Why Mexico’s West Coast city of Puerto Vallarta is the perfect destination for LGBTQ+ people
Saving up for a long-haul beach trip can often mean at least one of two things: A) How many gin and tonics would we have to drink to get our money’s worth at an all-inclusive resort? B) Which destination is going to work on the ‘Gram?
But for LGBTQ+ folk, the reality is very different, with couples and friends alike having to consider factors such as safety (homosexuality is still illegal in 72 countries) and awkward “oh, are you two great friends?” run-ins – and of course, doesn’t everyone deserve to enjoy their well-earned downtime?
Aside from the sands of St Tropez and the bubbling nightlife of NoHo, finding the perfect balance of relaxation, adventure and party atmospheres, all in an accepting and established queer community can seem on the verge of impossible – and the last place you would expect to find it is Mexico.
Despite homosexuality being decriminalised there since 1871 (yep, really that long, catch up, America), the country’s macho culture and strong religious beliefs would have us believe otherwise.
Tucked away on the West Coast and made famous by the movie “Predator”, Puerto Vallarta is the location of choice for the A-list and has a beaming LGBTQ+ community that’s been hailed “the gay beach capital” of Mexico, beaming with locally-owned LGBT businesses, buzzing nightlife and tailor-made LGBT tours – and for the country being made up of 32 states, that’s pretty damn impressive.
But how do you nail a trip to the hot spot that has Instagram talking?
Where to stay:
If you’re looking for a little (lot) of luxury in a trip, welcome to the W. Favoured by the likes of the A-List (we’ve seen your Instagram following list, Jodie Comer), the exclusive resort boasts a private beach, 5 top-of-the-range dining options, and its in-house Away Spa, for when you decide to leave the golden sands for a pamper. Expect to be transported around by golf-cart, VIP treatment, and some seriously feed-worthy #interiorgoals.
Arguably the most popular gay beach club and adult-only hotel in the area, Manta Mar, known for its high-class atmosphere and incredible ocean views all in the midst of a never-ending party, has expands into Almar Resort after-hours, being the only luxury gay hotel in Puerto Vallarta. Equipped with a sushi restaurant, Sky Bar, and international DJs, the resort is situated in the heart of the city’s Romantic Zone, so there’s always a cocktail (or 5) at the end of a beach day.
Almar describe themselves as “straight friendly” and “a place for the everyone in the community to gather, socialise and experience the ultimate vacation, without any labels or stereotypes.”
A more family-friendly choice, as with any Marriott hotel, you can expect no less than the little touches of luxury in your new home-away-from-home. No, seriously – they even have a cat, Mitsy, who you’ll see roaming around the foyer expecting a lot of cuddles. Equipped with no shortage of swim-up bars, water sports activities on the hotel’s private beach, and infinity pools – the balconies of The Marriott are the perfect way to watch the sunrise (or should we say, tequila sunrise?). The hotel is also involved in turtle conservation, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even catch the moment the babies are released into the sea. Seriously special.
If screaming children aren’t your thing, a more private option are Refugio Del Mar’s fully-serviced self-catering apartments, which are a more traditional, Mexican experience if you’re really looking to soak up the culture. Behind the bright flowers and concrete walls, the apartments have a real home feel, and are nestled in the town of Bucerias, packed with local Mexican people and not so many tourists. There’s also a private pool and sunbathing terrace, so there’s no need to give up the holiday luxuries in favour of immersing yourself in the true West Coast lifestyle.
What to do:
Take a boat to Las Caletas’ secret beach
Ever wondered how Instagrammers get *the* shot? Well, spoiler: you have to have a location that already looks straight out of a movie set. And Las Caletas’ secretive hideaway beach screams Castaway meets influencers paradise. To get there is an hour boat ride, on board one of Vallarta Adventures’ gorgeous private yachts (complete with open bar and snacks, hello!), before laying out on a hammock watching the puffins roam the jungle paradise when you arrive. If you’re not the relaxing type, there’s also lots of water sports on offer including banana boating, kayaking and snorkelling. BLISS.
Take a stroll in the Romantic Zone…and go partying
The Romantic Zone is one of the city’s most well-known areas for its hub of LGBTQ+-owned businesses and bars, as well as bubbling nightlife where queer people and allies-alike get together for a party like you’ve never experienced. Think £2 glasses of wine, wild dancing until the early hours and go-go dancers galore – all in a place that’s accepting of people both in and outside of the LGBT community. A true Mexican fiesta. Just, less classy and with more Ariana Grande.
Taste amazing food
It’s no secret that Mexican food is loved all over the world – but if you’re used to Old El Paso and the occasional Bar Burrito, what you’re eating is not exactly authentic. Meat, fish, plenty of coloured veggies and of course, a corn-based tortilla that goes with *EVERYTHING* are the staples of a Mexican diet.
If you’re looking for somewhere authentic, but still totally Instagrammable, we’d recommend La Leche – a family-owned restaurant that works exclusively in black and white (excluding the food, obviously). Expect to find the entire place coated in white paint, which aims to “awaken diners senses” and stimulate the taste buds in the space, which is conceived as a canvas. Oh, and forget looking at the menu before you go – it changes nightly depending on what local produce they have and for the sake of getting experimental.
Care less about the authenticity and more about the ‘gram? La Capella will leave you gagging for more – and that’s just the view. A short distance from the sea and surrounded by views of the old town and famed Guadalupe Church, sipping on fine wine and eating fine Italian food (we’re in Mexico, but who cares?) this is the perfect way to watch the sunset. And be serenaded by a violin player. But we’ll leave that to you to experience.
Go Tequila tasting
Ok, we know what you’re thinking. Tequila? *BLEUGH*. But if you head to a tequila tasting session (we’d recommend award-winning chef Memo Wulff for a super-charismatic experience) you’ll quickly learn that supermarket brand tequila is pumped with questionable ingredients – here, they get it straight from the glass and pop it in a prosecco glass to sip. Sounds like our kind of night. You’ll also get to experience tequila’s sister, racilla, a more smoky version of the spirit, distilled from the same plant. Prepare to get *VERY* boozy.
TUI fly direct to Puerto Vallarta from London and Manchester.