All Ages

11 Best LGBT-Friendly Resorts for Families

See recent posts by Paul J. Heney

Being an LGBT family on vacation sometimes brings odd stares or awkward questions. While these sorts of episodes are becoming less common, my own family runs into them on occasion. A front desk employee will ask my partner to step back from the desk until he’s done checking in “this family” or a waitress will ask us if we decided to “leave the moms home tonight for a change.”

As LGBT parents, sometimes we want to vacation in places where there are many other families like ours. That reassures us that we’ll be fully accepted and shows our children that their parental situation isn’t unique. Other times, we just want to explore a particular area of a country for the attractions that it holds. Either way, we travel for the same reasons that straight-parent (and single-parent) families do: to expose our kids to different cultures and food and geography, to teach them some history, or to relax and have fun.

The following are 11 of the most highly-recommended resorts in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean for LGBT families (in no particular order).

Written by Paul J. Heney


La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort

Puerto Rico (and San Juan in particular) is a popular gay destination for singles and couples, but the La Concha is a favorite for LGBT families. Parents will enjoy the old-school architecture, featuring a brise-soleil facade and iconic conch shell-shaped restaurant overlooking the pool and ocean -- not to mention seven great restaurants and four bar options. Kids will love the multilevel main pool with waterfalls, the dual whirlpools and the beautiful Condado Beach. Other adult options include golf at sister property Bahia Beach Resort, the attached Casino del Mar, and the Spa at Condado Vanderbilt. The resort's Suite Tower features one-bedroom suites, ideal for families that value a bit of privacy on vacation.

The Condado Beach neighborhood is vibrant, yet safe and gay-friendly. The staff is roundly praised for not only their friendliness toward LGBT guests, but for being warm and gracious. There are many nearby touring options in town, including the historical sites in Old San Juan, or the concierge can book the whole family on a more exotic day trip, such as to the gorgeous El Yunque rainforest.

Mike Rivera, Hotel Manager, said the resort's mission is for LGBT families to feel welcomed, supported and secure.

"We do this by keeping them informed on the latest LGBT events, trends, restaurants, bars, clubs and touristic destinations on the island," he said. "With continued training, we ensure that our team members are dedicated, always eager to assist any guest, and are welcoming and aware of the diversity in which we live."

Rivera also explained that the resort is centrally located for gay travelers.

"San Juan is very LGBT friendly, with restaurant, bars and clubs scattered throughout the city," he said. "The more concentrated LGBT neighborhoods include Santurce and Condado, the tourist district where we are located. For those looking for a good time, locals and tourists alike pour from the beach into the clubs in the evenings for a long night of dancing that usually includes salsa music. Our hotel is right on Condado beach, where the LGBT sun-worshippers tend to gather and can partake in amazing outdoor activities."

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

This is the only Disney resort that's not connected to a theme park. But heck, with the magic and beauty of Hawaii at hand, who needs roller coasters? Aulani is a perfect little paradise tucked into the southwest corner of Oahu, 45 minutes from the bustle of Honolulu and Waikiki. The U-shaped resort faces a large crescent-shaped bay cut into the Pacific Ocean as part of the 642-acre Ko Olina development. Aulani features 351 rooms, including 16 suites, and 481 two-bedroom equivalent villas, including 20 grand villas.

Within the courtyard-like space created by the resort towers, Disney Imagineers constructed what they call the Waikohohe Valley, a lush space containing waterslides, pools, a lazy river, and restaurants that is connected by several wandering pathways. Auntie's Beach House, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is the resort's kids' club, and is included for hotel guests. Parents can even venture off property to explore other parts of Oahu, as long as they have a working cell phone in case of emergencies. The Laniwai Spa, the only spa both built by and operated by Disney, is perfect for families. In addition to the standard fare of adult options, there"s a fantastic Ohana family massage and a whole separate teen spa area called Painted Sky.

A Disney spokesman said that diversity is important to the company, and LGBT families are welcomed at Aulani.

"All of our Disney parks and resorts around the world are purpose-built with families in mind. Our cast members reflect the diversity of our guests and community," he said.

The Point Orlando Resort

Many gay families have enjoyed Disney World and the myriad other Orlando-area resorts for years, as the city and its residents have been leaders in inclusiveness, even before it was politically popular. If you're not going to stay on property at Disney, The Point is a smart choice. Located centrally on Universal Boulevard and with a free shuttle service to nearby theme parks, the property has many suite options, including one- and two-bedroom suites, ranging up to 1,100 square feet in size and containing full kitchens and washers and dryers. There's a pool and fitness center on property, as well. The decor is conservative in nature but pleasing, and the resort has an upscale feel to it. While there is one restaurant onsite, many families enjoy the easy five-minute walk to International Drive, where countless restaurants, chain and otherwise, abide.

Mitchell H. Berman, V.P. Marketing & Revenue Management for Paramount Hospitality Management, explained that the resort doesn't distinguish between guests, especially based upon sexual orientation or affiliation, or do specific marketing to the LGBT family community.

"We value all of our guests equally and treat all with gratitude for choosing us; consequently, we extend the highest levels dignity, respect, courtesy, hospitality and professionalism to all, at all times," he said. "To us, this has always been the most genuine form of marketing -- satisfying the needs of our guests and exceeding their expectations."

Sheraton New Orleans Hotel/Canal Street

Few cities in the U.S. have more character and sense of place than New Orleans, and the Sheraton's position right on Canal Street gives families a great central location from which to explore. Floor to ceiling windows in this 49-story hotel provide stunning views of the Mississippi, the French Quarter, and downtown New Orleans. The Club Level is worth the extra price, as families can take advantage of the complimentary food and nonalcoholic drinks, saving some food costs. There's a rooftop pool and sun deck and a 24/7 Sheraton Fitness Center. For $3 per day, the Jazzy Pass offers a great way to get around the city, and you can grab the Canal St. trolley right in front of the hotel. And to get you started in the morning, there's even a Starbucks located right in the lobby.

Jim Cook, General Manager of the Sheraton, noted that the property is a TAG-approved hotel and that it markets to the LGBT community through resources such as The Man About World New Orleans Travel Guide, and the multi-dimensional Follow Your NOLA campaign featuring The Adventures of Max & Kyle.

"New Orleans is a diverse and inclusive city and that is mirrored in both our hotel staff and guest population. We are in the business of hospitality and excited to share our culture," said Cook. "Because of the diversity of our staff, and the number of LGBT associates therein, we haven't found a need to provide specialty training as our team is already familiar with this traveler profile and sensitive to their preferences as they reflect their own or those of whom are close to them."

Cook also revealed that the headliner for the employee 20th Hotel Anniversary celebration was the one and only Bianca del Rio.

Azul Beach Hotel by Karisma

While a Champagne toast at check in isn't unheard of at nicer resorts, Azul Beach one ups that for families by also providing Nickelodean-themed smoothies for the junior set when arriving. This resort is intimate, with 148 rooms and suites. It features six restaurants, a white-sand beach, a spa, kids' club and swim-up bars for when the parents need a refresh from the hot sun.

Rooms and suites feature built-in daybeds, rainfall showers, DVD players, Wi-Fi, and balconies or verandas with garden or ocean views. Some suites have Jacuzzi tubs. There are a variety of restaurant types to choose from, including SpongeBob's Scoop, which features lots of ice cream choices, as well as Panini and crepes. At the other extreme, parents will find more than 30 types of tequila (!) at the beautifully appointed, masculine Agavero Tequila Lounge. Kids have a variety of activities to choose from at the resort, from yoga to spa treatments to movie nights under the stars.

Provincetown Inn

This beloved older resort sits a bit off the main strip of Provincetown -- a well-known gay community -- a location that many families enjoy. The walk to the center of town is still reasonable, and a lovely one. While the rooms are smaller than at some more modern resorts, guests highly recommend the Cape Tip rooms, which open out onto the water -- only steps away. Provincetown Inn has its own pool and a small, comfortable private beach -- plus, the walk to the popular Herring Cove beach is much easier than from in town, where parking can be at a premium.

A complimentary buffet breakfast each morning includes hot and cold options and guests can either eat inside or out. Some rooms include refrigerators, coffeemakers and microwaves, and larger suites even include kitchens.

Provincetown is famously the home of the Family Equality Council's annual Family Week, to be held next from July 29 to Aug. 5, 2017. Family Week is the largest annual gathering of queer families in the world.

Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside

This Disney resort includes 2,048 rooms in an atmosphere that brings to mind the old South. The grounds at Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside contain three-story southern-style mansions and two-story rustic bayou dwellings. Guests report that the Mansion rooms are more elegant in style while the Alligator Bayou rooms are more rustic feeling.

Families will enjoy dining at the Boatwright's Dining Hall, or Riverside Mill food court has six stations serving fast options including pizza, pasta, salads, a grill and bakery. There are meal plans available to purchase for families that prefer that option.

Recreation abounds, with five leisure pools for when adults are looking for some quiet time or the adventure of Ol' Man Island, a 3.5-acre old-fashioned swimming hole with slides, rope swings and playgrounds. Families will also find boat rentals, a game room, and lounges. Fulton's General Store is a gift shop combined with sundries and housewares for the family on the go. A riverboat takes guests to Disney Springs and there is transportation via motor coach to other Walt Disney World attractions and resorts.

A Disney spokesman explained that the company's commitment to diversity makes the resort a natural for LGBT families.

"Fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion enables our resorts to better connect with our guests. It cultivates creativity and innovation, and keeps our offerings relevant," he said.

Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

Humpback whales and gorgeous sunsets are the backdrop at this desirable Wailea location that is the envy of all. In fact, the ocean seems to be everywhere at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa after its recent $100 million renovation. As with so many Hawaiian resorts, a striking view of the vast Pacific greets guests the moment they arrive. The upgrades included the arrival experience, guest rooms, culinary experiences, pools and even recreation. There is a new adventure pool with two waterslides, as well as a new kids' center, Keiki Kid's Club, which features storytelling, arts and crafts and babysitting services. Also debuting is a Family Activity & Game Center with vintage arcade games, shuffleboard, lucite foosball table and a pool table. The Movie House offers cinema experiences complete with popcorn.

While the resort doesn't have direct beach access, there are beaches located a short walk away in either direction, including Wailea, Mokapu and Ulua. There are four pools, including an adults-only one that overlooks the ocean. Several restaurants and a Starbucks serve guests, and there are multiple additional options close by, including at the Ritz Carlton resort, which is adjacent. The Mandara Spa has all the services you'd expect, as well as kids' services.

A hotel spokesperson explained that Marriott boasts a perfect 100 percent score on the Corporate Equality Index, and has a commitment to nondiscrimination and respect for all.

"These are values we share, and incorporate into our management and commitment to our guests," they said. "In addition, the resort is TAG-approved -- Wailea Beach Resort has had the pleasure to host a variety of commitment ceremonies for couples at our many outdoor event venues."

Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Listed in the National Register for Historic Places, Key West's Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, is a historic landmark that boasts Old Town Key West elegance. Conceived by the railroad magnate Henry Flagler, the hotel was designed to replicate the arches of Flagler's pioneering Over Sea Railway. Key West is one of the U.S.'s most gay-friendly destinations, and is often regarded as America's Caribbean -- it exudes an end-of-the-road remoteness for all LGBTQ travelers, including families. Its quirky charm and laid-back lifestyle is what attracts such a wide gay community.

Families will enjoy the resort's close proximity to the vibrant spots of Duval Street and rich history of the Old Town. Although, much of the fun can be had at the resort with a dedicated beach and pool concierge, sand sculpting workshops led by the award-winning resident sculptor, ocean sports including jet-ski tours and more. Some families rave that it's the nicest place on the island (boasting one of the best beaches), so they hardly ever leave the resort. There are two restaurants on property, as well as a great steakhouse option next door, at Casa Marina's sister property, The Reach.

Casa Marina recently became the only hotel in Key West offering direct air service to the resort's beach from all Florida cities via a partnership with Key West Seaplanes. And the resort launched cabanas this summer complete with a daybed, TV, mini-fridge and more. Every 90 minutes, a Beach Concierge provides amenities from chilled eucalyptus towels to sunglass cleanings!

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

The Fontainebleau has been a south Florida icon for generations -- and mixed with the incredible LGBT community that stretches from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, this resort is a fantastic and popular choice for gay families. The pool area was a tree-lined, waterfall and waterslide wonder when I was a kid, and it is still a great place to spend the day -- albeit now with cabanas, a waterscape play area and more. Fontainebleau has a children's program, FB Kids, geared toward kids 4 to 12. "Adventure Guides" get the little ones involved in scavenger hunts, games, sports and even art, while the parents get some quiet time.

There are numerous dining options from burgers all the way up to Hakkasan, a Top 50 world restaurant that features Cantonese cuisine.

Scott Flexman, VP of Sales & Marketing, explained that in order to keep the guest experience fresh for families who return year to year, the resort is constantly introducing new family friendly programming.

"This summer, we offered family pastry classes where kids and parents were invited to tour the resort's pastry kitchen and work side by side with one of Fontainebleau's pastry Chefs to create something sweet," Flexman said. "Additionally, all of Fontainebleau"s restaurant's are family-friendly, including one of our newest concepts by Chef Michael Mina, Pizza & Burger."

He noted that the affordable restaurant offers families a laid-back experience, complete with games like UNO and Jenga located at the tables.

San Juan Marriott Resort & Casino

The San Juan Marriott is located on Condado Beach, which boasts beautiful white sand and crystal blue water. Rooms that look out to the cabana area are said to offer the best of Puerto Rico -- falling asleep to the sound of both ocean waves and coqui frogs. During the day, adults will love the swim up bar at the extensive pool area. Much of the pool is shallow, ideal for little ones, while the older kids will get a kick out of the waterslide. There's even a suntan lotion dispenser and ice water station located at the pool. Umbrellas and chairs are provided at the beach, which is only a few steps away.

And there's much more to do nearby. Jose Gonzalez Espinosa, General Manager, explained that the resort is in the middle of a cultural hub with everything within reach -- from the area's best shopping and restaurants to entertainment and festivals to history and art.

"We're located in the Condado neighborhood, in the heart of the trendy Santurce Arts District, which is home to a large LGBT population," he said. "LGBT families are welcomed with open arms as it's a comfortable environment all around. Our hotel, the San Juan Marriott, is very family-friendly and we attract a diverse crowd of visitors from various backgrounds, including LGBT families, who really love our hotel -- particularly the gelato shop, lively atmosphere, beautiful beach, and two-level pool with the largest double-helix slide in the neighborhood."

Espinosa said their sales and events departments promote LGBT weddings on property, which his team is certified to officiate. They also offer packages specific to LGBT travelers, such as the "Pride & Joy" package, which includes an upgrade to a Pool View room, VIP transfers to and from the airport, daily breakfast at La Vista Latin Grill, and a wine and cheese in-room amenity.

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