A monthly column about gay and lesbian travel

The Intimate Adventure:
Gay Romantic Vacations

by Sasha Alyson


Your gay romantic vacation, whether a honeymoon, an anniversary, or a getaway, returns the intimate adventure you first saw in each other.

Above: Intimate memories, like this crimson field of poppies near Avignon in southern France, can become the defining moments of a great romance.

 

The author: Sasha Alyson is the founder of Alyson Publications, the country's leading publisher of gay and lesbian books. He sold that company in 1995 to start Alyson Adventures, which specializes in active and adventure vacations for gay men and lesbians.

 

Also by Sasha Alyson:

Children of the Rainbow: A response to the controversy around the children's books Sasha published in a previous career.

 

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It's common sense.

To build a relationship, you need to have fun together. A romantic vacation, whether it is a honeymoon, a getaway, or an anniversary celebration, returns the sense of intimate adventure that you first saw in each other. Couples that stay together, play together- and sometimes that means getting away to someplace special.

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In planning your trip, you want to go somewhere not only private and romantic, but also gay-friendly. For example, travel agents often warn gay couples against many mainstream honeymoon destinations, like Jamaica. While the tropical beaches are renowned for inspiring lovers, a public gesture of same-sex affection can be illegal, if not dangerous. Fortunately, the market for gay romantic vacations has blossomed in this decade, bringing a wealth of resources and new opportunities. Together, you can find an affordable and exciting destination that you both love, if you keep your minds open and those resources at hand.

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Two gay travel agents, Newt Dieter at Rancho Mirage Travel (800-369-1073) and Wayne Root at All About Destinations (800-375-2703), independently suggest the same resort on the western coast of Mexico: the Old Town district of Puerto Vallarta. It's economical, romantic, and very friendly, with a number of gay beaches to choose from, including the beautiful Blue Chairs Beach and Playa Del Sol. You can hold hands and splash in the waves well after the sun sets in your lover's eyes. If you want to be social, you can head over to Tito's, a popular gay complex with a bar, restaurant and sundeck overlooking the rolling surf. However, even in Puerto Vallarta, note the distinction between the New Town and Old Town districts. While a hotel in New Town may not rent a room with a single bed to a same-sex couple, almost all hotels in the Old Town depend on gay tourism. To avoid these pitfalls, enlist the help of a gay or gay-friendly travel agent. It's free, and worth the insurance: who wants to spend their romantic vacation arguing for the right to sleep together?

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If you have your heart set on the traditional Hawaiian getaway, try the island of Kauai. Despite most native Hawaiians tolerance toward gay people, the tourist culture remains conservative. But Kauai is truly gay-friendly. There are several popular gay beaches. For a pleasant walk together, head toward the northern end of Donkey Beach, a remote stretch of verdant forests breaching the shoreline, surrounded by old sugar cane fields. There's also Secret Beach, which is clothing-optional. The Kilauea Lighthouse makes a stunning backdrop, while the abundance of trees, bushes and a waterfall provide both shade and privacy. There are many gay-friendly guesthouses and bungalows to accommodate you. Detailed information is available on the Internet at www.discoveringhawaii.com. You can follow the Main Menu to the map of Hawaii and click on Kauai for photos of the island's amenities.

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Your idea of a romantic vacation may conjure images of an Italian villa or weekend in the Rockies instead of the tropical beaches featured here. If you have a particular destination in mind, says Allen Walden at Gay Travel Plus (877-845-1660), don't give up. He recently booked a cruise to Puerto Rico for two women getting married-- and they brought along dozens of family and friends! He found a small Miami-based company, A Wedding For You (800-929-4198), to help arrange the trip, complete with a ceremony performed on board by a gay minister. The company has an exuberant web site, and plans weddings all over the world. They also promise that "almost anything" is possible. If you don't know where you want to go, the best place to brainstorm is the Internet. I recommend Rainbow Destinations as a place to start. It hosts a worldwide directory of country inns and bed-and-breakfasts friendly to gay travelers. There, you will glimpse the impressive world of gay hospitality, wherever your heart leads you.

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The balance between privacy and a gay-friendly environment seems to be the principal issue in planning a successful romantic vacation. I spoke to one couple who celebrated their recent twentieth anniversary in Palm Springs, but stayed at the Sundance Villas (800-455-3888), a "straight", but gay-friendly resort that provides each couple with a private villa, pool, spa, and sauna. They enjoyed their privacy and the famous gay nightlife. After twenty years, a blend of personal commitment and community keeps them together.

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Next month: The AIDS Rides: Effective fundraiser, or free vacation?