Puerto Vallarta is a long-standing Pacific beach resort with its cobbled streets, handful of fine colonial style buildings, extensive beaches, a fine newly extended boardwalk, plentiful marine life, the Sierra Madre Mountains as a backdrop and a vibrant culture – which has become increasingly touristy and gay-friendly over the last few years. Some publications consider Puerto Vallarta to be the number one LGBT destination in Latin America, especially as flights from USA West Coast and Canada are so convenient. The focus of the gay action is, appropriately, Zona Romantica.
The city is home to four beaches, while to the north and south – easily accessible by bus – are a dozen more stretches of varied sand that are more or less developed and deserve some exploration.
Vallarta’s two most popular beaches are Playa Olas Altas (High Waves Beach), which is ironically the best swimming beach and does not generally have big waves but does have a good selection of beachside restaurants.
The other is the delightfully named Playa Los Muertos (Dead Man’s Beach), the city’s biggest beach and LGBT magnet, particularly down the south end, no pun intended.
It’s best to avoid beaches near river mouths as the waters there are frequently muddy and very occasionally either polluted by sewage or visited by crocodiles. Jellyfish are also a hazard from time to time.
A typical oceanside pool and gardens of a mid-to-upmarket Vallarta hotel. Photo by Chris Schoenbaum.
Things to do
There’s a good range of activities from scuba diving, deep sea fishing, dolphin/sea lion encounters and whale watching (mid-December to end of March) to sailing and kite-surfing in Banderas Bay and the usual noisome jet skiing and parasailing. But don’t waste your time looking for good surf here!
On land activities include horse-riding, hiking into the sub-tropical forest of the Sierra Madre mountains, ziplining across canyons or tree tops, rappelling down waterfalls, crossing jungle bridges and splashing through streams and natural river pools.
Puerto Vallarta’s climate
Slightly cooler than baking Acapulco, with average highs in the tourist season from November – May are 84F-86F (29C-30C) and lows about 63F (17C), with almost no rain at this time.
Bahia de Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Marrovi