Last Updated: Feb 29, 2012
Costa Rica is one of Latin America’s top destinations for gay travel. The country’s incredible beaches, eco-friendly reputation, and gay-friendly tourism industry lure an increasing number of travelers every year. Note that gay marriage is not legal in Costa Rica and sexuality can be a sensitive topic as most locals are Roman Catholics. While the tourism industry is largely gay-friendly, you may encounter conservative attitudes outside of gay businesses and destinations. A good tactic is to be discreet except when in major tourist areas or openly gay-friendly locales.
Luckily, there are numerous LGBT resorts located throughout the country, and even more that are gay-friendly. As gay travel has increased in Costa Rica, gay tour operators, travel agencies, adult-only resorts, and even men-only hotels have cropped up. Furthermore, gay travelers are not restricted to destinations marketed exclusively to the LGBT community: many small hotels, B&B’s and inns are run by open-minded foreigners – most often North American or European – who welcome all travelers.
By far, Costa Rica’s two most gay-friendly locations are San Jose and Manuel Antonio. San Jose is the country’s largest metropolitan area and home to LGBT human rights organizations, as well as groups for gay and transgendered travelers and residents. San Jose’s downtown gay club scene grows larger each year, attracting LGBT travelers and locals looking to party the night away. The city is also home to gay saunas, complete with hot tubs, swimming pools and steam baths.
Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica’s undisputed gay oasis, home to several LGBT resorts, restaurants, clubs, and even a popular gay beach. Here it’s not uncommon to see gay couples walking hand-in-hand or enjoying a romantic sunset on the beach. Due to an influx of gay tourist dollars (and open-minded residents), almost every business in the area is gay-friendly. Note: Playa Playita is the area’s unofficial gay beach. It used to be clothing-optional, but this is illegal in Costa Rica and recent reports indicate that authorities have been cracking down on nude beachgoers.
Couples looking for gay-friendly accommodations outside of San Jose and Manuel Antonio should do a bit of research before booking. In most tourist hotspots, like Puerto Viejo, Arenal, and the Gold Coast, there are several options for gay-run or diversity-friendly hotels. Purple Roofs or other LGBT associations will have good recommendations for gay-friendly hosts around the country.
Popular Gay Businesses and Bars:
Calle 2 between Avenidas 14 and 16
Disco Arco Iris
On the right side of the road, on the way to Manuel Antonio
Calle 11 between Avenidas 10 and 12
Calle 1 between Avenidas 8 and 10
Two blocks before Mar y Sombra
Pucho's Night Club
Calle 11 and Avenida 8
Sauna Club Hispalis
Avenida 2, between Calles 17 & 19
One block north from the Holiday Inn