Powder-soft, sandy beaches stretching along aquamarine, shallow waters makes Cancun’s Caribbean coastline idyllic from the air. Thick, lush tropical palm trees greet new visitors when their feet are firmly on the ground from the flight in. However, the lustre of Cancun may fade quickly for the gay traveller.
From the airport most tourists are transported (we used USA Transfers) to the Hotel Zona of Cancun where 95%of all tourists stay. This area is a very narrow strip of land with water either side where hundreds of glitzy hotels jostle for the best location. It is almost impossible to see the water or beach for the cacophony of resorts.
Playa Delfines, where you will find a gay beach at the southern end, is one of a small number of public beaches not blocked by giant buildings. Largely, mums, dads and kids stop in this Zona in hotels that offer all inclusive meals, drinks and accommodation. Among these hotels there are pockets of restaurants, supermarkets, straight bars and night clubs.
It is here we started to get the feeling we were a little trapped by soulless packaged tourism, lacking somewhat for the gay tourist on holiday. However, for those seeking a shiny packaged hotel experience, with its own beach, own restaurants and all inclusive meals, this could be the ideal holiday. Hotel Zona is ultra straight, except for Coco Bongo, a gay friendly and very popular nightclub with elaborate shows and a wild atmosphere.
Our stay in Cancun at the end of January was coloured by three days of bad weather which we thought seemed a little unusual. Some of the locals told us that Cancun is famous for ‘crazy weather’. One minute it is sunny and the next it is cyclonic.
All this aside Cancun and surrounding areas offer some fascinating attractions, gorgeous beaches but to get the best out of a gay holiday in Cancun you need to do your research and learn from what we got right and what we need to improve next time.
What we got right
We stayed at Hotel Fiesta Americana Villas in Cancun, a somewhat older hotel than its surrounding competitors but perhaps one of the best located hotels in Hotel Zona. Located right on the point, the beach and water were perfect for swimming. The hotel’s pool is grand and inviting and there is easy access to water sports like jet skis and parasailing. The hotel is also not an all inclusive hotel and rooms are reasonably priced. Tick!
The ancient Myan ruins of Chichen Itza are a must see. We booked our day trip through Viator. The 5:00am hotel pick up was well worth it as we were among the first people at the complex where a massive step pyramid, known as Temple of Kukulcan, dominates the ancient city, which thrived from around 600 A.D. The round trip and tour from the Hotel Zona takes about 12 hours but avoiding the hoards of tourists is definitely the best way to make this a special day. Tick!
Eating out of the hotel was easy and there are plenty of restaurants from which to choose. We found good authentic Mexican food and friendly, attentive service at Bar and Cantina MexTreme. The food was excellent and the staff ensured we had a great time. Tick!
Finding a good supermarket when travelling can be a real bonus and Selecto Super Chedraui is just one. Lots of fresh and cooked foods, fantastic bakery and a huge range of wines provided us with the option of selecting succulently cooked meats, fresh vegetables and nutritious salads which we took back to our hotel for some intimate candlelit soirées on our beachfront balcony. Tick!
Hiring a jet ski was great fun as we sped across the pristine waters of the Caribbean Sea. We hired our ski from the beach area right in front of our hotel. Here the guys from AquaWorld were very helpful and for $50US for 30 minutes we certainly found the adrenaline rush we were seeking. Tick!
What we would do differently when we return
Firstly, we would not book up our entire time in a Cancun resort hotel again. Yes, we would return to Cancun but only for a few days and then move onto places like Tulum and Mérida. Before leaving home we should have checked out the website http://meridagaytours.com These guys offer some very special day trips, excursions and advice for the Yucatán area. They are based in Mérida where there is plenty to do and there is a small gay scene.
We would visit Tulum and stay a few days. Locals asked us several time why we weren’t including Tulum on our itinerary. Tulum has some of the most remarkable beaches in Mexico along with memorable Myan ruins. It has several gay bars and a vibrant art and restaurant scene. The locals say the best beaches are Playa Ruinas, Playa Paraíso, Secret Beach, Akumal Beach and Las Palmas Public. The attitude in Tulum by all accounts is laissez-faire, LGBT friendly, but don’t expect the circuit party scene of Puerto Vallarta.
If we had more time and better weather we would have taken an excursion to the River Caves or cenotes, which are a famous area for swimming in pristine waters and idyllic surroundings. The caves are located in a National Park and organised tours are readily available.
Lastly, there are two or three gay bars in Cancun. Laser Hot Bar, the oldest gay bar, features light shows, drag queens and caters for a range of age groups. Sentimentos is small and is a favourite of locals. 11:11 Bar has a younger clientele featuring male strips shows. All the bars start late, at around 11pm, and can be a little difficult to access from the Hotel Zona. Taxi drivers can make negotiating fares a trial and Uber is unavailable here.
Our last word on Cancun is that it is a very beautiful place to stay. There are some great things to do and there are a few gay bars and clubs. However, as far as a gay destination, you will need to work a little harder here in order to get the most out of your Mexican gaycation, especially compared to that little gay ‘hotspot’, Puerto Vallarta.