Liz leaves legacy in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a charming, quaint Mexican beach resort city located along the Pacific coast in the Banderas Bay area and situated in the state of Jalisco. PVR, as it’s most commonly known, was once a small but thriving fishing village that has flourished over the years to become one of the most popular LGBT vacation destinations.
In fact, many surveys show PVR to be one of the top 10 LGBT sun destinations in the world.
That status, and PVR tourism in general, certainly received a boost when director John Huston chose the destination as the location to shoot “Night of the Iguana,” the classic Oscar award winning 1964 Richard Burton–Ava Gardner film. Though she didn’t appear in the film, Elizabeth Taylor, who is now adored by the gay community for, among other things, her AIDS activism, accompanied her soon-to-be husband, Burton, while he filmed.
As such, all things Liz continue to be popular in PVR, including the now-closed Iguana movie set, which attracts fans to take photos and pay homage to the icon, and the couple’s former casitas, known as Casa Kimberley, which overlooks Banderas Bay. The boutique hotel and restaurant was recently renovated and reopened with nine elegantly appointed suites, original oblong and azure-tiled pool, boutique spa, an open air fine dining restaurant, Tequila bar, and, naturally, a touch of Hollywood glamour. (www.casakimberley.com)
I recall my first visit to PVR in 1983 when the main buzz was to visit the set and soak up the sun at Mismaloya Beach. But after a recent trip, I was pleasantly surprised at how much the LGBT scene has grown since those days. Based on my visit, here are a few present-day tips:
Where to stay
I strongly recommend staying in the Old Town where most gay-operated, owned and straight-friendly accommodation is located. It’s also within walking distance to Los Muertos gay beach, and a host of restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs.
• Garlands del Rio – This luxury property overlooking the Rio Cuale is located in the Old Town and within walking distance of the gay village, beach, and a wide selection of dining options. Don’t let the black garage-type entrance doors fool you, it’s a true gem! (www.garlandsdelrio.com) Note: Sister luxury property Riviera del Rio offers exquisite accommodation and amenities. (www.rivieradelrio.com)
• Casa Cupula – A gorgeous boutique property with 22 luxury rooms located in the exclusive Amapas neighborhood and close to the gay beach, bars/nightclubs, and restaurants in the “Zona Romantica.” (www.casacupula.com)
• Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa – This elegant property has 83 rooms, including oceanfront suites. It’s located where the entrance to Old Town begins – approximately a 30-minute walk to the gay beach, bars
and Zona Romantica. The optional all-inclusive ocean-front property offers superior service and amenities. (www.premiereonline.com.mx). Note: Villa’s adjacent sister property, Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Spa is an all inclusive hotel and great option for families. (www.hotelbuenaventura.com.mx)
• Sapphire Ocean Club – Located on Los Muertos gay beach, this chic property is elegantly appointed and offers limited oceanfront accommodation and excellent outdoor dining. (www.sapphire.mx)
Wining, dining & a night cap
• Dining: Maia Restaurant – simply delicious and fun décor; No Way Jose – live music and authentic; Boccon di Vino – a charming Italian restaurant;
Joe Jack’s Fish Shack – great tacos and margaritas; Daquiri Dick’s – a great high-end beach restaurant.
• Vallarta Food Tours – Three-hour food tasting and walking tours offer a local’s view into Mexican culture through its delicious and intricate cuisine, rich history and stunning architecture. Suitable for all age groups and fitness levels. Their motto is “become a local in three hours!” (www.vallartafoodtours.com)
• A special shout-out to Fredy’s Tucan, the best breakfast restaurant in PVR!
• Bars & Nightclubs: La Margarita, La Noche and Paco’s Ranch…
News & events
• On Jan. 26, in a unanimous 11-0 ruling, the Mexican Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in the state of Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara are located.
• Pride Vallarta – May 16- 29, 2016.
For a complete list of restaurants, bars & clubs, accommodation, maps and local tour information, visit www.gayguidevallarta.com .
[Armando Mendonça is a tourism entrepreneur, philanthropist supporting HIV/AIDS charities and LGBT travel expert. He can be reached at: [email protected] .]