Travel: A Pacific paradise and the Latin New York

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Puerto Vallarta – The new Ibiza?

You haven’t heard of Puerto Vallarta? Neither had I until a few months ago. Expect to hear a lot more about this pacific paradise. There are three words to best explain its essence: Mexican – Gay – Ibiza.

When you take the British Airways flight from Terminal 5 and fly to Mexico on your way to Puerto Vallarta, it’s the nightclubbing equivalent of boarding Dr Who’s Tardis. This Tardis takes you back to the way that things use to be in Ibiza before noise pollution laws forced the clubs to go indoors. In Puerto Vallarta you party outside. If Vallarta – or PV as it’s often known – is the gay beach destination of Latin America the epicentre of this homosexual wonderland is the club Manana.

Imagine a night club with no roof – just the Mexican stars above you. Here a waterfall cascades off one of the many terraces into a swimming pool in the centre of the main dance floor – the laser lights turning the plume of water into a stray of green twinkling stars. The DJ performs on a scaffold high above the swimming pool. If you’re lucky it might be DJ Edgar Velazquez – the Mexican equivalent of Kris Di Angelis pumping out the tunes. On a busy night this fabulous club will be packed with three thousand beautiful homosexuals.

In PV I stayed at the Casa Cupula, a gay hotel hidden away amongst lush tropical gardens on a hill just above the town. It’s just a few minutes walk from the beach, bars and clubs. Close to where everything happens, it’s the perfect place to stay because it’s an oasis of calm if you need some R&R before your next night out at Manana. My room had a terrace enveloped by the smell of the jungle and surrounded by banana and mango trees laden with fruit hanging so low I could almost reach out and pick them.

Mexico City – The Latin New York?

However much fun you’ll have in Puerto Vallarta, it would be a cultural crime to come to Mexico and not stay in Mexico City. Of all the cities I’ve visited in the world, Mexico City provided me with the greatest contrast between what I had expected and what I experienced. I expected a dusty crime-ridden place with choking pollution. What I found was a city with ancient pyramids, green tree lined avenues, a restaurant scene to rival South Africa’s Cape Town and a gay scene to put Cape Town’s to shame. I fell in love with Mexico City.

It’s huge – a metropolis of more than 21 million people. Here in Mexico City you can visit the house where the Russian revolutionary Trotsky was assassinated. Or watch fire eaters perform for a few pesos at traffic lights while competing for your attention with street vendors who’ll sell a smoke-hungry motorist a single cigarette.

Crime levels have given the city a pretty poor press in recent years and I arrived in a heighten state of caution but it soon became apparent if you deploy a little common sense and take the usual care when travelling south of Texas, the chances are you’ll be fine.

Choosing the right part of town to hang out in is key. I chose Condesa. Condesa is a district of parks, wonderful restaurants, beautiful people, fashionistas, soap stars and art galleries. Some have compared it to SoHo in New York. If you stay in Condesa you have to stay at the beautiful boutique hotel the Condesa df.

The Condesa df's roof terrace

The Condesa df has a fabulous roof top bar and terrace overlooking the tree tops of one the parks. The rooms are centred around a large atrium where the main restaurant is situated and it’s a perfect place for people-watching the in-the-know international travellers mingle with the cool glitterati of the city.

Like London, there are several different gay centres. The Zona Rosa is the Mexican equivalent of Soho with one street full of bars and clubs. Chances are whatever your taste in music or men, you’ll find a good place to hang up your sombrero here and share it with the beautiful warmth of the Mexican people.

Travel details:

British Airways to Mexico City. BA flies daily from Heathrow to Mexico City from £735 return including taxes. Visit or call 0844 4930787. From Mexico City it’s a short hour and a half flight to Puerto Vallarta.

In Puerto Vallarta, Martin stayed at the Casa Cupula. Prices start from about US$120 a night.

In Mexico City, he stayed at the Condesa df. Prices start from about £167 a night.