Why Puerto Vallarta is Mexico’s most popular gay party destination 

Two shirtless men holding champagne flutes in a pool.

Why return to the same destination time and time again? “Puerto Vallarta is always at the top of my travel list. It feels comfy to visit my favorite spots every time. But also, every trip I find something new,” says Robert from Los Angeles, who I meet at the pool of the Mantamar Beach Club. “It’s a fabulous gay party destination but there’s also a real town, with a real local community.”

Shirtless man on the beach holding a White Party Puerto Vallarta flag.
via White Party Facebook

I happen to share Robert’s love of Puerto Vallarta. And according to Community Marketing & Insights’ LGBTQ Tourism and Hospitality Survey (last published pre-pandemic in 2019), so does much of our community. Puerto Vallarta continues to be the favorite travel destination in Mexico for gay/bi-identifying men from the US. For me, it’s the history, the re-invention, and the ever-evolving LGBTQ+ scene that make Puerto Vallarta a perennial favorite.  

Los Muertos Beach Pier at sunset
Los Muertos Beach Pier at sunset

Puerto Vallarta debuted on the global stage in 1964 as the location for the film “The Night of the Iguana” starring Richard Burton, who was accompanied by his then-lover Elizabeth Taylor. The couple later made Puerto Vallarta home and international coverage of their tumultuous love affair would only serve to popularize the small fishing town. I mean, how are you not fated to become a gay destination when your unofficial brand ambassador is Elizabeth Taylor?! 

Portrait of Elizabeth Taylor hanging inside Casa Kimberly
Portrait of Elizabeth Taylor hanging inside Casa Kimberly

The same homes Taylor and Burton shared–two adjacent villas connected by the “Puente del Amor” (Bridge of Love)–are now reimagined as Casa Kimberly, a nine-suite boutique hotel. Nestled on a hill overlooking Puerto Vallarta’s Cathedral (Our Lady of Guadalupe Church) and the Bay of Banderas, Casa Kimberly flawlessly infuses the homes’ traditional design with glamorous touches worthy of the original owners. The Iguana, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant also pays homage to the couple’s history while serving innovative Mexican cuisine. Plan your dinner around sunset for truly breathtaking views. 

Courtyard of Casa Kimberly overlooking The Iguana
Courtyard of Casa Kimberly overlooking The Iguana

Kimberly is not the only one enjoying a facelift. In the center of Old Town, Lázaro Cárdenas Park is getting quite the glow-up from lesbian artist Natasha Moraga. According to Moraga, the park was dark and dirty and not a place you wanted to spend much time in–until now. Affectionately known as Tile Park, the concrete walls and benches are being transformed into one of Puerto Vallarta’s most exciting public art projects: from dingy gray to bright, colorful tile mosaics. 

A mosaic covered bench in an urban park.
El Parque de los Azulejos

On my recent trip, Tile Park was the meeting spot for our Vallarta Food Tour. Yes, fabulous new restaurants abound in Puerto Vallarta but so do traditional spots, many of which have been family-owned for decades. The “Original Downtown Tour” stops at eight different locations and includes the local breakfast favorite, chilaquiles; the State of Jalisco’s (where Puerto Vallarta is located) slow cooked stew, birria; refreshing aguas frescas (fruit-infused drinks) and guidance on how to properly dress a taco. Wanna keep the party going? Pair your food tour with a tequila, mezcal or raicilla experience, led by an Agave Spirit Master at the Tasting Room

Close up of a hand drizzling sauce onto a taco
via Vallarta Food Tour

Puerto Vallarta is also quite vers in its urban-nature balance. Less than an hour from the city center, you can be zip-lining, ATV off-roading or hiking the Sierra Madre Mountains, all while in the Canopy River adventure park.  

Shirtless men riding through a puddle of water on an ATV.

If relaxing is more your thing, Playa de Los Muertos is the main city beach, with the very gay-popular Blue Chairs Resort and Mantamar Beach Club. Mantamar is truly the daytime spot to be, with pools, hot tubs, cabanas, and food and drink service every day. Weekends at Mantamar bring a mixture of local beauties and travelers with poolside DJs and theme events. 

Two shirtless men embracing in a pool at a party.
via Blue Chairs Facebook

When the sun sets, the party moves to the intersection of Lázaro Cárdenas & Ignacio L. Vallarta streets, the epicenter of Puerto Vallarta’s gayborhood in the Zona Romántica. The crowds literally spill out of Mr. Flamingo, CC Slaughters, La Noche, Paco’s Ranch, and Industry–some of PV’s most popular nightlife spots. Puerto Vallarta even has its own lesbian cocktail bar now – Elixir Mixology Bar

Eden Garden at sunset
Eden at Sunset

At the end of the night, you have countless options to lay your head, from all-inclusive resorts to historic haciendas to LGBTQ-specific offerings. My preferred choice continues to be the Almar Resort – the only luxury LGBTQ+ hotel right on the beach. What started as the Mantamar Beach Club (to which the resort is connected) has grown into several towers filled with luxury suites, multiple bars, and infinity pools. And Almar is always evolving. Recently, it unveiled its new Eden Garden, a private pool and bar oasis for guests. So now, separated by just an elevator ride, you can mix chilling at the Eden or partying at Mantamar.

Poolside at Mantamar Beach Club
Mantamar Beach Club

Puerto Vallarta is always a vibe, but should you want to take it up a notch, consider one of the ultra-popular theme weeks in 2023. Growl with the bears at Beef Dip (January 29-February 5), celebrate our full LGBTQ+ family during Vallarta Pride (May 24-28) and the concurrent Puerto Vallarta Lesbian Pride, or combine your tricks and treats when VACAYA hosts an all-LGBTQ+ resort takeover during Halloween and Day of the Dead (October 29-November 5). 

Six men in a pool overlooking a party below.
Photo via Beed Dip Facebook

From old to new, from historic to hip, from exclusive to inclusive, Puerto Vallarta continues to be our little LGBTQ+ haven on Mexico’s Pacific coast. I think Ms. Taylor would be quite pleased with her legacy. 

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