pool and a few adult-only pools. Extravagant rooms with majestic views, three different gourmet seafood restaurants and a lively tequila bar guarantee an unforgettable stay.