Is Cuba Safe for LGBT Travelers?

Cuba is a popular LGBT travel destination thanks to its rich history and culture, unspoiled nature, and yes, vibrant gay life – especially compared to other islands in the Caribbean. ManAboutWorld’s Editor-in-Chief, Ed Salvato, shares his advice and useful resources to help you plan your visit.

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Is Cuba Safe for LGBT Travelers?

While local LGBT people may experience legal or societal difficulties, LGBT visitors are highly unlikely to experience any challenges due to their sexuality.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Cuba in 1979. In 2008, Mariela Castro Espín –director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana, LGBT activist, and daughter of President Raúl Castro – made huge strides in the gay rights space.

She delivered a speech championing LGBT advocacy, a moment that inspired the country’s first gay pride parade in Havana. Today, the parade still continues annually across Cuba (including Santa Clara), but more as a protest than a celebration.

Her involvement has helped improve Cuba’s reputation around the world as a safer, more gay-friendly destination.

What Are the Local’s Attitudes to LGBT Travelers in Cuba?

For decades, LGBT Cubans were the black sheep of Cuba — outcasts trapped on a Caribbean island that was at once conservative, Catholic, and communist.

While Cuba remains socially conservative, especially outside of big cities, times have changed dramatically.

You’ll find a visible gay scene in Havana: in the Vedado neighborhood, along the Malacón at the gay-popular Mi Cayito beach, and in bars and clubs that reflect a more innocent, pre-Grindr time.

Holding hands and basic affection isn’t a big deal in Havana, especially in the areas around where gays congregate. But a little more caution is advised outside the city. 

Gay-Friendly Areas to Visit in Cuba

Cuba got its first dedicated gay bar in 2013, which closed a couple years ago. Kingbar, which opened last year in the hip Vedado neighborhood, harks back to a time when American gay bars still had a bit of a renegade quality.

El Malecón, along this ocean, is a popular hangout for all Habaneros, with the gays congregating in the area around Avenida 23.

Mi Cayito is the gay-popular beach, about 15 miles east of Havana. mYXto is one of our favorite Cubano gay bars and Café Cantante Mi Habana, a club near Havana’s Revolutionary Square, hosts El Divino, a popular gay show and party, every Saturday night.

Cuba now also has its first ever, state recognized gay men’s chorus: Mano a Mano.

Helpful Resources for LGBT Travel in Cuba

Trip-Planning/LGBT Tour Companies

  • Two of ManAboutWorld's Global Correspondents Out Adventures and Zoom Vacations, run gay/LGBT Cuba Trips, as does Source Events and Remember Cuba.
  • For convenience and ease, we highly recommend you join one of their trips, or do as we did and create a custom tour with Matt of Detours With Matt. He runs scheduled groups and can also be hired for private groups, as we did. He’s Yale-educated, has led about 30 trips in Cuba, and ingratiated himself to a wide swath of locals in the process. The good will he’s fostered locally results in VIP treatment and personal engagement of the best kind.

LGBT/Human Rights Organizations Contacts

Noteworthy Hotels

Heading to Cuba? Download our FREE Insider’s Guide!

Put down the cigars and step out of the vintage cars! Explore historical sites of revolution, taste peso food, or go diving among vibrant marine life.

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