When our cruise ship docked in Auckland we still had five days of exploring to do before we headed to our next destination. What a fabulous playground we discovered in this beautiful, friendly corner of paradise. We stayed at the Langham Hotel which is a very comfortable 5 star hotel close to Karangahape Road, the heart of the friendly and lively gay scene in Auckland. Just a short walk down the road you will find the fabulous Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret and you need to put it on your ‘must do’ list. OK, so Picton is on the South Island but you can jump a ferry from Wellington and be there in about 2 hours. The waterfront of this stunning and extremely popular little town is a photographer’s delight. On the day we visited bagpipers played to welcome guests and the local restaurants and tourist offices were full.
While visiting the ‘gayborhood’ of Fort Lauderdale we decided to try out a day pass at one of the gay guest houses and Pineapple Point came highly recommended. Rated number one by TripAdvisor for gay accommodation in Fort Lauderdale, this luxury resort was certainly a relaxing and unique day out during our vacation and the staff couldn’t have made us feel more welcome. As a day visitor you don’t feel like the poor cousin, you are treated just like an honoured house guest and have full access to all facilities. Massage therapists are on site but day visitors need to book in advance to guarantee an appointment. Unfortunately your day pass does expire at 5pm, just before the happy hour happens for the regular guests at 6pm.
We certainly felt like novices arriving for our first visit to Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Unfortunately, we did not stay in one of the many gay guest houses in the area, but we did strike it lucky arriving in Beach Pride Week, the third week of February. The weather was dry and comfortable, at around 24 degrees and the sea temperature was warm and inviting, though some of the locals didn’t agree. Many don’t swim until the water temperature reaches a distinct ‘summer simmer’. Our first few days were very relaxed, lazing and gazing on golden Sebastian Beach, Fort Lauderdale’s best known gay beach and recently voted (2019) the best gay beach in the world. Our friends who live in this fabulous area, kindly accompanied us on our first foray into the venues of Wilton Drive, the ‘happening’ strip of Wilton Manors, the gayest precinct we have ever seen.
The eagerly anticipated day to meet our Detours Travel gay adventure group had finally arrived. This time we were setting off to discover a tiny rugged Central American country with rich rainforests, bordered by Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, notorious for balmy beaches and vivid sunsets, active volcanoes and stunning biodiversity. Costa Rica has been high on our list of leading destinations for some time and of course San José, the capital, would be our starting point. Detours has been guiding gay tours through Costa Rica for the past six years. Our party of twelve eager wanderers met at the Balmoral Hotel in central San José where Dan, our highly experienced guide, naturalist and entertainment planner, welcomed and introduced us and provided a brief overview of the program for our 11 day tour of this fascinating and diverse little gem of a nation.
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. 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.
Puerto-Vallarta in Mexico is an outstanding holiday destination for gay men. Apart from being a beautiful coastal retreat, the Zona Romantica is the hot spot for ‘our family’. It was in this area, on the cobblestone streets, we found a host of gay bars, a few dance clubs, some piano bars, a gay beach and swimwear shops by the dozen. Zona Romantica also offers a feast of eating choices, with an assortment of small cafés and large, festive Mexican restaurants, all featuring an easy-going, friendly atmosphere, even in January, the high season for tourists. Puerto Vallarta charmed us so much that, even from Australia, we will definitely return, perhaps not in January but on a shoulder season like March or October. Hasta Pronto Puerto Vallarta.