Out Traveler Awards: Time to Vote
By OUTTraveler Editors
Which island destination is the best place to snorkel, play, and explore?
Gorgeous coral reefs are just a stone’s throw from the shoreline of Curacao, a Caribbean island with political and cultural ties to the Netherlands. Apart from snorkeling, swimming, and diving, visitors can explore an historic 18th-century Dutch village, stroll its many pristine beaches, or visit the island’s LGBT-friendly destinations, including the gay bar Otra Cosa and Mambo Beach.
Millions of tourists migrate annually to Maui, the second largest island in the state of Hawaii, which now recognizes marriage equality and markets itself as the perfect honeymoon destination for gays and lesbians. In Lahaina, visitors surf both wind and waves or patron the many shops and restaurants by the wharf. Maui teems with natural wonders as well, including a dormant volcano. Out travelers can also find a lively nightlife destination in LuLu’s in west Maui, renowned for its “booty shake” contests, or sunbathe in the nude at Little Beach.
San Juan Islands (Washington State)
Just off the shore of Washington state, the San Juan Islands are comprised of hundreds of islands and rocks, which can be easily explored by boat or kayak. Bicycling, hiking, and whale- and orca-watching are other popular activities in this unique Northwestern archipelago, as well as its San Juan Island National Historic Park. Cozy cabins and bed and breakfasts line the islands’ nearly 500 miles of shoreline, making this a perfect escape for couples, writers, and lovers of nature.
Turks and Caicos Islands
The motto of this tropical collection of islands is “Beautiful by Nature” — and with good reason. Turks and Caicos is under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich biodiversity that includes exotic and indigenous flora and fauna. In addition to nature lovers, the islands are also a draw for scenesters and celebrities, who flock to this corner of the Caribbean for its annual Turks & Caicos Music and Cultural Festival or to find relaxation in the many world-class resorts on the island of Providenciales.
Formerly maintained by the U.S. Navy, Vieques has been largely protected from the development seen in other areas of the Virgin Islands, allowing it to have dozens of pristine and secluded beaches. Its Bioluminescent Bay, which glows a neon blue nightly, is an American national natural landmark as well as one of the many draws of the Puerto Rican municipality, which has recently attracted an influx of LGBT visitors, residents, and shopkeepers who are drawn to the island’s privacy and beauty.
Rumored to have been christened “The Fat Virgin” by famed explorer Christopher Columbus, Virgin Gorda is one of the largest landmasses in the British Virgin Islands, although it remains relatively secluded. Among its natural marvels is a cluster of granite boulders known as The Baths, which are evidence of the island’s volcanic beginnings, as well as its sparkling waters that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling.