Mexico has no shortage of legendary resort cities: Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Mazatlan, Acapulco. But Puerto Vallarta, on the sunny west coast, is our favorite. The Zona Romantica district is packed with gay businesses and LGBT Americans who’ve bought houses in the beautiful, Spanish-influenced area; the entire city’s embrace of gay travelers and residents earned it the nickname the “San Francisco of Mexico.”
So, now with high season winding down, prices are dropping on flights and hotels, making it a perfect time to explore P.V. (it’s always on the inexpensive side). In the first of a series of stories, we’ll fill you in on the basics when it comes to this Mexican gem.
PACKING FOR PUERTO VALLARTA
The first thing to remember about P.V. is that it’s much closer to the equator than anywhere in America, and that ensures temperatures rarely drop below 80 degrees, even in January. But that doesn’t mean chino shorts and a tank top are all you need:
Bathing suit. Make that two or three. You’ll be swimming in the salty waters of the Bay of Bandera and you don't want to be wearing the same used-up suit the whole time.
Sunscreen.You’ll need sun protection and it’s never certain you’ll find the brands you love down in old Mexico.
Flip-flops and dress shoes. Yes, you’ll be at the beach, but Puerto Vallarta has plenty of nice restaurants, bars, and clubs you should dress appropriately for.
A nice dress shirt. See above.
GETTING TO PUERTO VALLARTA
P.V. is a lot closer to many American cities than Hawaii or Caribbean locales.
By plane. Alaska Airlines is your best bet, with direct flights from hubs like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and Houston. Puerto Vallarta International Airport, or Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport, is served by most major airlines.
By car. You can certainly drive there from the U.S., but be prepared for the arduous border crossing and a 1,400 mile drive from San Diego. Hey, you can relive your Y Tu Mama Tambien and On the Road fantasies that way.
By bus. Busing is an option, but there’s not any direct routes from the U.S. This is not for the faint of heart.
GETTING AROUND PUERTO VALLARTA
Traveling around P.V. is usually a cheap endeavor.
By car. You can rent a car, but it’s not the cheapest option in P.V. If you’re desperate to have your own vehicle, the standard car rental chains are at your disposal at the airport.
By taxi. Probably the best bet for getting around in P.V. Cabs are cheap and plentiful, but some don’t have meters so ask about the price before your vehicle takes off.
By bus. Puerto Vallarta is served by municipal, private bus lines. Bus signs are in blue with a picture of a bus and the word "parada" means bus stop. Fares are around seven pesos.
By foot. The city of Puerto Vallarta is walkable, but the whole area you’ll want to explore is quite massive. You’ll probably break down and get a cab or bus at some point.