Travel & Outdoors | November 2008
|Puerto Vallarta's Gay DNA|
Rick Martinez - aboutmag.com
Puerto Vallarta is now the No. 1 gay destination in all Latin America, an epicenter of everything fabulous between Tierra del Fuego and Tijuana.
|Diana's Tours' celebrates their 9th year of gay cruising! Must be doing something right... Visit the website at DianasTours.com|
Gay DNA in Puerto Vallarta? Rigorous unscientific studies of gays have recently discovered a phenomenon that's being called the "Puerto Vallarta Epiphany." This Epiphany occurs most frequently in winter when the gay is on the beach balancing a mango margarita on one knee as the other keeps beat to the Spanish-language remix of "I Will Survive."
"Hey," he realizes. "I could live here!"
What often follows is a trip to the realtor or rental agent's office to learn just how far the Canadian or American dollar will go in this lush Mexican resort town where the boys and increasingly the girls escape to each winter.
And who can blame them? Puerto Vallarta is now the No. 1 gay destination in all Latin America, an epicenter of everything fabulous between Tierra del Fuego and Tijuana. There are gay hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, beaches and even a fledgling Castro Street smack dab in the middle of Old Town.
This is a city with gay in its DNA. Puerto Vallarta was just a sleepy, backwater fishing village in 1963 when director John Huston brought screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor and paramour Richard Burton here to film "Night of the Iguana." The house Burton bought Liz, Casa Kimberly, is now a bed and breakfast and is following in the actress's footsteps by getting a facelift.
True Liz worshipers will want to walk another couple blocks to the Elizabeth Taylor Theater. Tucked away on a small, easily overlooked cobblestone street. The deliciously seedy theater now shows adult and thoroughly heterosexual films. But if the theater has seen better days, the rest of Vallarta is enjoying the fruits of tens of thousands of gays who arrive each year on nonstop flights from Calgary and Chicago, Toronto and Texas.
Most of those tourists visit at least one of the 16 gay bars that are concentrated in Old Town, sometimes called Zona Romantica. They range from funky dives like Frida, where the Canadian expatriate owner knows all his customers' names, to martini bars like Garbo, where the music is live and the lighting dim. Vallarta wouldn't be a truly gay city without discos and two of the most popular are the four-story Paco's Ranch and Maρana, a largely outdoor hotspot centered around a swimming pool.
Sappho lives in Vallarta, too, and her lesbian disciples can be found at Uncommon Grounds Buddha Lounge. The lesbian-owned Apache is a Vallarta institution where the two-for-one Happy Hour attracts lesbians, gay men and even our straight friends.
There is a similar diversity to the gay hotel scene, from the up-up-upscale Casa Cupula to more midrange lodgings like Blue Chairs, Abbey Hotel or Hotel Mercurio. Of course, if you don't want a hotel maid barging in at delicate moments, rent one of the hundreds of villas and homes that dot the waterfront and mountains by steering your Web browser to the rental department at Coldwell Banker La Costa.
For those who like a party with a strong Mexican spice there is Latin Fever, a throbbing, strobe-lit extravaganza held the last four days of November. Men pour into town often wearing little more than a thong from Vancouver and Mexico City, Detroit and Guadalajara. It's when North meets South and exchanging phone numbers afterwards is optional.
New Year's Eve is celebrated in Vallarta with white parties, strolls along the boardwalk and a city encompassing pyrotechnics show. Then just as the hangover becomes a dim memory, the Bears amble into town for Beef Dip, Steve Buczek's annual weeklong celebration of the big, the hairy and the leather-encased at the end of January. Not to be left out, women hold their own bacchanal the last week of February when the city hosts Vallarta Heat.
Vallarta isn't just about drinking and carousing, it's also about hooking up. And the best way to do that is to suspend yourself from a cable and glide over the jungle on a canopy tour. Los Veranos Canopy Tours is one outfit you may want to look up. Another is Diana's Tours, which offers cruises around the jaw-droppingly beautiful Banderas Bay.
Finally, about those beaches: Next month as you're dusting snow off your parka, take a moment to picture yourself on Vallarta's oh-so-gay Playa de Los Muertos. Imagine burrowing your toes into warm sand under a thatched-palm palapa surrounded on three sides by jungle-covered mountains perpetually shrouded in mist. Before you is nothing but blue Pacific and an uninterrupted swim to Kona. (Vallartans love to point out that their city shares a latitude with Hawaii.)
In your fantasy, you may or may not want to include the remixed "I Will Survive."
Martinez is a former U.S. journalist who moved to Puerto Vallarta three years ago to follow his dream of living on the beach in the tropics. When not freelancing, he can be found wandering around Vallarta speaking bad Spanish to patient but confused locals.