Sun-filled Puerto Vallarta is must-visit Mexican destination

Fri. June 1, 2018 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

Sun-filled Puerto Vallarta is must-visit Mexican destination - and not just for the tequila

So many friends have said this sunny Mexican destination is a must-visit and so often I see people check-in here on Facebook – with brilliant, sunset-filled photos, or at any of the countless, picturesque, poolside locations.

After one trip here in late-May, I see the city's (sun)shine, and so much more. Food and drinks are pretty cheap. The locals are friendly. There's a great late-night scene, plenty of during-the-day tourist adventures, and plenty of tequila.

I'll echo others, Puerto Vallarta is a must-visit destination.

Let's start with the tequila. After all, Puerto Vallarta and the town of Tequila both reside in the state of Jalisco, which produces more tequila than any other state. The source of this legendary drink, which dates back to the 16th Century, is not a type of cactus, a common misconception, rather, the blue agave plant, which has long bluish green spiny leaves with sharp points and a large heart from which the juices are extracted and then distilled twice.

By federal law, tequila may only be brewed in a few states, and only from blue agave grown in those areas. Tequila is now one of the three top-selling liquors in the entire world, and there are now more than 100 distilleries making over 600 brands of tequila in Mexico and over 2,000 brand names have been registered.

Check out Viva Tequila, which offers a unique tour, merging some of the most meaningful icons of Mexico: Mariachi, Tequila and Charro. There also is the Viva Tequila Museum and of course a tasting of multiple options: White, Rested and Aged.

I also had four distinct varieties of tequila at Ceviche & Tequila Bar, located inside the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, where it has more than 180 different tequilas. I sampled four, starting with a clear tequila that seemingly did nothing but burn as it went down. By the last, and best, it was a great-tasting, sipping tequila.

Mark your calendars now, as we're rapidly approaching National Tequila Day, which is annually held on July 24, ironically the same day as the Chicago Pride Parade when, no doubt, many shots of tequila will be consumed. The Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort has housemade tequila that must be tried, as this Marriott is one of the few resorts in the world that grows its own agave azul on property and produces its own proprietary brand of tequila.

Speaking of Pride, Vallarta Pride was held in late-May – and boy was it a fiesta. Make that, multiple fiestas. A 7-day festival, to be exact. For the fifth consecutive year, from May 20-27, Puerto Vallarta hosted the largest LGBT Pride event in the region: Vallarta Pride.

The 2018 Vallarta Pride drew an estimated 15,000 participants (70 percent visitors, 30 percent local), and of the visitors, 30 percent were from international destinations. The three major U.S-based airlines (United, American and Delta) all have routes from Chicago O'Hare International Airport to Puerto Vallarta.

The Vallarta Pride Parade was held Thursday night, May 24, and lasted about an hour.

Other Vallarta Pride highlights included the Block Party (an outdoor music festival in the heart of the LGBT community), the entertaining Drag Derby (a fundraiser to repair Pulito Street), the Lorena Herrera concert, and the "100 Reasons to Celebrate" Fair, a festival to celebrate the city of Puerto Vallarta's 100th birthday.

Evening activities often rolled into the morning, as the bars and clubs rocked into the wee hours. Some of the must-visit bars were CC Slaughters, Fiesta Bar, Mr. Flamingo, La Noche, La Margarita (bartender Sajith was the best) and Wet Dreams, among others.

Steve Grand, the popular singer from Chicago, performed multiple shows at Vallarta Pride.

Vallarta Pride also featured a White Party and a Wet & Wild Gay Cruise.

Puerto Vallarta is a great destination of adventure, starting with numerous horseback riding trips. I'd suggest Rancho El Charro, run by Pam Aguirre, who came to Puerto Vallarta about 50 years ago for a visit, and is still there. As she said, "Remembering what it was like to be a tourist in Puerto Vallarta, I have a pretty good idea of what you would want on your horseback ride. I know you don't want to waste your vacation time on a long bus ride to the ranch, but you do want to ride in a beautiful and tranquil area and get a good look at the jungle on a healthy, well-mannered horse."

Rancho El Charro is about 15-minutes from the hotel zone, with multiple tour options.

Other adventures to consider in PV:

-Starboard Yachts, for luxury yacht tours and charters.

-Vallarta Zoo is truly an interactive zoo that allows visitors to be closer to the animals than what is normally allowed.

-Vallarta Botanical Gardens spotlights Mexico's vast diversity of plant species, highlighted by the country's most-visited public collection of orchids. There are more orchids in Jalisco than in any other Mexican state.

-Green Adventure Tours is the outlet to feel, taste and live Mexico. Green Adventure Tours spotlights Mexican culture and natural sites, and supports friendly, rural families in the Sierra Madre, thus visitors can live the authentic countryside lifestyle. Green Adventure Tours is a second-generation company offering private and group tours. The City Tour was super informative and education-filled, with a taste of tequila at the end. Plenty of tastes, come to think of it. Can't wait to return for the company's Taco's Tour and the San Blas and Crocodile Sanctuary Tour.

During my May visit, I stayed at the beautiful Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, which is an easy 10-minute drive from the airport, and located in the exclusive Marina Vallarta, ideal for a peaceful evening stroll past amazing yachts and outdoor cafés.

Sure, this Marriott is a 15-minute drive to the gayborhood, La Zona Romantica, but hey, Uber operates here – and I had some of the best Uber drivers I've had anywhere in the world. Friendly drivers, clean cars were commonplace – not surprising considering PV is an international tourist destination characterized by its hospitality, friendliness and high standards for residents and visitors.

Puerto Vallarta is, understandably so, one of Mexico's leading tourism destinations. Same-sex marriage has been legal in the state of Jalisco for three years and same-sex ceremonies have bene held in local properties for years.

Puerto Vallarta opened an LGBT Center for tourists in 2016.

The Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa has one of the largest, nicest pools I've ever seen, and who doesn't like a bar in the pool, thus you can cool down in the water and enjoy a tasty pina colada for less than $7. This Marriott also features the Ohtli Spa, blending contemporary techniques with ancient healing traditions and treatments. So worth it to reduce your stress – be it for a massage, facial, aromatherapy, or other option.

Puerto Vallarta, of course, also has numerous gay hotels, resorts and vacation rentals, such as:

Alamar Resort

Pinnacle Resorts

Hotel Mercurio

Casa Cupula

Costa Sur Resort & Spa

Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel

Blue Chairs Resort by the Sea Hotel

Torre Malibu Condohotel


Starboard Yachts: www.starboardyachts.mx

Viva Tequila: www.vivatequila.mx/english.html

Vallarta Zoo: www.zoologicodevallarta.com/zooi.html

Rancho El Charro: www.ranchoelcharro.com

Vallarta Botanical Gardens: www.vbgardens.org

Green Adventure Tours: www.puertovallartatours.webs.com

Vallarta Pride: www.vallartapride.com/en/home

Steve Grand: www.stevegrand.com