Off-the-beaten-track LGBT getaways
While you're still in the holiday slump, why not get planning your next adventure? Off-the-beaten track Costa Rica is the first of our LGBT-friendly bolt-holes
Costa Rica, known previously for its pioneering environmental legislation and destination as an eco-tourism paradise, had a further boost to its reputation in 2014 when it reached the quarter-finals in the World Cup.
With a number of LGBT-owned hotels operating throughout the country, tourists are in the happy position of being able to travel coast-to-coast, staying only in LGBT-friendly establishments.
We have picked three of our favourite locations, one in the mountains, and two on the coast:
1. Monteverde Cloud Forest: Hotel Belmar
Nestled in the lush cloud-forest mountaintops of Costa Rica's central mountain range, is Hotel Belmar, a 100% gay-friendly luxury getaway. "For a small town in Latin America, Monteverde is a surprisingly multicultural and open minded community," says co-owner Pedro Belmar, who grew up in Monteverde and studied in Montreal, Canada.
The hotel provides diversity training for staff and local community members. "Modern attitudes towards sexual diversity and gender equality seem to have found fertile ground amongst our (mostly local) staff," explains Pedro. "We like to think of ourselves as agents for change."
Whether staying in the standard, Swiss-style chalet accommodation or one of the spectacular honeymoon suites, the rooms offer luxurious repose after days spent trekking through majestic forests or rushing through the forest canopy on zip-lines. The hotel's jacuzzi gazebo is a particular treat, as are the custom cocktails made with local ingredients, and the farm-to-table themed gourmet restaurant.
2. Samara Beach, Pacific Coast: Casitas LasDivaz
Casitas LazDivaz describes itself as an "intimate, adults-only enclave" located directly on the beach. It was conceived, designed and lovingly built by a couple of lesbian dreamers-Berit, an architect from Munich and Sara, a graphic designer from Boston.
"We have created a safe and welcoming space in this secluded compound," says Sara, "and the lively culture of the place is enriched by a diverse clientele, who seem to be attracted by the general spirit of acceptance that we promote." Their gorgeous beachfront location has become a popular honeymoon spot for many a newlywed lesbian couple.
The hotel is comprised of three private cabins, each with a queen-sized bed, en-suite bathroom, ceiling fan and WiFi. Guests are greeted with coffee and juice each morning but apart from this, are basically self-catering. The vibe is laid-back, feeling more like a set of private, mini beach homes than a hotel.
Guests step out of their front door directly onto Samara Beach: a gorgeous, four-mile strip of sand on the Pacific coast. It's a five-minute walk to Samara town centre, a laid-back, hippy town full of restaurants, bars, ice-cream parlours and artisans. The ocean is perfect for swimming or kayaking, and you should expect to be visited by howler monkeys, iguanas and all kinds of tropical birds.
3. Puerto Viejo, Caribbean Coast: Hotel Banana Azul
Hotel Banana Azul is a beachfront paradise run by hosts Colin Brownlee from Canada and Roger Sans from Spain. The hotel has 22 guest rooms built out of local hardwoods, all with private bath and WiFi.
"Hotel Banana Azul is known for being one of the most open and LGBT-friendly businesses in the area," says Colin. "Many lesbians choose to spend their honeymoon with us. It's the perfect place for any couple who want to feel relaxed and comfortable while enjoying their vacation."
A mile to the south, the laid-back beach town of Puerto Viejo has a distinctive Caribbean vibe. The indigenous BriBri, Jamaican and Spanish populations provide a rich cultural backdrop to more recent settlers from Europe and the Americas. In addition to unspoiled beaches and rainforest, the town offers a wide selection of restaurants, artisan shops and nightlife.
Banana Azul liases with an adventure company called Caribe Fun Tours, which has its own LGBT division with a dedicated representative.
For more information about LGBT-friendly operators in Costa Rica, Hotel Banana Azul runs an information service on its website.
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