Gay Pride in Puerto Vallarta in late May is a great time to visit. The high winter season has just ended and locals working in the tourism-dependent port city are ready for a party. In May, the water is warm, travel deals are plenty and fewer crowds. The snowbirds have gone home and the LGBT locals are ready to let their hair down during Vallarta Pride.
This year's Vallarta Pride drew celebrities such as designer Andrew Christian, Morganna Love and Viktoria Volkova for a week of parties, including a small but respectable pride parade. www.vallartapride.com
There is much to do in Puerto Vallarta from relaxing on beautiful beaches to swimming with dolphins with Dolphin Discovery ( www.dolphindiscovery.com ) or zip lining with Canopy el Indio ( www.canopyindio.com ). Go Gay can arrange private experiences ( www.gayguidevallarta.com ).
There are 14 gay bars, four dance clubs, five gay hotels, three boat cruises and one gay sauna ( and plenty of hot exotic dancers ). There are dozens of massage parlors for about $25 US.
The men-only Wet and Wild Boat Cruise is not to be missed. An all-day adventure for about 300 men, this booze cruise with a stop at an "anything goes" private beach encourages boys to be boys. You can expect nudity, dirty drinking games and free flowing libations. You know it is going to be a good cruise when the Andrew Christian models and Andrew Christian himself sets sail onboard. Alternatively, the Gay Bar Hopping Tour is a popular way to meet visitors and locals.
Located in the heart of the Zona Romantica ( the gayborhood ), MantaMar Beach Club Bar and Grill is the 'not-to-miss' daytime beach club in Puerto Vallarta. Bottom line MantaMar is the hub of gay "day life" with a live DJ and beautiful people watching. You can choose from beach chairs or poolside cabana service ( For a nominal fee ). From the moment you enter, you know that you arrived. MantaMar Beach Club is Miami fabulous without the attitude or the price tag. During Puerto Vallarta Gay Pride, MantaMar served as the hub for the Andrew Christian Fashion Show, the official press conference, the closing party and gay time parties. MantaMar draws everyone including a yacht that docked right off the beach. Insiders tip: call a few days ahead and reserve one of the premier poolside cabanas. They come with a minimal food and beverage guarantee and towel service fee ( less than 500 Mexican Pesos ). Check out www.mantamarvallarta.com .
CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is located in the Marina district is perfect for those seeking the ultimate in Mexican luxury. The IGLTA and Tag-approved hotel is massive with 400 rooms most with commanding water views and all of the amenities that would make even the fussiest of American LGBT travelers comfortable. Morning breakfasts by the sea can be followed by dinners overlooking the lush landscaped grounds. If food is your passion, don't miss the Japanese restaurant Mikado. The spa and gym ( recently renovated ) are considered the best in the resort destination. Located only minutes from the airport, the center of the gay scene is about 30-minute cab ride and costs about 130 Mexican Pesos ( about US $9 ). CasaMagna is ideal for mixed travel parties where men, women and families ( gay and straight ) can feel right at home. Compared to the high-sexual temperature of Puerto Vallarta's gay hotels, this hotel is so low-sexual temperature that you have to BYOPbring-your-own-porn. www.puertovallartamarriott.com
For those looking for luxury in the heart of the "gayborhood," explore Villas Enrique in Los Muertos Beach overlooking Banderas Bay. The private villas could be a good choice for a group of men looking for an intimate stay but with the conveniences of a hotel including daily maid service ( except Sundays ) and a concierge. You are so close to the gay nightlife that you can stumble home no matter how many shots of tequila you've enjoyed at daily happy hour with the "hot Go Go Boys" next door at Blue Chairs Resort By the Sea's rooftop sunset bar. www.villasenrique.com
For those looking for an authentic Mexican experience, a stay at the boutique Rivera Del Rio Hotel is the ultimate choice for travelers who want to experience local culture. Located in the heart of a working-class Mexican neighborhood and convenient to all of the gay bars, clubs and beach, this mansion is the antithesis of the American-style resorts but with service that rivals any Five-Star hotel concierge. Taxi drivers are hard-pressed to find the hotel but that is what makes this "off the beaten track" getaway so desirable. The hotel is the ultimate resort for those looking to connect with the local community. Among the many services you can enjoy an in-suite massage and a private cooking lesson with goods you and your chef purchased at the local food market. This hotel brings a new definition to eating like a local. www.riveradelrio.com
Local officials say Puerto Vallarta is gaining a reputation for destination weddingsespecially popular with the lesbians. Costa Sur Hotel gorgeously situated on the mountainside has hosted 30 same-sex ceremonies and has developed a smart, respectful program catering to LGBT couples. Gay-owned R Salon located in the heart of the Zona Romantica specializes in weddings. www.costasurpuertovallarta.com
Alaska Airlines is the official sponsor of Gay Pride Puerto Vallarta. Flying Alaska Airlines supports Puerto Vallarta Pride because the airline flies in the performers, models and other participants.
You need a valid U.S. passport to travel to Mexico and no visa is required. Don't forget to keep your exit ticket given to you by the Mexican authorities upon arrival. You will need it to depart the country. Locals say it is best to avoid August and September since both months bring high humidity and rain. Winter months are exceptional.
To find information including websites, addresses and more, go to the official tourism website at www.visitpuertovallarta.com .
Jeff Guaracino is the author of Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.