Travelling as a Lesbian in Costa Rica

LGBTQ, Costa Rica, lesbian, travel

 

As far as Latin American countries go, Costa Rica is one of the most open-minded and accepting of LGBTQ+ people (although, I hear there is quite the scene in Guadalajara).  If you are travelling as a lesbian in Costa Rica, you can expect to feel relatively comfortable, but don’t expect the same freedoms granted in San Francisco and other metropolitan areas.

A Little LGBTQ+ History in Costa Rica

Despite being a predominantly Catholic country, there has been great support towards the LGBTQ+ community.  In 2014, Luis Guillermo Solís became the first president in Costa Rica to raise the pride flag.  “This is the house of all Costa Ricans. When we say all Costa Ricans we mean all, without exclusion, without violence, without harassment in absolute respect for the rights of each one,” Solís told a crowd of LGBT leaders and advocates during his brief comments on the lawn.

In 2015, a family court judge ruled to recognise a same-sex common-law marriage.  Yet, two years later and after much talk about the importance of equality, same-sex marriage is still not legal in Costa Rica.  Still, the support within the country is such that some same-sex couples head to Costa Rica for unofficial destination wedding ceremonies.

 

LGBTQ, Costa Rica, lesbian, travel
Photo credit: MadriCR

 

Travelling as a Lesbian in Costa Rica

While tolerance and support for the LGBTQ+ movement is on the rise, it is not ubiquitous.  Public displays of affection may be met with disapproval or hostility.  Outside of gay-friendly areas, you may want to use discretion as suits your personal comfort level.

Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast is a well-known location for vacationing gays.  Of course, gay does not necessarily mean lesbian, trans, or queer.  Most of the LGBTQ tourism in Manuel Antonio is aimed towards gay men.  While it is comforting to know you are amongst a tolerant community, expect to be in the minority as a lesbian.

San José – being a major city – has an active gay community.  There is even a lesbian bar – La Avispa – which has women only nights on the second Friday and last Wednesday of each month (otherwise, it is a mixed crowd).  La Avispa has been around since the 70’s and has therefore established itself as an icon of the gay party scene.  Laura and I are not party people, but La Avispa is rumoured to be a great club.  If you are interested in the feminist-lesbian history of this club, check out this fabulous article from OutRight International.

 

LGBTQ, Costa Rica, lesbian, travel, Playa Chiquita, beach, Puerto Viejo
Playa Chiquita – One of Costa Rica’s many beautiful beaches.

 

We did not personally encounter any hostility during our two weeks in Costa Rica.  However, we were discreet in public and did not engage in any public displays of affection.  On occasion, when we felt we were alone in a public area, we would steal a kiss.  So although we weren’t comfortable holding hands on the beach, we also didn’t feel there would be any serious threat to our safety had we been ‘caught’ being affectionate in a tourist area.

We didn’t experience any problems at any of our accommodations (check out our Costa Rica accommodation reviews).  For the most part, nobody cared who we were upon check-in.  The only exception to this was at Cabinas Jiménez  where, after checking in, the receptionist approached us and asked if we would prefer a room with two beds instead of a double bed.  She was very friendly and in no way hostile, but we did have to reassure her a couple of times that we were fine sharing a bed.

Near the end of our stay, another lesbian couple checked into the room next to us at Cabinas Jiménez.  They were more masculine presenting than myself (i.e. they had short hair and wore pants), but on par with my wife Laura.  Like us, this couple also practised restraint in disclosing their identity and engaging in PDAs.  They also said they hadn’t encountered any issues during their stay in Costa Rica.  In Puerto Viejo, they even stayed with an expat couple from Oregon who had an older child that was in the process of transitioning.

Overall, we felt comfortable and safe everywhere we visited in Costa Rica.  If they ever form a lesbian softball league, we would highly consider moving there.

 

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22 Replies to “Travelling as a Lesbian in Costa Rica”

  1. Having to make adjustments when traveling to conform to local culture and customs can so often be challenging. Researching ahead of time can certainly help to prevent any unintended conflict and you have prepared very will for this trip.

  2. I can’t even begin to imagine the challenges of travelling whilst thinking about how my relationship would be perceived by others. Love is not about gender! Thank you for sharing!

    1. It definitely gets exhausting, feeling like you are constantly monitoring your behaviour, but things are starting to improve around the world:) Thanks for your support!

  3. Once again a very interesting article. Such a shame that you have to consider things like this when just trying to enjoy a vacation with each other. Pa xx

  4. Adjusting to the local atmosphere can be tricky sometimes. Glad you guys had a great time.

  5. Me & my Girlfriend are about to start travelling so this is really helpful!

    1. Awesome! I am communicating with the owner of the hotel mentioned in this article, so may have another accommodation recommendation and more information on queer life soon.

  6. I love Costa Rica, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that it is welcoming to all people. I am so glad that blogs like yours are opening people’s eyes to people’s differences around the world. We are making strides toward equality – I only wish it were quicker. Too bad about the lesbian softball league. Maybe some day!

  7. Costa Rica sounds like a great place to explore, it’s great to read that you were able to travel there without too many issues – I’m sure your experience and advice will be helpful to many other lesbian travelers to the area!

  8. It’s too bad you feel like you have to “steal” a kiss when no one is looking. I hope they catch up with some of the more progressive countries soon. I learned a lot from your article.

  9. Thanks for sharing, Jen. I’m glad you didn’t run into any issues, but it’s definitely too bad that you have to worry about the perceptions of others.

  10. I still find it hard to believe that same-sex marriage isn’t legal over there, despite the support and the opportunities for unofficial ceremonies. I’m from New Zealand, where it has been legal for a few years now. Glad you were able to get around and feel safe and comfortable, but I still think that must be very hard having to be careful about it, and think twice about showing affection.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this information! I’m glad it was a relatively peaceful experience for you.

  12. Love this! venturing into different cultures is already difficult, add in the fact that some countries aren’t are open minded to a difference in lifestyles. I’m so glad you had a good time and didn’t run into hostility.

  13. It must have been a very hard challenge to adapt to local ways of life and still can’t believe same sex-marriage isn’t allowed in Costa Rica. Still great to hear that you got around safely and able to enjoy your time in Costa Rica.

  14. I live part time in Panama and it is pretty much the same response around the country. Glad you enjoyed your time there and didn’t have too many issues. My town in Panama is LGBT friendly (and we have several same sex couples who reside there though they are moving to Spain in droves), the rest of the country (minus Panama City of course) does not seem to be very welcoming to the idea. Safe travels!

    1. I would love to know which city!

  15. Wow so happy I came across this article. I never one thought about the issues other face when it comes to judgement when traveling. Really opened my mind up a lot. Thank you

  16. When travelling it is important to keep on mind local customs and norms. Being well informed is the key. Glad to know you had a pleasant experience in Costa Rica.

  17. So glad you’ve had such nice time, and you’ve made me laugh with that softball league comment. 😀

    1. I knew somebody would get it:)

  18. Glad you had a safe trip here. It is nice that you have penned down your experiences for someone else in that situation. Will help many.

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