Cancun & Playa del Carmen
Filled with straight couples crowding into Senor Frog’s and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Cancun sometimes seems like the antithesis of a gay destination. But the low-key gay spots are far from the neon-splashed Zona Hotelera. Head to El Centro, the village that was here before the government decided this was the perfect spot for a resort town. There, just off the main drag you’ll find go-go boys, drag shows, and open-air dance floors.
For sun and fun, local gays used to recommend the Mirador, a rocky area with a very phallic lighthouse at the elbow of the main island, or Playa Delfines, a stretch of powder-soft sand at the extreme southern end of the Zona Hotelera. More recently recommended by locals, Mamitas Beach is a bit to the north of the Mamita's Beach Club, and the beach area in front of the Playacar Resort, about 4 minutes walk south from the Cozumel Ferry Pier. Another option, with some discreet nudity and cruising action, is the unclaimed beach area between two large condo/hotels. To arrive, walk north past the Paradisus Hotel, about about 25 minutes from the public beach access road off Avenida 5.
Cancun Internacional Airport is one of the busiest in the Caribbean. Getting to your hotel will mean a shuttle bus, door to door private vehicle service or limo. Public shuttle buses provide direct non-stop service from airport Terminals 2 and 3 between 8am and 8pm to Downtown Cancun (US$12) and to Downtown Playa del Carmen (about $24). More expensive options operate 24 hours a day. The airport authority regulates all ground transportation to and from the airport. To guarantee a seat buy tickets online at the shuttle website.
Many people never leave their hotel, so if that’s what you’re planning, don’t rent a car. You can get around in the Zona Hotelera by bus or taxi. See the CancunTravel website for public transit information. A car is handy for visiting the out-of-the-way beaches and archeological sites.
Currency and Money
Mexico’s currency is the peso ($), which is divided into 100 centavos. ATMs are everywhere in the city, so there’s no need to carry a lot of cash, but check ahead how much the fees will cost for withdrawals, and for credit card purchases. In 2016 the exchange rate has fluctuated between 17 and 19+ pesos to the US dollar.
A Little Caution...
Mexico is not the USA or Canada, and that's one of the main attractions. People come to party a bit harder than they might at home. But every year a few tourists fall from hotel balconies, get killed in traffic, or get into arguments with the wrong people at a club. Others drown in riptides at the beach.
Too obvious to mention perhaps, but a few precautions should get you home safe: party with friends, don't get too wasted, stay out of the roadway, take only the amount of cash you'll need and walk away from a fight whenever possible. Have your credit and debit card info handy in a safe place, then cancel the card rather than risking life or limb to recover it. Beware of unfamiliar tides at the beach, and remember drug laws may still be strictly enforced here, despite appearances and availability.
Media & resources
MexGay Cancun has information about gay nightlife, beaches, events, restaurants, shops and other local places of interest, along with some hotel promotions.
Pride party nights take place in the clubs in June, and the PARADISO Gay Circuit Party features four days of annual events in November.
Playa Maya News is news and information source for the whole Riviera Maya region.
GayToursMexico is a gay owned Tour Operator in the Mayan region of Mexico and Central America, with 100% gay tours and excursions. Cancun Playa Tours also provides gay-friendly tour services, including adventure excursions, sailing charters, and guides to the nightlife scene. Both are IGLTA members.
Cancun Gay Weddings offers same-sex wedding ceremonies in Cancun and throughout the region.
VisitCancun is a useful tourist website from the Association of Concierges Cancun. CancunTravel is a site by the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau. VisitMexico/Cancun is maintained by the Mexico Tourism Board.
Going Out in Cancun
11:11 | OnceOnce (Av Tulum, at Claveles sm 22, MZA 5, Cancún, Centro), gay cocktail lounge, young men/women mix, erotic go-go dancers, drag shows, snacks.
Coco Bongo (Blvd Kukulcan km 9.5, Plaza Forum 30, Cancun), gay-friendly disco, elaborate show bar, celebrity impersonations, open bar.
La Rinconera (Av Yaxchilan at Jazmines), queer/mixed karaoke/cocktail bar, nachos/wings/snacks, free board and arcade games, WiFi; 11:11 associate.
Picante Hot Bar (Av Tulúm, sm 2, MZA 1, LT 19, El Centro), cheap drinks in Plaza Galerias, drag, strippers, men/women, all ages.
Sentimientos Bar (Av Nichupté sm 512, MZA 10, Cancún), Nova Sports Mall locals mixed/gay bar, women's nights, drag shows, Wii games.
Sexy's Club (Bonampak 237, Plaza Solare, Cancun) - CLOSED? - Wednesday-Sunday gay clubbing until 6am; men-only bear nights, male strippers/ erotic dancers, shows, theme parties.
CLOSED: Karamba Bar (Av Tulum 11/22, Cancún, Centro), all-gay dance club, drag and Vegas-style shows, male strippers/ go-gos.
Going Out in Playa del Carmen
Almirante Pech (Quinta Av at Calle 30, Playa del Carmen), mixed wine and cocktails bar, nightclub and seafood restaurant, live bands, Caribbean fine dining.
Blue Parrot Beach Club (Calle 12 Norte, at The Beach, Playa del Carmen), beach club, hotel, restaurant, world class clubbing, hip-hop nights. Reopening December 2014 after renovations.
Club 69 | Playa 69 (Quinta Av 156, Playa del Carmen), men's dance club, late night drag shows, nude male strippers, international crowd.
Club Sodoma Playa (Av 40 at Calle 28), 9pm-6am Tuesday-Sunday gay locals' dive bar, live shows, male strippers.
Coco Maya Beach Club & Lounge (Cl 12 N, at beach, Playa del Carmen), outdoor disco/nightclub 'til 5am, Mediterranean/ Brazilian restaurant.
Deseo Lounge at El Deseo Hotel and restaurant (Av 5ta at Calle 12, Playa del Carmen, pre-clubbing cocktails at rooftop bar and pool, mixed crowd.
Diablo Cha Cha Cha (Calle 12, Playa del Carmen), mixed crowd pre-clubbing cocktails, Asia-Mex fusion/ seafood dining and sushi bar, nightclub theme parties.
Kool Beach Club (Calle 28 Norte at beach, Zona Federal Marítima, Playa del Carmen), mixed crowd restaurant and bar, DJs, beach club parties, pool and terrace, breakfast buffets.
La Cueva Del Maya-T (Calle 1, Bis Sur), 9pm-6am nude male stripper bar, private lap dances, drag shows, drink specials.
La Santanera (Calle 1o at Av 5ta, Playa del Carmen), retro-tropical party terrace, underground disco cantina and outdoor terrace, mixed international crowd live music club; gay-popular in later hours.
Mezcalinna (Calle 12, nte 251, Play del Carmen), mixed electronic music nightclub, dancing, cheap drinks.
The Coralina and the Mamitas, two more mainstream beach clubs makeing a trio with the Kool Beach Club, between Calles 26 and 28, also attract young gay/lesiban people during the day, for the music, the pools, sand, sea and the relaxed party atmosphere.
Closet de Laser (Av Revolucion/ Rte 7, 63, sm 75, Cancun), 3-10pm men's steam/sauna, porn cinema, dark rooms, smoking area.
X-Mahan Nah Vapor Cancun (Cl 21 Norte 103, sm 68, MZA 2, Cancun), gay sauna, xxx video lounge, snacks & drinks. Also in colonia Ejidal, Playa del Carmen.
Vapor Playa del Carmen (Av 55/ Calle 2 norte, Playa del Carmen), 4-10pm men's sauna/steam, Jacuzzi, internet cafe, massage services, in Colonia Ejidal.
See our DailyXtra article: Paradise on the Mayan Riviera by Troy Petenbrink.