The top 10 destinations to discover gay Mexico: from gay Acapulco to gay Puerto Vallarta

Doused in dusty terracotta and bold Aztec influence, Mexico is a nation to submerge the senses. Snorkel in the Caribbean sea off endless stretches of coastline, moving inland to wonder at Mayan architecture and gorge on spicy corn-wrapped treats in quaint colonial towns. The country’s epic cathedrals and religious monuments show how Mexico is fed by Catholicism, but it is the modernity and liberalism in more developed areas that helps to make Mexico a queer paradise, particularly in its biggest cities and coastal party towns. The capital Mexico City was the nation’s first city to legalize gay marriage in 2010 and still holds the region’s largest Pride parade while contending cities such as Monterrey and Acapulco offer authentic vacations with a side of queer fun. Hone in on where to go in gay Mexico with these top 10 destinations for gay travellers.

Tailor Made Journey

Tailor-Made Mexico: The Essence of Mesoamerica

Experience the rich history, culture and gastronomy of Mexico at their most authentic, and marvel at architectural wonders such as Teotihuacán, which you take in by hot air balloon. Explore the UNESCO-designated floating gardens of Xochimilco as well on a journey that features private workshops in Puebla and with the celebrated Alebrije community in Oaxaca.

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

Photo: David Emrich

1. Acapulco

Nicknamed “the pearl of the Pacific”, Acapulco entices visitors to the Pacific coast with its glittering sand shores and turquoise seas. Both charming and enigmatic, Acapulco by day allows visitors to bound between beach and restaurant, pausing to appreciate divine local cuisine and juicy beverages. Try Playa Condesa for a good gay company and skinny-dipping opportunities. By night, after romantic sunsets and an optional nap, Acapulco becomes one of the foremost party cities in Mexico proffering affordable, all-night partying amongst an excitable global crowd.

The gay population in Acapulco has been well established since Elizabeth Taylor and countless Hollywood celebrities made a home here in the mid-20th century. After years of quietude, the town has seen a recent resurgence of its gay scene and LGBTQ-centred businesses helping to lure ex-pats, local youngsters and international jet setters looking to retire in Mexico. In a lucha libre chokehold with Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco competes for the title of most happening Mexico gay scene. Gay-run hotels, bars and clubs are in good supply, presenting Las Vegas style drag shows alongside lavish techno club nights and beachside pop disco. Depending on your budget, stay within the old town of ‘Tradicional’ or ‘Nautica’ where mid-tier hotels overlook the boardwalk and town square, or, for a more high-end retreat, go south side for luxury lodgings a short taxi ride from town.

Photo: Christian Lambert

2. Cancun

The vacation destination of many a spring breaker, Cancun offers much more than beach volleyball competitions with college kids and all-inclusive cocktails… although there’s no shortage of that too. Located on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Cancun benefits from spectacular weather and calm seas which lap the region’s endless stretch of white sand coast. Such beauty means that Cancun sees as many as six million visitors each year, with much of the coast privatised by countless resorts and complexes in the ‘Hotel Zone’. Fret not however because Cancun’s resorts cater to all types of traveller, ranging from smaller family-run properties to all-inclusive luxury resorts complete with lazy rivers, spas, entertainment packages and more.

Inland, Cancun gets cultured; with the region’s preserved monuments and landmarks telling the story of ancient Mayan civilization. Chichén Itzá is the most well-known but other breath-taking spots include, Xel Ha, El Rey ruins and the Ek Balam pyramids. After a sweaty morning playing Indiana Jones, cool off in one of  Yucatán’s many natural pools made from limestone sinkholes. Discover the 10 most beautiful cenotes near Cancun for crystal clear cave snorkelling or opt for any other of the worthwhile things to do in Cancun. Take a tequila tour, bike tour or scuba adventure in Cozumel before winding down and watching over unbeatable sunsets at one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Cancun.

If the question on your lips remains ‘where all the gay Mexicanos at?’ then try Playa Chac Mool and Playa Delfines, two of the top gay beaches located in a small community just outside the city centre. Away from the beaches, gay Cancun can be found within El Centro on both sides of the canal. While March sees Spring Break straightness, later in the season the Mexico gay scene takes over with the International Gay Festival in May and the Cancún Riviera Maya Gay Fall Festival in November.

Photo: Marcos Paulo Prado

Dos Ojos Cenote | Photo: Roberto Nickson

3. Playa del Carmen

Drive south along that phenomenal section of coast south of Cancún and you’ll eventually come across Quintana Roo’s, Playa del Carmen, a place known by the global gay community as one of the world’s greatest LGBT+ travel destinations. While you may have thought Mexico’s beaches couldn’t get any better, the lack of Cancún’s crowds and the wind protection from Cozumel island mean that the Playa del Carmen wins out. A coastal resort on the Riviera Maya strip, gay Playa del Carmen Mexico offers a cheerful LGBT community in town, with queer fun spilling outward to its three main gay beaches. First is Mamitas Beach on the north side of Mamita’s Beach Club, then there’s Coco Beach for exceptional swimming, and finally, the cruise-happy Xangrila Beach along the Camino a Playas X-angrila 112 road, best visited early evening for more private liaisons.

Head back into town for more gay Mexican entertainment, where both gay and non-gay hotspots can provide the perfect setting to meet people. Try mingling along the 5th Avenue walking street where travellers and locals alike socialise and let loose come sundown. Want more? See our article on things to do in Riviera Maya.

Photo: Kandhal Keshvala

4. Mérida 

The oft-overlooked capital of Yucatán is Mérida City, opposite Cancun on the northwest coast. A Spanish colonial city bursting with authenticity and historic interest, Mérida is a fine alternative to the Hotel Zone of Cancun and is said to be the oldest inhabited city in all of North, South and Central America. The city is also proudly populated by 60 per cent indigenous Mayans and considered one of the safest and cleanest cities in the region. Different from other gay Mexico resort towns, Mérida is rather more isolated and on arrival, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back into a time when Spanish conquistadors met with Mayan civilization. Mayan language, culture and ritual remain preserved in the city, with modern Mérida embracing traditional art, cuisine and awareness of indigenous issues. Cheaper and with a higher standard of living than anywhere else in the region, ‘The White City’ blends authenticity and luxury to create a dream getaway that will take you from Mayan ruins to heritage spots with the added option of a gay cruise around northern Yucatán’s outstanding coastline.

As for the gay bars Merida Mexico has in store, most are located in ‘Centro’ on Calle 60, but it’s easy to meet like-minded people in the many cantinas, restaurants and straight bars around town. Outside of Gay Merida, you’ll find acceptance and friendly tour operators to help ensure your time is memorable for all the right reasons.

Photo: Dayana Brooke

Photo: Anastase Maragos

5. Mexico City

A dynamic megacity boasting world-class museums, luxury hotels and wild nightlife, Mexico City grants good times all around. While Mexico City lies inland, it more than makes up for its lack of beaches by offering an array of cultural sights, from pre-hispanic pyramids to Frida Kahlo’s old residence. Revel in the contrast between the city’s imperial architecture and its modern-day disarray, keeping your wits about you as you manoeuvre through the city’s infamous traffic, staying aware of air pollution and petty thieves. Loosen up a little however and you’ll soon find yourself tempted by the thronging food stalls of Mercado Roma to fill up before visiting cultural institutions such as the grand Palacio de Bellas Artes or the futuristic Museo Soumaya. If a slow day beckons, take in the local talent and impressive architecture in the chic neighbourhoods of Roma and Condesa, enjoying the vibe in the area’s lively cafés and parks.

After a full day of the finer things, night time has us grinding hot and sweaty in one of the many gay bars Mexico City has on offer, most likely located in the famed Zona Rosa or Polanco neighbourhoods, two key meeting points for the local and international LGBTQ community. Based in Colonia Juaréz, the Pink Zone just happens to be in the centre of the city’s hippest district, an area where new restaurants and boutiques seem to be popping up daily. The historic hotels in the area, such as Hotel Geneve, are also happily affordable. The annual Mexico City Pride – the largest of its kind in the whole of Latin America – takes place in March, but it is winter that sees Mexico City’s festival season begin in earnest, with parties and parades taking over the streets. Check out our full Mexico City travel guide or make a beeline for the best gay bars in Mexico City to get the lowdown from the locals.

Photo: Emir Saldierna

Photo: Tania Calderon

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The annual March for Sexual and Gender Diversity is at the centre of Oaxaca’s LGBT+ offerings, a parade which raises awareness of issues facing the city’s pre-Hispanic gender fluid (‘muxe’) population

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6. Oaxaca 

While Mexico City might filch Oaxaca’s fair share of visitors, this southern city rewards those who make it here with impressive Spanish colonial architecture, famous cuisine and a leisurely atmosphere. The annual March for Sexual and Gender Diversity is at the centre of Oaxaca’s LGBT+ offerings, a parade which raises awareness of issues facing the city’s pre-Hispanic gender fluid (‘muxe’) population, as recognised in Zapotec cultures for centuries and surprisingly normalised by the local Catholic church. Oaxaca Pride in March brings another chance to parade in good company, although, thanks to the city’s relative size, you’ll find it to be rather more low key than Mexico City’s offering.

Nevertheless, gay Oaxaca is slowly gaining renown among queer travellers looking for more intimate nightlife and cultural experiences. Expect plenty of gay clubs and bars, interspersed with day trips exploring the city’s ancient Mayan ruins, churches, and preserved town centre. Try the local Mezcal anywhere in the city, foregoing that second round to browse the myriad art galleries and museums in the area north of Zócalo Square. If a beach trip is needed, Oaxaca state can provide. Travel south until you meet the sea, opting for the pot-friendly gay beach of Playa Zipolite between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco resort (which has its own selection of gay beach areas). Alternatively, feel the breeze come off the North Pacific as you drive the length of the coastline, passing through multiple climate zones over several hours before reaching Acapulco in the west (8 hours) or the queer and trans-inclusive indigenous town of Juchitán de Zaragoza in the east (4 hours).

Read up on the many wonders of Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-Kah, FYI) with our dedicated Oaxaca travel guide.

Photo: Lorraine Mojica

7. Guadalajara

Promisingly nicknamed the ‘San Francisco of Mexico’ Guadalajara offers something that other cities in Mexico can’t. Out, proud and up for a party, gay Guadalajara balances its hedonism with a fair amount of historic beauty and a dash of urban grit. Its countless cobblestone plazas stand as centres to both modern design and tradition. It’s only come nightfall when Guadalajara reveals its true gay self and gay Mexicans come out of the closet to party in the city’s historic centre, also known as the ‘gay ghetto’ or ‘Zona Rosa’, where parties overflow into the streets and drag queens and go-go boys dance to pop hits on improvised platforms. Alternative gay nightlife lies in upscale suburbs around the city, but it is smart to stay wary when passing through quiet streets late at night, wherever you choose to go.

Visit in February to get involved with Guadalajara’s month-long carnival to mark the start of Lent. At all other times, while away time wandering the old district for high-end coffee houses and delectable street food, taking a day trip to nearby gay beach paradise Puerto Vallarta. If you have more time, discover more of the top things to do in gay Guadalajara.

8. San Miguel de Allende

Heading next to central Mexico, 300 kilometres north of Mexico City to be precise, we come to UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Miguel de Allende, a charming neo-gothic town where everyone’s an artist. Inspired by the year-round sunshine, beautiful surroundings and the friendly ambience, the locals ply their paintings from stucco houses along hilly cobblestone streets, revelling in the newfound popularity of their small city. Come to San Miguel de Allende to see Mexico at its most serene, where ex-pats and travellers enjoy long-term stays while undertaking Spanish immersion language courses and culinary classes in utmost affordability. Choose between a short hotel stay or a long-term vacation casita, taking trips into Mexico City (3.5 hours by bus) whenever a big party beckons.

In a region known for its colonial silver-mining history, San Miguel de Allende is a perfectly preserved example of old Mexico, set apart from the drug violence that has marred much of the country, elevated by 6,500 feet overlooking the tranquil Laja River. A walkable city with summer temperatures of between 20-27 degrees Celsius, gay San Miguel de Allende is a delight much of the year, despite high rainfall from June to September. Fill your days moseying the quaint streets and touring the hippest bars with our San Miguel de Allende travel guide as your trusty companion.

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende | Photo: Rosewood

9. Monterrey

As Mexico’s third-largest city, home to the nation’s most macho and conservative cultures, Monterrey is often passed over for larger and more liberal climes. But that would be to miss out on the city’s uber-modern architecture and high living standards where a burgeoning gay scene helps push progressive attitudes, in annual events such as the Monterrey Pride Festival and the LGBT-friendly Monterrey International Film Festival. While flying largely under the radar by day, by night gay Monterrey lights up, bringing a rainbow of colour to Monterrey’s streets.

While public displays of affection between same-sex couples may garner confusion or curiosity and drug violence is still an issue in less-developed areas, Monterrey is generally a safe place to be if you pack your common sense. Spend your days sightseeing across the historic city centre, starting at the Macroplaza and surrounding museums and galleries, before sampling divine food and drink atop the city’s luxury sky bars. When night falls, hunt down the city’s surprising number of gay bars and clubs. When home time comes calling, stay safe on Monterrey’s streets by getting a ride share back to your hotel.

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Winter sees Puerto Vallarta at its busiest when top drag performers from Provincetown escape the chill of the US and descend on the city’s myriad gay-run venues, bars and clubs

10. Puerto Vallarta

Last but not least we’ve got Puerto Vallarta, the lovable gay haven on Bahía de Banderas bay boasting beaches, fine dining and diverse nightlife, all backgrounded by the verdant Sierra Madre mountains. The once-secret vacation spot of Elizabeth Taylor and her illicit lover, Puerto Vallarta now stands as a gay mecca for LGBTQ travellers the world over. If a romantic affair is what you’re after, this beach city can provide. Go from boutique-browsing to world-class dining in and around the walkable town centre, slowing down to revel in peachy sunsets along the lengthy malecón (promenade).

Gay Puerto Vallarta came of age sometime in the 90s when Club Paco Paco opened its doors and gorgeous young gays showed up in droves to top up their tans. Today the entire city is certified gay-friendly with the gay village growing outwards every day. Take your pick of big and beautiful gay clubs, cocktail lounges, gay hotels and spas all within the historic Zona Romantico among your global queer family. Winter sees Vallarta at its busiest when top drag performers from Provincetown escape the chill of the US and descend on the city’s myriad gay-run venues, bars and clubs. Opt for a gay cruise, gay bingo or drag show, with interludes of horseback riding, jungle trekking and hot spring dipping.

We here at Mr Hudson have a lot of love for Puerto Vallarta, the crown jewel of Mexico’s coast (in our humble opinion!). Join us as we drool over the best Puerto Vallarta day trips, checking off our list of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta and taking our advice on where to stay with our article on top Puerto Vallarta gay hotels.

Photo: Pascal Van De Vendel

Photo: Roberto Nickson

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