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Six gay-friendly vacation hotspots for winter sunshine

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras  (Photo: Jeffrey Feng Photography)
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (Photo: Jeffrey Feng Photography)

Do you live in a part of the world where the winter brings ice, sleet and grey skies? If so, right about now, you’re probably dreaming of escaping for some winter heat and sunshine. Here are six recommendations for places to check out – and keep an eye out for the post-Holidays airline sales.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, is one of the most popular holiday destinations for LGBTQ travelers from North America. Its high season runs from December to April, when temperatures can hit 90F.

Puerto Vallarta (Photo: Courtesy

The city has dozens of different beaches to choose from, and many gay travelers may want to head to the famed Blue Chair Beach Club – with its blue and green sun loungers. This is not exclusively gay, but definitely very gay-friendly.

The beach club is in the town’s ‘Zona Romantica’, where you will find plenty of LGBT businesses – from jewelry and clothing shops to bars, clubs, and cafes. The destination also plays host to various gay festivals, such as bear fest Beef Dip at the end of January. 

Related: Gay bars in Puerto Vallarta 

Sydney, Australia

While winter descends upon the northern hemisphere, in the southern hemisphere, it’s the opposite. Australia is hitting its hottest time of the year, and the most gay-friendly city is Sydney

Sydney is Australia’s biggest city, and its 5million population includes plenty from the LGBTQ community. Much of the gay scene is centered around Oxford Street, with long-running bars such as Stonewall and Arq. There are also several gay-friendly beaches for those wanting to top up their tans.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras  (Photo: Jeffrey Feng Photography)
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (Photo: Jeffrey Feng Photography)

And of course, every February is Mardi Gras: one of the world’s biggest queer festivals. This 2020 event runs from February, 14th, to March, 1st. 

Related: Gay bars and clubs in Sydney

Key West, United States

Warm, tropical and balmy Key West lies at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys.

Just four miles long and two miles wide, Key West is home to a permanent population of around 25,000 which is, at any one time, swelled by a constant stream of visitors. This includes many gay folk, who hang out at the bars on Duval Street and often stay at several gay guesthouses and hotels, such as Island House.

Gay Key West
Enjoying the pool at Island House, Key West (Photo: David Hudson)

Even in the middle of January, you’re likely to be able to watch stunning sunsets from Mallory Square. 

Related: Gay-friendly hotels in Key West

Greater Fort Lauderdale, United States

Greater Fort Lauderdale prides itself on being ‘Florida’s gay capital’. Temperatures in January average at 75F but can rise as high as 88F.

Both Fort Lauderdale and its neighboring gayborhood, Wilton Manors, have a higher than average number of gay residents (Wilton Manors became the second US city to elect an all-LGBTQ local government in 2018 – after Palm Springs), and plenty of bars, hotels, and gay-run businesses. Even some of the police cars have rainbow stripes!

Greater Fort Lauderdale
(Photo: Greater Fort Lauderdale/

Soak up some rays at gay-friendly beaches, including Terramar Street Beach or the quieter Terramar Street Beach. 

Related: Gay bars and clubs in Greater Fort Lauderdale

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is the gay capital of Africa, and certainly the most popular LGBTQ destination in South Africa. Compared to some parts of the continent, the country has progressive legislation around gay rights, including same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws.

Cape Town in South Africa offers stunning scenery
Cape Town in South Africa offers stunning scenery (Photo: Joshua Earle on Unsplash)

There’s a burgeoning art scene, natural beauty (highlights include Table Top Mountain), and plenty of gay bars, bathhouses, and guesthouses. Sandy Bay nudist beach is also popular with gay men. 

Related: Cape Town gay-friendly hotels

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

The Sahara-like sand dunes of Playa Del Ingles, Gran Canaria (Photo: Courtesy

This Spanish island actually lies off the western coast of Africa, and geographically, it is not actually on the continent of Europe. Given its location, it basks in sunshine throughout the year.

Gran Canaria is by far the most gay-friendly of the Canary Islands, with much of the gay nightlife based in the Yumbo Center in Playa Del Ingles – a shopping mall by day and gay hotspot at night, with dozens of bars.

There’s a stretch of gay beach in Maspalomas plus several gay-run hotels and resorts. It had its own Winter Pride festival in November.

The island is not greatly known in the US as there are no direct flights but is very popular with Brits and Germans. 

Related: Gay bars in Gran Canaria