Late May is a great time to visit Puerto Vallarta in Mexico — just in time for its Pride celebration.
The high winter season has just ended and locals working in the tourism-dependent port city are ready for a party. In May, the water is warm, travel deals are plenty and there are fewer crowds. The snowbirds have gone home and the LGBT locals are ready to let their hair down during Puerto Vallarta Pride.
This year’s Pride — which ended this past Sunday — drew celebrities including designer Andrew Christian, Morganna Love and Viktoria Volkova for a week of parties, including a small, but respectable, Pride parade.
There is much to do in Puerto Vallarta, from relaxing on beautiful beaches to swimming with dolphins with Dolphin Discovery or zip-lining with Canopy el Indio. Go Gay can arrange private experiences. There are 14 gay bars, four dance clubs, five gay hotels, three boat cruises and one gay sauna (and plenty of hot, exotic dancers). There are also dozens of massage parlors for about $25.
The men-only Wet and Wild Boat Cruise is not to be missed. The all-day adventure booze cruise with a stop at an “anything-goes” private beach encourages boys to be boys. Expect nudity, dirty drinking games and free-flowing libations. Or, the Gay Bar-Hopping Tour is a popular way to meet visitors and locals.
Located in the heart of the Zona Romantica (the Gayborhood), MantaMar Beach Club Bar and Grill is the not-to-miss daytime beach club — Miami-fabulous without the attitude or price tag. During Pride, MantaMar served as the hub for the Andrew Christian Fashion Show, the official press conference, the closing party and other festivities. MantaMar draws everyone, including partiers who docked their yacht right off the beach. Insider’s tip: Call a few days ahead and reserve one of the premier poolside cabanas. They come with a minimal food and beverage guarantee and towel service fee (less than 500 Mexican pesos).
CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is located in the Marina District and is perfect for those seeking the ultimate in Mexican luxury. The IGLTA- and TAG-approved hotel is massive, with 400 rooms, most with commanding water views and amenities that would make even the fussiest of American LGBT travelers comfortable. The spa and gym (recently renovated) are considered the best among the resort destinations. You can have breakfasts by the sea, dinners overlooking the lush, landscaped grounds and, if food is your passion, don’t miss the Japanese restaurant Mikado.
CasaMagna is located minutes from the airport and a 30-minute cab ride from the center of the gay scene, and costs about 130 Mexican pesos (or $9). CasaMagna is ideal for mixed travel parties where men, women and families (gay and straight) can feel right at home. Compared to the high sexual temperature of Puerto Vallarta’s gay hotels, this hotel is so low-sexual temperature that you have to BYOP (bring your own porn). For more info, see www.puertovallartamarriott.com.
For those looking for luxury in the heart of the “Gayborhood,” explore Villas Enrique in Los Muertos Beach, overlooking Banderas Bay. The private villas are a good choice for a group of men looking for an intimate stay but with the conveniences of a hotel, including daily maid service (except Sundays) and a concierge. You are so close to the gay nightlife that you can stumble home no matter how many shots of tequila you’ve enjoyed at daily happy hour with the go-go boys next door at Blue Chairs Resort By the Sea’s rooftop sunset bar.
For those looking for an authentic Mexican experience, a stay at the boutique Rivera Del Rio Hotel is the ultimate choice. Located in the heart of a working-class Mexican neighborhood and convenient to all of the gay bars, clubs and beach, this mansion is the antithesis of the American-style resorts but with service rivaling any five-star hotel concierge. Taxi drivers are hard-pressed to find the hotel but that is what makes this “off-the-beaten-path” getaway so desirable. Among the many services you can enjoy are in-suite massages and private cooking lessons with goods you and your chef purchase at the local food market. This hotel brings a new definition to eating like a local.
Local officials say Puerto Vallarta is gaining a reputation for destination weddings. Costa Sur Hotel, gorgeously situated on the mountainside, has hosted 30 same-sex ceremonies and has developed a smart, respectful program catering to LGBT couples. Gay-owned R Salon, located in the heart of the Zona Romantica, specializes in weddings.
Alaska Airlines is the official sponsor of Puerto Vallarta Pride, flying in the performers, models and other participants. Getting there from Philly is not easy, but it is worth the trip.
You need a valid U.S. passport to travel to Mexico, and no visa is required. Locals say it is best to avoid August and September, since both months bring high humidity and rain, but weather in the winter months is exceptional.
For more information, go to Puerto Vallarta’s official tourism website, www.visitpuertovallarta.com.