Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is a bargain LGBT winter escape holiday adventure. Entrees are seven dollars, and it's four dollars for wine. Plus, it is arguably the most gay-friendly city in North America. Think Boystown combined with the French Quarter in New Orleans: cobblestone streets, a great bar area and wonderful beaches.
Getting there: Fares are cheap. I paid $200 each way from Indy. I took American on the way down and Southwest back. Most friends I travelled with came on Alaska Airlines.
Stay: The condos at 50 Almendro are very nice ( pvrpv.com ). La Terraza Inn is also cute in the Amapas neighborhood. Amapas is in the Old Town neighborhood also called the Zona Romantica. You will want to stay in this charming area which is also where the action is. The chain hotels are far away and not walkable.
Eat: Barra Light has great salads and fresh juices. El Brujo has local fare like garlic shrimp. Marisma has excellent fish tacos. No Way Jose has good enchiladas. The Fajita Republic is another must. Enjoy lunch on the baech at Cuates and Cuetes.
Drink: The rooftop bar at Las Noches is great as is the nearby Mr. Flamingo. Swedes has cosmos for 30 pesos every Wednesday.
Many of the bars are on Cardenas Street which is very handy. The Mercurio Hotel bar has a nice two-for-one happy hour around the pool.
Do: The Vallarta Botanical Garden is a must. Just 45 minutes by city bus south of town, it also has a great tree house themed gourmet restaurant. Take the free tour at 1 p.m. The Garden has rich LGBT Chicago roots and a new bridge in the gardens was just built thanks to donations from a Chicago couple. The ride down on the city bus, however, is not for the faint of heart.
Other fun ideas:
Hang out in the Los Muertos Beach. The chairs and cabanas are free but you must buy lunch or a drink.
Take in the Farmers Market on Saturday.
Walk through the shops at the Mercado.
Walk up Cardenas Street and the River Walk area. This is where you will find the locals with cute shops and cafes.
Enjoy the sunset and show at The Blue Chairs Resort roof top bar.
Work out at The Fit Club.
Catch a show at Incanto including Thirsty Burlington as Cher.
It is hard to find a bank-related ATM here and you will need cash since most places do not take credit cards.
Although PV is safe as far as crime goes, be cautious and on guard. I found stairs without rails, mismatched steps, hanging utility wires and doors that lock you in your condo. Also, the cobblestone streets and narrow sidewalks can make one trip-prone. In short, you are in a foreign country with different standards and customs.
The city buses are cheap but some resemble school buses in poor condition; the CTA never looked so good.
Take the Federal cab to Old Town from the Airport for around $23 or walk over the bridge and grab the city bus. You can also find taxis there with lower but negotiable fares.
You can eat the local food. Most folks drink bottled water, though.
Everyone in the tourist areas speaks some English, although visitors can try and practice Spanish.
There are almost 20 pesos to the dollar. You get a better price when you pay in pesos.
Overall, you can't beat Puerto Vallarta for a bargain winter escape. But it is more of an adventure than Florida or Palm Springs. And more fun too.
For more information, visit GayGuideVallarta.com or gayPV.com .
Bill Malcolm resides in Indianapolis. His syndicated travel column has appeared in Indy, Chicago, and Detroit. He receives no compensation of any kind from places visited or reviewed. Journalism is his passion and his hobby.