Best Gay Honeymoon Destinations
After Jeffrey Ward and his husband married in Canada, they left for a South Africa honeymoon that included Cape Town, a Kruger National Park safari, and Victoria Falls.
Ward loved it so much that he quit his job at American Airlines and eventually co-purchased African Safari Consultants, a specialty operator and parent company of Savvy Navigator, the division specializing in gay honeymoons.
Related: Best Gay Honeymoon Destinations
It’s no wonder that tourism agencies are reaching out to the LGBT sector: honeymoons have become a $12 billion industry in America. The historic Supreme Court overturning of DOMA in June 2013 coincided with simultaneous gay marriage victories in France, the United Kingdom, and Brazil, creating a boomlet of honeymoon spending among this pink dual-income, no-kids demographic.
“It seems that with each legal milestone gay and lesbian couples achieve, the marketing accelerates,” says Ed Salvato, editor in chief of ManAboutWorld, the No. 1–ranked gay travel iPad magazine in the App Store. “Readers may be surprised that corporations that may be considered ‘conservative,’ like Marriott, wholeheartedly market to this segment often in the context of honeymoons,” he continues.
There’s also been a sea change in where gays travel; gay-owned hotels and traditional gay destinations are no longer the primary draw. Places like Wales, Uruguay, and Bora-Bora are all beautiful and rarefied and now also offer gay marriage and anti-discrimination laws that can put same-sex couples at ease. After all, LGBT honeymooners want to be able to hold hands or exchange a kiss on the beach like everyone else.
“If they recognize and celebrate our relationships, we’ll recognize and celebrate their destination with our hard-earned pink dollars,” says Salvato.
Read on for today’s best gay honeymoon spots, in a range of budgets.
This honeymoon favorite delivers, regardless of sexuality, thanks to a winning formula of soft white-sand beaches, vanilla plantations, coconut groves, gin-clear waters, and some of the world’s sexiest hotels. At Le Méridien Bora Bora, overwater bungalows feature glass floors to reveal the marine life below while windows face Pahia and Otemanu, the island’s iconic emerald-hued volcanoes. Since its motherland France passed marriage equality in June 2013, French Polynesia has granted LGBT travelers full protection status; same-sex marriage is recognized and performed here.
Ancient Greece’s gay literature, art, and theater are crucial to the history of homosexuality, and the destination remains wildly popular with LGBT travelers (even though gay marriage is prohibited here). Situated atop a hill near Porto Heli on the Peloponnese coast three hours from Athens, the serene modernist Amanzoe feels like a temple to Mediterranean tranquility. Vineyards, olive groves, pine forests, and ancient sites like the Temple of Hera and Avgo’s St. Dimitrios Monastery surround the resort. It’s also become a favorite of architects, artists, and design-minded travelers who come to shut out the exterior world.
Argentina approved same-sex marriage in 2010 and remains one of the most affordable destinations in the Americas, known for its art, cuisine, and bold Malbec wines from the Mendoza region. Start in the sultry capital of Buenos Aires, where the Art Hotel—a 1929 townhouse conveniently located between the barrios of Recoleta and Barrio Norte—doubles as a gallery space devoted to contemporary art. (Local works decorate each of the 36 rooms.) Ornate ironwork and canopy beds add an old-world romantic flair to the otherwise modern property.
Contributions to LGBT films like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding and Sydney’s vibrant gay scene have made Australia a must among gay travelers. And the varied sun-scorched landscape of vineyards, outback desert, open-minded cities, and the Great Barrier Reef have an undeniable lure for honeymooners seeking an active, multitasking vacation. The Four Seasons Sydney is one of the most affordable in the portfolio; it’s located in the vibrant Rocks District, walking distance from the Harbour Bridge and the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Santa Barbara, CA
California helped make LGBT marriage legal on a federal level, and the state’s laid-back attitude, creative cuisine, and sunny climate make it an ideal honeymoon destination for all. Consider Santa Barbara, a wine lover’s paradise along the central coast and setting for El Encanto, an exquisitely renovated Orient-Express property atop the city’s Riviera Hill. Romantic Craftsman bungalows are fitted with fireplaces, fluffy beds, and private porches, while a full-service spa specializes in couples’ treatments like lemon-basil body scrubs. More active types can use electric bikes to explore Santa Barbara’s winery-packed Funk Zone, or arrange snorkeling in the nearby Channel Islands.
South Africa is the lone African country that has banned gay discrimination and recognizes same-sex marriage. By turns rugged and urbane, Cape Town offers fine dining, scenic drives, surfing, penguins, and proximity to gorgeous wine country. It’s also a sanctuary for LGBT travelers. Honeymooning guests of Cape Grace are treated to daily gifts like bottles of Stellenbosch bubbly and handmade chocolates. The hotel’s online honeymoon registry allows friends and family to pay for the couple’s activities ahead of time. For guided tours with an extraordinary level of service, consider Micato Safaris.
The Swiss acceptance of all walks of life is a model for emerging gay-friendly countries (it’s the only nation where gay marriage was voted for by people, not approved by the government). The French-speaking Romandie lures honeymooners with more than 40 13,000-feet-plus peaks, a thriving wine culture, its native dish of fondue—plus biking, swimming, skiing, and Alpine hikes to work off the calories. You’ll find the cozy wine bar/inn Le Bourg 7 amid the cobblestoned streets of the Lavaux wine region, where terraces dangle down steep hills into cerulean Lake Léman. lebourg7.com
France passed gay marriage in 2013, and there’s no better place to celebrate than Gay Paree, where romance is taken as seriously as the food, wine, and art. If that weren’t enough, the thriving gay nightlife and fashion scene keep this city’s pulse positively pink. After a night out, retreat to the intimate Hotel de Nell, in the Ninth Arrondissement on a quiet street near Montmartre. This newcomer to the Design Hotels collection features sexy Japanese tubs made of marble and Oregon myrtle. hoteldenell.com
Youthful, vibrant Kyoto is the ultimate cultural honeymoon for travelers seeking something out of the ordinary yet still relaxing. Reachable by boat along the bamboo-grove and temple-lined Arashiyama River, Hoshinoya Kyoto positions itself as a hotel-ryokan hybrid, pairing modern comforts (Western beds, A/C, TVs) with traditional Japanese service, décor, and steamy onsen (thermal baths). It’s especially captivating during the spring cherry-blossom season. Note that Japan doesn’t recognize gay marriage but is generally tolerant; it’s one of the few Asian countries that allows gays to serve in the military.
Although many Caribbean islands are hot spots of homophobia, sybaritic St. Bart’s—an overseas collective of France—is a notable exception and has even legalized gay marriage. The très chic, laissez-faire island has long been favored by A-list gays like Marc Jacobs, Ellen DeGeneres, and Portia de Rossi for doing nothing but eating, drinking, sleeping and frolicking in the sky-blue water on the island’s 27 sparkling white-sand beaches. Suites at the breezy Hôtel Guanahani have private beachfront bathtubs and Jacuzzis, and a Clarins spa for after-sun treatments.
In 2005, Spain became the third country to legalize gay marriage. Its rich LGBT heritage includes artists as varied as designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, poet Federico García Lorca, and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, who is inspired by the streets of Madrid and Barcelona. Barcelona’s warm and modernist Hotel Omm is in the fashionable Paseo de Gràcia district, with a rooftop pool offering Gaudí views galore. Pair it with a visit to the nearby seaside town of Sitges. According to John Clifford, president of International Travel Management, “Sitges ranks No. 1 for gay travelers in Spain for its mix of Gaudí culture, great dining, clubs, and art.”
LGBT travelers have long flocked to Brazil for its wide variety of vacation options, from beachy Búzios to cultural excursions in São Paulo and flamboyant Rio—and Brazil was part of a wave of countries to legalize gay marriage in 2013. Located in the municipality of Governador Celso Ramos (just 25 miles from Florianópolis), Ponta dos Ganchos is a kid-free Relais & Châteaux coastal hideaway with 25 bungalows on a privately owned peninsula, where the rainforest melts into the sea.
It’s not just London—Manchester, Brighton, Bournemouth, and the Cotswolds have sizable gay populations, too, and gay marriage is legal across the U.K. It can be especially rewarding to explore England’s hillside hamlets, where car-free, “walkabout honeymoons” have become fashionable. The terrain is ideal in Somerset (two hours by train from Bournemouth or Brighton), where sheep-dotted hills, cider barns, friendly village pubs, and glittery, starlit skies are worth the trek. Inside Exmoor National Park—Europe’s first dark-sky preserve—is Dunster village and its cozy, gay-friendly Yarn Market Hotel. yarnmarkethotel.co.uk
While Thailand has no official gay rights, it’s famous for lady-boy culture and drag shows performed everywhere from anything-goes Bangkok to sacred Ayutthaya. The country is also an alluring destination for food lovers, culture seekers, beach-goers, divers, and snorkelers. It’s hard to beat the popular destinations of Koh Samui, Krabi, Pattaya, and Phuket for their beach tourism infrastructure. Yet the boutique, gay-owned Lotus Hotel in elegant Chiang Mai is an infinitely more relaxed place to explore temples, street-food markets, cooking schools, and artisan boutiques. lotus-hotel.com
This land of dramatic fjords allowed civil unions in 1993 and officially legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, the first in Scandinavia to do so. LGBT honeymooners seeking a relaxed itinerary can get up close to coastal fjords on a Hurtigruten cruise, which invites passengers to feast on snow crab, go dogsledding, witness calving icebergs, spot polar bears on Spitsbergen, or just sip hot chocolate from the on-deck Jacuzzi while “chasing” the northern lights. hurtigruten.com