With their popular rooftop sunset bar, Descanso del Sol (Pino Suárez 583, Zona Romántica, tel. 322/222-5229, www.descansodelsol.com, rooms $59–74 d low and $84–99 d high, junior suites $89 low and $123 high, suites $118 low and $150 high) attracts the young, buff gay crowd even if it’s just for cocktails. Guests vary from the gym-built to the gym-phobic, but Descanso is a friendly three-floor 24-room place that makes everyone feel at home. While rooms could use an upgrade, the comfortable, well-located property has an eclectic feel with colorful tiles, kitschy accents, and plastic terrace chairs.
Climb the hill to find your private apartment-like room at La Terraza Inn (Amapas 299, Amapas, tel. 322/223-5431, www.terrazainn.com, $52–57 d low, $82–87 d high), a friendly gay-owned inn just a block up from Playa los Muertos on Amapas. Upper terrace rooms have a bit of a view beyond the high-rise in front, but each of the 10 rooms, renovated in the summer of 2006, is spacious and comfortable and has a terrace. Some rooms with kitchenettes allow you to eat at home. Guests also have access to the inn’s laundry, Wi-Fi, cafeteria, and on-call massage service. Pets are allowed and, in fact, if you leave your window open, neighborhood cats may just pop in for a peek.
When a carefree vacation is on the horizon, the young and restless choose the men-only Vallarta Cora (Pilitas 174, Zona Romántica, tel. 322/223-2815, www.vallartacora.com, $95 d, special rates by email), where it seems the parents are always away while leaving you the keys to the main house. The four-story white stucco tower houses 14 clean tiled rooms with basic amenities, living room, dining room, kitchenette, air-conditioning, balcony, and oval-shaped bathtub. The happening pool area is open to the public for weekly pool parties while the Bola Bar features a hot tub that can accommodate up to 60 people, all clothing-optional. Two-for-one happy hours and the new behind-the-bar steam room keep this place hopping.
Back downhill in the Olas Altas neighborhood, on a quiet uphill side street, stands the modest but well-managed Hotel Mercurio (Francisca Rodríguez 168, tel./fax 322/222-4793, www.hotel-mercurio.com, $59 s or d low season, $83 s or d high, studio with kitchenette $82 s or d low, $100 s or d high). The small lobby leads to an intimate leafy pool patio, enclosed by three tiers of rooms simply decorated in rustic wood, tile, and stucco, with TV, air-conditioning, and shower bath; credit cards are accepted. During times of low occupancy, the Mercurio sometimes offers promotions, such as kids free with parents or fourth day free. Ask before you reserve.
Directly above the Playa los Muertos south shoreline, the breezy plant-decorated room tiers of Casa Corazón (Amapas 326, tel./fax 322/222-6364 or 322/222-2738, U.S./Can. tel. 866/648-6893, www.casacorazonvallarta.com, small rooms $30 s, $45 d low season, $60 s, $75 d high; large rooms with kitchenette $50 s, $60 d low season, $65 s or $95 d high) stairstep down its beachfront hillside. Tucked on one of the middle levels, a homey open-air restaurant and adjacent soft-couch lobby with a shelf of used paperbacks invite relaxing, reading, and socializing with fellow guests. No TVs, ringing phones, or buzzing air-conditioners disturb the tranquility; the people and the natural setting—the adjacent lush garden and the boom and swish of the beach waves—set the tone. The 24 rooms, while not deluxe, are varied and comfortably decorated with tile, brick, and colorful native arts and crafts. Guests in some of the most popular rooms enjoy spacious, sunny oceanview patios.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition