Perhaps Mexico’s most famous LGBT holiday destination becomes much more convenient to get to this month, as Thomson starts direct flights from both London and Manchester to Puerto Vallarta. And with leading hotel brands – such as the beachfront Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta – now training their staff with specialised training to even more warmly welcome their LGBT guests, there’s never been a better choice of where to stay either.
Puerto where? You might be asking yourself – especially if you are reading this in Europe. For some reason this lively, sophisticated and very popular gay welcoming destination is not yet on the radar with LGBT Europeans, but that could all be about to change.
While 16% of gay men from the USA, and 21% of gay men from Canada say that they would like to visit Puerto Vallarta in the next three years, that figure drops to just 3% from the UK (source LGBT2020).
One of the reasons that this figure is so low is there have been very few direct flights to Puerto Vallarta in the past. To get to there one had to transit either through the US, or Mexico City, adding time and inconvenience to the journey. I would argue though that anyone who bypasses Mexico City without stopping to see this amazing metropolis for a few days would surely be missing out on one of the best experiences in the Americas.
And of course there are a huge amount of flights and packages available from Europe to Mexico’s many and varied Caribbean resorts via Cancun too, which is where the majority of European tourists to Mexico will spend their holidays in the country.
But Mexico’s Pacific coast also has much to offer tourists, and the area has been ‘on the map’ for North American tourists since the 1960s. Richard Burton and Ava Gardner famously filmed the Night of the Iguana in Puerto Vallarta. Burton and Elizabeth Taylor bought the villa they stayed in during filming, so much did they love this sleepy fishing village, and the rest of the world took their cue from them.
Puerto Vallarta has grown up quite a bit since then, and is now home to 250,000 people. The town still retains much of its original charm however, and has recently attracted the likes of Britney Spears and Kate Winslet as visitors.
The city now boasts many excellent hotels, and for LGBT visitors the scene is located around the Zona Romántica, the old town and also the most charming part of the city. This area retains its old school Mexican charm, and there are plenty of wonderful restaurants and shops to explore for visitors.
Zona Romantica also boasts more than a dozen gay or gay-friendly hotels and nearly 20 gay bars and nightclubs. Everything is located within walking distance and this area on the south side of the town is very easy to navigate.
It is also where the gay beach, Puerto de los Muertos (beach of the dead) is located. Situated right in front of the famous Blue Chairs hotel and bar this section of Banderas bay is anything but lifeless. Once you visit it is easy to see why this is one of the most popular gay destinations in the Americas, with many visitors from the US and Canada, as well as Mexico and the rest of Latin America.
There is a great selection of gay owned and run accommodation in this area too, from condos, to gay B&Bs, boutique hotels and guesthouses either close to the beach, or further up the hill with panoramic views of the whole bay to enjoy.
Mainstream hotels that are rolling out the red carpet for LGBT guests include the glamorous all inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta. Situated right on the beach in Nuevo Vallarta and backed by the marina, the location of this resort allows easy exploration of all that Vallarta has to offer, plus the stunning Riviera Nayarit coastline too.
Stretch your legs
Travel outside of Puerto Vallarta and you reach the blissfully underdeveloped swath of Mexico’s Pacific coastline, both to the north and the south. To the south the Costa Alegre is considered one of Mexico’s greatest undiscovered treasures, and is fast becoming a retreat for those looking for seclusion, natural beauty and abundant wildlife.
The 240-kilometre stretch of coast that runs south to Manzanillo is full of secluded beaches backed by dense jungle. There’s an eclectic array of accommodation in this area, many of the hotels are tucked away in secluded, beautiful corners of the coast, so advance bookings and directions are essential.
Perhaps the coast to the north of Puerto Vallarta, the Riviera Nayarit is getting the most attention at present though, and with good reason. Legendary travel writer and publisher Arthur Frommer named Rivera Nayarit as his number one destination to visit in 2014 at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show, quite a recommendation, but then this is quite a place.
For around 300 kilometres north of Puerto Vallarta the Riviera Nayarit is home to dozens of seaside resorts, unspoiled fishing villages with all the charm of 60s Vallarta, and miles of pristine beaches. Villages such as Sayulita have become well known surfing destinations, with a laid back and relaxed atmosphere that is evident all along this beautiful coast.
As well as surfing this coastline has many other activities too including whale watching and the many adventure sports on offer in the Sierra Madre mountains. The Marietta Islands are a treasure for snorkelers, divers, and fisherman, and one of the many gems that can be discovered in state of Riviera Nayarit.
For more information go to VisitMexico.com
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