March 12, 2008 12:00 PM

How did Gary Allan decide to make Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, his tropical home away from home? “I used to go to Hawaii when I lived in California, so when I moved to Tennessee I wanted to see where the warmest, closest places were,” says the singer, 40. “I can fly out in the morning and be on the beach by 1 or 2!” Another big plus? The food. “My favorite part is all the restaurants,” says Allan. “Every night you can eat at a different place and have the absolute best food, with your feet in the sand or eating on a cliff.” Allan is so taken by the place that 10 trips later he and his daughters Maggie, 18, Dallas, 14, and Tanna, 12, still can’t get enough.

WHERE HE STAYS

THE WESTIN

Allan books the Grand Suite ($879 per night), which has a balcony hot tub overlooking the sea. “It’s killer,” he says. After breakfast in bed, “I get a massage and lie on the beach drinking something summery—usually a mojito.” His daughters dig it too, hanging out at one of five pools or lounging on the sand. “To them, ordering food on the beach is magic.”

WHERE HE PLAYS

LA PALAPA LOUNGE

Allan’s favorite spot for live music features bands seven days a week. “I love the local acts,” says the singer, “and I love the whole vibe of Mexico.”

THE DOWNTOWN AREA

Unlike some tropical destinations where travelers are advised to stay on resort grounds, Puerto Vallarta “is a really safe-feeling place,” says Allan. “They’ve got a boardwalk, and you can go for long walks down cobblestone roads—everything’s got a lot of charm to it.”

DOLPHIN ADVENTURES

On his most recent trip, Allan and a few friends took a day trip with Dolphin Adventures, where they swam with dolphins and sea lions. “The sea lions were like clowns,” says Allan. “They could make faces and had a ton of personality. It was really entertaining.”

THE HOTEL GYM

“My goal is to hit the gym every day I’m on vacation,” says Allan. Seriously? “Usually I just end up sleeping and drinking beer,” he admits, but when he does make it to the gym he’ll run on the treadmill and then go surfing and wakeboarding nearby.

WHERE HE EATS

VISTA GRILLE

Allan always orders the tuna and calamari, but “it’s all about just being outside and watching the sunset,” he says.

LE KLIFF RESTAURANT

Built directly into a cliff overlooking the water, Le Kliff features stunning scenery. “You can see whales and rays right from the tables,” says the singer. A favorite spot for watching the sunset, Le Kliff also features the Terrace of Love, a private dining patio that juts out over the water.

HACIENDA SAN ANGEL

A luxury boutique hotel, the Hacienda San Angel’s restaurant serves seafood, rack of lamb and classic Mexican appetizers. Plus, “it’s got the most Mexican charm you could fit in a restaurant,” says Allan. “It’s so ornate—there’s hundreds of candles and statues and crosses. It’s very Spanish. One of the coolest places.”

NIKKI BEACH CLUB

Located at the Westin, the part-time restaurant, part-time bar is Allan’s favorite spot for a midday bite. “In the afternoon you can eat sushi on the beach—they bring it to you under one of those little pergolas. You can’t beat that.”

WHERE HE PARTIES

CARLOS O’BRIEN’S

If Allan’s in town, you’ll probably run into him here. “It’s a blast!” he says of the popular bar and restaurant, which features nightly break-dancing contests. But don’t expect to see him getting down. “The world is not ready for my break dancing,” he says with a laugh. “I’m just the guy in the corner smoking a cigar, laughing and drinking tequila.”

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