Mexico is one of the most visited countries for lesbian-gay tourists and retirees in Latin America.
The Mexican Secretary of Tourism states that Mexico receives around three and a half million tourists from the LGBTQ community annually. Mexico is only surpassed in Latin America by the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.
In a statement made by the executive director of LGBTQ Confex, Rubén Sandoval, Mexico has become an increasingly attractive market for the LGBTQ community due to the advances in the recognition of rights, tourism promotion campaigns, and awareness training driven by the Federal government.
The Mexican government has been promoting gay-friendly tourism as they see the opportunity to reach persons with high purchasing power, and curiosity to know other cultures and experiences (that’s a direct translation from the government).
According to the Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, LGBT tourism brings in about 8.5 million persons per year. Thanks to the amazing progress made by the government in promoting equal rights, the number is sure to grow.
The LGBT community from around the world has come to Mexico looking for paradisiacal beaches, a rich and vibrant culture, and an overall cheap cost of travel and living. Here are some of the gay-friendliest cities to live in Mexico.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Mexico is still Latin America. Many regions are quite old-fashioned in their thinking. This article is focused on LGBTQ cities in Mexico. Not all cities are friendly… so be careful out there!
To take the pulse of Mazatlán, don’t linger too long in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), the city’s traditional tourist playground. Instead head straight for the refurbished old town and its glorious malecón (beach promenade), where you can view magic sunsets from bars and restaurants that still evoke the 1950s.
Cruising allows tourists to visit Mazatlan without checking into a hotel on the mainland. Several cruise lines call in at Mazatlan, including Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Disney Cruise Line. Most departures are from Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, plus a few from Vancouver and Miami. Regent Seven Seas sails from Rome, and Silversea Cruises sails in and out of Mazatlan on a Mexican excursion.
From the cruise terminal, it’s a walkable mile to Old Mazatlan and 4 miles to the Golden Zone, for which there are taxis and open-air golf cart-type vehicles called pulmonias. The cruise lines offer a dozen or more shore excursions to beaches, zip-lining adventures, attractions and villages where local crafting and tequila-making are demonstrated.
More About Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, Mazatlan is the largest seaport between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal. On the coast at the base of the Sierra Madre Mountains, Mazatlan is widely known as a sports fisher’s paradise for deep-sea adventures with a reel. The city carries the tagline “Pearl of the Pacific” to reflect its thriving shrimp and fish export industry. A fun-loving place for Dia de Los Muertos festivals in autumn and Carnaval in spring, Mazatlan hosts the world’s third-largest Mardi Gras-themed celebration, outdone only by New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.
The Malecon is the city’s seafront walkway providing unobstructed views of the sandy beaches facing the Pacific Ocean. At 13 miles, it’s one of the world’s longest oceanfront pathways, popular for strolling, jogging, biking, and people-watching. Scattered with Instagram-worthy monuments and exceptional views along the 5-mile stretch between the Golden Zone and Playa Olas Altas, there’s plenty of daytime activity. The golden sand beach at Playa Olas Altas is favored by the locals for its less-touristy atmosphere, a place where cafes are more reasonably priced than at Playa Las Gaviotas, a far more crowded beach beside the Golden Zone’s hotels.
Marina, Golden Zone, and Old Town
Tourists who do visit should stick to the principal areas in Mazatlan. The peninsula is divided into three main sections of interest: the Golden Zone, Old Mazatlan, and the Marina. At the northern end of the hotel, zone is the Marina district, where El Cid Marina Beach Hotel is a luxury resort with private beach, golf, and tennis; some cruises offer passengers a day pass. The Golden Zone encompasses the main tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, bars, and clubs are found.
Four miles south is Old Mazatlan with its cobblestoned streets radiating from Plaza de la Republica. It’s filled with attractive colonial architecture, pastel-painted shopfronts, sidewalk cafes and restaurants surrounding a Victorian-era gazebo for outdoor concerts under the orange trees and palms. Just south of the square, Angela Peralta Theater is a distinctive landmark. Additional highlights of Mazatlan’s downtown scene are historic Plaza Machado and Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a 19th-century basilica of Gothic, Moorish and Baroque influences. The municipal market is a large, vibrant open-air site displaying everything from fabrics to fresh fruit and from seafood to silver trinkets. Street people do mingle around, and tourists should avoid flashing cash.
There is nothing the trendy, educated and fashionable LGBT community member would miss here. The American-inspired stores increasingly rival that of Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, just head to the mall at Plaza Altabrisa or the department store giant, Liverpool, for first-class retail therapy.
After just one visit, many LGBT travelers return home, to calculate how they can make this paradise a permanent home (and many have). The dollar continues to grow stronger, and it goes much further when you are restoring a that’s older than most structures back in the US. And, with a lower cost of living and a high lifestyle standard, retiring to the Yucatán is a very popular trend as well.
Mérida is an up and coming destination for the experienced traveler in search of the perfect blend of luxury, authenticity and culture. Mo matter what brings you to this region of Mexico – the Mayan Ruins, a cruise ship that docks for just a day or even a gay wedding – you’ll be glad your travels led you here.
Unique Fact: although gay marriage is not yet legal in Mexico, in Mexico City it is legal. Mexico City (CDMX) is the first state to approve gay marriage and is the most progressive in the country.
And Mexico City is enormous… one of the largest cities on the planet with about 24 million residents (the “county” not the urban area).
With large spaces dedicated exclusively to the gay public, such as Zona Rosa, Mexico City has had official campaigns in which they demand respect for sexual diversity from their inhabitants. Rosa is the equivalent of Hillcrest in my San Diego.
Stroll through the colonies of Condesa, Polanco, Juárez and Napoles of the Mexican capital and see the free expression of love of a large number of same-sex couples.
Even though Mexico City is the most gay friendly city in all of Mexico, it is in Guadalajara where more gay people live (a larger population). In recent years the establishments dedicated to the LGBTQ community have multiplied. The historic center of Guadalajara includes a wide range of gastronomic offerings and nightly entertainment, and the proximity to Puerto Vallarta, a coastal city with an active gay population, makes the capital of Jalisco an important gay center.
Although equal marriage is not yet legal in this beach destination, it is one of the sites with a focus on the LGBTQ community. The landscapes of the Pacific are amazing and the weather is amazing (so much better than Mexico City in the summer).
South of Puerto Vallarta you’ll find a nature reserve preferred by the LGBTQ community that is one of the most breathtaking beaches Mexico has to offer. The vibrant nightlife also offers many nightclubs specialized to cater the community.
Cancun offers a beautiful tropical atmosphere with first class hotels and great hospitality. It is the focus of attention of the LGBTQ community because at nightfall, the Boulevard Kukulkan shines, inviting everyone to dance until dawn in bars and exclusive discos that are gay friendly.
Cancun also has offers tours and activities such as dinners, a trip on a yacht or even a Mayan-style gay wedding ritual.
Oaxaca is another of the tourist mecas in Mexico. For the enjoyment of the LGBT community there are hidden beaches and ecological destinations that can be enjoyed both as a romantic escape and a relaxed vacation. The Oaxacan food and mezcal are staples of the state.