Escape the cold at these sunny travel destinations (Puerto Vallarta)

Tue. January 1, 2019 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

Travel Trio: Puerto Vallarta

It didn't take long after arriving at the Costa Sur Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta to see that the hotel is gay-friendly. In fact, I had barely exited my Uber after the 35-minute ride from the airport, and hadn't even reached the front-desk when I saw the hand-written poster-sized welcome sign at the hotel entrance.

It said: Bienvenidos A La Boda De Roger & Daniel.

In English, that's: Welcome to Roger & Daniel's Wedding.

Sure enough, on Saturday, Oct. 21, Roger and Daniel were wed, adjacent to the hotel pool.

"We don't make any difference (between LGBT guests and others). We know that (LGBT guests) don't want to be treated any differently, so we just open our doors and welcome them, as we do with all visitors," said Gelsey Fadul, Costa Sur's Sales & Marketing Director, who is quick to point out, rightfully so, that the Costa Sur is "an open, friendly hotel."

Costa Sur has been open for more than 30 years and is one of the first hotels in PV built on the South Shore, with more than 200 suites overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches on the bay and only seven minutes or so to downtown.

Costa Sur hosts about 20 same-sex weddings annually, dating back to 2014.

"Vallarta is very gay-friendly, but not all (local) hotels are, which is a pity," Fadul said. "Costa Sur is a safe haven, where (LGBT) can hang out with their families, with friends. In fact, we attract many (same-sex) couples who are not necessarily too interested in hanging out in the (busy) downtown area (which attracts many LGBT)."

The Romantic Zone of PV, which features the popular gay bars, hotels, restaurants and more, is an easy 10-minute Uber away from Costa Sur, and the safe Uber ride costs about $3 USD, and rarely takes more than five minutes for the driver to arrive. There also is bus service which stops directly in front of the Costa Sur, and it costs less than $1 USD to the Romantic Zone.

Costa Sur, in conjunction with the Mexico Tourism Board, is a certified LGBT-friendly establishment – and there is a sign proclaiming so at the front-desk. "This means a lot," Fadul said.

"At first, we weren't sure how our staff was going to react (to the certification), but the philosophy of this hotel really gets through – that everyone is warm and welcoming; we treat everyone with respect and kindness."

Fadul said the same-sex weddings at Costa Sur are pretty even, split between gay and lesbian couples. She said that couples have come to Costa Sur from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. to tie the knot, with the majority being Mexican residents."

Costa Sur is one of the few local hotels that does not charge an all-inclusive rate, thus visitors have the option to try local eateries, as daily rates do now include meals. Costa Sur is a member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), the world's leading network of LGBTQ-welcoming tourism businesses.

All Costa Sur rooms are ocean-facing, another rarity in PV.

One of my favorite restaurants during my fall visit was the new Fajita Republic Tropical Grill.

Other favorite local restaurants: La Palapa, Rivercafe, De Cantaro, El Andariego, Tuna Azul, Gaby's Coco's Kitchen, Frida's Kitchen, Daiquiri Dick's and Porto Bello, among others.

Puerto Vallarta also has many popular gay bars, such as CC Slaughter, Mr. Flamingo, La Noche, and others. On my recent trip, I discovered La Cantina, a super-chill bar with a great staff (specifically Kevin, Freddy and Cristian) and beers for about $1 USD.

Puerto Vallarta is great for casually walking along its boardwalk, but there is more to do as well. Such as, a visit to Vallarta Botanical Gardens, which spans 20 acres of wild beauty. Or, head over to Boana's Horseback Ride, for a leisurely ride up the hillside among the tropical forest and river. Another option is, Estigo for ATV adventures.

Another adventure to consider, of the culinary kind, is Vallarta Eats Food Tours, which skips the traditional tourist restaurants for those off-the-beaten-path eateries.

Puerto Vallarta also has numerous galleries for the arts person in all of us. Be sure to check out Galeria Pacifico, which showcases local painters.

Puerto Vallarta is now in its busy season, as the temperature remains in the 80s, which Chicagoans endure nothing close to these days, with snow ready to hit the Windy City any day for the next four months. But United Airlines has non-stop flights – and you can be on the beach about five hours after leaving O'Hare International Airport.

For beach-lovers, be sure to check out the sandy offering in Sayulita, a small village about 25 miles north of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Sayulita is called by the Mexican government a 'Magical Town' for its colorful ambience and richness and convergence of cultures. Must visit!

It took me long to discover all that PV has to offer. In fact, my first visit here was this past spring. Now I'm hooked, and ready to go back – soon! So much to see, so much to do, so much sun!

Forget the Chicago cold and snow, starting January 1, 2019, Ross Forman brings readers to three sunny travel destinations in his On the GO column. Here's the schedule: Tuesday, Jan. 1 (Puerto Vallarta); Wednesday, Jan. 2 (Jamaica); Thursday, Jan. 3 (Key West).