From Maui to Mykonos, these island destinations promise relaxed attitudes and buzzy bars, beaches and nightclubs. If you seek sun, sand and diversity, pack your sunscreen and sunglasses and head to any one of these 15 gay-friendly islands.
Like its Dutch neighbors, Saba and Curaçao, the popular island of Aruba embraces diversity. Dance the night away at Oranjestad newcomer @7, a vibrant nightclub with five different party areas. LGBTQ-friendly hotel options include Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort or gay-owned Little David Guesthouse.
Cuba’s gay community has come a long way in recent years. With Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela, leading the Cuban National Center for Sex, the country is becoming increasingly more LGBTQ-friendly. Most of Cuba’s gay social scene takes place on the streets. Check out Vedado, Havana’s once mafia-run gay district or Mi Cayito, the unofficial gay beach.
This teeny island just off the coast of Venezuela doesn’t hold back with its hospitality for gay travelers. “With exceptional gay-friendly hotels and attractions, [Curacao] encourages gay and lesbian travelers to visit the island and experience its ‘live and let live’ atmosphere for themselves,” says the Curacao Tourist Board. Most of the hotels on the island are gay-friendly; Baoase Luxury Resort is a favorite stay for luxe-seeking couples. Same-sex marriage is also legal.
Florianópolis is a hot destination with a party-hard scene. Think Ibiza, done South American style. In late February, tourists descend upon the small city for Carnival, for parties, parades and the rhythmic dance of samba. Praia Mole, a beach on the east side of the island, buzzes with beautiful gay men.
Grand Canaria, Canary Islands
Carnival is a big draw for LGBTQ travelers, with an incredible Drag Queen festival and a major contest that attracts the hottest gay talent from all over Europe. The gay social scene descends upon Yumbo Centre, a four-story mega shopping and leisure center packed with bars, cafes, restaurants and a large outdoor area for events. Stay nearby at Gay Paso Chico in Playa del Ingles, which is within walking distance of Grand Canaria’s most famous gay beach, Maspalomas, located at Kiosk #7 (aka, The No. 7).
Ibiza is by far the most popular of Spain’s four Balearic Islands. The small Mediterranean island is infamous for its vibrant nightlife scene. Most of the island’s gay culture assembles on the south end of the island, where clubbing reigns supreme. Head to the terrace at Bar MonaLisa for cocktails and the occasional celebrity sighting. Then nurse your hangover the next day at Es Cavellet, the gay nudist beach at the southern end of the island.
Key West, Florida
Key West is a gay mecca. It was one of the first places in the U.S. to elect an openly gay mayor (Richard A. Heyman in 1983). With its thriving gay nightlife scene, large local LGBTQ population and a number of gay-friendly guesthouses, this destination is all about queer inclusiveness. Check out Island House, a men’s-only, clothing optional property that OUT Traveler called, “The Best Gay Resort In The World.”
Since the 2013 passing of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act, Maui has been a popular pick for same-sex destination weddings and honeymoons. For queer travelers in search of sun and surf, check out the weekly beach party at Little Beach in Makena each Sunday for clothing-optional fun. Or plan to visit the first weekend in October for Maui Pride.
Mykonos has long been an escape for well-heeled gays. In addition to wild club and beach parties that happen almost every night during high season (July to early September), the island is home to several LGBTQ-friendly hotspots, including Jackie O’s and Kastro. By day, gay sun worshippers flock to Elia Beach.
Thailand is a welcoming country for LGBTQ travelers. Phuket has a host of gay-friendly resorts — Mom Tri’s Villa Royale is a favorite — and occasionally hosts dance parties like TropOut. The Patong area, aka “Paradise Plaza” area has a small, but robust party, go-go bar and massage parlor scene.
Puerto Rico is often considered the most gay-friendly island in all of the Caribbean. The nightlife in San Juan is bar none, with most of the LGBTQ scene centering around the popular Condado oceanfront district. Be sure to stop by Circo, a small but hip venue that packs in crowds for dancing, go-go boys and elaborate Drag shows. Same-sex marriage is also legal here, making it a hot spot for destination weddings.
Although this Dutch Antilles island may be tiny and isolated (5 square miles!), it’s one of the Caribbean’s most gay-friendly destinations. Its population of 1,500 welcome LGBTQ travelers, who come primarily for the island’s scuba adventures. Book through gay tour operators Alyson Adventures and Undersea Expeditions. Saba is perfect for gay travelers looking for a low-key alternative to the usual island party atmosphere.
There isn’t a super huge gay scene in St. Barth, but this glam spot of paradise is still a favorite destination for gays who are welcomed everywhere. Gay men strip down at Saline Beach and get down at Le Ti St-Barth. Since most visitors opt to stay in villas, swank house party invites abound. There’s a reason this Caribbean island is a celebrity hot spot — no matter your sexuality.
The hilly bifurcated Dutch/French Caribbean island is a hotspot for LGBTQ travelers. Say goodbye to tan lines at clothing-optional Cupecoy Beach on the Dutch side (straight sun worshippers are welcome too). For a festive night on the town, check out the French fare drag shows at L’Escargot. Then, tuck yourself into an oceanfront room at Belmond La Samanna, set to reopen December 10, 2018.
Famous for its black-sand beaches, the largest island in French Polynesia is welcoming to gay visitors. There are a handful of locations in Papeete that attract gay visitors, including the risqué Mahu District, where strip clubs and drag shows abound. Be sure to stop by The Piano Bar, which combines the best of both worlds into unforgettable performances.
For more travel inspiration, check out GayCities, the largest LGBTQ travel guide. (Think Trip Advisor, but for a gay market.)