The Caribbean Islands are well known for their lush atmosphere, breathtaking views and picturesque beaches, which has made it a prime destination for vacationers, world travelers and honeymooners for years. As a result, many LGBT couples look into these island destinations as they plan for the honeymoon after their fabulous gay wedding. But while LGBT couples are admiring their new matching gay wedding rings and dreaming of a romantic holiday, the fact of the matter is that the Caribbean islands aren’t the best bet.
Traditionally, the Caribbean Islands has been considered pretty off-limits to most gay and lesbian travelers. The perception of the Caribbean being anti-gay was driven home in 2012 when a couple was arrested on a cruise ship when the boat docked in the port of Dominica and, according to the police, the couple was seen having sex.
The men were initially arrested and charged under the island’s strict anti-homosexuality law, which carries a potential for 10 years in prison or psychiatric incarceration. Ultimately, the men plead guilty to indecent exposure and were fined before being driven to the airport to leave the country once and for all.
When their case made headlines around the world, many travelers learned just how strict some of the laws governing the Caribbean islands could be and many in the LGBT community felt they simply weren’t welcome in that part of the world. The truth, however, is that there are a number of islands with more modern views of homosexuality.
Homosexuality is legal in 19 of the 28 Caribbean Islands, though some of those islands still aren’t considered especially gay friendly. In Jamaica, for example, sex between two women is legal but sex between two men remains illegal and the country has an international reputation as perhaps the most homophobic country in the world. On some other islands, such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, sexual contact between people of the same sex is legal, but there are no laws protecting sexual orientation or gender identity.
Still there are a number of islands in which sexual acts between men or women is legal and there are laws in place to protect tourists and locals against discrimination based on their sexuality or how they identify in terms of gender. The following gay friendly Caribbean islands offer a welcoming atmosphere and legal protection towards members of the LGBT community.
The US Virgin Islands (Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas and Water Island)
The United States Virgin Islands consists of Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas and Water Island, though Water Island is smaller and not usually much of a tourist destination. Still, the remaining three islands offer some of the most beautiful views in the region and St. Thomas is one of the most well-populated islands in the area, making it the perfect place for couples looking to shop or get some local flavor.
There are also a dozen or more gay friendly and, in some cases, gay owned resorts scattered on the US Virgin islands. Since the US Virgin Islands is an extension of the United States, laws regarding homosexuality are progressive and LGBT couples can truly relax and enjoy the beautiful views instead of worrying about their safety.
St Barths is perhaps the most well-known destination when it comes to gay friendly Caribbean islands. St. Barths has a long reputation as being incredibly welcoming and also a top pick for the rich and famous. The island has capitalized on both these demographics and offers a dizzying array of night clubs, restaurants and clubs.
There are no designated gay scenes or neighborhoods on St. Barths. Instead, there is simply an environment of inclusion and it is seen by most as being one of the friendliest and most accepting islands in the area.
Saint Martin / Saint Maarten
The island of St. Martin (also known as St. Maarten) is essentially sliced down the middle, shared by the Dutch and French governments. Luckily, both the Dutch and the French take a laid back approach to sexuality and, as a result, the island is a fairly welcoming place for gay travelers.
Still, there have been issues in the past with gay men in particular feeling threatened, there is also a burgeoning LGBT community. Generally speaking, locals report that gay couples are safe and welcomed on the island and that any problems are rare. The tourism on the island backs that up, with the island topping the list on many LGHBT destination websites.
Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, Saba)
The Netherlands is well-known for being an exceptionally LGBT friendly country and its Caribbean extensions of Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba follow suit. Each of the islands is welcoming to all members of the LGBT community and they all offer protection against discrimination.
Out of the three, Saba is the most well-known and it has the most well established LGBT scenes. Saba’s most popular tourist activities are hiking and diving and, of course, plenty of clubs, bars and other nightlife hotspots. Saba is a small island, so there aren’t bars or clubs that cater exclusively to the LGBT community but it has proven itself as a safe, warm and relaxing destination for same-sex couples.
Traveling in the Caribbean Islands doesn’t have to be stressful or dangerous for LGBT couples. While there are still some areas where cultural and religious differences make the area inhospitable, there are also places which reflect the attitudes and acceptance that are the hallmarks of the modern world. Focusing on these areas not only helps to stimulate the local economies of these welcoming islands, it also reinforces the idea of living out and proud in order to promote a better understanding of acceptance without compromising their safety or security.