Monday, June 17, 2024

A guide to Mexico’s hottest LGBTQ+ vacation destinations

Are you considering a vacation to Mexico and wondering if Mexico is safe for LGBTQ+ travelers? And what is the current state of LGBTQ+ rights in Mexico? If you have your heart set on sipping authentic margaritas on a pristine beach, you’ll be delighted to know that gay rights in Mexico surpass those in many countries worldwide. 

Historically, Indigenous populations such as the Zapotec and Maya have long accepted sexual fluidity, and same-sex sexual acts were decriminalized in the country in 1871. Today, same-sex unions are federally recognized and same-sex marriages are performed in 18 of Mexico’s 31 states. LGBTQ+ couples are also free to adopt children. Thanks to a pair of rulings in 2015 and 2016 by Mexico’s highest judicial body, laws banning gay marriage and gay adoption in Mexico were declared unconstitutional. This year, Congress voted to ban so-called “conversion therapies.”

A outdoor crowd waving dozens of rainbow flags.
Mexico has strong legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community, and most major destinations are welcoming of queer visitors. (Facebook/Gay Games 2023)

Although Mexico is generally very gay friendly, it should be noted that some regions are more so friendly than others. Mexico City’s Zona Rosa — which spans 16 blocks and is home to more than 200 gay-owned businesses — rivals San Francisco’s Castro District. Other parts of Mexico, such as Guadalajara, Monterrey, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Tijuana, are also considered extremely welcoming.

Nowadays, a trip to Mexico often means visiting the country’s capital, so it’s worth asking: is Mexico City safe for LGBTQ+ travelers? The answer is yes. In fact, it may be one of the most gay-friendly cities in the Americas. The city’s annual Pride festival, which debuted in 1978, attracts several hundred thousand people, while other cities and towns also draw large crowds for annual festivities.

Mexico is the sixth most visited vacation destination in the world, and most of the country is very LGBTQ+ friendly. But to make your gay vacation even more special, stay in a gay-friendly space. In Mexico, there are several cities and destinations known for being welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve included some of the best below.

Mexico City 

Zona Rosa, Mexico City
Mexico City’s Zona Rosa is a hub for LGBTQ+ nightlife in the city. (Your Friend the Nomad)

Mexico’s capital is recognized as one of the most open and progressive cities in Latin America in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. There are many bars, clubs, restaurants and events aimed at the LGBTQ+ community in neighborhoods such as Zona Rosa and Condesa. Here are a few of its more famous bars: 

  • Tom’s Leather Bar: A gay men-only bar with dance music, cocktails and a late-night party atmosphere. It has a leather aesthetic and a cozy atmosphere for the leather community.
  • El Almacen: One of the oldest gay bars in Mexico City, it continues to attract guys who look like they could handle heavy machinery with themed parties, drag nights and events.
  • Guilt: Perfect for dancing, this place is only open on Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tip: Say  “Vania” when paying the entrance fee for a discount.

Guadalajara 

Guadalajara's pride march
Guadalajara’s pride march is one of the most famous in the country. (Fernando Carranza Garcia/Cuartoscuro)

This Bajío city has a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene and is famous for its annual Pride march, which attracts thousands of people. Zona Chapultepec and Zona Rosa are popular areas for LGBTQ+ nightlife and events. Visit in February to get involved with Guadalajara’s month-long Carnival celebrations marking the start of Lent.

  • California’s Bar: A favorite bar for locals that attracts a diverse crowd, from cowboys to college students. Housed in a historic Spanish colonial building the thick concrete walls are packed each weekend with Guadalajara’s dancing gays amongst giant video screens.
  • Voltio: Catering exclusively to men, this lounge has soft lighting and nice decor to boot. Voltio is known for its energetic underwear parties, leather scene and strippers — who bare all!

Puerto Vallarta 

Puerto Vallarta is famed across the world for its LGBTQ+ friendly clubs. (Mantamar)

Jalisco’s Pacific coast hub is a tourist destination known for its acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. The Romantic Zone is the heart of the LGBTQ+ scene in Puerto Vallarta, with a wide variety of gay-friendly bars, clubs and restaurants. The city’s gay clubs are outstanding and always busy. 

There’s a huge variety of establishments, so you can enjoy everything from relaxed cocktail bars to strip clubs. Many bars also sell Purple Hand, a domestically produced beer marketed to the LGBTQ+ population. Winter sees Puerto Vallarta at its busiest, with top drag performers from Provincetown escaping the chill of the U.S. northeast and descending on the city’s myriad gay-run venues, bars and clubs.

  • La Noche: One of the largest and most popular clubs in Puerto Vallarta, with multiple floors, varied music and drag shows.
  • CC Slaughters: Offers a mix of pop music, themed events and drag shows in a lively and festive atmosphere.
  • Reinas Bar: This bar is known for its drag shows and its festive and cozy atmosphere.

Mérida 

Mérida gay tours
It might be the most socially conservative place on this list, but Mérida still welcomes LGBTQ+ visitors to the Yucatán. (Mérida Gay Tours)

Although more conservative than the other cities on this list, Mérida has been developing an active and visible LGBTQ+ population in recent years. Neighborhoods such as Santiago and Santa Ana are known for being more welcoming. As for the gay bars Merida has in store, most are located downtown, on Calle 60, but it’s easy to meet like-minded people in the many cantinas, restaurants and bars around town, you’ll find acceptance and friendly tour operators to help ensure your time is memorable for all the right reasons.

  • Casa Chica: This relaxed, queer-friendly eatery offers a laid-back space to grab brunch by day and a few cocktails after sundown! Enjoy a decadent slice of chocolate mousse while sipping on an Aperol spritz before hitting the dance floor. 
  • Casa Pompi: A queer-friendly underground dance club offering a unique space to party til the sun comes up! Enjoy a drink on the rooftop patio before heading below to boogie the night away. 
  • Mezcaleria La Fundación: Start your night off by getting a drink at this local cantina specializing in mezcal. They often feature live bands playing anything from funk to reggaeton and DJs that spin into the night.  

Playa del Carmen 

Avenida Quinta, Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen offers something for everyone, including LGBTQ+ travelers. (Top Adventure)

This Riviera Maya tourist destination has gained popularity among the LGBTQ+ population due to its relaxed and tolerant atmosphere. Quinta Avenida is the main place for nightlife and has several gay-friendly bars and clubs. This street is also home to the annual Playa Pride festival, a week-long celebration of LGBTQ+ culture and rights.

  • Club 69: A bar and club with electronic music, drag shows and a vibrant atmosphere. The club is a popular spot for drag performances.
  • Habana Night Club: This gay bar in Playa del Carmen is closer to the federal highway than to the beach. It is distinguished by its good music, good cocktails, food options and, above all, lots of local people looking for fun.

These are just a few examples, but in general, most major cities and tourist destinations in Mexico tend to be quite inclusive and welcoming towards the LGBTQ+ community. The scene can vary by city and season, so it’s always a good idea to do some research before heading out and connecting with the local LGBTQ+ population by contacting local LGBTQ+ organizations or online communities to get insider tips on the best LGBTQ+ friendly establishments and events.

Camila Sánchez Bolaño is a journalist, feminist, bookseller, lecturer, and cultural promoter and is Editor in Chief of Newsweek en Español magazine.

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