The Spanish "discovered" Puerto Vallarta, the largest town on Mexico's largest bay (Banderas), in 1541, but the international tourist community didn't discover this gorgeous spot until 1963, when Elizabeth Taylor carried on a scandalous affair with Richard Burton during the filming of John Huston's Night of the Iguana south of town in Mismaloya. This 2.8-mile stretch of near-white sand beaches and deep-blue water became famous as the backdrop to the film (though in black and white) and the Burton-Taylor romance.
Although parts of the area have been greatly developed, native charm is still strong on the cobblestone streets of the district known as Zona Romantica and in the nearby village of Boca de Tomatlan. Zona Romantica is where you'll find most of the gay and gay-friendly establishments -- you?ll also hear the area referred to as Old Town, the South Side, Playa del Sol/Los Muertos Beach, and Olas Altas. Vallarta offers a unique mix of local color, world-class dining, modern beach resorts, and easy access to "old Mexico" nearby. Vallarta's gay scene is more abundant than the popular Mexican resort destinations of Cancun, Cabo, and Mazatlan put together. Whether you take just a day to stroll the streets of Zona Romantica or spend a week enjoying its many attractions, you'll fall in love with this magical place.
If you want to be right in the middle of all things gay in Puerto Vallarta, The Abbey Hotel (138 Pulpito; +52-322-222-4488; $94+) is the spot for you. This high-rise hotel has 55 rooms, including 12 suites. Amenities include a spacious pool, Jacuzzi, restaurant, and free WiFi in the lobby. The rooms are very basic and utilitarian and the suites have kitchenettes. But the best part is that it's just a block to the beach. The gay Blue Chairs Beach is three blocks south.
Located five minutes from the airport and ten from downtown PV in Marina Vallarta, the Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta (205 Paseo de la Marina Sur; 800-937-8461 or +52-322-226-1100; $155+) offers visitors the high-end amenities and world-class service typical of Westin resorts in a charming modern setting. The resort's 280 units (including 14 suites) boast oceanfront balconies, some of which feature terrace Jacuzzis. Other amenities include a fitness center, four outdoor swimming pools, three tennis courts, spa and an exclusive 879-foot private beach.
There are more than a dozen gay hotels in Vallarta but none are as upscale as the Casa Cupula (129 Callejon de la Igualdad; 1-866-261-3516 or +52-322-223-2484; $129+), which combines the intimacy of a B&B with the service level of a high-end resort. Amenities in the 19-room property include a gym, continental breakfast, concierge service, and two pools. The hotel is about a ten-minute walk downhill to Zona Romantica?s main drag, Olas Altas, and about another five or ten minutes to the gay Blue Chairs Beach.
For budget prices and a perfect central location, you can?t beat Hotel Mercurio (168 Francisca Rodriguez; 1-866-388-2689 or +52-322-222-4793; $57+). This gay hotel?s complementary amenities include a breakfast buffet, guest computer with printer, WiFi, and free international and local calls from its computer center. The hotel has a small but very stylish pool and waterfall and its bar is a nice stop for a late afternoon cocktail. Happy hour is 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.