THE QUESTION: Can you recommend sunny destinations that are safe for gays and lesbians?
Feeling welcome and at ease to be yourself are essential elements of travel. And for LGBT travellers in some parts of the world, that just doesn't happen.
"It's illegal to be gay or for men to show affection in most of the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East," says Liz Devine, president of Thomas Cook Rainbow Travel in Toronto.
"Many countries in these regions have laws prohibiting homosexual activity, imposing prison or, in some cases, death sentences for people identified as gay."
However, there are plenty of destinations that cater to the LGBT crowd. The International Lesbian & Gay Tourism Association lists rainbow-friendly tour companies, travel agencies and hotels in more than 80 countries. The Advocate compiles an annual list of the Gayest Cities in America: Sunny Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Long Beach, Calif., make the cut this year. And same-sex civil unions recently became legal in balmy Hawaii.
Devine of Rainbow Travel has these three warm-weather picks for you:
Curaçao: Its nickname is "Amsterdam on the Beach," and its party line is "live and let live." The Dutch Antilles island off the coast of Venezuela boasts beaches, casinos, golf and top scuba diving, Devine says.
The country has a website geared to gay travellers – gaycuracao.com – and hosts an annual pride festival and gay-themed events. And, considering that Blue Curaçao was first bottled here, be sure to add a Blue Margarita to the mix.
Puerto Vallarta: "Puerto Vallarta isn't just gay-friendly, it's a true gay destination," Devine says about the Pacific Coast town. "The old colonial town is populated with many gay-owned and operated hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclubs." The Blue Chairs Resort is at the heart of the action, she says. Add to that the many beaches, set against a backdrop of the lush Sierra Madre mountains and buildings with old Mexico's red-tiled roofs and whitewashed walls, and you've got plenty of postcard moments.
Barcelona: If you're leaning toward Europe, Devine recommends Barcelona and its outlying beach town of Sitges. In the city, there is the fantastical Gaudi architecture, Picasso masterpieces, street musicians and, of course, tapas bars and DJ-fuelled nightlife.
Meanwhile, Sitges, a former bohemian artists colony, "is one of the most popular summer gay beach areas in Europe," she says. "The city and the town combine to offer the best of European culture, beach and party scene."
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Special to The Globe and Mail