Category Archives: Mexico

Articles written about Mexico

Merida, Mexico: The Yucatan Capital of Gay & Day Drinking

Cathedral in Merida
Merida Cathedral

The new buzzy destination topping everybody’s lists these days is Merida.  Mexico’s new IT girl is enjoying quite a moment, with accolades and coverage in major travel publications, including Condé Nast Traveler’s 2019 Readers’ Choice Award for “World’s Best Small City.”

IQ’s Merida Gay Travel Guide

Though it is the capital and largest city of Mexico’s Yucatan State, Merida is pedestrian-friendly and compact, with most tourism centered around the Centro Historico (historic center). It is accessible by direct flights from Miami, Houston and Tijuana/San Diego; and only a three-hour drive from the Cancun airport, with flight options from major cities all over the world. And you’ll feel comfortable here. After all, Merida was voted the second safest city in all of North America by CEOWorld Magazine—ranked above any city in the United States. 

Merida Centro Historico is a pedestrian friendly city
Pedestrian-friendly Merida

Also, Merida has potential to evolve into Mexico’s newest LGBTQ+ destination. Earlier this year, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Miguel Torruco Marques, the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) and Queer Destinations signed a “Letter of Intent” to further promote LGBTQ+ tourism to Mexico. The first action in this new effort, engaging and instructing the tourism private sector in Yucatan, was held in Merida. 

DAYS FOR DRINKING

La Negrita Cantina is Merida's most popular cantina
La Negrita Cantina

Liver be damned: Merida is a day drinking city! The parties center around its cantina culture, starting at noon and closing at 10pm. Though many locals have their favorite neighborhood spot, the most popular cantina in Merida is La Negrita. Literally, every single person I asked for a recommendation mentioned La Negrita. Expect fantastic live Cuban music, dancing and a very friendly crowd. It’s the type of place where, if you are fortunate to get a table (and for that, you should arrive early), you’ll instantly spark a conversation with your neighbor. The musical vibe of Merida has a strong Caribbean influence and salsa dancing reigns supreme, so this Cuban boy felt quite at home. 

For day-drinking with a side of man muscle visit Cantina Bullpen, Merida’s gay cantina featuring go-go boys throughout the day. In keeping with traditional cantina hours, Bullpen closes at 10pm, so it’s a great place to start the party. 

NIGHTS FOR GO-GOS

Strippers in Merida Mexico
Papis Dancer Struts

Nighttime is Papi time. The stripper bar Papis does its name juicy justice, with a plentiful selection of muscular muchachos strutting on the bar and leaving little to the imagination. The cheesiness of their costumes is part of the charm. During my visit, I saw a cowboy, fireman, cop and construction worker—all started fully dressed and ended with a fully erect lasso, firehose, billy-club and hammer. Yes, you will see penis. And though the audience was mainly gay men, the crowd had a nice mix of adoring ladies enjoying the show as well. Apparently straight women like hot, naked men too.  

The largest LGBTQ+ club in Merida is Blue Gay Club, about a ten-minute drive from the Centro. Ubers are inexpensive and plentiful in Merida, so travel within the city is very easy to navigate. My night started with a drag performance that was challenging to follow even though I speak Spanish. I’d suggest arriving closer to midnight, when the focus shifts to a more traditional club night, with go-go boys and dancing. You should know the crowd was also pretty mixed, so all will feel welcome. For a change of scene, Deseo is next door and also owned by Blue. The bar feels more intimate and has an outdoor patio (and also go-go boys). And though I did not partake of their company, it was clear that private dances were available from the fellas at both bars. 

MERIDA GAY TOURS

Once you recover from your evening, you’ll be quite busy. Merida is a perfect base from which to explore the Yucatan State’s most unique and revered sights, including 19 Mayan archeological sites and countless cenotes: fresh-water sinkholes and underground rivers. 

Cute and sweet gay tour guide of Merida, Mexico. Ricardo of Merida Gay Tours
Ricardo of Merida Gay Tours

You’ll need some wheels to explore beyond the city. Why not add an adorable, knowledgeable gay guide? The boys of Merida Gay Tours can help plan your entire trip and customize an adventure suited just for you. Created by a gay couple interested in growing the city’s LGBTQ+  tourism, David and Ricardo can arrange sightseeing tours of Merida, recommend specific gay-friendly nightlife spots or create a multi-day itinerary throughout the state. Their packaged experiences include days at the beach, Mayan archeological sites and visits to nearby “Magical Towns.” They are accommodating, sweet and will instantly make you feel like you’ve reconnected with a long-lost friend. Have I mentioned they’re adorable? They can also help orient you toward roving nightlife events that aren’t held in large clubs. The weekend I visited we ended up at a “house ball” hosted by La Fantasía Salón, complete with voguing battles and plentiful cheap tequila. Category was Merida Friendliness and these kids slayed.

The Municipal Palace in Merida in Yucatan State in Mexico
Municipal Palace in Merida

Merida is a contemporary city with reverence to its Mayan and Spanish colonial history. It’s a great home base for your explorations and it’s the LGBTQ+ center of the Yucatan State. Merida is also fun, beautiful and exploding in popularity. Get thee there pronto and witness this jewel of a city evolving into Mexico’s newest queer destination.

For travel info on Merida, visit the websites of Yucatan Tourism and Merida Gay Tours.

And to learn more, read my article on Mexico’s Yucatan State.

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Yucatan Reveres Its Mayan Ancestry While Focusing on Mexico’s Future

Horse riding in Hacienda Uxmal, Yucatan State, Mexico
Hacienda Uxmal–Photo courtesy of Mayaland Group

About an hour drive from the Cancun International Airport, the State of Yucatan countryside is a gateway to ancient Mayan culture and a study in how ancestral traditions are kept alive by the current generation. It also may be one of Mexico’s best kept tourism secrets, though that is soon about to change.

The State of Yucatan is one of three states that occupy the Yucatan Peninsula. Though American visitors are most familiar with the Mexican Caribbean stretch between Cancun and Tulum (which is in the State of Quintana Roo), the neighboring State of Yucatan is readying for its prime-time debut.

The new President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December 2018, largely campaigned on creating the Mayan Train that would transport visitors from the tourist-saturated areas (the aforementioned Cancun, Tulum, etc.) to less-discovered gems. The proposed 913 miles of track are scheduled to be functioning by 2023. Though the ambitious project is not without its controversies, one thing is certain: it will alter tourism in the region. 

Don’t wait. Currently, the best way to explore the Yucatan State is on a road trip that can include archeological wonders, complex cultures and unspoiled natural habitats. As Mexico’s second busiest airport (after Mexico City), Cancun is an easy direct flight from many U.S. cities; then drive inland…

Read more about my travels through the Yucatan State of Mexico in Travel Squire.

Photo courtesy of Los 7 Cenotes

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VACAYA Includes the Kink Community.

Dane de Bruin in leather. Sexy man in leather on gay cruise
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Goldberg and VACAYA

As I crossed the gangway to board the Celebrity Cruises’ Summit for VACAYA’s maiden voyage this summer, the Scissor Sisters serenading over the speakers reassured me that “a kiki is a party for calming all your nerves.” I took it as welcome foreshadowing that the first large-scale LGBTQ+ travel company to launch in decades had taken the initiative to musically score my journey from the moment I boarded. Yes, h-h-honey, they were serving and working and turning out VACAYA’s inaugural kiki.

I instantly became giddy with anticipation. This was my first gay cruise. Somehow, I’d made it this long — a seasoned gay man in his 40s — without ever specifically sailing with my community. 

What was different now? VACAYA is setting out to change the existing model of queer travel. From its inception, it set the lofty goal of serving the entire LGBTQIAPK community. On its website it clearly explains and creates an alphabet soup utopia that welcomes (in its words): “Lesbian, Gay, Transgender/Transsexual, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Ally, Pansexual/Polyamorous and Kink.”

As VACAYA co-founder Patrick Gunn said, “If you believe love is love, you belong on our vacations.” And we did. Though the largest percentage of guests was men, they were men of all ages, shapes and sizes — another coup for inclusivity. And from my conversations with the topless ladies splashing in the pool and my new friends from East Lansing, Michigan, Jennifer and Johanna, who I met at the ship’s ice cream parlor, all shared in the joyous excitement.

On the first day, VACAYA organized meetups for every flavor and proclivity of our inclusive spectrum. From pansexual to trans to straight ally guests, everyone had the opportunity to meet their like-minded neighbors for the next seven days. However, to make friends all one had to do was step out of the stateroom. In my many years attending gay events, I can’t remember being surrounded by a more engaging, welcoming crowd. 

And, truly, it was a run-your-own-race kind of experience…

Read my full article on the Bay Area Reporter

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Stay Fab While Traveling

Gay pillow fight

Traveling while fabulous has unique challenges. We all want to feel welcome. Now, a new hosting platform is removing all “coming out” awkwardness from short-term rental bookings.

FabStayz.com guarantees LGBTQ+ travelers a hospitable host. 

“Travel is about fun and exploration, coming out to a stranger is no way to kick-off a vacation,” says Robert Geller, Founder and CEO of FabStayz. “Be your ‘FabSelf’ wherever your travels take you. No more scouring listings for clues if the host is LGBT+ welcoming, an ally or member of our community. FabStayz wants to take away all the guesswork for the LGBT+ traveler.”

According to Geller, property owners listed on FabStayz must meet the platform’s criteria of seven months minimum hosting on another major platform (like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and HomeAway), with at least 10 great to excellent reviews. Additionally, all FabStayz hosts agree to FabStayz diversity and inclusion statement.

Within weeks of launching, FabStayz had quintupled its hosts and featured a castle in France, tiny homes in Portland, a vintage RV in Los Angeles, and rental listings throughout the United States, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and the U.K., among others. 

Fab your stay at FabStayz.com

Rv on hillside on FabStayz.com

Photos courtesy of FabStayz.com

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Filed under Canada, Europe, Gay/ LGBTQ, Hotels, Mexico, Travel News, U.S.A.

Gay Guide to Guadalajara

Photo courtesy of Guadalajara CVB

When in 2015, the governments of the Mexican state of Jalisco and its capital Guadalajara began a bid to host the Gay Games in 2022, they unwittingly set the city on a path to LGBTQ-awakening. 

The Gay Games are an LGBTQ-Olympics of sorts, whose mission is to promote equality through sport and culture. They’ve been held every four years since 1982 and have grown into an internationally-popular event that in 2018 brought more than 10,000 participants to Paris.

For Guadalajara, the three-year bid process signified a shift in focus for a government that had not previously engaged the LGBTQ tourism market…

Read the full article published in EDGE

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HA Restaurant-Hotel Xcaret

A view of Chef Carlos Gaytan HA Restaurant in Hotel Xcaret, Riviera Maya Mexico
HA Restaurant in Riviera Maya, Mexico

“We want to be the best hotel restaurant in the world. That’s what we’re pushing for.”

Uttering that statement as he welcomes us into HA Restaurant, Chef Carlos Gaytan sets a very high bar. He then spends the next 3 hours exceeding all expectations.

After all, this isn’t your typical hotel restaurant. Carlos Gaytan is the first Mexican chef ever to receive a Michelin Star (for Mexique in Chicago). And although HA Restaurant is located within Hotel Xcaret in Riviera Maya, Mexico, it is open to all diners with a reservation and is the one restaurant not included in the hotel’s all-inclusive package. It’s a stand-alone culinary masterpiece in a resort area more commonly associated with dinner buffets.

*Read the full article published in Travel Squire

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The Muluk Spa at Hotel Xcaret Mexico

Muluk Spa at Hotel Xcaret

Muluk Spa at Hotel Xcaret

Why merely relax when you can transform? The Muluk Spa at Hotel Xcaret Mexico is your gateway to the ancient traditions and healing practices of the Mayan culture. As you enter the spa’s expansive, open-air lobby you immediately connect with the lush topography of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Excavated from a rocky hillside of this jungle region, the spa opens onto a private river that runs through the entirety of Hotel Xcaret.

For those interested in moving beyond the pampering into the spiritual, plan to visit Muluk Spa on a Wednesday when their Shaman will guide you through the complete Temezcal experience. This traditional Mexican sweat lodge, dating back to Pre-Hispanic times, is not for the faint of heart (quite literally) or those particularly sensitive to heat (your body temperature can exceed 104°F). But it is through the sweat that you cleanse of toxins both physical and emotional… (continue)

Read the full article published on TravelSquire.com

 

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UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya

IMG_8479

UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya

Gay travelers to Mexico are increasingly becoming bi… coastal, that is.

According to the 2018 report by Community Marketing & Insights, Mexico is the second most visited international destination for LGBTQ travelers from the United States (Canada is the first). Within the country, the areas around Puerto Vallarta and Cancun/Riviera Maya are the two most popular.

Wooing our community to Mexico’s eastern coast, the UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya is prioritizing becoming the region’s most LGBTQ-friendly all-inclusive….

Read the full article published in EDGE Media Network

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IQ in EDGE: Puerto Vallarta’s Almar Resort

Couple at Pool at Mantamar Beach Club

The Mantamar Beach Club at the Almar Resort

The newest and only luxury beachfront LGBTQ hotel in Puerto Vallarta will make your tub bubbleth over. With hot tubs in 29 of its 78 suites; an infinity pool (featuring swim-up bar and more hot tubs) off the sands of Los Muertos Beach; member access to Mantamar Beach Club, the premier beach club in Zona Romantica; and a rooftop bar with heart-warming sunset views, drag shows and — yes, even more hot tubs — the Almar Resort is making sassy classy in Mexico’s favorite gay beach retreat…

Click here to read the full article published in EDGE.

Ivan Quintanilla published in Edge Media

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A Case for the Gay Hotel

Pool at gay hotel

A Perfect Day at the Almar Resort in Puerto Vallarta

I’ve recently had conversations with several gay men in their 20’s about the necessity, or lack thereof, of the “gay hotel.”  First, I think it is truly amazing that many of our younger gay peers feel so completely comfortable in their skin in any surrounding.  I think it is tangible evidence of progress.  And one I celebrate—wholeheartedly—as I toast with my frozen cosmopolitan, pomegranate margarita or glass of crisp sauvignon blanc. But these conversations have made me examine why I personally am still drawn to the congregation of gay.  Now, I love to travel often and on many different types of trips, frequented by many different types of people.  And I don’t ever want that to change.  But yet I find myself consistently drawn to the comradery of the gay hotel.

I’d guess this is greatly generational.  Perhaps it’s the childhood years of being schooled in the appropriate ways boys gesture. Or the exhausting energy expended in youth hoping no one will figure you out.  Or the many times you heard the f-word and continued walking pretending you weren’t the subject.   And I am thrilled if kids these days don’t grow up with any of these same concerns.  Because though I have never been targeted or mocked as a traveling adult, this well-adjusted gay New Yorker still can’t wait to return to Puerto Vallarta or Key West or Provincetown.

There is a world of difference between not feeling endangered and feeling truly welcome.  I am so accustomed to my life in New York City, where I never worry about holding my boyfriend’s hand as we stroll through Hell’s Kitchen or fret if my shorts are the appropriate length on a hot, summer day (I’m bringing the 5” inseam back!).  With so many elements of which to keep track on vacation—currency exchanges, language barriers, convoluted directions—watching yourself so you are not watched seems like wasted energy.

I prefer to spend that time meeting new friends—many of whom, especially now in the age of social media, will continue to be part of my life beyond my departure from the destination.  I have been fortunate to share unforgettable moments with some pretty fantastic people who I may or may not ever see again.  But if I ever visit their home cities, I guarantee you they will be my first call.  Because they are now part of my community.

So, I will continue to travel everywhere and stay anywhere, but I will always have a soft spot for the gay hotel.  And I hope all of our generations can join in the spirited, tipsy conversations which could never be replicated on an app or anywhere else, other than at that pool, with that fruity cocktail in hand, while blasting that Deborah Cox remix that will forever give us life.

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