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Escape Plan — Puerto Vallarta

by Kelsy Chauvin
Amazing view of the city of Puerto Vallarta (Photo by Hello Cinthia)

The best part of any visit here is that refreshing feeling of being in a vibrant, coastal city where time seems to pass a little slower...

Amazing view of the City of Puerto Vallarta (Photo by Hello Cinthia)

From breezy beach days and delicious dining, to sunny adventures and sassy drag shows, Puerto Vallarta is serving the ultimate escape plan. Mexico’s famous LGBTQ-welcoming city is roaring back as a top 2023 destination, ready for travelers to reclaim its spicy fun in the sun.

With direct flights from most major U.S. airports, Puerto Vallarta is easy to reach, and the Zona Romantica city center is just a half-hour from PVR Airport. The best part of any visit here is that refreshing feeling of being in a vibrant, coastal city where time seems to pass a little slower, under blue skies and palm trees, coladas and flirtations rolling in like ocean waves.

EAT

Tooling around the city can lead to many a tempting taco or fresh-juice stand, and a good rule of thumb is if you see a line of people (especially locals more than tourists), join them for what’s sure to be a cheap and tasty treat. Along the cobblestoned streets of Zona Romantica, some of those stands are outside their associated sit-down restaurants.

Birreria Robles Birria Taco

Birreria Robles Birria Taco

One of the best is Birreria Robles (facebook.com/birriaquiles) on Bolivia Street, a family-run institution since 1986 that is known for its hearty beef or goat stew (birria) served with handmade tortillas. Nearby on Suarez Street, La Chilaquería (facebook.com/chilaqueriamx) is a reliable breakfast/lunch spot for some of the best chilaquiles you’ll ever eat, traditionally made with tortilla chips topped with salsa, cheese, beans, pulled chicken, and eggs.

Evening hours call for cool oceanfront dining, and though its name may sound awful touristy, Daiquiri Dick’s (daiquiridicks.com) offers a reliable menu and polished experience. Reserve a table on the front patio and enjoy classic Mexican cuisine with fresh local ingredients, including good vegetarian gluten-free options; It’s open for brunch, too.
Noroc (norocpv.com) takes sophistication to the next level at its airy beachfront corner, serving gourmet fusion fare that emphasizes seafood and traditional flavors from around the state of Jalisco, plus an excellent cocktail and mocktail menu.

SLEEP

There’s an array of lodging choices across PV, starting with the big beach-and-pool resorts in the Marina Vallarta area near the airport. All around the lively city center, choose from boutique inns dotting the hillside, like gay-centric Casa Cupula (casacupula.com), or check into bigger waterfront hotels with beach access.

Almar Resort Puerto Vallarta

Almar Resort Puerto Vallarta

LGBTQ travelers often prefer suave Almar Resort (almarresort.com), the most out-and-proud of all the city’s accommodations. Calling itself the city’s “luxury LGBTQ beachfront experience,” the Almar consists of two adjacent buildings, one a high rise with huge rooms, lofty balconies, an infinity-pool deck, Almar Spa and The Top rooftop restaurant and lounge. The other is a low-rise building perched on the bay, giving guests direct access to steamy Mantamar Beach Club and gay-centric Los Muertos beach.

DO

Through all four seasons, Almar Resort is a go-to spot for weekend pool parties and special events for holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, and the always zesty Vallarta Pride (vallartapride.org), happening May 23-30, 2023. Strolling around Centro and Zona Romantica, the two main historic neighborhoods, can lead to plenty of great organic discoveries. Walk along PV’s beachfront Malecon (boardwalk) to see what artists are out, and to view iconic statues and other public art along the way.

Sculture on theMalecon in Puerto Vallarta (Photo by Ackats)

Sculture on the
Malecon in Puerto Vallarta (Photo by Ackats)

Sidetrack onto little Cuale Island to browse artisan wares and unique souvenirs. And don’t miss a stop at lovely Lázaro Cárdenas Park, dubbed Tile Park (tileparkpv.com) for its intricate mosaics, all installed by hand by queer local artist Natasha Moraga and her volunteer collaborators.

To explore Mexico’s UNESCO-designated gastronomic heritage, join a Vallarta Food Tours (vallartafoodtours.com) walkabout and sample some of the city’s best dishes and drinks, with a bit of history and cultural education thrown in. You can choose by neighborhood, cuisine, and time of day, and rely on excellent guides to introduce you to all the city’s culinary glory from a true local perspective. LGBTQ-operated Vallarta101 (vallarta101.com) also dishes out popular pay-what-you-want food and culture tours.

Tile Park (Photo by Khairil Azhar Junos)

Tile Park (Photo by Khairil Azhar Junos)

DRINK

Much of PV’s LGBTQ nightlife is clustered along Lázaro Cárdenas Street, and you can easily fill the night bar hopping and dancing at clubs there. Head a few blocks up for a more refined cocktail experience at new lesbian-owned Elixir Mixology

Bar (facebook.com/elixirmixologybarpv), which hosts DJs and draws a fun mixed crowd. Drag fans should reserve seats at The Palm Cabaret (thepalmcabaret.com) on Olas Altas Street to catch stellar live acts and mind-blowing tribute artists. (Cecille Andre’s tribute to Beyoncé feels like you’re in the room with Queen Bey herself.)

Ready to dive deeper into Mexico’s native spirits? Head to El Tasting Room (eltastingroom.mx), just off the beach in Centro, for a schooling in all things tequila and mezcal, as well as raicilla, a lesser-known, agave-based spirit that’s loved locally and considered one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

UNWIND

Puerto Vallarta is the perfect place to unplug and shake off daily life for a while. Start with ocean swimming or parasailing, or push your sense of adventure deeper with local tours. Join Canopy River (canopyriver.com) for a trip into the mountains for ziplining, hiking, river expeditions, ATV tours, all capped off with a tequila tasting.

Canopy River ATV Tour (Photo by Kusha Bose)

Canopy River ATV Tour (Photo by Kusha Bose)

If you prefer to kick back on the water, choose to cruise with Vallarta Adventures (vallarta-adventures.com) for a variety of water tours, including luxury sailing, whale watching, offshore snorkeling, and exploring Isla Marietas National Park. Between the sun and the water, beach and sky, Puerto Vallarta can feel like the most natural escape you’ll ever want to take.


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