To the north of Banderas Bay, there is a micro-destination that stands out for its bohemian atmosphere: San Pancho, Nayarit, a picturesque village whose charm lies in its streets, friendly people, watersports, sense of belonging, pet-friendly environment and diverse cultural activities, which make it unique and striking to visit.
In San Pancho, it is most common to visit Av. Tercer Mundo and/or its surroundings, where most of the activity takes place. In this small town it is easy to appreciate the community’s sense of belonging, as well as its culture and activism, through the festivals and exhibitions held continually. You will also discover environmental conservation groups dedicated to birds, sea turtles, jaguars and other species, which offer both visitors and residents the opportunity to get involved in volunteer activities.
San Pancho’s beach is so wide and peaceful that it is available for you to enjoy practically in its entirety. Although it is more suitable for watersports than for swimming, it has several restaurants with public facilities.
San Pancho’s culinary offering matches the ambiance of this Riviera Nayarit micro-destination. Here, there are many basic restaurants, plus several others that offer sophisticated or organic menus.
San Pancho offers an interesting selection of shops that sell handicrafts from all over Mexico. And local artists have opened galleries where jewelry designers exhibit their creations and painters sell their original pieces. On the other hand, some Huichols have established themselves on the malecón, offering their delicate and meticulous works of art.
Although San Pancho’s nightlife is quiet, there is never a shortage of activities in this micro-destination. Before night falls, you can take a walk along its beaches and then enjoy a good dinner in some restaurant. And listening to live music performed by local bands in a bar or viewing a photo exhibit is a must in this small town.
Huichol crafts are one of the most representative of Mexican culture, and Vallarta · Nayarit is the cradle of these pieces characterized by vibrant colors and unique shapes to convey part of the cosmogony of the Wixárika people, whose members have been responsible for continuing this ancestral legacy.
Throughout our destination, these works can be found in specialized galleries and craft markets, where they are offered in different shapes and sizes. Furthermore, due to their versatility, they have served as a source of inspiration for the local fashion industry and the interior design of some prestigious resorts in our bay.
Each piece of Huichol art is painstakingly crafted with materials that include wax and beads, as well as yarn in eye-catching shades, which are used to create sacred animals and natural elements that together convey the stories and myths of this indigenous community.
The cultural offering of both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit is enriched by preserving and promoting the fascinating Huichol art, an ancient tradition that continues today.
Just two hours south of Puerto Vallarta is Mayto Beach, a 11 kilometers-beach of virgin sand where, in addition to resting, surfing and enjoying beautiful sunsets; you can learn about marine life, since it is the headquarters of the Campamento de Protección a la Tortuga Marina (Marine Turtle Protection Camp), which takes care and protects this beautiful species.
The purpose of this camp is to spread environmental education and conservation through its Mayto Beach reception and stay program, where students groups, social service students and national and international volunteers can participate in the preservation of the nesting habitat of the different species of sea turtles arriving there.
In addition, in Mayto Beach you can camping, practicing beach sports, lighting a bonfire in the moonlight and/or escaping by kayak to discover the mangrove area, where you can observe migratory birds and various species of fish, as well as other animals.
This exotic beach offers you fun and learning options, so do not miss the opportunity to visit it during your stay in Vallarta · Nayarit.
One of the distinctive features of this area of the Mexican Pacific is the ease with which you can find deep-sea fishing species during most of the year. This has led to both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit being recognized worldwide as an excellent destination to practice this exciting activity, either as a hobby or as a sport.
There are specific areas inside and/or outside spectacular Banderas Bay where it is more likely to find certain species, so various boats offer trips to these places with everything you need to enjoy this incredible experience.
In Puerto Vallarta, rest and fun are part of the itinerary in the beach clubs and nightly entertainment that the destination has.
Puerto Vallarta has earned the title of the most friendly city in the world thanks to its great spirit of welcome, warmth and inclusion towards its visitors, which is why the LGBT+ community has consolidated this tourist destination as their favorite to spend an incredible vacation. Full of great emotions, rest and relaxation, in a 100% Gay friendly place.
The great diversity of attractions focused on satisfying the needs and demands of the community, together with the natural beauty of Puerto Vallarta, are the perfect set to live an unforgettable trip in the company of friends or partner.
And it is that the positioning of Puerto Vallarta as an LGBT+ destination is reflected in the Romantic Zone of the city or “gayborhood” trendy place that integrates more than 70 establishments such as hotels, restaurant, theaters, cabarets, art galleries, bars, boutiques, barber shops, spa, cafes, among other, in addiction to its wonderful beaches, all designed to satisfy all your expectations and enjoy a sophisticated and warm vacation.
Gay Friendly Stay
For the LGBT+ traveler to pamper themselves during their stay in the destination and find themselves in an environment of inclusion and great hospitality, there is an extensive offer, such as community-oriented hotels: Almar Resort Luxury All Suites and Spa, Blue Chairs by the Sea, Hotel Mercurio, Casa Cúpula, Piñata Guest House and Jet’s Gay Hostel, as well as Gay Friendly rest sites such as: Hyatt Ziva, Grand Miramar All Luxury Suites & Residences, Costa Sur Resort & Spa, The Hacienda at Hilton Puerto Vallarta, Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, Casa Velas, Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta, among others.
After performing various activities that will take them to the extreme, it is a good time to enjoy spaces full of tranquility and rest in the gay friendly beaches clubs, where in addiction to marveling at the impressive nature with which Puerto Vallarta is surrounded, you will be able to taste exquisite and diverse gastronomic options, accompanied by innovate typical regional drinks, including raicilla, which has a Jalisco Designation of Origin.
Some of the sophisticated and exclusive places to live this experience are Sapphire Ocean Club & Suites, Mantamar Beach Club Bar & Sushi, Blue Chairs Resort by the Sea Puerto Vallarta and The Green Chairs, located in the Romantic Zone of the destination, in addition to other gay friendly such as El Dorado Restaurant, La Palapa Restaurant and Taú Beach Club, as well as other restaurants such as: Palmar Seafood Restaurant & Grill Garage, The Swedes Bar & Bistro, Margarita Grill, iK Mixology Bar & Cuisine, Mar y Vino and Mole de Jovita Vallarta, to continue enjoying the most representative dishes of the city.
Within the same tourist strip of “gayborhood” is located one of the most representative beaches of the destination, Playa los Muertos, which in addition to being ideal space for a walk to reach its impressive pier, which is an important icon of Puerto Vallarta is also on of the most recognized beaches for its inclusion with the gay community that has earned it great international recognition.
Puerto Vallarta has received multiple awards from organization and the media worldwide for being a gay-friendly, hospitable and inclusive destination, becoming a reference for tourism for the LGBT+ community, so they are welcomed during this 2021 with all the sanitary measures that are strictly applied for the care of travelers. Currently, the green pearl of the Mexican Pacific continues to take firm steps in the fight against Covid-19, since, together with the implementation of vaccines to adult over 60 years of age, which represent more than 10% of the population at risk.
Many Americans are heading south of the border this year to sunny Mexico. Those who wish to play on the beach and sun may be headed to lovely Puerto Vallarta. If you are looking for things to do in Puerto Vallarta during your upcoming vacation, you are all set. So it doesn’t matter if you want to lie on the beach, ride an ATV, or party all night, you will have plenty to do at this magnificent Mexican city.
Things to Do In Puerto Vallarta
· Relaxing Things to Do ·
Puerto Vallarta Pier and Playa de Los Muertos Beach
This pier and the beach are the place to go in Puerto Vallarta for relaxing and fun. On the pier, you can stroll around, drink, dine and shop. This popular tourist spot is also the place where you can charter a boat, go snorkeling or diving, plus many other activities. Before or after the pier you can head over to the adjacent Playa de Los Muertos Beach. This beautiful beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling.
Feel the Love in Zona Romántica
Zona Romántica is also known as Old Vallarta or Old Town and is a must see spot in Puerto Vallarta. Couples will not help but feel romantic when walking the narrow cobblestone streets lined with buildings with colorful facades. This neighborhood has the laid back feel of a beach village, but with incredible restaurants and nightlife.
In this neighborhood, tourists can also browse the shops for handicrafts, pottery and folk art at any of the area’s art galleries or grab some keepsakes to take home from one of the many shops. Foodies may want to take a walking food tour to sample the best local food. The Old Town Farmer’s Market is a great place for tourists and locals to purchase fresh local produce. Tourists can also take many other landmark and site seeing walking tours in this area.
As far as clubbing and bar hopping, Zona Romántica has many bars and nightclubs to celebrate your evenings. The city comes alive at night, where some of the city’s best restaurants and nightclubs are located. The Olas Atlas area is where most of the gay bars, restaurants and beaches are concentrated.
Adventure Travel Options for Puerto Vallarta
There are many adventure options in Puerto Vallarta on land and on the water.
Have an adventure on the beautiful landscape of Puerto Vallarta. On the land you can do ziplining, ATV mountain adventures, motorcycle tours, skydiving, hiking and biking. There are biking tours that also include mural art tours along the route. Also available are many ecotourism and nature excursions including bird watching, sea turtle protection, botanical gardens and the zoo.
If you enjoy spending time in and around the water, Puerto Vallarta has it all. Activities in the water include whale watching tours, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, parasailing and boat charters. You can also take a trip to explore the Marietas Islands, which is a fantastic place for all water sports and activities.
Historical Sites and Museums
Puerto Vallarta has many museums for visitors to discover the history and culture of the area. Some museums are historical like the Naval Museum, the Manuel Lepe house, and Galería Pacifico. While other museums are a little unusual such as the Museo de Tequila, and the ChocoMuseo. The Puerto Vallarta Art Walk is a great way to see awesome local artwork and the culture of several small neighborhoods at the same time.
Puerto Vallarta has so many iconic landmarks that it would be impossible to name all of them. Many you will come across while you explore the city. Take a leisurely walk around Central Histórico and you will see Plaza de Armas, the cathedral, and the culture of the El Centro neighborhood. See one of the many iconic statues in the city such as the Caballito, which depicts a boy riding on a giant seahorse while he waves to everyone.
Now is the time to book that Mexican vacation and start all the wonderful things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
Returning to Puerto Vallarta was like culture shock for me. Which is shocking in itself, since I’ve been to Mexico well over 200 times. But for the bulk of the past year, this New Yorker, like millions of other Americans, (mostly) stayed home. It had been two years since I had been in Puerto Vallarta. And for me, that’s quite a long time to be away from a city that I have considered to be a second home for more than seven years.
It’s a story that is not unique to me: The pandemic messed up a lot of peoples’ plans. And while travel-lovers and professionals clashed on the ethics of travel, tourist destinations in Mexico worked round the clock to be able to provide a safe (yet still fun) experience to those who were willing to make the journey south of the border. There are no stimulus checks in Mexico, so for thousands of families across the country, tourism equals survival. And that is especially true for someplace as tourism-dependent as Puerto Vallarta.
For the better part of a year, I wasn’t going to promote travel. But a personal matter came up in Puerto Vallarta, and so I found myself back on its familiar beaches, unsure, and wary, of what I was going to find. What I found was a city that has reawakened with a vengeance and is as “back to normal” as one can expect while we’re still battling a global pandemic.
In 2019 Puerto Vallarta welcomed more than 5 million visitors. But in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that number was slashed by nearly 50% arrivals were just over 2.5 million. But as the vaccine rollout continues in the U.S. and more and more Americans are feeling comfortable traveling, Puerto Vallarta seems to be reaping the benefits. Between Jan. 1 and March 30, Puerto Vallarta welcomed 652,900 arrivals, which shows a recovery of 44.9% versus the previous year.
Still, I had the horror stories in my head from the social media scene all around Puerto Vallarta of Americans skirting Covid-19 rules and regulations and finding ways to gather in groups, no matter the restrictions that the destination had put in place.
We were coming into a slightly different situation this time around. We landed a few days after Easter, when the hordes of crowds from Holy Week (known as Samana Santa in Mexico) and spring break had mostly decamped. For a few short days, the state of Jalisco had rolled into the green traffic light phase but quickly pulled back to yellow after the crowds left the city in anticipation of a rising number of cases.
Yellow means that hotels can operate at 66% of their capacity. Pools, beach clubs, spas, gyms, and restaurants are open to guests. Public beaches are open, as are museums, galleries, theaters, cinemas, bars, and clubs. Restaurants operate with the allotted capacity until midnight. Bars and clubs are open until 3 a.m. This makes Puerto Vallarta one of the most open tourist destinations in Mexico. In places like Cancun and Los Cabos, nightlife still remains relatively shut down.
Even so, the energy and excitement downtown was palpable the clamor of busy restaurants spills from open windows, where it blends with the chatter from those dining at sidewalk tables. Music from the bars and nightclubs fills the air until the early hours of the morning. Beach clubs are thriving with the energy of live music. We were staying in a hotel on the malecon, where the commotion didn’t quiet down until well after 2 in the morning.
Out on the Bay of Banderas, the water always seemed to be churning with tour boats and sightseeing cruises some, it appeared, running at more than the mandated two-thirds capacity. If not for the masks on hotel employees and restaurant workers and the omnipresence of hand sanitizer and thermometers at most bars and restaurants, you might think Covid-19 didn’t even exist. The vibe feels — dare I say it — normal.
With that mindset, Puerto Vallarta has its sights firmly set on the summer season. If my initial impression is that things are back in action, I got the feeling that we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Before the pandemic, Puerto Vallarta was in a constant state of investment and construction, with shopping centers, hotels and restaurants going up all across the city. That has not stopped. The sounds of construction are in the air, and money is being poured into revitalizing the infrastructure, as well. Streets are temporarily closed all around the city for repairs and renovations. And you’ll find the skeletons of newbuild hotels and condos from the north end of the bay all the way to the southern outskirts.
Visitors to Puerto Vallarta will now see additions to several hotels and signs of many more to come. The Sunset Plaza Hotel, for example, added 100 guestrooms and suites in December. The Hotel Mousai will debut a 72-room South Tower in November, which includes new dining, a spa and outdoor wellness amenities. Almar Resort Luxury LGBT Beach Front Experience has a new, 50-room Mantamar Tower; guests can book into 16 of those new rooms and suites right now.
And air service is on its way back. With new flights from American Airlines, Southwest, Frontier Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and United, Puerto Vallarta is not only bringing back old hubs but adding new ones.
“The new airport terminal in Puerto Vallarta is set to be completed in 2024 as one of the first to be designed under the concept of net-zero and environmental sustainability,” said Luis Villasenor, director general of Puerto Vallarta Tourism. “This effectively integrates the sustainable management of the environment, zero carbon footprint, recycling capacity and optimal use of water, among other exciting standards.”
Perhaps most exciting for the destination is Royal Caribbean International’s return to Mexico’s west coast in November, with its Navigator of the Seas homeporting up the coast in Los Angeles. The line, which plans seven-night sailings that will stop in Puerto Vallarta, has been out of the market for a decade.
Residents have begun to get vaccinated, as well. The rollout of the vaccine began in February for residents over age 60. The second dose for seniors was carried out the first week of April, with just more than 41,000 doses administered.
Development, demand and getting back to business is all great. But does Puerto Vallarta actually feel safe?
From my perspective I’ve never felt safer than I did while in the hotels. I stayed in three during my three weeks there, and each one showed just how much effort they had put into adhering to safety standards and protocols. From social distancing and capacity restrictions to sanitizing and mask-wearing, the hotels and resorts in Puerto Vallarta made it very comfortable for those who are anxiously dipping toes back into the travel pool.
The street scenes, however, are quite different. While Uber drivers I encountered were all wearing masks, the same wasn’t always true for city taxis. And I found shops in the city to be inconsistent with their protocols. While there are many that will do temperature screenings before entering, in others you will be hard-pressed to find even an employee in a mask.
Crowds do gather. Bars are open, and the parties do go on. A quick stroll down the cobblestone streets of the Zona Romantica show bars with so many people that the crowds spill out onto the street. That was always one of my favorite parts about Puerto Vallarta before the pandemic. Nowadays, if I wasn’t staying in a hotel, I was ordering Uber Eats to enjoy in the solitude of my Airbnb. But it needs to be mentioned that I write this as someone who barely left home in 2020 and am not yet vaccinated I left the U.S. back in March before my age group was eligible for the vaccine.
Comfort level is in the eye of the beholder. But I will say that it is entirely possible to visit and enjoy Puerto Vallarta while staying safe and socially distanced, hitting the beach or the hotel pool and dining al fresco. Despite my reservations about traveling during a pandemic, in the end it felt pretty darn good to be “home,” and I am looking forward to returning soon fully vaccinated, of course.
A low-cost air carrier has two new flight plans from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and in both directions, you’ll find a beach. Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines is jetting off on new nonstop flights from DFW to Santa Ana, California and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Direct flights from DFW to John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana launched May 6. The service runs twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays with fares starting at a low, low $49.
Santa Ana — in the O.C. — is about an hour south of Los Angeles. Technically, it’s not right on the beach, but it’s less than 20 minutes to Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Corona del Mar (del Mar meaning, “of the sea.” Meaning: beach.)
Direct flights are also headed from DFW to Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR) in sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Those flights begin May 28, running twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays. One-way fares start at $149.
Puerto Vallarta is one of DFW travelers’ favorite beach destinations, of course. Sun Country is the second low-cost airline this spring to announce new direct flights to PVR; Spirit Airlines begins the route on July 1.
The new DFW flights are part of a major Sun Country expansion of 16 new nonstop routes this year.
“We are excited to extend our network and offer people access to even more low-cost vacation options, when they are ready to travel again,” says Sun Country Airlines CEO Jude Bricker in a release. “The past year has been a challenge for the travel industry but with increased access to COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, we’re starting to see that turnaround.”
Elsewhere in Texas, Sun Country is launching direct flights from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Cancun International Airport (CUN) on May 27. Flights are twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays, with one-way fares starting at $129.
On September 2, Sun Country will fly direct from the Bush in Houston to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS). They’ll operate twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays, with one-way fares starting at $59.
The airline is also beginning service from San Antonio International Airport to Cancun International Airport, beginning May 28. Service runs twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays with fares starting at $129.
For: Your own private Wellness Suite—a two-level, king-bed room replete with an immersion pool and workout equipment. Your stay includes one massage and one hydrotherapy circuit, nutrition and fitness consultations, and a concierge. Bonus perk: Táu Beach Club offers views of Banderas Bay and is a prime venue for a sushi lunch or sunset dinner.
For: Body treatments inspired by the region, like a green coffee or black mud body wrap. Our suggestion: Schedule an outdoor sunset massage where your Zen moment will be accompanied by tiki torches and the soothing sounds of waves. Bonus perk: New Balance–designed custom running maps so your jog will be both scenic and productive.
For: Access to Puerto Vallarta’s largest spa—22,000 square feet of ahh-inducement. Among the unique treatments at the on-site Ohtli Spa is the Janzu Rebirth Therapy, during which a therapist leads you through a series of movements in warm water to cultivate a meditative state. Bonus perk: Find your favorite tequila at Ceviche & Tequila Bar; there are more than 180 varieties, though we suggest you don’t try all of them at once.
For: Daily yoga sessions, chef-prepared vegetarian meals and fruit plates, and a wide variety of unique body-calming treatments, from hot onion compresses to steam baths, at a boutique hotel and naturopathic wellness center that’s been around for more than 70 years. Bonus perk: The beachfront villas are bright and airy, with vaulted palapa ceilings that let the ocean breeze sweep in.
For: A private beach (about 12 miles south of PV and accessible only by boat) that sets the scene for a holistic wellness retreat. The property has six open-air yoga studios, a sweat lodge, oceanfront spa, and menus chock-full of local, organic ingredients. Bonus perk: Sign up for a cooking class with Xinalani’s chef, a jungle hike, or a swim with dolphins.
Vallarta · Nayarit is home to a great diversity of restaurants that offer everything from the typical dishes of Mexican cuisine, to specialties from some of the best cuisines in the world. The local ingredients, as well as the wealth of fish and seafood from our coast, together with the skills of the chefs, result in exquisite creations that delight residents and visitors alike.
Most of the haute cuisine restaurants in Banderas Bay offer spectacular locations, either on the beach or in the city with patios full of native vegetation and exceptionally designed spaces, as well as exclusive settings that allow an impressive view of the sea. Each of them provides a sensory experience through their decoration, background music, entertainment and, of course, exquisite dishes and appealing drinks.
International culinary techniques, in combination with some of Mexican gastronomy’s most representative ingredients, as well as careful preparation and tantalizing decoration that may include small flowers, make each dish an exquisite work of art that, in addition to being photogenic, pampers the palates of the most demanding diners.
Our privileged destination offers a growing list of restaurants that have been recognized with important awards such as the Four and Five Diamonds granted by the distinguished international institution AAA, which is dedicated to evaluating the different criteria that lead to excellence in service to determine which establishments are the best in Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.