Puerto Vallarta's spirited nightlife reflects the town's dual nature -- part resort, part colonial town. In the past, Vallarta was known for its live music scene, but in recent years the nocturnal action has shifted to DJ clubs with an array of eclectic, contemporary music. Happy hour offering two-for-one drinks usually takes place between 3 and 7pm. A concentration of spirited bars, lounges, and nightclubs line the malecón, with more traditional cantinas, sports bars, and gay clubs and bars found south of the Río Cuale in Viejo Vallarta (old town).
Performing Arts & Cultural Events
Truth be told, cultural nightlife beyond the Mexican Fiesta is limited. Culture centers on the visual arts; the opening of an exhibition carries considerable social and artistic significance. Puerto Vallarta's gallery community comes together in the central downtown area to present biweekly art walks from late October to April, where new exhibits are presented, featured artists attend, and complimentary cocktails are served. Check listings in the daily English-language newspaper Vallarta Today, or the events section of www.virtualvallarta.com.
Major hotels in Puerto Vallarta feature frequent fiestas for tourists -- extravaganzas with open bars, Mexican buffet dinners, and live entertainment. Some are fairly authentic and make a good introduction for first-time travelers to Mexico.
Nightclubs & Dancing
A few of Vallarta's clubs charge admission (typically in high season and on weekends), but more generally you pay just for drinks: about 60 pesos for a margarita, 45 pesos for a beer, and a bit more for mixed drinks. Keep an eye out for discount passes frequently available in hotels, restaurants, and other tourist spots. Along with clubs listed below, Carlos 'n Charlie's, Hard Rock Café, and Señor Frog's are also here. Most clubs are open from 10pm to 3am or later.
Gay & Lesbian Clubs
Vallarta has a vibrant gay community with a wide variety of clubs and nightlife options, including special bay cruises and evening excursions to nearby ranches. Most of the gay nightlife happens in so-called Zona Romantica (also called Viejo Vallarta or old town) on the south side of the Río Cuale, where the busiest street lined with restaurants, cafes, and bars is Olas Altas. The free Gay Guide Vallarta (www.gayguidevallarta.com) specializes in gay-friendly listings, including weekly specials and happy hours. Another excellent resource for gay travelers to Puerto Vallarta is www.gogaypuertovallarta.com.