While smaller than Oahu, Maui is a gay paradise for adventurous travelers


COAST PROTOCOL | The seaside vistas from Maui offer epic sunsets, but it’s also great to view them on one of the must-do helicopter tours available on the island.

For the queer couple seeking a romantic haven, the island of Maui is waiting to welcome travelers with bright rainbow leis. From snorkeling to eco-tourism to lounging on a remote gay beach, Maui is paradise found.

The first step in planning your memorable jaunt to Valley Isle is finding accommodations. Several queer-owned or -friendly hotels and resorts dot the island. Some of these properties, like the Maui Sunseeker, offer LGBT-specific packages and host commitment ceremonies. (In 2010, Hawaii became the seventh state to legalize same-sex civil unions.)

With a population of less than 150,000, the gay scene is much smaller on Maui than on popular Oahu, but there is a tight-knit LGBT community and a lot of great activities geared toward gay tourists. Whether you want to surf, canoe or kayak, opportunities abound on Maui for the outdoor enthusiast; No Ka Oi Adventures offers nature-based excursions for the queer traveler — small group tours featuring off-the-beaten-path destinations on the island.

If you’re looking for something lower impact, Maui is the leading whale-watching center in the Hawaiian Islands. From the beach you can try to spy a humpback, dolphin or sea turtle. That’s also a prime place to catch one of the amazing sunsets Hawaii is known for.

The amazing coastline is one of the main reasons to visit Maui, and Little Beach is the most popular gay beach here. This nude beach in Makena State Park (South of Wailea at the end of Wailea Alanui Road — you have to walk over a lava flow trail to get there) is a great place to meet and greet the local gay set and gay tourists from all points.

After a day of fun in the sun, seek out the local gay nightlife. While you won’t find a wide variety of dance clubs like in Honolulu, you can definitely have a great time. One of the most popular bars for gays and lesbians on the island is Ambrosia, which offers daily entertainment and eclectic décor as well as exotic local drinks: Its selection of specialty martinis is the perfect way to cap off an adventure-packed day. There are also great drink specials at the nightly happy hour.

Betty’s Beach Café is also a great place to eat, drink and be Mary. The Sunday brunch is out of this world, featuring amazing omelets, egg scrambles and signature cocktails. No trip here would be complete without trying one of their “Betty” drinks, like the Bettie Paige (red wine, peach schnapps and pineapple) or the Betty Rubble (a Blue-beri Hawaiian). Happy hour is always a blast, with $3 mai-tais and $4 Longboard Kona beers.

While there’s never a bad time to go to the islands, October is when Maui Pride is celebrated (this year, it takes place Oct. 5–7). The festivities begin on Friday with an aloha reception at the Maui Sunseeker, a great mixer for hobnobbing with the local queer community. The main event this year takes place at the Maui Tropical Plantation, with free admission and numerous vendors and activities, including drag races in the morning and the chance to hula your ass off. Rhat night, DJs and live performances (including former Dallasite Deborah Vial, whose band is now based here) are scheduled to entertain the masses.

Before leaving Maui, a helicopter ride overlooking the island is a must. Air Maui and other operators offer tourist flights of just 45-minutes, but the memories will last forever, from the breathtaking sea cliffs to awe-inspiring waterfalls.

When the luau is over and you’re depressed that you have to leave the dream vacation of a lifetime, take solace, when you say “aloha” it means goodbye and hello. The friendly islanders will be there to welcome you back with sweet, sun-kissed smiles.

— Jon Fairbanks

For more information about gay destinations visit GayTravel.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 8, 2012.