“It’s not the fanciest, but it’s the friendliest,” said Tom Lull, a Minnesota resident and a repeat guest at Puerto Vallarta‘s Hotel Mercurio. Lull said he’s sampled other gay hotels in the city and found that Mercurio is a favorite.
In the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s gayest neighborhood, Zona Romantica, Hotel Mercurio will celebrate its tenth anniversary in September. It used to be a non-gay hotel called Hotel Allegre until Washington, D.C. resident Paul Crist decided to ditch his life as a corporate economist for a very different way of life as a gay boutique hotel owner.
Crist has maintained a family atmosphere at the hotel that translates into repeat customers like Lull coming back year after year. The hotel has a very low turnover rate, so employees get to know clients who return year after year.
About the same time Crist bought the Mercurio, he met the man who would be his partner, Luis Tello, and they have remained together as a couple ever since.
For Crist, one of the biggest challenges in running a business in Puerto Vallarta has been dealing with the government bureaucracies regulating business. But with Tello’s help, Crist was able to adapt.
“It was either get a bleeding ulcer, or get used to it. I got used to it,” Crist said.
Puerto Vallarta is Mexico’s most popular gay resort destination. The resort town has a more than a dozen gay bars and nightclubs and about as many gay or very-gay friendly hotels. Crist is concerned that Puerto Vallarta tourism officials are not doing enough to support and promote the market and said that he is concerned that the city could lose gay business to Cancun and Mexico City, which actively court the gay market.
When asked to respond to Crist’s criticism, a Puerto Vallarta tourism official told the Examiner.com that the LGBT market is very important to the city. The official noted that the city recently sponsored a Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) event in San Francisco. Crist told the Examiner.com that he was encouraged by that sponsorship and hoped that trend would continue.
Hotel Mercurio clientele
About 95% of the hotel’s clientele are gay men, the hotel is straight and lesbian friendly. During the summer months about 65% of the guests are Mexican, but during the winter about 70% are American or Canadian. There are no predominately lesbian hotels in Puerto Vallarta, but gay women are made to feel very welcome at Hotel Mercurio. Crist said that he’s noticed that his property tends to attract more Mexican lesbians than American lesbians.
Hotel Mercurio serves up a hot breakfast that is included in the room rate. The breakfast is not of the standard continental breakfast category. The hotel’s chef serves up a made-to-order eggs for each customer. The breakfast buffet includes a hot Mexican breakfast dish, cereal, yogurt, mixed fruit, coffee, toast, and fresh orange juice. The breakfast is also a great place to socialize.
Happy hour at the Mercurio Hotel is 3-6 p.m. It’s a great way locals can mix it up with guests. Some guests hang out in the pool while others lounge around the bar. Great music, music videos and sometimes movies entertain the crowd.
Puerto Vallarta is a very safe city and Hotel Mercurio takes that security one step further. The hotel allows visitors to bring guests but they are required to register at the front desk and leave an ID. Not all hotels in Puerto Vallarta allow overnight guests.
“We try to treat adults as adults,” Crist said.
As an added security measure, the hotel asks hotel clients to escorts their guests out when they leave.
Hotel Mercurio is in a perfect location, just a 10-minute walk from the city’s most popular gay bars and nightclubs and just a ten minute walk from the gay Blue Chairs beach. The hotel is just a half-block up from Olas Altas, the main street in Zona Romantica, which is lined with a slew of restaurants, bars, and shops.
Undoubtedly what keep guests coming back for more is the friendliness of the place. With just 28 rooms, guests employees know the names of the customers and the hotel guests get to know their fellow travelers over breakfast or from lounging by the pool at happy hour.
Rates and quality
If luxury is important to you, Hotel Mercurio, is probably not your cup of tea. The hotel has the basics including flat screen TVs and air-conditioning. But you won’t find it adorned with designer furniture and sheets. (The wonderful Casa Cupula hands-down is the most luxurious hotel in Puerto Vallarta.)
Room rates start at a bargain $60 during the slower late spring and early fall months. But remember, you will save money and time hunting around for your morning breakfast fix. If you like to cook on vacation, ask for a room with a kitchenette.