One week before my winter vacation, I decided to pay a weekend visit to a friend in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. To my extreme pleasure, this brief vacation became my first glimpse into paradise here on earth. “Vallarta” (as nicknamed by the Puerto Vallarta locals) has the Sapphic-friendly components to become the new tropical lesbian get-a-way.
My love affair with Vallarta began as soon as my plane began to taxi into the Puerto Vallarta airport, when my lovely female pilot announced that the current weather in Vallarta was at a low of 88 F. Needless to say, this was music to a New Yorker’s ears—I had left behind the frigid February below-zero weather of NYC.
As soon as I left the airport I jumped right into life as a Vallarta tourist. In true tourist style, I freshened up, changed into my bathing suit and headed for the nearest beach. One of the most popular beaches in PV is “Los Muertos.” The grim translation is “the beach of the dead,” but as I picked a spot on the beach and listened to the melodic waves crash against the white sand, this beach was full of life.
Sun–bathing on Los Muertos kept me occupied for hours, but I noticed some of my fellow tourists getting more active. Vallarta Adventures (from $60, Vallarta-adventures.com) specializes in a plethora of exciting water activities to engage travelers who like getting wet: scuba and snorkeling trips to private sailing, whale watching tours, and swimming with the dolphins. For those of you who prefer to stay dry during the day, have some fun whacking balls across the ole’ putting green; Vallarta is host to vast golf courses. Four Seasons (Punta Mita, Bahia de Banderas, Nay, fshr.com,) is a semi-private, gorgeous 7014-yard, 19-hole course, but with the right credentials you could be putting next to the ocean.
PV food is as delicious as its scenery. Out of the hundreds of tempting options, there were three restaurants in particular that were especially satisfying to this vegetarian, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across an amazing Mexican vegetarian buffet. Planeta Vegetariano ($6, Ituribide) is a banquet-sized, well-stocked, all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet. With five entrees, more than 10 different types of salads, sweet desserts, soda and herbal teas, this grub hit the spot after my intense beach appreciation session.
For an extra special treat, my friend and I dined at El Arrayan ($50, Allende #344, El Centro, elarrayan.com.mx). This is truly one of the most delicious traditional Mexican restaurants in all of Puerto Vallarta. Although this establishment is widely known by PV locals and frequent Vallarta tourists, I was pleased to learn that this terrific restaurant is lesbian- owned! I met Carmen Porras E., the owner of El Arrayan, and she gave me some inside info on her fantastic restaurant. It opened in November 2003 and has quickly become the talk of the town; seven out of her 15 employees are queer, giving the atmosphere a welcoming flair. I asked Carmen what set her restaurant apart from other traditional Mexican restaurants. “We make you feel at home in our relaxed Mexican atmosphere,” she said. It’s the perfect place to enjoy your company and taste some of the most intriguing Mexican dishes you have ever had,” she said. Plus our waitresses are cute.” She was right about those servers, and the decor and food are equally as enjoyable. The house specialty is Duck Carnitas, a crispy yet tender duck served with sautéed garlic potatoes along with Chef Juan’s original pasilla pepper—orange and arrayan fruit sauce. The many vegetarian options include a melt-in-your-mouth three-pepper marinated goat cheese dish. For an authentic Mexican feast with style in Puerto Vallarta, El Arrayan is a must.
After you swim with the dolphins and stuff yourself with food, a beach resort nap will be in order. The Villa del Palmar Flamingos (from $123, Paseo de los Cocoteros No. 750 Sur, Flamingos Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, villagroup.com) is one of the most popular resorts and spas in PV. The majority of the villas and room have a breathtaking view of the ocean. The Flamingo, as it’s often called, has a fantastic restaurant on site as well as designated seats on the beach just for its patrons. Another popular resort is the Paradise Village Resort and Spa ($125, Nuevo Vallarta, si-mexico.com), with over 475 rooms that face the ocean. The rooms are decorated in Mexican tile and the resort has its own night club named The Jungle, which makes it a great choice to rest your head if you like to get a little wild at night.
Speaking of getting wild, we fell in love with a quaint watering hole in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. Apaches, ($10, 439 Olas Atlas) is a lesbian-owned martini and cocktail bar that plays good music, serves generous drink special and has an adorable sidewalk café for perfect cruising and sipping. When they closed for the night, we headed to a fabulous after-hours gay club called Manana ($10, 290 Venustiano Carranzo, clubmanana.com). This club is primarily for the boys, but the women are happily welcomed to its parties, theme nights and daily drag shows. Manana is an outside villa-style space with a beautiful blue pool adjacent to the dance floor. As the night turned to early morning, the techno kept booming and the drag queens kept singing. It was truly a queer tropical treat.
Puerto Vallarta’s sights, sounds and cuisine stay with me. I plan on returning on my next vacation— one visit could not sate my new Mexican infatuation.