For anyone who has traveled within Latin America, you will know…well, while there is always a gay scene to be found, it is not frequently loud, proud and with rainbow flags flying from the windows. This is why the LGBT scene in Guadalajara caught me by surprise, and why I fell in love with Mexico’s second biggest city almost instantly!
Also known as the ‘San Francisco of Mexico’ queer life thrives here far more than anywhere else in Mexico – though you should also check out the gay scene of Puebla and Gay Monterrey! Gay Guadalajara be seen everywhere from the slightly gritty but utterly beautiful historic center of Guadalajara to the up-scale and hipster suburb of Zona Rosa.
While the secret of gay Guadalajara has not yet made it out (its often called ‘the most Mexican of Mexican cities’) , the local Tapatios/Jaliscienses have clearly embraced it with over 30 gay bars and clubs in Guadalajara’s historic center alone! Cleaner, friendlier, safer and more beautiful than Mexico City, with a warm Los Angeles-esque climate and many famously great tourist attractions such as the nearby Tequila and beach resort town of Puerto Vallarta – it’s no wonder that Guadalajara is the undisputed centre of gay life in Mexico (and it probably doesn’t hurt that Guadalajara has a reputation for the best looking men in all of Mexico!).
Read on to find out more about why you should visit gay Guadalajara, where to stay and what to do!
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To be clear – Guadalajara is most vibrant, loud and open after dark, but during the day it still does not approach the level of queer as, say, the Castro in San Francisco…Still, despite a conservative president and mayor Guadalajara has become one of the biggest gay hot spots in Mexico and Latin America, with one of the worlds biggest pride parades, numerous hip galleries and districts, inspiring cultural institutions, nightlife – and of course all the necessary magazines, publications and events for a vibrant LGBT community. There is always something on here.
There is a ridiculous amount of gay-owned and operated accommodation and restaurants but as a whole many of the locally owned businesses, especially in the historic center and very friendly and open-minded with gay travelers – it probably doesn’t hurt that the value of the ‘pink dollar’ is being recognized more and more! Nor does the normalization of LGBT relations with the passing of same-sex marriage in Mexico – though to be clear, a lot still needs to be done here (as in many places in the world) but it’s a giant step in the right direction!
During the day LGBT life here may be rather subdued but at night the gay Guadalajara nightlife explodes all throughout the ‘gay ghetto’ in the historic center and in numerous upscale suburbs, spilling out onto the street as pop music blares, drag queens roam and go-go boys gyrate the night away. Is Guadalajara the most LGBT-Friendly City In Latin America? It’s hard to say – but it most certainly is up there and based on everything I have seen and heard, it is the most friendly in Mexico. As with anywhere in the world, however, pay attention to your surrounds – at night it is often not safe to walk on quiet streets so be sure to take an Uber (and get your first trip free!) – and know your limits…or at least have someone you trust watching out for you!
As Mexico’s second biggest city – home to almost 7 million people – Guadalajara has an incredible amount of things to do and see, but for most gay travellers the top sights can be found in the Historic Center, filled with museums and colonial architecture, and the beautiful Tlaquepaque and Tonala suburbs with hip markets, boutique shops and innovative restaurants.
While the attractions in the city center are far, far too many to list one thing everyone has to see in the Instituto Cultural Cabanas, a former orphanage, symbol of the city and UNESCO World Heritage site that now houses a progressive cultural arts center and exposition. Also within is the famous and mammoth ceiling murals by Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco which will truly make your jaw drop.
As the most Mexican city in Mexico, there is quite the foodie scene going on here currently and it’s all incredible, with a fusion of Asian, European and Latino tastes. It’s hard to walk much more than a block anywhere in the city without finding somewhere tempting and delicious! If you are looking for something more traditional you have to try tacos al pastor (a delicious lamb, pork, or goat tacos found in street carts or cafes throughout the city) or try the ubiquitous frozen ice desserts of vanilla and walnut (though the best are in Tlaquepaque).
As far as gay-friendly cafes and restaurants in Guadalajara you can’t go past Queer Nation for a vibing cafe great for people watching, Chez Chouchou for a special fine French meal or Gay Tacos, the city’s informal gay meeting place before or after a night out. I also absolutely loved Rompicapo and the owners, a group of young straight and gay women who are serving up unbelievably good wood-fired pizzas and traditional Mexican fare with an upscale touch. They also happen to be a pretty good information source for all the happening events, clubs and places in town on any given night and are happy to chat (in Spanish or English), and the surrounding neighborhood is full of interesting local life, hipster shops and street art!
Update: A new cat-themed coffee shop, Kissa Cafe, has opened up in Rompicapo offering delightfully puny delicious coffee options. Omaly – the cute, funny loving owner with a slight cat obsession – speaks fluent English and will happily share will you the best local tips / hidden secrets and LGBT spots in Guadalajara over some of the best coffee in Mexico.
While almost all hotels in Guadalajara will be open and accepting, this is one destination where you will get more joy if you take advantage of the many, many LGBT friendly-hotels, or even gay exclusive hotels, in Guadalajara. From beautiful colonial B&B’s, high-end 5 star accommodations to not only stylish but cheap hostels there is an option for anyone. The gay-friendly hotels in Guadalajara tend to focus, of course, around the gay areas: high-end Zona Road or the more affordable but slightly less polished Historic Center. I have put together a list of the top gay-friendly hotels in Guadalajara so you can check out prices and compare, but be sure to book early as they are highly popular and may sell out months in advance at peak times. This is the gayest city in Mexico after all!
With over 30 gay bars and clubs in Guadalajara it can be really, really hard to choose – especially when they keep closing and opening! With all recommendations on this list, people be sure to click through and check they are open before visiting…They may well close or rebrand (as has the long-term institution Circus or Black Cherry). Guadalajara’s queer nightlife focuses on the main gay ghetto / drag of Avenida Prisciliano Sanchez in this historic centro area downtown area, and in the nearby Zona Rosa area with a slightly more upscale feel to it. With so many vibrant and wildly energetic gay nightclubs in Guadalajara I have chosen to list a few of the best as recommended by locals, there are of course more but for a few nights out there should be the must-hit for a guaranteed good time (and as you will soon see, there is no party quite like a latino party!)
Don’t forget to stay safe, and if you are heading home or changing areas late at night be sure to play it safe and grab an Uber (you can sign up now to get you first ride free!)
If you look for something a little bit extra there are also plenty of gay bathhouses and saunas in Guadalajara to keep you…entertained. So here are some of the best saunas in Guadalajara!
Given the great weather and year-round epic, local gay nightlife there really isn’t a bad time to experience Gay Guadalajara but if you can time it I would have to say the best time to visit Guadalajara Mexico is during the famed annual Guadalajara Pride Parade – One of the biggest pride parades in the world! Known locally as Desfile del Orgullo or the “Parade of the Pride” it is the biggest event on the Gay Guadalajara social events calendar for the year and while only in it’s 4th year it already has over 250,000 attendees making it one of the biggest gay pride parades in the world and up there with other famous Latin American Pride Parades such as Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
The Guadalajara Pride Parade is celebrated every year in late June and in the week beforehand are many cultural events focused on the LGBT community and promotion of acceptance and free speech – called the week of diversity included the famed International LGBT Film Festival of Guadalajara, art expositions, concerts and many, many nightlife events meaning no traveller will be bored visiting Gay Guadalajara in this time. Each year the Guadalajara Pride Parade starts at the Glorieta de la Minerva statue and ends in Guadalajara’s main square called Plaza de la Liberación – An incredible experience to say the least! For more information, you can check out the Guadalajara Pride Parade’s extensive website (in Spanish only) for all the information on events, dates and times you could possibly need.
Puerto Vallarta is easily one of the most popular weekends getaways from Guadalajara – with a great climate, mountains and beaches backing onto tropical jungles. Known as being very gay-tolerant- it is one of Mexico’s most popular gay vacation spots and the rainbow flags fly loud and proud here. Popular with a wide mix of younger, older and everyone from Mexicans to Europeans, Americans and even Australians it is this cosmopolitan mix that makes Puerto Vallarta such a great gay destination for travel in Mexico. Oogle gorgeous bodies on the beach all day and party in sophisticated nightlife spots …This is the place to see and be seen!
Take a look at the latest hotel specials for Puerto Vallarta now. You will be surprised the deals to be had in the off season or booking in advance!
Now you're all set and prepared to explore our big queer world, why not sort out everything else out all in one go? If necessary for your travel plans make sure you have brought proper travel insurance, protected your privacy by getting a secure VPN, compared all the top hotel booking sites to find just what you're after, reserved an unbeatable rental car price and - of course - booked the best flight deals!
Many gay travelers (including us) indulge in worldwide airport lounge access and pre-arrange airport transfers to take the stress out of travel. Naturally, we would never leave home without a more mainstream travel guide since we couldn’t possibly cover everything here!
Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your global rainbow family and don't forget to share your best gay stories with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...We'd love to hear from you!