For far too long, many travel destinations have sought queer dollars by touting their LGBTQ+ “friendliness,” which, frankly, is an insult, as it implies a notch above “tolerance” — that deflating concept that is centered around othering rather than actual embrace. But Hawaii is different. The state made moves to legalize same-sex marriage in the 1990s and eventually legalized it years before the Supreme Court codified marriage equality nationally. When gay wedding bells rang in 2013, state Rep. Chris Lee said, “In Hawaii, we are all minorities, and we all deserve the same aloha.” Hawaii has rightfully earned its reputation as a queer paradise.
Historically speaking, Polynesian culture was inclusive of the transgender community and viewed sexuality as fluid. That all changed when European colonists arrived, but Hawaii has returned to its progressive roots and passed legislation protecting LGBTQ+ rights.
The Hawaiian Islands are undeniably among the most dramatically beautiful travel destinations in the world, so whether you’re seeking a six-figure wedding on a pristine beach, a romantic getaway, or a solo adventure, there’s a hotel that will fill the bill. Here are some of our favorite resorts on each island that roll out the rainbow carpet.
Oahu is a queer mecca, and Honolulu is its temple, with world-class lodging and restaurants and a happening nightlife. Of the many hotels that actively cultivate LGBTQ+ travel, ‘Alohilani Resort, a gold sponsor of Honolulu Pride, tops our list for its minimalist elegance, cultural immersion activities (flower and ti-leaf lei-making, indigenous tree-planting), and 280,000-gallon lobby Oceanarium, which brings the undersea world of native reef fish inside.
Choose a Diamond Head or Ocean View room with a private lanai, refrigerator, and multi-functional bidet. Upgrade to club access — essentially a hotel within a hotel — for breakfast, daily wine and beer offerings, and personal concierge services. The ‘Alohilani is less than a 10-minute walk from Queen’s Surf Beach, the city’s most beloved gay beach, and a 15-minute drive from Scarlet Honolulu, still the place to be after dark. (alohilaniresort.com)
Hotel Wailea overlooks Maui’s South Shore (the island’s poshest outpost) and offers the prime location for privacy because it’s up a hill on 15 acres with Zen-invoking landscaping and views of the vast Pacific and three other islands. Hotel Wailea is the most luxurious adults-only hotel and the only Relais & Chateaux property in the entire state.
The 72 suites have Paracas travertine floors and locally made ohia-wood cabinets, and the Ocean View Suites have seemingly infinite vistas. Laurent-Perrier Brut is offered upon arrival, the bartenders know you by name, and the open-air restaurant serves hyper-local food, including some of the best seafood on the island. The hotel also hosts a series of Pride-focused events each October, including a giveaway with Rainbow Media and a “Pride the Wave” promotion with discounts for LGBTQ+ travelers. (hotelwailea.com)
Kauai’s Laid-Back Party Vibe
Kauai is the lushest and, arguably, the most mellow of all the islands, and it’s also the most affordable. The Garden Isle’s Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach courts the community with a long-standing monthly drag brunch that’s retro fun for the whole family and includes a five-course meal and a drag performance by the Brunch Babes.
Rooms here, all of which have private balconies, surround serene central pools on 10 beachfront acres. The entire hotel was just renovated in 2019. The resort fee includes beach chairs and umbrellas, bicycles, 24/7 access to the fitness center — and in a rarity — self-parking. (marriott.com)
Big Island Old-Hawaii Tradition
The Fairmont Orchid earns top marks for its welcome of queer visitors year-round. The resort’s Pride Package includes 20 percent off the daily room rate for a four-night stay and includes daily breakfast for two. And $20 from every booking goes to Kona Pride, a local nonprofit organization that enhances the visibility of the LGBTQ+ and allied community through events that promote awareness, equality, and support. This is a hotel that puts money where its mouth is, making rainbow malasadas and flying the rainbow flag high throughout Pride Month.
The resort, tucked into a private stretch of land on the Kohala Coast, has an old-Hawaii feel with its airy indoor-outdoor courtyards and calm snorkeling cove surrounded by volcanic rocks. Director of Hawaiian Culture Ka’iulani Blankenfeld will tour you around the grounds, naming each plant and its relevance while teaching you about her native traditions. (fairmont.com)
This piece originally ran in Out Traveler print magazine. The Winter 2022 issue is now available on newsstands.