With only an extra-long weekend to spend in Puerto Vallarta , gay travelers will only scratch the surface of everything this enchanting town has to offer. When you arrive, make sure to pick up a copy of the excellent Gay Guide Vallarta or visit their website (www.gayguidevallarta.com ) for a wealth of information on Puerto Vallarta’s many gay-friendly establishments and events. Also recommended is www.discoveryvallarta.com , one of the city’s best websites for gay travelers. You might also consider staying in the Zona Romántica, a pleasant, lively area south of the Río Cuale in downtown Puerto Vallarta where most of the gay bars and some popular gay-friendly accommodations are located.
Instead of immediately rushing headlong into everything Puerto Vallarta has to offer, the first day of your vacation is ideal for leaving your daily grind behind by relaxing and getting into a different rhythm.
Afternoon: Most flights arrive in the early afternoon; check into your hotel or villa, duff your travel clothes, and change into something comfortable. Grab a towel, walk out the door, and head somewhere toward the water. Find a free palapa somewhere in the general area of the famous blue chairs at Playa los Muertos , the stretch of sand most popular with the gay community.
When you’re hungry, get something to eat. There are a number of beachside restaurants—and your feet will still be in the soft sand. Try upscale La Palapa, where you can have a margarita or something from the extensive wine list while considering which type of seafood to try. A local favorite is red snapper, known as huachinango, grilled over an open fire. Some nights feature live music, so stick around if that’s the case. If not, head back to your hotel to freshen up and get ready for your first evening out.
Evening: Opt for a low-key night to round out your day of relaxation. Check out Garbo, a popular place for the working man who wants to bend an elbow after a busy day of work. The drinks are decent, and the bartender is fully bilingual, as are the cheerful waiters. While this neighborhood piano bar is busy by sundown, it winds down shortly after midnight when people head home or to one of the later venues. This will prompt you to make it an early night, so go home and get some rest because you have a busy day ahead.
Morning: Your first full day in Puerto Vallarta is going to take you away from the comfortable Zona Romántica, and you’ll be flying through the jungle. Put on a comfortable pair of sandals or tennis shoes and clothes you can move in. Bring along an extra layer if it’s chilly. And don’t forget your camera. Since you’re probably starting out early, grab a quick breakfast—the coffeehouses in the Zona Romántica are good choices for something fast.
To get an idea of where you’re headed, look at www.canopytours-vallarta.com . (You can also book the tour through the site, if you wish to include the transportation. The cost is $79 total.) The small town of Las Juntas y Los Veranos, where the facility is located, is about 25 minutes south of the Zona Romántica. Options other than the pre-booked tour are a private taxi (about $15–20 one way) or the El Tuito bus, which passes through the southside and will cost you about $1.20. If you choose to go by bus, it’s a hike to the canopy site off the main road.
Experience the freedom of flying while coming into direct contact with the effervescent jungle teeming with energy. Stay for lunch (not included in the tour price) in the friendly palapa-covered outdoor bar and restaurant, and take the transportation back into town when you’re good and ready.
Afternoon: Back at your hotel, take a siesta to connect with a centuries-old custom where the natural rhythms of the human body were held in great respect. When you get up, dress for town (for example, long pants and a linen shirt) and be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, as this afternoon, you’ll be wandering around downtown on foot.
Start on Playa los Muertos , and head north along the beach. You can walk along the Malecón  once you reach La Palapa restaurant; it will take you all the way to the pedestrian bridge across the Río Cuale toward downtown. Continue on the Malecón, stopping to enjoy the sculptures that line it, all the way past Los Arcos amphitheater across from the main plaza and the Guadalupe church. En route, note the restaurants you pass along the way—you’ll be choosing one for your evening meal. When you reach the Millennium sculpture that curves into the evening sky in front of Hotel Rosita, you’ll be at the end of the Malecón and your walk.
Evening: Return to the Malecón restaurant of your choice for dinner or repast. Watch the sun go down. ¡Salud!
After eating, head back toward downtown for a tour of some of the art galleries; many stay open until 8 p.m. during the week. Don’t miss the historic Los Arcos and the energizing Galería Pacífico . If all the art has made you thirsty, stop in at popular Costantini Wine Bar, located right across from the entrance to Café des Artistes, for a glass of wine from their amazingly extensive wine list.
Now it’s time to dive into the town’s nightlife scene. Put on your dancing shoes and head for Mañana, the hottest new bar in Puerto Vallarta that offers dancing, nightly drink specials, a swimming pool, and outdoor tables. Stay until the sun comes up if you like.
The world used to arrive in Puerto Vallarta by sea since there was no highway connecting it to the outside world until the 1960s, and even then, vehicles were scarce and the trip over the mountains was too adventurous for most. So look out to sea and envision life from that angle. It’s where you’re headed today.
Morning and Afternoon: You can choose to spend your day on and in the water by diving or snorkeling, and destination options include Las Caletas, former home of the late director John Huston, where you can don a mask and fins or just enjoy the swimming and spa-ing that are at your fingertips. Or, you can take an unguided water taxi trip to Yelapa , an artist haven south of Puerto Vallarta accessible only by sea. If you are here during the months of December to March, take a whale-watching trip and see the incredible marine mammals at close hand, guided by marine biologists. Ocean Friendly Whale Watching (tel. 322/225-3774, www.oceanfriendly.com ) is a good choice for trips catering to the gay community.
If you really want to experience gay life on the water, choose one of the gay tours available, perhaps to one of the private beaches along the south coast. Click here  for a list of several Gay-Friendly Tour Operators . Whatever you choose, remember that it’s a water world.
Evening: At night, once you’ve dried off, get ready for a night out. Tonight try one of the more neighborhood bars, such as Frida, Diva’s, La Noche, Los Amigos—or all of them. Get to know your neighborhood. Stay out as long as you like because tomorrow is your last day. Oops, sorry to remind you!
Morning: On your final day, have a leisurely breakfast, maybe at the popular Kitkat, where Coco serves a menu that makes it worth starting the day early. If you’re not ready for a meal, have some caffeine at any one of the great coffee shops on Olas Altas in the Zona Romántica.
For the trinket shopper, head to Isla Río Cuale where stalls and more stalls offer all sorts and variety of beads, carvings, onyx, Talavera pottery, silver jewelry, and even dried puff-fish. Pay in cash and stow the treasures in your bag. For lunch, stop at The River Café or Le Bistro, both located right on the Río Cuale.
Afternoon: If you’re into more serious jewelry, spend time at Viva on Basilio Badillo, and stop in at the superb Galleria Dante across the street, or any one of the gorgeous shops on that block.
Evening: For your final night, choose a restaurant with a view not only of the city but of the sea for one of the amazing sunsets. A favorite is Vista Grill up in Alta Vista, where the view will take your breath away. Another restaurant farther south is Le Kliff, which is perched on an amazing cliff right over the sea, but you’ll need to take a taxi there and back.
Whichever you choose, sit back, enjoy a cocktail, and promise that you’ll be back—soon!