It’s Pride Week in many different cities around the world, including here in Montreal, so to celebrate we’re listing the 10 best beach destinations for LGBT travelers (don’t worry – this post will be fabulously free of stereotypes). Criteria’s not just restricted to having a gay scene or equal rights (sorry Saba) – to make the cut, you need the kind of world-class dining, shopping, landscapes and, of course, beaches that make these hotspots worthy of anyone’s bucket list:
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Before it became the go-to spot for travelers of all stripes looking to take selfies with howler monkeys, Manuel Antonio was the place where Costa Rica’s gay population would go to hang out and relax. That’s right – like Chicago House music and location-based dating apps, the gay community was the first to discover Manuel Antonio, so you know who to thank next time you’re enjoying its gorgeous beaches, unique landscapes, and cute creatures.
Anyone who comes back from Bali usually can’t stop raving about how friendly the Balinese are, which allowed for the development of a thriving gay scene in Seminyak, a beach town to the south, where Jalan Dhyana Pura (street) is filled with gay bars and night clubs, including the popular Club Cosmo Bali. No matter where you stay, though, the “Island of the Gods” is sure to impress with its lush landscapes, spiritual culture, rich history, and world-renowned surfing and diving.
This one may come as a bit of a surprise, especially after that ugly incident in 2004 where a gay couple was assaulted outside a beach bar, however the government’s, and the public’s, subsequent outrage proves why Saint Martin was, and will continue to be, a great destination for LGBT travelers, especially on the French side, where private villas and a laissez-faire attitude are the norm. Being known as the “culinary capital of the Caribbean” definitely doesn’t hurt its appeal either.
On that note, the French helped spread the idea of equal rights across the world, so it’s no-surprise that the ultra-French St. Barts has long been a bastion of LGBT-friendliness in the Caribbean. Aside from that, its focus on villas over resorts ensures that any couple can enjoy as much privacy as they want, while the fresh seafood prepared with that French flare means that you’re also never far from some of the best food in the Caribbean.
St. Croix, USVI
The application of U.S. hate crime laws in USVI helped St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix become some of the first non-French or Dutch Caribbean islands to embrace LGBT travelers – especially in Frederiksted, St. Croix, where tons of LGBT-owned and operated hotels, villas, and bars have flourished, probably due to the small island’s laid-back charm, which makes everyone feel like family. It’s also an amazing destination for couples of any kind, with its reputation as a honeymoon-mecca encouraging everyone, from restaurant owners to boat captains, to inject a little romance into their offerings.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
While Miami Beach and the Florida Keys are also known for being very LGBT-friendly, Fort Lauderdale earns top marks for the massive LGBT scene in Wilton Manors and for the gay beach at Sebastian Street. Plus you’re just a short drive to South Beach, or a very pretty drive to the Florida Keys, including 3 hours to Key West, once America’s premiere (since it was pretty much its only) LGBT beach vacation destination, and still a major center for lesbian travel.
Honolulu’s party capital is an awesome destination for LGBT travelers thanks to tons of gay and lesbian-friendly bars, restaurants, and clubs, as well as Queen’s Beach and San Souci beach. All of this makes Waikiki a great place to meet people, but travelers looking for a more relaxing vacation will find plenty of acceptance, but less of a party scene (LGBT or otherwise) on Maui. The choice is yours, but Hawaii was open to LGBT lifestyles well before becoming a US state, as it’s Polynesian culture’s always encouraged open-mindedness.
With gay sections on two of its largest beaches (Super Paradise And Elia, both on the south coast), a variety of LGBT-friendly bars and restaurants, and a party atmosphere that encourages acceptance and diversity, Mykonos is easily one of Europe’s most popular LGBT hotspots. Plus, whether you’re in the mood for grilled octopus and white wine by the sea or a gyro that’ll completely ruin your chances of every enjoying a gyro back home again, the food can’t be beat. Throw in a boat charter or two to the neighboring islands and a history that dates back to the 11th Century BC (and includes the mythological destruction of the Giants who opposed Zeus by Hercules and Poseidon) and it’s not hard to see why so many travelers keep coming back, year after year.
Speaking of party, you can’t deny the effect the gay community’s had on Europe’s premier summertime dance destination (and on the music that makes it move). Today, the Balearic clubbing mecca is home to plenty of LGBT-oriented bars and clubs, especially on the wild (and ironically titled) Calle de la Virgen in Ibiza Town, which basically turns into a giant street party at night, and at the island’s biggest clubs, where the most fabulous drag queens are treated like celebrities, especially during Ibiza Gay Pride and Magico Gay Festival. Forget blasé accusations of commercialization. Ibiza’s like an island-wide, summer-long festival that can make anyone feel young again, and it’s not called Magic Island for nothing.
This one should come as no surprise. Puerto Vallarta was the heart of Mexico’s LGBT community well before introducing its first pride festival in 2013, a reputation which has only increased since and has undeniably marked the resort city as one of the absolute best beach destinations for LGBT travelers. Its Zona Romantica has tons of LGBT-owned bars and restaurants, and rather than being some sort of gay ghetto, it’s actually the city’s most popular area for gay and straight alike. Similarly, the Blue Chairs area of Bay of Banderas is one of the choicest parts of the beach, along with being the focal point of Puerto Vallarta’s gay village. Plus, adventure travel and ecotourism fans can enjoy safe-but-challenging hikes in the nearby jungles and discover hidden waterfalls, while the rest of us can still appreciate its unique flora at the beautiful Vallarta Botnaical Gardens, where tours often culminate with a dip in the crystal clear waters of Rio Los Horcones. Whale watching, surfing, and scuba diving are also hugely popular, as is just soaking up the sun and enjoying a mojito or three.
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