Planning a trip to Gay Puerto Vallarta? Then read on as we explore the best gay hotels, gay bars and restaurants, gay pool parties, and gay boat tours in Mexico’s gay beach capital!
Overview – An increasingly popular gay travel and retirement destination, Puerto Vallarta attracts LGBT+ from around the world with its stunning natural beauty and incredible gay nightlife. The Romantic Zone is the beating heart of gay life in Vallarta or PV for short. With new gay venues opening up all the time, the gay traveler is spoiled for choice with LGBT+ hotels to fit every budget and dozens and dozens of gay and gay-friendly bars and restaurants in the gayborhood. With great weather, a super popular gay beach, exciting gay boat trips on Banderas Bay, spectacular sunsets, and amazing gay nightlife, Puerto Vallarta should be on every gay travel list!
Top 10 things to do in Puerto Vallarta
When to go – The weather is near perfect from December to April with day time temps in the 80’s and lower humidity. This is high season along with super high season around New Year and Easter! Puerto Vallarta Gay Pride held in May is also a super popular and fun time to be in gay PV!
Getting here – Puerto Vallarta is located on the Pacific Ocean’s Banderas Bay, one of the ten largest bays in the world, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Most likely, you will land at PVR Airport. From there, we recommend taking a taxi or Uber to your accommodation. The current fare to the Romantic Zone is around 180MXP or just under $9USD. Alternatively, there are frequent city buses for just 10 MXP or $0.50 USD with a list of destinations written on the front window.
Pro tip – For Uber pickup, turn left toward the busy highway when you exit baggage claim at PVR Airport. Cross over the pedestrian bridge and your uber will be waiting for you on the other side. Only authorized taxis can pick up outside baggage claim.
Where to stay – For gay hotels, we highly recommend Casa Cupula, the luxury boutique gay hotel. This sophisticated and pet-friendly resort has it all from luxury rooms, a restaurant and bar, clothing-optional pool club, and popular gym. Budget options include Mercurio where Trai stayed on a boys trip nearly fifteen years ago. Today, there’s also Jet’s Gay Youth Hostel for those under 35. It’s operated by the same guys as the fabulous Jets Naked Boat Tour which we highly recommend.
Where to eat and drink – For gay and gay-friendly restaurants, of course, the Romantic Zone is the epicenter, but don’t be afraid to venture further afield to Centro and Gringo Gulch, both a short 10-15 minute walk from the Romantic Zone, for some of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta!
Perhaps the best restaurant in Puerto Vallarta and our hands down favorite is The Iguana Restaurant and Tequila Bar at Casa Kimberly. Housed in gay icon Elizabeth Taylor’s former mansion, The Iguana dazzles guests with its luxurious setting, romantic ambiance, excellent service, and of course, top notch entertainment. Reservations are an absolute must and thankfully can be made via Open Table. In addition, don’t forget to take a photo on the Puente del Amor or Love Bridge that connects the property’s two buildings on opposite sides of the street. The bridge was modeled after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice and allowed Richard Burton, who lived in the casita across the street, to rendez-vous with Elizabeth Taylor without the flash bulbs of the paparazzi. To bring this full circle, Richard Burton was also the star of The Night of the Iguana for which the restaurant is named.
The next best restaurant in Puerto Vallarta and the best for special occasion dining is La Capella Italian Restaurant. For stunning sunset views of the iconic church, impeccable Italian food and service, and beautiful violinists to help you celebrate, you will be glad you booked ahead. Reservations are an absolute must and can be made via Open Table.
For popular gay faves for dinner, we loved Ok Jose!, especially when Jose is performing. We managed to walk in not realizing it was a performance night. Not only were we treated to an incredible evening of entertainment, our Caesar salad was prepared table side and our fajitas were brought out flaming! We loved each and every moment of flamboyance at this fun and delicious spot!
Now for the best of the rest. We love a ‘go to’ breakfast spot that is pet-friendly and all around perfection. In Puerto Vallarta, Coco’s Kitchen fits the bill. It is also amazing for lunch. At least once, we had back to back meals here! It’s that good.
For lunch with a view, we really enjoyed Mar y Vino. It’s a super unique spot in that the tables are literally in the rooftop pool with one of the best views of the Los Muertos Pier. Our margaritas were on point as was the guacamole and cauliflower tacos. The service was also super friendly. We enjoyed it so much in fact that we came back a second time in our first week in PV!
For the best pizza in town, don’t miss the no frills atmosphere but delicious wood oven fired pizzas at L’Angolo di Napoli. Sticking with Italian, we also highly recommend the romantic garden and pastas at Trattoria Di Nuovo.
If you have a sweet tooth after all of these delicious meals, head over to Lix Homemade Ice Cream for the best ice cream and waffle cones in Puerto Vallarta! Our favorite flavor was the pistachio. The comfy pet-friendly seating out front makes for great people watching as well!
Where to find gay nightlife – In terms of gay bars and nightlife, you are spoiled for choice in Puerto Vallarta with dozens and dozens of venues. Our favorites include the post beach happy hour at Chachalaca, the local chatty bird and perfect name for a gay bar. It’s low key and fun with drink specials and great service.
Once the sun sets, gay PV comes alive! A great place to start your evening is the new high end and very classy One Six One PV. The lighting here is just gorgeous. They also have a roof garden so you have a choice between two equally lovely settings.
Next up, don’t miss a show at one of the two gay performance venues. Act2PV has three theaters in a giant complex with multiple shows every night. The space includes its own bar as well where you will be personally escorted to your seats by an usher for an exclusive touch. For an intimate cabaret experience, we highly recommend The Palm! The Sam Smith tribute was super fun with excellent drinks, singing, dancing, and just all around good energy! After the show, head to La Catrina Cantina for more entertainment of the drag variety. It was by far our favorite drag show. The gorgeous rooftop at La Noche is another great choice. Both La Catrina Cantina and La Noche are on the main gay ‘drag’ on Lázaro Cárdenas.
Where to find the best gay beach or pool club – On gay Los Muertos Beach, you will find El Dorado, Sapphire, Blue Chairs, Green Chairs, and Mantamar beach clubs.
Two of the higher end options along Los Muertos Beach are El Dorado and Sapphire Ocean Club. One of the benefits of Sapphire is the pool which adds some privacy if desired. Speaking of privacy, as noted above, we love the clothing optional Pool Club at Casa Cupula with amazing views of the Romantic Zone. At Casa Cupula, we really appreciate the no hassle experience, top notch service, and of course, privacy. It’s also nice for singles and couples alike to come on days without themed parties for ultimate relaxation.
Where to go for the best day trips in and around Puerto Vallarta – One of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, Playa Escondido or Hidden Beach can only be reached by a small boat and then a decent swim under the rocks into the cavern open to the sky above. Officially, the beach is called Playa del Amor or Love Beach, but it is more popularly known as Hidden Beach located on the Marietas Islands approximately twenty-two miles west of Puerto Vallarta. During whale watching season, you will most likely see whales en route–we were lucky enough to find a pod in both directions! Also, of note, since boats can’t reach the Hidden Beach directly as the cavern opening is too low, provided helmets and life jackets are required for the swim. Once inside, you are rewarded with a spectacular beach with soft white sand, aquamarine water, and warm sunshine. Just over a hundred people are allowed to visit per day for conservation efforts, so book well ahead. Be sure to book a tour like Marietas Islands Hidden Beach Tour that includes access to Hidden Beach and not just snorkeling around the islands. A tour to this beach is definitely an exclusive highlight of any trip to Puerto Vallarta. We loved our mini photo shoot and queerly did our best to make this beach gay!
Banking – There are plenty of ATMs around the Romantic Zone. There are three including Banorte at the corner of Basilio Badillo and Olas Atlas–just look for the long lines during high season! For national and international banks as well as ATMs, you can find both just a short walk to Centro, including HSBC, Santander, and Citibanamex.
Barbershop – To keep it fresh, we found a fabulous gay-friendly barbershop on the way to the gay beach. Barber & Booze is everything you could hope for in a gay barbershop! Craft cocktails (for purchase), an included hair wash, and a precise cut with friendly service! What more can you ask for?
Covid testing – If you need a covid test to return to the US or your home country, head over to SETAC Wellness Center in the Romantic Zone at Lázaro Cárdenas No. 379. For more information check out their website here.
Fitness/Gym– The main gay gym in Puerto Vallarta is The Fit Club. They have air-conditioning and offer daily, weekly, and monthly passes/memberships. Another great option is Pump at Casa Cupula. They also offer daily, weekly, and monthly passes/memberships with two options: basic or all-inclusive which includes access to the pool club as well.
Wine/Liquor store – On bustling Basilio Badillo in the Romantic Zone at No. 284, you will find an amazing wine and liquor store with a huge selection. This was our one stop shop. They also have an excellent selection for champagne to celebrate any occasion or to toast the New Year!