5 best tropical LGBTQ-friendly destinations to escape to this winter

A palm tree and its shadow on a pristine sandy beach. Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

Travelling abroad is often a little more complicated when you’re LGBTQ+. Escaping the bitter cold during winter is a must, but searching for sun-soaked getaways can be a minefield, with several sought-after tropical destinations still criminalising being LGBTQ+.

Nobody wants to spend their romantic trip afraid to hold hands, so finding the perfect balance of a queer-friendly atmosphere with bright and beautiful weather is crucial. 

Thankfully, United Airlines connects the UK with some of the world’s most idyllic tropical (and LGBTQ-friendly) locations, with destinations in Latin America and the Pacific where you can relax, explore, take part in adventurous activities, or enjoy sun-soaked cocktails in LGBTQ+ bars.

So before you throw aside your coat and scarf in favour of snorkels and SPF, here are the best tropical LGBTQ-friendly destinations to deliver a much-needed dose of sunshine.

Cancún, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico (Getty Images)

A great destination for a slightly more lively trip, Cancún boasts several LGBTQ+ bars and venues, alongside more relaxing spots like white-sand beaches and Mayan ruins.

Traditionally a destination for American students during universities’ spring break period, Cancún is known for its nightlife and party atmosphere, with the spring break period – usually around March – boasting entertainment like foam parties, themed club nights and bar crawls, some of which will take place in LGBTQ+ venues.

For more chilled-out days, Cancún is also home to pristine beaches on the Caribbean Sea – a favourite among scuba divers and snorkellers due to the underwater Museo Subacuático de Arte, which showcases over 500 submerged sculptures. 

From Cancún, it’s also easy to day-trip to Tulum which is home to beautiful Mayan ruins and murals from around the 13th to 15th centuries. 

Mexico is also considered very safe for the LGBTQ+ community, with 75 out of 100 on LGBTQ+ equality rating website Equaldex.

Book your flights with United Airlines from London Heathrow to Cancún.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Getty Images)

Once in Cancún, it’s only a short distance to another Mexican LGBTQ+ hotspot, Puerto Vallarta, perfect for a second stop while in the country.

Filled with not only beaches, but vibrant nightlife, lush jungles, mountains and areas for hiking, swimming and snorkelling, Puerto Vallarta is a destination for travellers who want to pack plenty of activities into their holiday.

The diverse destination is broken into several “zones”, with areas including the more touristy activities, the “romantic zone” with cobblestone streets, beaches and restaurants, a zone of the more traditional and residential buildings, and a family zone with quiet beaches and activities like a zoo and botanical gardens. Many beaches also offer water activities like parasailing and scuba diving, and even whale and dolphin watching. 

As well as plenty of activities on offer, the city is a fantastic destination for queer tourists, with Puerto Vallarta named Beach Destination of the Year in the 2023 LGBTQ+ Travel Awards thanks to its famous gay beach (Los Muertos Beach) and thriving LGBTQ+ nightlife. 

The area even hosts an annual Vallarta Pride festival thanks to its growing LGBTQ+ community. 

Book your flights with United Airlines from London Heathrow to Puerto Vallarta.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica (Getty Images)

With its tropical climate and breathtaking scenery, Costa Rica is most suitable for visitors who want to explore, hike, and enjoy a nature-filled holiday. 

Known for its volcanoes, jungle, and rugged landscape, the best things to do in the country involve getting active: from hiking in the forests, to visiting idyllic waterfalls, to ziplining, taking a river cruise, to exploring an active volcano, you’ll want to explore everything the country has to offer before lazing on the beaches when you’re truly wiped out.

It’s best to visit the country on a winter getaway though, as December to April marks the driest season with bright, sunny weather, while May to November is the wet season.

Costa Rica is also a great destination for LGBTQ+ travellers. The first country in Central America to legally recognise same-sex relationships, Costa Rica then legalised same-sex marriage in 2020.

Book your flights with United Airlines from London Heathrow to Costa Rica.

Hawaii

Waiʻānapanapa State Park, Maui, Hawaii (Getty Images)

As a US state, Hawaii has all the same rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people as the rest of America, including legal same-sex marriage, while Hawaii also boasts incredible queer nightlife, sober LGBTQ activities like queer hiking groups, and several different Pride events on each of Hawaii’s islands.

Hawaii is considered a hotspot for LGBTQ travel, with websites like Gay Island Guide indexing an array of queer-friendly nightlife, hotels, beaches, and activity groups. 

Hawaii is known for its incredibly diverse landscape, with National Parks, volcanoes, tropical rainforests, waterfalls and beaches just some of the nature the state has to offer; for adventurous travellers, this landscape means there’s always something to do, from whale watching, to swimming with dolphins, to hiking.

Honolulu is also packed with history, with the Pearl Harbour memorial, Iolani Palace, and the Battleship Missouri Memorial all must-visit stops in anyone’s trip. 

United Airlines flights service several sought-after destinations within Hawaii: Honolulu, Kona and Maui. Tourist boards in Hawaii encourage tourists to Maui to be mindful and responsible when visiting the island, which was recently devastated by wildfires.

Book your flights with United Airlines from London Heathrow to Hawaii.

Tahiti

Tikehau island, Tahiti (Getty Images)

Boasting an incredible 100 out of 100 on LGBTQ equality rating website Equaldex – with equal marriage and adoption rights, a ban on conversion therapy, and protection for gay and trans people against discrimination – Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia are often chosen as a place for destination same-sex weddings. 

While nightlife – including LGBTQ venues – is quiet in tranquil Tahiti, if you’re looking to go out, Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, does have some bars and venues, and is considered very LGBTQ-friendly. 

Tahiti is most famous for its gorgeous beaches, featuring thatched huts raised above the water, so opportunities like whale-watching, snorkelling, scuba diving, and boat tours are plentiful. The Black Pearl Museum is also a must-see, housing the largest Tahitian pearl in the world.

Fly with United Airlines from London Heathrow to San Francisco International, then onwards to Papeete, Tahiti.

For American travellers, United Airlines also offers non-stop flights to Tahiti from several destinations across the US, meaning blissful sun and sand is closer than you would think. 

Book your flights with United Airlines from London Heathrow to Tahiti.

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