It’s no surprise that gays love beaches. With a hefty helping of vitamin D and the highly probable prospect of getting wet, how could we not? It’s no surprise which beaches we love, either. If you Google “gay” plus ” beach,” you’ll be bombarded with lists that never fail to feature the man-packed island of Mykonos, the gay fantasia of Fire Island, and all the other usual suspects like Barcelona, Ibiza, Miami, and Tel Aviv.
But as global opinions about LGBTQ individuals continually shift toward acceptance, queer travelers are finding greater freedom when choosing gaycation destinations. For those adventurous enough to stray from the pack, the world’s less obvious gay beaches still leave plenty of room for surprise. With little-known communities in far-flung enclaves, lakeside sanctuaries in landlocked towns, and beaches that get overlooked in favor of iconic nearby locales, these 12 waterfront wonderlands will be revelations for even the most experienced gay-beach expert.
1. Mi Cayito — Havana, Cuba
Cuba isn’t the first country that comes to mind when considering a gay beach vacation. The country’s LGBTQ laws are just like the 1950s automobiles found all over the island: antiquated. Still, there’s something romantic about Cuba’s old-school gay scene. With little available WiFi, gay meetup apps like Grindr are infrequently used, and cruising, that age-old pick-up technique, is still an integral part of queer life.
There’s no doubt you’ll find queer folks hanging around Havana’s waterfront street called the Malécon, but if you’re looking to meet locals somewhere even more scenic, head to Mi Cayito, Havana’s unofficial gay beach. A 30-minute drive east of Havana, Mi Cayito is a white-sand refuge overlooking the Caribbean’s warm cobalt waters. The beach is regularly adorned with rainbow flags and attracts a diverse crowd spanning all ages and genders. Here, protected by grassy dunes, uninhibited locals are free to be themselves.
2. Jacob Riis Beach — New York, US
Fire Island is touted as the superlative summer escape for queer New Yorkers, as long as you have the resources for a lavish weekend getaway. For many without the money or time to leave NYC, such an excursion is often untenable. Luckily, New Yorkers have Jacob Riis — an affordable, friendly seaside park on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.
To reach the beach from Manhattan, take a subway to the Q35 bus line and get off at Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The queer section, located in front of an abandoned hospital on 149th Street, gives off a distinctly Eastern European vibe (think Berlin but on the bay). On weekends, a sea of beach blankets practically stacked on top of one another form a non-stop beach party inclusive of all genders, races, and sexualities. New Yorkers are commonly known for their stone-cold sensibilities, but those personas seem to thaw at Jacob Riis. Between all the people dancing, drinking, and splashing about, it’s nearly impossible to walk away without making a slew of new beach buddies.
3. Playa Chihuahua — Punta del Este, Uruguay
Uruguay, a crowning jewel along South America’s Atlantic coast, is often overlooked by neighboring Brazil and Argentina. But with some of the most LGBTQ-friendly laws on the books, it’s high tide travelers start giving this destination the recognition it deserves. Punta del Este, a veritable South American St. Tropez, is Uruguay’s favorite beach-town destination with some of the most prized sandy expanses on the continent. For LGBTQ crowds, head to Playa Chihuahua — a clothing-optional magnet for queer folks located 20 minutes from the city center. Here, golden sands covered in a bevy of bare booties stretch for miles backed by fresh-water lagoons and patchy forests. In high season (December through February), gay men tend to congregate on the far right end of the beach facing the ocean.
4. Lokrum Island — Dubrovnik, Croatia
Lokrum, an Adriatic island accessible by ferry from Dubrovnik’s Old Town, doesn’t rank high on the list of Europe’s most famous queer summer enclaves. Mykonos, Sitges, and Ibiza are all stiff competition for that title. Still, this outpost from Croatia’s mainland is perhaps the most idyllic. Nicknamed “Lovers Island,” this fantasyland attracts romantically minded travelers looking to sightsee without Dubrovnik’s teeming tourist activity. On top of exploring the remnants of a Benedictine monastery, meeting the island’s parties of peacocks and rabbits, and finding expansive views of Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls, gay travelers will be happy to know they’ve got a beachfront all to themselves.
To reach the gay beach, walk left from the ferry port until you spot a sign that says “FKK,” which marks the island’s swimsuit-free section. Make a right at this entrance, and you’ll eventually find nude men lounging on large slabs of dolomite rock and jumping into aquamarine waters from the cliffs above. It’s easy to lose track of time in this secluded rock oasis, so set yourself an alarm: In the summertime, the last ferry back to the mainland is at 7:15 PM.
5. Hippie Hollow — Austin, Texas
If you’re looking to catch a full moon in the Lone Star State, Hippie Hollow is the place to go. A 30-minute drive from downtown Austin, this limestone-lined park is the only legally recognized nude beach in the entirety of Texas. It also happens to be a popular gathering place for the local queer community. When the warm weather permits, there’s always a handful of friendly homos sunning their hotcakes on the cream-white cliffs jutting out from Lake Travis. For those who want a crowd, several well-attended LGBTQ events take place in the area throughout the summer. These include Splash Days — two queer events held around Memorial Day and Labor Day — and the annual Hippie Hollow Otter Fest, which attracts furry boys and their friends to the area.
Be warned — this an adults-only area, and all visitors must be at least 18 years old to enter the park. To reach the gay section, follow the series of steps down from the entrance. Once you reach the paved walkway below, take a left, and wind your way until the pavement ends. The majority of the gay community will be waiting for you on the rocks extending beyond the trail, but use caution. The rocks can be sharp and slippery; proper footwear is a must.
6. Hanlan’s Point Beach — Toronto, Canada
“Beach” and “Toronto” aren’t exactly synonymous. Summer in this landlocked town can make winter look downright balmy in many parts of the world. Still, the local queer community flocks to the waterfront at Hanlan’s Point Beach as soon as warm weather permits.
A 15-minute ferry ride from downtown, Hanlan’s Point is a come-as-you-are and wear-what-you-please section of Centre Island. To find the LGBTQ community, follow signs for the clothing-optional beach from the ferry dock. A gentle stroll through meadows, aspen trees, and along low-lying dunes ends at this swim-friendly Lake Ontario stretch of sand. While the icy water may not be inviting for most, it’s worth checking out this urban island if only for the jaw-dropping views of Toronto’s shimmering skyline.
7. Flaucher Island — Munich, Germany
Gay life in Munich feels provincial compared to the vibrant queer scene in nearby Berlin, but in summer, this Bavarian city offers access to a gay beach unmatched by anything you’ll find in Germany’s capital of cool.
Flaucher, a pebble-shore park on the Isar River, is a clothing-optional destination for locals looking to soak up summer’s sun. A mere half-hour stroll from the city center, the easily accessible section of shoreline attracts a diverse group of naturists. Like similar locations around the world, accessing the gay beach requires a little more effort: to separate themselves from the madding crowd, gay visitors must wade through the river’s icy alpine waters to lounge on the rocky island colonized by queer sunbathers. Here, meandering paths wind through scrubby woods and lead to a series of stone beaches. On particularly hot days, you’ll find men — both naked and not — sitting on the rocks and occasionally jumping in the river for a refreshing respite from the heat. The shape and size of these outcroppings changes as waters flow from the mountains, but the island’s forest (a well-known cruising location) is firmly rooted in place.
8. Herring Cove Beach — Provincetown, Massachusetts
It’s no secret that Provincetown is North America’s preeminent gay summertime destination, but finding the secluded gay beach still feels like an Odyssean quest. Although technically a part of Herring Cove, the section popular with gay men is most accessible from an unmarked entrance on 6A Provinceland Road near Bradford Street. From here, a 20- or 30-minute hike through spongy sands will lead you to two grass-topped dunes on the left-hand side while facing the sea. Be sure to know where you’re going — the path floods with waist-level water at high tide, leaving no discernible trail to or from the entryway.
For those brave enough to take the journey, the rewards are manifold. Bundles of boys congregate around the dunes to throw picnic parties with friends, wade in the refreshing Atlantic Ocean, and soak up the sun — many in the buff. If you don’t want to wade through deep waters, it’s best to visit in the morning and leave as the tide starts rolling inland.
9. La Playita — Quepos, Costa Rica
Located at the west end of Playa Espadilla on the western coast of Costa Rica, La Playita has a long history as a meeting place for gay men. Like so many other LGBT beaches, visiting this powder-sand paradise isn’t for the faint of heart. To arrive, visitors must first cross a series of sharp, slippery rocks. Once there, it’s imperative to keep track of time — the beach becomes inaccessible at high tide, so unless you’re looking to live out your Tom Hanks Cast Away fantasy, plan accordingly.
For those willing to make the trek, it’s well worth it. With a lush, wild jungle at your back and turquoise waters stretching before you, this is ostensibly the most picture-perfect beach on this list.
10. Bellevue Beach — Copenhagen, Denmark
With summer temperatures ranging from 64- to 75-degrees Fahrenheit, Denmark may not be high on your list as a beach destination. Still, for gay travelers in Copenhagen looking to escape the city, Bellevue Beach is an ideal place to enjoy the summer sun. To get there, take public transit from Copenhagen Central Station to Klampenborg, a charming fishing village with access to the prized green pastures of Deer Park. Bellevue Beach sits just east of here, and the gay section — also a nude beach — is at the northern end past the quaint 1930s pier designed by Functionalist Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. The beach is most crowded in July and August when scores of boys try to soak up as much vitamin D as possible before the short-lived summer comes to an end. You’ll find most of them lying about the beach’s long stretch of soft white sands. Splashing around the chilly water is only for those with blood as thick as a Viking’s.
11. Middle Bay Beach — Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s unofficial gay beach feels like a well-kept secret. Sandwiched between the ever-popular Repulse Bay and South Bay Beach, this overlooked stretch of shoreline is inaccessible by public transit, so visitors willing to go the extra 15 minutes by foot can usually expect some solitude. The northern side of the beach is where queer action comes to life, but on warm weekends, you’ll find gay folks dotting the entire shoreline. Backed by a verdant cliff-side string of trees, escaping to Middle Bay Beach for even an afternoon can feel like floating hundreds of miles away from the non-stop streets of Hong Kong.
12. McIver’s Ladies Baths — Sydney, Australia
In 1886, this natural salt-water bath was built into the cliffside just south of Coogee Bay as a safe, shark-free swimming hole exclusively for ladies. Although it isn’t necessarily a gay beach — mothers with children, Islamic women who feel free to shed their hijabs, and straight gal pals all take advantage of the area — it’s well known as an attraction for Sydney’s sorority of Sapphic sisters.
The pool area, carved into the sandstone rocks overlooking Wedding Cake Island, provides women an opportunity to swim in whatever state of dress they find appropriate. Ladies lounge topless on grassy cliff-top perches, swim laps in bathing caps, or float in the calm waters while staring into the azure sky. It may not have the pomp associated with the gay-male-dominated North Bondi Beach, but that’s precisely why most folks come here instead — to spend some time alone with the ladies.
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