Courtesy of Hotel Esencia
Peter Schlesinger
August 31, 2017

Planning the ultimate gaycation? Travel + Leisure spoke with travel agents who specialize in helping LGBT travelers plan luxe adventures around the world to pick some of the top gay-friendly resorts on Earth.

All recognized on T+L's A-List (an annual selection of the world's best travel agents) in the last three years, John Clifford, Lynda Turley, and David Rubin pointed to luxe properties in buzzy European cities and Hawaiian islands.

Whether you want easy access to amazing gay bars or undisturbed beaches, you can count on all of six these properties to be welcoming, design-forward, and LGBT-friendly. 

The Late Birds in Lisbon, Portugal

John Clifford, of International Travel Management, loves Portugal’s under-visited capital for its food, fashion, and scenic location along the Tagus River. He recommends the intimate Late Birds resort for gay travelers. The men-only boutique inn from owners Carlos Ruvio and Sonia Santiago occupies an 18th century villa with a sleek, contemporary design. “A mix of steampunk and bohemian luxe round out the lounge, bar, gallery, and pool,” Clifford told T+L.

Hotel Esencia in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Formerly the vacation home to an Italian duchess, and later a mediocre resort, the now upscale Hotel Esencia sits on 50 waterfront acres between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Owner Kevin Wendle and his partner purchased it in 2014 and set about upping the glam factor. They added Mid-Century decor and Charlotte Perriand furnishings, attracting “high octane gay couples and fashion’s elite” to enjoy the resort and its powder-white beach, according to Clifford.

Halekulani in Honolulu, Hawaii

Halekulani is one of my favorites,” said Lynda Turley of Alpine Travel. “You feel as soon as you enter the property that you are somewhere quiet and relaxed.” The beachside resort is an oasis of tranquility, with soothing rooms done in signature “seven shades of white” and balconies overlooking Waikiki and Diamond Head beyond. For LGBT visitors, it’s just minutes away from the gay bars, and an easy walk to the gay beach at the far end of Waikiki.

Courtesy of Otahuna Lodge

Otahuna Lodge in Christchurch, New Zealand

Gay-owned Otahuna Lodge, outside of Christchurch, is a “stunning Victorian mansion with its own organic garden,” said Turley. “But what makes it really special are its hosts, owners Miles and Hall.” The couple gave up real estate and publishing careers in New York City to refurbish the 30-acre estate, which had fallen into disrepair. They turned it into one of the South Island’s most stylish getaways. Explore nearby vineyards or volcanoes during your stay, but linger long enough to walk the manicured lawns, visit the spa, and enjoy five-course, property-grown dinners.

Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa in Trancoso, Brazil

“An amazing, relaxed, LGBTQ-welcoming property in the totally cool Brazilian beachside town of Trancoso” is how David Rubin, owner of DavidTravel, describes Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa. “The owners are hip and in the design industry,” he added. And it shows. The 500-year-old villas, dating back to the UNESCO-protected village’s founding, are now a study in beachy simplicity, with dark wood furnishings accenting the whitewashed walls. Walk a few minutes through mangroves and you’ll find yourself on an undisturbed — unless Anderson Cooper happens to be there — stretch of sand with turquoise waves lapping at the shoreline.

Four Seasons Resort Lana’i Lodge at Koele in Lanai, Hawaii

Closed for renovations since 2015, Four Seasons Resort Lana’i Lodge at Koele is a perennial favorite for Rubin. The resort sprawls across 20 acres of Lanai’s central highlands, with rooms overlooking manicured croquet and bowling lawns, rolling hills, and glimpses of the ocean far below. He’s excited for it to reopen in 2018, when guests will once again be able to explore the rugged island by foot, horse, or jeep, and relax by the lodge’s enormous stone fireplaces. Rubin particularly applauds the staff for its attentive care, like welcome notes for Mr. & Mr., for example.

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