An absolute dream for water sports enthusiasts, with plenty of opportunities to snorkel, jet ski, kayak, scuba dive, and more
Great getaway spots from tourist traps, even though there's lots of vendor-induced frustration on the popular beaches
Fresh seafood at family-oriented places like Joe Jack's Fish Shack and high-end eateries in nearby hotel restaurants
Lush, tree-covered Sierra Madre Mountains rise over 8,000 feet, encircling the town
Friendly, helpful residents
Many hotels to choose from
Fun nightlife (think mariachi bands and spicy salsa clubs)
Mexican crafts for sale, like traditional shawls (sarapes) and leather goods
Regular boat tours of coral reefs around Los Arcos and Islas Marietas out of Puerto Vallarta
LGBT-friendly; said to be the gay capital of Mexico
Water pollution issues -- poor water visibility around river mouths during summer
Jellyfish problems during the fall season
Vendors on beach
Very busy and ultra-touristy during holiday times
What It's Like
Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico's most picturesque beach destinations, with historic white-washed buildings, and cerulean seas set against a rugged mountain skyline. The massive Banderas Bay alone offers over 25 miles of seashore. With all this ocean comes a variety of water sports, like scuba diving with manta rays off Islas Marietas, boating around Los Arcos' reefs, and parasailing off of the popular Playa Los Muertos.
Other popular daytime activities include shopping -- not just the annoying beach vendor kind -- at Puerto Vallarta's maze-ish markets. One of the best, Rio Cuale Flea Market, has multiple vendors selling wood carvings, handmade jewelry, and glass and beadwork (among many other items). But be prepared to haggle down those prices!
Puerto Vallarta stays awake when the sun dips below the horizon. Steamy salsa clubs light up the streets, and rowdy local bars supply a steady stream of cervesa for the thirsty traveler. Downtown Puerto Vallarta is the most happening and diverse area, and has a few gay clubs (Puerto Vallarta is arguably Mexico's most gay-friendly destination).
Where to Stay
Many visitors stay in the "Hotel Zone" located a few miles south of the airport. This area comes with all the comforts of mass retail chains like WalMart and Sam's Club.
Visitors seeking a romantic getaway may want to stay in the heart of Puerto Vallarta, also called the "Zona Romantica." This neighborhood is quaint and charming, and arguably one of the best parts of Mexico for gay travel.
Those looking for larger, less-populated beaches may wany to travel north of the airport to Nuevo Vallarta, which is quite a distance from most restaurants and shops, but offers some of the best surf in the area. Being that most resorts in this area are all-inclusive, it may be a decent bet for visitors that want to stay put at the hotel during their stay.