When most people think of the best place to party in Mexico they think of Acapulco, where the clubs don’t get started until well after midnight and rock all night long.

Yet it’s obvious to anyone who has been on the Malecon in the wee hours that Puerto Vallarta has its wild and crazy side, too. In the past few years, however, the nightlife here has really diversified, its many moods now catering to all ages and lifestyles. And our exceptional culinary scene – second in this country only to the world’s largest city – sets the tone for much of what happens after waiters remove dinner dishes.

Raucous discos where conversation’s impossible not the ideal follow up to intimate gourmet dinners for everyone, now more than a hundred places offer all sorts of live music – romantic, jazz, blues, Peruvian, Cuban, you name it, and of course mariachi, which originated in the state of Jalisco. Quite a few of these venues offer dancing, too. And in just this past year, a batch of really cool dinner clubs and bars have spiced the mix with a heady fusion of fabulous food and complementary music in sophisticated settings.

It wasn’t always this way. Up until the early ‘90s, my friends and I basically had two choices of what to do after dinner: head home before we really wanted to or go hear some loud music. Today, some new generation hotspots even give us the option of lying on a big bed propped up with pillows and being waited on! Now, that’s progress! And there are way more choices than I could ever hope to experience.

In contrast, some of us can remember back to when nightlife was a no-brainer because there was just one bar – the infamous Oceano, and if walls could only talk … That’s where everyone went for a couple of drinks or more before dinner and dancing at the town’s first nightclub, Lalo Moreno’s City Dump. You knew that if you showed up at either of these places, you’d bump into absolutely everybody else who was out on the town.

Then along came Casablanca, the next “in” place to hook up with friends, listen to good music and make plans to continue the evening at Capriccios.

Then the Krystal’s Christine disco led a surge in new hotspots – Julian Silva’s Diva, the Collage entertainment complex, the boomer-friendly Roxy Club and Hard Rock Café. On their heels the ever-popular de Santos, Planet Hollywood, Senor Frog’s, Hilo and more. Christine is Vallarta’s longest-running successful nightclub and still the gold standard when it comes to sophisticated discos.

These days, despite all the available options, the first stop just about every visitor makes is still the Malecon strip, the young and the young at heart gravitating to its over-the-top fiesta atmosphere. Some boisterous spots on this oceanfront promenade are practically Vallarta institutions, like Carlos O’Brian’s and the Zoo – hangouts of choice when my wardrobe included spandex. Even sitting back and just watching was well worth the price of admission. Besides, where else can you “pump the jam” with gorillas?

And the South Side remains the place for those seeking a variety of alternative lifestyle venues. Gay scene cornerstones Antropology and Paco Paco have been joined by a hot new addition, Mañana. With VIP memberships, theme nights, special events, go-go dancers and other live performers, it’s making raves.

Latin music lovers can salsa and merengue at the still wildly popular JB, and adults of a certain age who keep rockin’ on can still do it unabashedly at Andale. If it’s a true-blue Mexican experience you’re after, Mariachi Loco and the Iguana are good bets. And if you can’t sleep, High is a new after-hours club where Sundance used to be.