Gay-friendly Caribbean hot spots

From the Winter 2006 issue of The Out Traveler           –

The Caribbean‘s proximity to the United States makes it an easy tropical escape.
Though the region on the whole has a less-than-perfect reputation among gay and lesbian
travelers, a number of standout destinations — many boasting lavish new restaurants, resorts
and spas — are making the gay-friendly grade.

Dominican Republic

The appeal
The Dominican Republic may be Latin and Catholic, but the vibe is refreshingly relaxed and tolerant.
Most of the gay action is centered in the capital, Santo Domingo, where a clutch of bars and discos
cater to travelers of both genders. But the real lure is the city itself. One of the Caribbean’s largest,
it was founded by Columbus’ brother in 1496, and it’s the oldest colonial city in the Americas.

Both Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin have long had a gay-friendly reputation, with many
private villas for rent and beaches and bars where gay and straight couples peacefully coexist. St. Maarten’s reputation was sullied somewhat by a 2004 incident where a gay couple was assaulted
near a popular beach bar, but island tourism officials were quick to apologize, and the island remains
near the top of the list for many gay Caribbean travelers.



The appeal
The second-largest island in the French Caribbean, volcanic Martinique is known for its culture (Paul Gauguin briefly lived here), gorgeous beaches and rum, the island’s main product. You can sample the
spirit from the source at estates such as St. James Distillery. Visit during harvest season — February to June — to witness fresh sugarcane go from field to bottle. Like fellow Frenchie St. Barts, Martinique boasts a similar laissez-faire attitude to gay and lesbian travelers as well as a small scene in the capital, Fort-de-France.

Aruba and Curacao

The appeal
Forced to recognize the recent marriage of two local lesbians, Aruba — like the rest of the Dutch Antilles — leads the Caribbean in LGBT-friendliness. Neighboring Curacao recognizes domestic partners, and both islands actively court and welcome the gay market. Cosmopolitan Curaçao, with its Dutch allegiance, ranks among the most gay-friendly islands in the southern Caribbean, and the island has dozens of fine beaches. Although none claims to be a definitive gay mecca, the broad, magnificent nudist beach below Sunset Waters Beach Resort definitely pulls in plenty of gays and lesbians. Moreover, it’s a stunning stretch of sand, and all sorts of beach equipment can be rented here, from paddleboats to aqua-bikes.

Puerto Rico

The appeal
Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, is the Caribbean made easy. It has direct air links to every major
U.S. city and an American-style gay scene, at least in San Juan. Stick close to San Juan’s grand resorts
or head to the tiny islet of Vieques, a vestige of tropical Caribbean purity where wild horses run along crystal-clear bays and gay-owned inns welcome off-the-beaten-pathers.

Don’t miss
On Puerto Rico’s tiny and queer-friendly isle of Vieques, just off the northeast coast. The small beach
in the village of Esperanza opens onto a glorious bay and is a favorite hangout among guests of the
area’s many gay-friendly inns.

Mayan Riviera

The appeal
The region just north and south of Cancun is rapidly emerging as a gay-friendly, luxurious, low-key
eco-focused alternative to that perennially crowded spring-break favorite.

With its fun-in-the-sun destinations, carefree attitude, and myriad couples-oriented resorts, the
Caribbean seems an ideal vacation spot for gay and lesbian couples. But not all Caribbean islands are created equal: some (notably the French, Dutch, and U.S. islands) roll out the welcome mat for gay
couples, while others, like Jamaica, Barbados, and the Cayman Islands, have a reputation for
homophobia. With the help of the travel experts at, here’s my picks for the top Caribbean destinations for gay travelers.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 800/448-8550 or 954/776-2626; is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses; go to its website and click on “Members.”