Our LA-based (Wo)ManAboutWorld Global Correspondent Leyla Farah travels frequently. She recently visited Puerto Vallarta and wanted you to know that despite reports to the contrary, this Mexican port city is still a fabulous place to visit. You just have to know where the new hotspots are.
We know, we know. Puerto Vallarta, or PV as it’s affectionately known, has been done. The beaches, the boardwalk, the sculptures, the church, the bars. Been there, done that. PV has been a gay-friendly destination for so long that most of us checked it off of our to-do list long, long ago. But PV just might be worth a second look if you’re willing to approach it from a new angle.
The swanky district of Conchas Chinas (literally “Chinese Shells” — named for a type of sea shell found only on the local beaches) is just south of the PV most people know. Locals refer to the area as “The Hills” (as in “The Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta”). Just a 20 minute cab ride from the city center, it’s worlds away from the congestion, pollution, aggressive vendors and drunk tourists that can give PV a bad name.
Upscale resorts favored by well-heeled Mexican travelers (you won’t find many western hotel chains here, but that’s not a bad thing), gated communities and private villas dot the cliff and mountain sides and offer commanding views. Many private homes in the area are available to rent and come equipped with on-site staff including butlers, cooks, drivers and housekeepers. Our favorite? Casa La Vista, a multi-story marvel built over the ocean where each Architectural Digest-worthy room opens directly onto its 270* view of the famous Los Arcos rock formation and the lovely Mismaloya cove.
Even further off the beaten path is Las Carmelitas (no official address and no website – but your cab driver will know where it is) – an open air, entirely authentic restaurant (complete with chickens and burros wandering the property) perched on the very top of the highest peak in the area. Get there about a half hour before sunset so you can take in the spectacular view of the Jalisco coastline over a margarita, and be sure to make a reservation so you can get past the guard at the bottom of the hill without having to pay the entrance fee. Brace yourself for a bumpy ride up a very steep dirt road (tip your cab driver well and ask if he’ll come back and get you) and if you forget to bring a jacket (it gets cold at that elevation after the sun goes down) ask your waiter for a traditional serape to wrap around your shoulders.
Of course, who says you have to eat Mexican food while you’re in Mexico? Locals flock to La Bodeguita del Medio (Paseo Díaz Ordaz 858, Centro, 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico),a fantastic Cuban restaurant with graffiti on the walls, sizzling live Cuban music, a spectacular view of the Malecon (boardwalk), and mojitos that will get you on the dance floor. And if you decide to party at one of PV’s many gay bars, don’t miss the private rooftop at La Noche (Lázaro Cárdenas 257, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico).
With hidden treasures like these, a trip to PV can feel like a brand new adventure even if you’ve been there many, many times before. Enjoy!