You are currently viewing 12 under-the-radar LGBTQIA+ beach destinations

12 under-the-radar LGBTQIA+ beach destinations

Beach culture has been an integral part of LGBTQIA+ travel for decades, since the emergence of destinations like Provincetown, Massachusetts; Mykonos, Greece; Key West, Florida; and Sitges, Spain, as sun-splashed havens.

These days, queer travelers flock to dozens of enticing beaches, from secluded spots where you’re free to sunbathe au naturel to festive party playgrounds flanked by luxury resorts and gay nightlife districts.

Some of the world’s most amazing beaches are still relatively unknown, though. Try one of these 12 LGBTQIA+-favored seaside getaways as you plan your next coastal adventure.

Kauai, Hawaii

The rugged Napali Coast is part of the lush island of Kauai, Hawaii. BOJE PLOEG/GETTY IMAGES

Ruggedly spectacular and the least populated of Hawaii‘s four largest islands, Kauai is hard to beat if you’re looking to commune with nature or laze on a tranquil beach with nothing but the sound of the surf as your soundtrack. Two of Kauai’s popular LGBTQIA+ beaches — Lydgate Beach Park and Paliku Beach — can be found on the lush eastern (or windward) shore.

Centrally located Lydgate Beach Park draws more sizable and eclectic crowds and offers close proximity to plenty of fun options for post-beachcombing cocktails. There’s also a section enclosed by jetties that’s ideal for swimming.

If it’s complete serenity you’re after, head to Paliku Beach (aka Donkey Beach). The magic begins with a stroll from the parking area through the Tree Tunnel, a gently sloping pathway beneath a canopy of verdant vegetation. Once you reach the stunning golden sand, you can bliss out for hours, often in near solitude — just keep in mind that the rough surf here makes swimming treacherous.

Paliku Beach is an especially enjoyable place to decompress after hiking the spectacular sea cliffs of Kauai’s Napali Coast or the otherworldly red-clay bluffs of Waimea Canyon.

Where to stay

Delivering the ultimate splurge on an island with plenty of cushy accommodations, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay (rates start at $1,048 per night) cascades down a seaside bluff in the exclusive Princeville resort district, near historic Hanalei, which served as the filming location for the classic film of the musical “South Pacific.” The spacious rooms have huge picture windows with views of the sea and surrounding mountains, and Bamford Wellness Spa offers a slate of blissful treatments. The Marriott Kauai Beach Club (rates start at $425 or 44,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night) is set on an 800-acre tract of pools, gardens and beaches on Kauai’s eastern shore, close to Lihue Airport. With its myriad amenities and central location, it’s a great base for exploring both the north and south shores. 

Zipolite, Mexico


Set amid the towering sea stacks and rocky ramparts of Mexico‘s dramatic Oaxacan coast, Zipolite sits along a string of minimally developed beach villages — there’s not a high-rise or internationally branded resort in sight … yet.

Bohemians, yoga enthusiasts, surfers and free spirits have been vacationing here and in neighboring Mazunte for years, and although it’s far less touristy and pricey than Puerto Vallarta or Tulum, this former fishing village offers a growing number of stylish boutique hotels, laid-back wellness retreats and nudist-friendly men’s resorts.

Many queer visitors come to experience the inclusive vibes and surreal beauty of Playa del Amor, a clothing-optional, horseshoe-shaped sandy cove nestled between cliffs and massive boulders. All day long, and especially at sunset, this compact beach on the eastern edge of town offers a delightful mix of socializing and seclusion, while an unpretentious beach bar dispenses ice-cold micheladas and fresh coconuts.

Fringed with palapa-roofed ceviche restaurants, Zipolite’s main beach stretches along the crashing surf for another mile or so and is every bit as gorgeous. Several airlines make the 75-minute flight from Mexico City to Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, which are each about a 90-minute drive from Zipolite.

Where to stay

El Alquimista (rates start at $174 per night) enjoys a peaceful setting at the west end of Zipolite’s long, picturesque beach. Breezy cabanas with palapa roofs, decks and hammocks impart an easygoing vibe, and the open-air, toes-in-the-sand restaurant is one of the best in town. Along the same stretch of sand, intimate Hotel Noga (rates start at $168 per night) has 10 smartly designed bungalows outfitted with organic bath products and air conditioning (not a given in this part of the world). There’s also a pool, a cheerful bar-restaurant and yoga classes.

Durban, South Africa


Cape Town may receive more international attention, but South Africa’s third-largest city is arguably more appealing for a beach vacation. The consistently warm waters of the Indian Ocean make this LGBTQIA+-welcoming city ideal for swimming, surfing, bodyboarding and sunbathing, and the tropical climate is mild year-round, though it can get muggy during Durban’s wet summers (from October to April).

This lively and diverse port city on South Africa‘s east coast has plenty of oceanfront hotels and is just an hour or two by plane from Johannesburg and Cape Town. Durban is fringed by a stretch of breathtaking beaches known as the Golden Mile, with lively North Beach just a few minutes’ drive from the gay cafes and bars of the colorful Morningside neighborhood.

Just a short drive up the coast, you can mingle with locals and laze in the sun at LGBTQIA+-popular Virginia Beach (next to a small, private airport) when you’re not lounging on the section of sand adjacent to Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve in the affluent town of Umhlanga.

With several upscale hotels within walking distance of the beach and the town’s Instagram-worthy Whalebone Pier, Umhlanga is an appealing base for exploring the region. You’ll find everything from luxurious beach hotels to budget-friendly outposts from brands like Hilton and IHG.

When it’s time to satiate your appetite, be sure to sample a bunny chow, a local street food consisting of a loaf of crusty bread hollowed out and filled with spicy curry. Durban is home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of Asian Indian immigrants, so it’s packed with superb Indian restaurants.

Where to stay

Perched overlooking the sea in Durban’s bustling North Beach neighborhood, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (rates start at $83 per night) is one of the largest resorts in the city, and it offers plenty of amenities, including a rooftop pool, full-service spa and bikes to pedal along the beachfront. It’s a five-minute drive to several popular LGBTQIA+ bars. Set directly on the beach and overlooking the picturesque lighthouse in affluent Umhlanga, the historic Oyster Box (rates start at $480 per night) has long been the favorite address of visiting celebs and dignitaries. Attentive service, superb dining, and exquisitely manicured gardens and grounds are hallmarks of this 86-room resort.

Lisbon, Portugal


Although Spain is where several of Europe’s most iconic gay beach destinations (we’re looking at you, Sitges and Ibiza) are located, neighboring Portugal is rapidly gaining ground in popularity, with the hilly and historic capital, Lisbon, leading the charge.

One of Europe’s top vacation values, Lisbon offers a thrilling mix of vaunted restaurants, well-preserved Roman ruins, buzzy art museums and inviting queer bars. The latter are set mostly along the quaint cobbled lanes of the Bairro Alto district.

This dynamic metropolis at the confluence of the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean is just a half-hour drive from Beach 19, the country’s most beloved LGBTQIA+ sunbathing locale. This beautiful clothing-optional beach is set against gentle dunes and occupies an undeveloped span of the Costa da Caparica, which is blessed with sunny and generally dry (at least, from March through September) weather. Looking for refreshments? From Beach 19, you can walk just 10 to 15 minutes south to the breezy beach bars of Fonte da Telha.

Where to stay

The Lumiares (rates start at $495 per night) offers beautifully appointed apartment-style suites with soaring ceilings, massive windows, well-equipped kitchens and handcrafted textiles and furniture. The hip and inclusive bars and cafes of Bairro Alto are within an easy, if hilly, stroll. Just south of the Tagus River, the modern Crowne Plaza Caparica Lisbon (rates start at $146 or 26,000 IHG points per night) is equidistant to Lisbon’s attractions and the queer social scene at Beach 19.

Ogunquit, Maine

Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine. DENISTANGNEYJR/GETTY IMAGES

Provincetown may be New England’s best-known LGBTQIA+ beach destination. However, this charming, historic, seaside village on the coast of southern Maine has its draws, too. Set along a jagged, rocky swath of shoreline that looks like it belongs in a Winslow Homer painting, this dapper village of clapboard bed-and-breakfast accommodations and eateries has been an artists colony since the late 19th century.

The exceptional Ogunquit Museum of American Art and the Ogunquit Playhouse, which presents acclaimed summer stock musicals, carry on the village’s rich artistic tradition.

The queer beach scene here is relaxed and fun, and from the south end of the long and sandy strand it’s just a 10-minute walk to the town’s restaurants and gay bars. You can also stroll along Marginal Way, a paved pathway along the granite ledges that fringe the ocean, to Perkins Cove, a quaint fishing village that abounds with lobster shacks.

Should you crave a bit more variety, you’re in luck: A few more beaches and an acclaimed dining scene can be found just 45 minutes up the coast in Portland, Maine.

Where to stay

One of the most charming bed-and-breakfasts in town, the LGBTQIA+-owned 2 Village Square Inn (rates start at $259 per night) sits on a hilltop overlooking the village center and is a quick stroll from restaurants, bars and the beach. The 17 rooms come in a variety of sizes and configurations, and perks include a generous breakfast buffet as well as a saltwater pool and hot tub. Anchorage by the Sea (rates start at $339 per night) has direct access to the Marginal Way coastal path and romantic contemporary rooms, many with fireplaces, set across a few different buildings. This 241-room resort has a first-rate restaurant and a large pool.

Quepos, Costa Rica

Sunset on Playa Linda in Quepos, Costa Rica. ATLANTIDE PHOTOTRAVEL/GETTY IMAGES

With its alluring mix of jungly mountains, lush cloud forests and spectacular beaches, Costa Rica ranks among Latin America’s top destinations for both laid-back oceanfront vacations and eco-oriented adventure travel. It’s where zip lining was invented, after all. 

It’s also a country that’s long extended a warm welcome to LGBTQIA+ travelers, with the dramatically situated beach town of Quepos leading the way. The gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park, which boasts spectacular beaches and nature trails and hundreds of rather mischievous capuchin and howler monkeys (along with plenty of other fascinating fauna), Quepos is located along the central Pacific Coast, a three-hour drive from Costa Rica’s largest city, San Jose, but guests can also fly into the town’s small airport, which has several flights daily from the capital. 

Quepos has a great selection of lushly landscaped boutique resorts and is popular for a slew of memorable activities: snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, kayaking, and waterfall and wildlife rainforest tours are among the top experiences. The gay scene is low-key, but there’s a fun club in town with dancing and live music that draws a mixed crowd, and LGBTQIA+ parties and events take place throughout the year, including Pride on the Beach in July. 

Where to stay

Tulemar Resort (rates start at $350 per night) spreads out across a dramatic 33-acre tract of jungle with its own secluded private beach, just south of Quepos on the road to the national park. The resort’s eco-friendly villas have from one to four bedrooms, and the property features four pools, two restaurants and a festive beach bar. Set on a lush hillside with expansive ocean vistas, La Mariposa Hotel (rates start at $190 per night) is a sleek boutique resort popular with LGBTQIA+ travelers that offers both classic rooms and roomier apartment-style units, all with gracious patios or balconies. 

Saugatuck, Michigan

View of Douglas and Saugatuck from the top of Mount Baldhead. MNM71/GETTY IMAGES

Within a three-hour drive of both Detroit and Chicago, this postcard-worthy town hugs the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan and has long been the Midwest’s premier LGBTQIA+ vacation playground. You’ll find numerous queer-owned accommodations, eateries and shops in the tree-lined village centers of both Saugatuck and its similarly charming neighbor, Douglas. The long-running Dunes Resort is an LGBTQIA+ social hub with several bars and a central pool; it also offers overnight accommodations. 

You can rent kayaks to paddle around Kalamazoo Lake, a wide section of the Kalamazoo River that bisects Saugatuck before flowing into Lake Michigan. Take a short ride across the river on the hand-cranked chain ferry, climb the staircase to the top of Mount Baldhead for a bird’s-eye view of the area and then walk to Oval Beach, with its gentle golden dunes and stunning sunset views (you can also drive to the beach). In the evening, see what’s on at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, an acclaimed performing arts space.

Where to stay

One of a handful of endearingly retro midcentury motor lodges that LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs have purchased and given stylish makeovers in recent years, the Starlite Resort (rates start at $139 per night) has 29 cozy, immaculate rooms set on 6 tree-shaded acres with a heated pool and fire pits. A chic boutique hotel with direct Lake Michigan beach frontage, the Lake Shore Resort (rates start at $325 per night) offers an array of pleasing complimentary perks, including kayak and bike rentals, morning yoga classes and breakfast overlooking the water. Try to book well ahead in summer as this one fills up fast.

Marseille, France


Much of France‘s LGBTQIA+ beach scene is centered around Nice and the adjacent French Riviera, but this colorful port city is where you’ll find the country’s oldest gay beach, Mont Rose. Adjacent to the scenic fishing village of La Madrague and accessible via a 45-minute bus ride south from central Marseille, this expanse of craggy ledges draws a predominantly gay male crowd, and nude sunbathing is popular.

Marseille’s gritty reputation, which was solidified by its starring role in the Oscar-winning 1971 crime thriller “The French Connection,” has softened a bit over the years, and in 2013, this diverse city hosted EuroPride.

You’ll find a handful of appealing accommodations in or near the charming Old Port district, which is also home to several gay bars and restaurants specializing in bouillabaisse, Marseille’s most celebrated dish.

Where to stay

Close to the city’s vibrant Old Port and several gay bars, the chic C2 Hotel (rates start at $283 per night) is set inside a restored 19th-century mansion with 20 individually decorated rooms, a cloistered pool and a plush spa. Nearby, the Hotel Maison Montgrand Vieux Port (rates start at $202 per night) exudes Old World elegance with its 49 smartly designed guest rooms and 13 apartments, set throughout three adjacent historic buildings. The romantic garden restaurant serves deftly prepared contemporary French fare.

Santa Catarina Island, Brazil

Joaquina Beach in Santa Catarina, Brazil. STOCKLAPSE/GETTY IMAGES

This sunny, verdant island in southeastern Brazil is just 33 miles long but offers some of the most alluring beaches in the country, as well as an abundance of stylish resorts along the coast, from the tiny beach town of Jurere to the lively city of Florianopolis. The latter is close to Praia Mole, a crescent-shaped beach backed by emerald hills that LGBTQIA+ sunseekers flock to.

Although Santa Catarina Island has become a favored gay weekend getaway among those seeking a less party-driven alternative to pulsing Rio de Janeiro, which is less than 90 minutes away by plane, you can still find opportunities here for revelry. In Florianopolis, there’s dancing until dawn on weekends at Jivago Social Club, Conca Club and other queer nightspots.

Another bonus: This lush island, which is roughly twice the size of Martha’s Vineyard, offers gorgeous hikes through the rugged mountains of Sao Joaquim National Park and the otherworldly sands of the Joaquina dune field.

Where to stay

Set around a large pool with a Tuscan-inspired campanile and located just steps from the crescent-shaped beach in the sunny holiday town of Jurere, pastel-hued Il Campanario Villaggio Resort (rates start at $89 per night) offers a full menu of seaside activities and amenities. The posh and LGBTQIA+-welcoming Hotel Boutique Quinta das Videiras (rates start at $215 per night) sits a block from the shore of freshwater Lagoa de Conceicao, on the edge of the island’s largest city, Florianopolis. Designed in the Portuguese Colonial style, this pink mansion has 16 antique-filled rooms and is less than a 10-minute drive from the ocean and the sands of queer-popular Praia Mole.

Port Douglas, Australia


Home to Australia‘s most famous LGBTQIA+ hotel, the Turtle Cove Beach Resort, as well as the gay-owned Pink Flamingo Resort and a bevy of vacation rentals, the former gold-mining hub of Port Douglas is one of the Southern Hemisphere’s premier gay beach retreats. It’s just a 45-minute drive from the small city of Cairns (which is a three-hour flight from Sydney) near the northern end of Queensland.

Port Douglas’ Four Mile Beach is the stretch of sand to prioritize, as it overlooks the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea and features gorgeous golden sand to walk at sunrise or sunset.

Those keen on scuba diving and/or snorkeling will love that the town offers direct access to the Great Barrier Reef, while hikers and wildlife enthusiasts flock here to explore the natural wonders of the Daintree Rainforest. For a sneak preview of this beautiful little slice of paradise, hop on YouTube to seek out Kylie Minogue’s bubblegum-pop video “It’s No Secret,” which was filmed entirely on location in Port Douglas in the late ’80s.

Where to stay

Set along a sublime and secluded stretch of sand near Macalister Range National Park, about a 20-minute drive south of Port Douglas, Turtle Cove Beach Resort (rates start at $136 per night) is an idyllic place to spend a few days sunning, swimming and sipping drinks in the convivial beach bar. Located just outside the town of Port Douglas, Pink Flamingo Resort (rates start at $107 per night) is a pet-friendly hideaway with 12 attractive rooms, most with a kitchenette, plus a palm-shaded pool.

Galveston, Texas

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier in Galveston, Texas. DENIS TANGNEY JR/GETTY IMAGES

One of the Gulf Coast’s definitive holiday playgrounds since the late 19th century, this bustling barrier island just an hour’s drive from Houston is a favorite getaway with LGBTQIA+ vacationers from throughout the South. The island’s colorful Victorian houses recall Key West and New Orleans, while downtown Galveston’s Historic Downtown Strand Seaport District contains dozens of stately brick buildings. It’s a hot spot for dining and shopping that’s anchored by the meticulously restored Grand 1894 Opera House and the Texas Seaport Museum, which operates dolphin-watching cruises around the bay.

You’ll find a handful of laid-back gay bars in this friendly city of around 50,000 people, and in early September, folks from all over come to attend the three-day Galveston Pride. As the island has become a popular cruise ship port of embarkation, it’s also become a great place to tack on a few days of R&R pre- or post-cruise. Don’t miss Moody Gardens, a collection of three glass pyramids containing a science museum, an aquarium and a tropical rainforest. 

Where to stay

Overlooking the beach and just a few blocks from the amusements of the historic Pleasure Pier, the striking Grand Galvez Resort, Autograph Collection (rates start at $255 or 55,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night) has been the city’s most celebrated grande dame since it opened in 1911. Sip classic cocktails in the atmospheric Founders Bar and book one of the soothing treatments on offer at its plush spa. The Victorian-era Tremont House, Galveston, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel (rates start at $185 or 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night) anchors the Island’s picturesque downtown, offering close proximity to boutiques, museums and restaurants.



This quietly blissful Micronesian island that’s an unincorporated U.S. territory is, for many visitors, an unexpectedly magical place for a tropical beach vacation. One of the friendliest and most LGBTQIA+-embracing getaways in the Asia-Pacific region, Guam legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and has become a favorite wedding destination with queer folks from throughout Asia and even Russia.

Think Hawaii, but with fewer crowds and significantly lower prices. You can snorkel in the sheltered, bathtub-warm waters of Tumon Bay and hike in the forest-covered mountains of the island’s interior, and you’ll discover tasty Thai, Japanese and local Chamorro food at every turn.

The island’s ties to the LGBTQIA+ community are deep. Guam’s lieutenant governor, Josh Tenorio, is openly gay, as is the retired chief justice of the Guam Supreme Court, Benjamin Cruz. Most of Guam’s resorts are in the island’s second-largest town, Tamuning, which offers an array of enticing high-end shops (bargain seekers take note — the entire island is duty-free), eclectic restaurants and friendly bars, a few of which have strong LGBTQIA+ followings.

Although it takes some effort to reach this island, as it’s situated about 1,300 miles east of the Philippines, making the trip from the North American mainland can actually be part of the fun, as you can easily add a long stopover in Hawaii, Tokyo or Seoul.

Where to stay

With a prime location on Tumon Bay, the upscale Dusit Thani Guam Resort (rates start at $261 per night) rises 30 floors above the beach. The property’s spacious villas and suites offer splendid ocean or mountain views, and it’s home to six restaurants, a full-service spa (the couples experiences are utterly romantic) and fun activities like dolphin-watching cruises and star-gazing programs. A favorite of the island’s LGBTQIA+ visitors, the well-appointed Westin Resort Guam (rates start at $259 or 28,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night) offers a full slate of leisurely pursuits: scuba, snorkeling, kayak and boat rentals; a sprawling pool; a well-equipped fitness center; and an impressive spa. There are also five excellent restaurants, spanning sushi to gourmet Italian, and rooms are airy and comfortable with balconies.