Discover the 10 best gay beaches in North America (and where to stay)

What’s better than an afternoon spent on America’s sunniest shores, cooling off with a skinny dip in well-oiled gay company? Not much, we say. Whether touring Canada, road-tripping in the US or running south of the border, liberal gay beaches luckily come in good supply, allowing for frolicking and all kinds of ballgames with like-minded locals and internationals. So before the tide goes too far out, we bring you a rundown of the 10 best gay beaches in North America from the Pacific coast of Vancouver to the year-round tropical retreat of the Florida Keys.

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Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica | Photo: Atanas Malamov

1. Higgs Beach, Key West. USA

Despite Miami being a firm contender for the state’s gay crown, Key West is not without its options, hogging many of the best gay beaches in Florida on its sandy shores. Of these, Higgs Beach is among our firm favourites as the de facto gay beach on the island for the gay community to socialise, snorkel and sun it up to their heart’s content in the company of Florida’s hottest men. Find Higgs Beach at the end of Reynolds Street, where the wide beachfront comes complete with calm and shallow waters, a wooden pier and bathroom facilities. To your west is Higgs Beach Dog Park while also nearby you’ll find the Key West AIDS Memorial and the slavery-era African Cemetery. Stay longer in paradise with a busy schedule covering the top things to do in Key West.

Where to stay: Some of our favourite gay lodgings in reach of Higgs Beach include Island House Key West, adult-only Alexander’s Guesthouse and Andrews Inn & Garden Cottages.

Key West | Photo: Meric Dagli

Photo: Stefan Schranz

2. Wreck Beach, Vancouver. Canada

From south to north, our second gay beach to mention is Vancouver City’s Wreck Beach, a bohemian surprise on the Pacific Coast. Sheltered by forest and hidden 400-steps below a huge cliff face, this undeveloped, 6-kilometre stretch of beach is totally removed from the stress of the city, freeing Vancouverites with its clothing-optional policy. Now protected under the Wreck Beach Preservation Society (WBPS) set up by a group of protesting naturists in the 1970s, the beach now acts as a haven for the gay community just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, holding various events throughout the year, including the wintertime Polar Bear Swimmers contest and the annual Body Acceptance Day. Plan your time in Vancouver with our full Vancouver travel guide.

Where to stay: The Burrard has to be our number one choice while in Vancouver for its retro/modern fusion stylings.

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Mexico’s gayest resort town, Puerto Vallarta has been a community outpost since the 1970s when the Love Boat docked here and gay icon Elizabeth Taylor graced its shores

3. Playa Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta. Mexico

There’s certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches south of the US border, but its Playa Los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta that steals all the thunder. Mexico’s gayest resort town, Puerto Vallarta has been a community outpost since the 1970s when the Love Boat docked here and gay icon Elizabeth Taylor graced its shores. Playa Los Muertos is just one of the many hidden beaches here, made famous as a gay destination thanks to Blue Chairs, the town’s first gay resort. Serving cocktails and Mexican fare from dawn until late, the resort is also known for its go-go boys, drag shows and scandalous antics on the rooftop bar. Besides beach-bumming, cover the many things to do in Puerto Vallarta within the preserved Old Town or escape the bustle by boating out to Yelapa, a secluded paradise for honeymooners and couples.

Where to stay: One of our all-time favourite gay destinations Puerto Vallarta is not without its fair share of fabulous gay lodgings. See our top 10 list here.

Photo: Afvzi

4. 12th Street Beach, Miami. USA

Arguably the best gay beach Miami has to offer, 12th Street Beach is an ever-popular meeting point serving the city’s most gorgeous queers throughout the year. Located in the middle of Lummus Park along Ocean Drive, 12th Street Beach has all the facilities to keep you amused, including volleyball courts, weightlifting equipment and a whole host of bars and restaurants nearby, notably the famed Palace Bar. Besides striking up a volleyball tournament with the local talent, there are countless other events to get involved in such as the Winter Party Festival, White Party and of course Miami Beach Pride, the largest gay celebration in the region. Refer to our full Miami travel guide for advice on things to do, attractions to visit and nightlife to go wild for!

Where to stay: Our top choice of Miami beachside accommodations are 1 Hotel South Beach and The Setai.

Miami Beach | Photo: Denys Kostyuchenko

Photo: Jess Vide

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Baker Beach in the Presidio district is the place to go nude in friendly company, all in view of the bay’s famed Golden Gate Bridge

5. Baker Beach, San Francisco. USA

The best city in the world to be gay, San Francisco has a long legacy of activism alongside a ton of mighty fine institutions all geared towards the LGBTQ+ community. Of these, Baker Beach in the Presidio district is the place to go nude in friendly company, all in view of the bay’s famed Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands opposite. Move to the northern end of the beach for the gay bit, an area popular among locals for picnics and relaxing in cliff surroundings. After dusk, the fun continues into the evening, particularly in The Castro gaybourhood as explored in our San Francisco travel guide

Where to stay: A veritable gay playground, San Francisco has many great gay hotels to choose from. See our rundown of the top 10 here.

Baker Beach, San Francisco | Photo: Grant Cai

6. Playita Beach, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Sneaking a Costa Rica offering into the mix, though technically not in North America, Playita Beach in Manuel Antonio is so impressive we couldn’t not mention it. Though Manuel Antonio National Park comes edged by hundreds of secluded beaches all along the coast to Uvita’s Playa Ballena, arrive on the 7-kilometre Playa Espadilla for something a little special. Fill up on seafood and rent a Sea-doo from the main section, jetting north to reach the more undeveloped and surfer-friendly beachfront also known as ‘the gay end’. Enjoy various gay parties on certain holidays or scramble over the rocks at low tide for the more exclusive nudist offering of Playa La Macha, sometimes going by the name Playa Dulce Vide. Alternatively, get here via the walking trail down from the cliff road. Discover more of the nation’s best natural attractions with our Costa Rica travel guide.

Where to stay: The adults-only Makanda by the Sea Hotel and Arena del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort are our firm favourite resorts in Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica | Photo: Etienne Delorieux

Photo: Oleg Magni

7. Pines Beach, Fire Island, NY. USA

A pinnacle destination among the New York gay scene for nearly 100 years, Fire Island remains the ultimate city escape on the south shore of Long Island. The island is split between two queer communities, one in the Pines and the other in Cherry Grove, the latter notorious for its parties and the more developed of the two. Within either enclave however you’ll find a neat selection of gay beaches and a diverse mix of ages, professions, nationalities and kinks. Pines Beach in particular is a strong base for action, with sand once blessed by Liza Minelli, Alan Cumming and Calvin Klein. It’s here where anything goes, whether it’s streaking into the sea, enabling your Grindr GPS at the Pavilion, or go-go dancing at the Sip n Twirl.

Where to stay: Take your pick of the best gay-friendly hotels of Fire Island.

8. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. USA

Move over Provincetown because there’s a new contender for the Atlantic Coast’s top LGBT beach, located in the friendly state of Delaware on a peninsula east of Washington DC. Here you’ll find gay Rehoboth Beach, a windswept coastal town filled with over 200 gay owned and operated businesses, tax-free shopping and pretty stretches of beach in walking distance from town. Meaning ‘a place for all’, Rehoboth is one for the community as well as President Joe Biden who has a summer beach house based on the North Shore. Though Biden may mingle in different circles, find the male gay community on the sand near Queen Street to the south end of the boardwalk, on an area known as Poodle Beach, while North Shore Beach within Cape Henlopen State Park is one for the lesbians.

Where to stay: We’ll book in at Rehoboth Guest House every time.

Photo: StockSnap

9. Ginger Rogers Beach, Los Angeles. USA

Ticking off our list of the 10 best gay things to do in Los Angeles you’ll soon take the plunge into Los Angeles gay beach scene, starting and ending on Ginger Rogers Beach if you know what’s good for you. Otherwise known as Will Rogers State Beach and the only gay beach in Los Angeles City proper, here you’ll find the sunny stomping ground of the West Hollywood gay crowd, at its most lively on the weekend. Take the Santa Monica Blue Bus 9 to Santa Monica State Beach, following the vast stretch of palm-edged shorefront towards Lifeguard Tower 18 where the gay crowd congregates. For a stylish entrance, bike here and cut across the beach on its designated bike paths.

Where to stay: Need a place to stay? We’ve got 10, all outlined in our list of the best gay-friendly hotels in Los Angeles.

10. Sebastian Street Beach, Ft. Lauderdale. USA

Lastly, there’s Sebastian Street Beach, the most popular gay beach in the already super gay city of Fort Lauderdale. Found off of Sebastian Street near the Ritz Carlton, this gay beach comes lined by gay hotels and resorts from Sunrise Boulevard all the way to Las Olas. As well as indulging in Happy Hour cocktails with cute local men along the shorefront, consider taking the short cab ride to Wilton Manor, later on, to get in amongst Fort Lauderdale’s most happening gayborhood. One of the most gay friendly beach towns in the US, we of course had to create the dedicated Fort Lauderdale travel guide.

Where to stay: We recommend trying Pineapple Point Guesthouse & Resort or the Grand Resort and Spa.

Photo: Justin Snyder

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