Valentines' Special: The guide to gay honeymoons
At last, you've had your relationship recognised by law. Now it's time to celebrate. Paul Clements finds the best same-sex escapes
Sunday 12 February 2006
1 Live a Liberace fantasy
Florida's revamped but still eye-poppingly pink Boca Raton Resort is actually Moroccan peach. Or so staff insist. Tucked away on the Gold Coast and clearly not at home to Mr Subtle, this is frou-frou heaven. Nothing is too rinky-dink. The arcaded spa, presided over by matronly Puerto Ricans, is a subtle-as-a-brick homage to the Alhambra. The retrosexual guest-activity rosta includes flower arranging, bridge and tap lessons - so Graham Norton. But with five "hotels within a hotel" - from beach bungalows to the boutique-style Cloister rooms - newlyweds have space to breathe.
Would suit: Screaming ironists.
Honeymoon memento: Keep piling on the kitsch with a last night in Casa Casuarina, Gianni Versace's Italianate villa in Miami. Ghoulish queens can finish off their films with photos taken on the steps where he was shot.
Top package: British Airways Holidays (0870 2433406; ba.com/holidays) is offering seven-night fly-drives to Miami from £437 per person, based on two sharing, for departures in March 2006. The price includes return scheduled flights with British Airways from Heathrow and rental-only car hire for the duration. Rooms at the five-star Boca Raton Resort and Club start from £89 per person per night, room only, in March, staying in a Beach Club, garden-view room.
2 Go wild in South Africa
Want to track big beasts in their natural habitat? Try a "scene and safari" honeymoon in South Africa by combining a city stopover with a game holiday. British operator Safari Pride now tailors gay-escorted trips to four South African game parks, the most celebrated being Kruger in the north-east. Larger than Wales, it offers the world's widest range of critters worth clocking. After a day spotting lions, elephants, buffalo and rhino, the honeymooning couple can cuddle up at the Dulini Lodge in a luxury thatched cottage with private plunge pool - or opt for a canvas-sided tent. And then there's the urban wildlife: tag on a couple of nights in Cape Town, Africa's answer to San Francisco, or burgeoning gay destination Johannesburg.
Would suit: Safari virgins and veterans alike.
Honeymoon memento: The game reserves like to lay it on thick for their just-marrieds, so expect lots of little treats.
Top package: A 12-night, gay-escorted trip with Safari Pride (08700 723 274; safaripride.co.uk) costs from £2,500 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights into Johannesburg or Cape Town and full board on safari.
3 Chill with the geysers
Not everyone can take a fortnight off. For such work-life imbalanced martyrs, Explore offers a four-day, adrenalin-packed, roller-coaster ride. Spend your first night in a tasteful, mid-range Reykjavik guest house, before heading over volcanic wastes in monster Jeeps for a spot of snowmobiling. You'll finish off with a dip in the Blue Lagoon, the island's celebrated mineral-rich geothermal spa. Same-sexers can frolic all they like; quietly liberal, Iceland legalised gay marriage almost a decade ago.
Would suit: Cash-rich, time-poor types.
Honeymoon memento: Between late August and March you could witness the Northern Lights.
Top package: Explore (0870 333 4001; explore .co.uk) offers a three-night stay from £570 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow, all transportation, b&b and the services of a tour leader.
4 Coastess with the mostess
If the boys rule Sydney, the girls have Melbourne. Home to casual but top-rate dining and a cosmopolitan gay scene, Australia's second city is also a prime kicking-off point for a self-drive trip. Take time hitting the pool bars and street cafés, then head into Victoria state for a coast-hugging tour along the Great Ocean Road. Enjoy undisturbed bay walks - surfers might want to bring their boards - and small-town foodie stop-offs (Queenscliff has several fine seafood restaurants). Plus there's the promise of wine-tasting on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Would suit: Thelma and Louise fantasists.
Honeymoon memento: Delay your return with a stopover in Singapore.
Top package: The low-season deal from gay-run booking service R2 (020-7284 4694; enquiries@ r2travel.com) is made for petrolheads. The price starts at £1,505 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow to Melbourne, five days' car hire, six nights' b&b in a superior room at Melbourne Windsor Hotel and four nights' b&b along the Great Southern Touring route.
5 Work up a sweat out West
Montreal may be hosting this summer's gay Olympics, but snow-capped and ocean-lapped Vancouver is sportier. With its grand open spaces, clean air and superfit inhabitants, it's the perfect post-nuptial retreat for outdoors types. Go inline-skating hand-in-hand along the Seawall, jog along the beach together, or play tennis in Stanley Park. And there's world-class skiing only an hour away in Whistler, which hosts an annual lesbian and gay week (gaywhistler.com).
Would suit: Hardy hikers to gym bunnies.
Honeymoon memento: Davie Street is the centre of gay life in Vancouver. Toast your new life together at The Oasis, a piano bar at 1240 Thurlow Street, on the corner of Davie, (001 604 685 1724).
Top package: British Airways flies from Heathrow to Vancouver from £486 return. Stay at the downtown Coast Plaza Hotel (001 800 716 6199; coasthotels.com). Honeymooners on the Supreme Jacuzzi Romance package get complimentary rubber ducks. Wine, chocolate-dipped strawberries and breakfast in bed are included. From C$300 (£150) per night.
6 Love in a warm climate
Far from the Caribbean stereotype, Costa Rica, where discrimination is outlawed, welcomes gays and lesbians. You can go canopy riding above the cloud forests, raft the white waters above Manuel Antonio National Park, and marvel at the active volcanoes.
Would suit: Swamp things and their admirers.
Honeymoon memento: Tattooed surf dudes in the beachfront campgrounds.
Top package: Alyson Adventures (001 800 825 9766; alysonadventures. com) has an eight-day, Rainforests and Rainbows trek for gay men from $1,995 (£1,142) per person, based on two sharing, including transport and most meals and drinks. Flights to San Jose via Miami start at £602 with Travelocity (0870 273 3272; travelocity.co.uk).
7 Try a Turkish summer camp
Not renowned for its open-mindedness, Turkey is the surprising destination for Alternative Holidays' summer event. But Peter Tatchell is said to have given the tour his blessing, so let's party! This September, 600 gay men from around the world will descend on a Bodrum beach resort (sorry, "village") to laze and gaze at each other. For those who want it, there's windsurfing, sailing and diving, plus excursions to historic sites. In the evening, there's entertainment from guest DJs and performances by the likes of Pam Ann and Gabrielle. Is that camp enough for one summer?
Would suit: Non-stop party people.
Honeymoon memento: The daily aerobics classes will be a scream.
Top package: Alternative Holidays (020-8902 7177; alternative-holidays.com) is booking now for the event, which will be held from 15-22 September, with prices from £395 per person, based on two sharing with full board. Book by 1 March to get 10 per cent off. Flights to Bodrum cost from £275 with Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com).
8 Posh and Malbec
Already done Buenos Aires? Then it's time to hit Argentina's city of grapes, Mendoza. A short flight from the capital, this wine-growing region is made all the more dramatic by its backdrop: the Andes. The Cavas Wine Lodge, with its palatial white cabanas - each with a plunge pool and alfresco shower - is the most opulent place to, um, plonk yourselves.
Would suit: Oenophiles.
Honeymoon memento: A local wineries tour can be arranged on bicycle - ensure you sip and spit.
Top package: Three nights at the Cavas Wine Lodge costs from £1,520 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights to Buenos Aires, internal flights, transfers, b&b accommodation, and visits to bodegas through Exsus Travel (020-7292 5050; exsus.com).
9 Fun in the Caribbean sun
When it comes to homosexuality, the Dutch Antilles, a cluster of islands off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean, is as liberal as its European namesake. Curaçao, slotted forgivingly outside the hurricane belt, makes for an idyllic same-sex honeymoon. Hand-holding barely warrants a second glance, and many of the island's hotels are members of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). The beaches on the south-west coast have the calmest, clearest seas.
Would suit: Those looking for a hassle-free Caribbean beach break.
Honeymoon memento: For that all-over tan, there are plenty of gay nudist spots.
Top package: Gay operator Man Around (020-8902 7177; manaround .com) is offering seven nights in the Floris Suites, a Dutch colonial style hotel, from £898 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow to Curaçao via Miami and b&b accommodation.
10 Wales on the cheap
Can't summon the energy or the funds to hop on a plane, or joining the growing band of folk deciding not to fly? Then try a DIY British honeymoon. First, take your pick of the towns along south Wales's trendifying Gower Peninsula for your base - the likes of Port Eynon are hotspots for weekending alternative types (surfers, climbers and coasteers, mostly). Then give your honeymoon a focus: go cycling in the Afan Forest Park, Britain's fastest growing mountain-bike centre.
Would suit: Lo-fi loafers.
Honeymoon memento: Pose for alternative wedding-album pictures by sculptures dotted along Afan's 24-mile Celtic High Level scenic trail. You cheapskates ...
Top package: Stay at the Culver House (01792 390755; culverhousehotel.co.uk), a beachfront hotel in Port Eynon, from £60 per room per night. For further details about the bike trail, visit mbwales.com.
The best beach retreat
Mykonos'naff years have passed, with the focus now on high-end, gay-embracing developments. At the heart of this revival is the five-star Hotel Saint John, with private beach, fresh and saltwater pools and tennis facilities.
Would suit: Heat-seeking tanaholics.
Honeymoon memento: Isolated back-road beaches.
Top package: Respect Holidays (0870 770 0169; respect-holidays.co.uk) offers flights and seven nights' b&b at Hotel Saint John from £559 per person, when two share.
The best grand tour
You're never too married for a Grand Tour. See coastal Europe's most exotic cities with a nine-night gay cruise. The Brilliance of the Seas departs Athens on 3 September for Barcelona (above) via Istanbul, Naples and Sicily.
Would suit: Med lovers.
Honeymoon memento: Spend a night at Barcelona's Grand Central, a mid-price boutique hotel in Barri Gotic.
Top package: Cabins from $1,699 (£972) per person full board, for two sharing, with Atlantis UK (020-7292 2380).
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