Jenny Block in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta offers fabulous food, art, culture and more — all in an LGBTQ-welcoming atmosphere

JENNY BLOCK | Contributing Writer

There is so much to love in Puerto Vallarta, much of it you likely already know if you’re the traveling kind. It’s an LGBTQ paradise in many ways.

First of all, it’s super close. You can leave Dallas or Houston in the morning and be on the beach by lunch.

And it’s beyond gay-friendly. It’s rife with gay bars and beach clubs and drag shows like CC Slaughter, Mr. Flamingo, Blue Chairs, Mantamar, The Palm and Paco’s Ranch.

The food
The dining scene there is impressive, from the best birria tacos you’ll ever have at Tacos de Birria “Chanfay,” a street-side stand with table tucked away just behind it, to the most delectable six-course meal you’re likely to ever encounter at Café des Artistes by Thierry Blouet. And they now even have the most heavenly Vietnamese food, believe it or not, at Let’s Pho PV Vietnamese Kitchen (from Houston chef Charlie Huynh).

It’s well worth getting over the tacky tourist name and visiting Margarita Grill for the best table-side roasted tomato salsa, freshly made tortillas and cochinita pibil to live for. For marvelous seafood served not just ocean-front but literally on the beach, there’s La Palapa, and right next door you’ll find the a fabulous breakfast at El Dorado, also right on the beach.

And that is to name just a very, very few.

The art
If you need a break from the food and sun, there is a major collective of galleries in Puerto Vallarta that goes well beyond the expected. The Art Walk could keep you busy for days with galleries like Colectika, Galería Corsica, Galeríe des Artistes, Browne Galeria, Lavande, Pájaro and Galería Indígena, where on my most recent trip I purchased the most fantastical dragon to add to my collection of alebrijes.
For those who long to wander, the malecón, or boardwalk, is lined with beautiful sculptures. The town is full of tiny shops. And the winding streets will woo you with a vibe that will make you want to stay forever.

The atmosphere
Puerto Vallarta goes so far beyond inclusive that I wish there was a better descriptor for it. I have never felt unsafe there for a moment, which is saying a lot. LGBTQ visitors aren’t welcomed there, we are loved. And that’s an especially nice feeling these days.

Many people rent homes or condos or apartments on the hillside with sweeping views of the ocean and infinity pools that seem to trail off to meet the sea. And there are hotels not far from the beach clubs I mentioned earlier. Some of the former require grabbing a ride share, which is easy to do. But many of the latter are in walking distance to all kinds of action.

But that’s not the only way to enjoy all things Puerto Vallarta.

Resort life
If you want more of a resort feel, Puerto Vallarta has a number of those as well, including the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa. This property is gorgeous, with its stunning open-air lobby offering a fantastic view of the pool and beach that awaits arriving guests. And the staff is fantastic — all of them.

The place has six restaurants: La Estancia, Las Casitas, the Ceviche and Tequila bar, Champions Sports Bar, Mikado and Nosh — none of which will let you down. The food at Las Casitas is leaps and bounds beyond old-school hotel restaurant fare. And you can even get really yummy bites poolside. Do not miss the ahi tostadas!

And, for once, the resort fee actually gets you something at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa — a lot of somethings actually: two welcome drinks, Wi-Fi, two bottles of water, the use of kayaks, paddle boards and bicycles, a tequila tasting for two, basketball and tennis courts and access for two to the spa wellness area, as well as volleyball, ping-pong, Jenga water aerobics and Spanish lessons. They even have giant chess!

The resort pool is stunning with its infinity ledge and swim-up bar. They have roomy cabanas for rent with infinite ocean views. And there is a wealth of chairs with umbrellas and tables all around the pool, as well as right on the beach.

If you can, book yourself a private dining experience in their herb garden or on the lush lawn looking out to the sea. You can feast on their Sensory Menu of grilled octopus with chipotle aioli sauce and cedarwood smoked avocado mousse; tuna sashimi in a crust of five chili peppers and semi bitter chocolate with an air of ponzu sauce and roasted pineapple; crispy pork belly, mashed sweet corn and a smooth passion fruit sauce; slow-cooked short rib with black mole sauce, mashed plantains, and organic garden vegetables; and chocolate sponge cake with red berry sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream.

And, yes, it is even more delicious than it sounds.

They have a turtle rescue program in season and tons of offerings for kids, including a kids’ club, kid’s water area and special activities. Their Ohtli Spa is the perfect retreat and offers a variety of services. And it’s all just over a mile from airport, which means you can go from landing to your room in 30 minutes.

Speaking of which, the rooms and suites are spacious and well-appointed, and the balconies will make you want to linger just a little longer before venturing out to enjoy all the fun. Then when you’re ready to immerse yourself in all things Puerto Vallarta, it’s an easy five-mile trip right into the heart of it all.

I love Puerto Vallarta — the sea, the sights, the people, the food and, most of all, the welcoming nature of this seaside city that will win your heart on your very first visit and undoubtedly call you back again and again.