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Maui: The gay side of the Valley Isle

For the queer couple seeking a romantic haven, the island of Maui is waiting to welcome you with bright rainbow leis. From snorkeling, to whale-watching and lounging on a remote gay beach, Maui is paradise found.

With a population of less than 150,000 people, the gay scene is much smaller on Maui than in Oahu, but there’s a small, tight-knit LGBT community and a lot of great activities geared toward the gay tourist.

Whether you want to surf, canoe or kayak, opportunities abound on gay Maui for the outdoor enthusiast. There are several companies that offer visitors equipment and training.

If you’re looking for something lower impact, Maui is the leading whale-watching center in the Hawaiian Islands. Head to the beach and try to spy a Humpback whale, a dolphin, or a sea turtle. Stick around and be sure to catch one of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever experience.

No Ka Oi Adventures offers organized excursions for gay and lesbian travelers. The operator specializes in nature-based excursions and offers small group tours featuring off-the-beaten-path destinations on the island.

The first step in planning your memorable jaunt to the Valley Isle is to find the right accommodations.

Luckily, there are several gay and lesbian-owned or friendly hotels and resorts on the island. Some of these properties, like the Maui Sunseeker, offer LGBT-specific packages and host commitment ceremonies. In 2012, Hawaii became the seventh U.S. state to legalize civil unions.

The amazing coastline is one of the main reasons to visit Maui and Little Beach is the most popular gay beach on the island. You’ll find this nude beach in Makena State Park, South of Wailea at the end of Wailea Alanui Road. You’ll have to walk past the Big Beach and over the lava-flow trail to get there. It’s a great place to meet and greet the local gay set and gay tourists from all points.

After a day of fun in the sun, you’ll want to experience the local gay nightlife. Don’t expect a wide variety of dance clubs and other gay venues like you’d find in Honolulu, but you’ll definitely have a great time.

One of the most popular bars for gays and lesbians on the island is Ambrosia. Named by Maui Time Weekly as best bar (two years in a row), this Kihei destination offers daily entertainment and eclectic décor. If you want to try some exotic local drinks, you’ll fall in love with Ambrosia. Their wide varieties of specialty martinis are extremely popular and the perfect way to cap off an adventure-packed day. There are also great drink specials and happy hour every night from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Betty’s Beach Café in Lahaina is also a great place to eat, drink and be Mary! Their Sunday brunch is out of this world, featuring amazing omelets, egg scrambles and signature cocktails. No trip to this tropical venue would be complete without trying one of their “Betty” drinks. From the Bettie Paige (red wine, peach schnapps and pineapple) to the Betty Rubble (a Blue-beri Hawaiian), there’s truly a vice for everyone. Happy hour is always a blast at Betty’s. Every afternoon from 2 pm to 5 pm enjoy $3 Mai Tais and $4 Longboard Kona Beers. Stay or come back later in the evening for Betty’s evening happy hour, from 9 pm to 11 pm every day.

October is a great time for gay travelers to experience Maui. Maui Pride is October 5-7, 2012 and it’s always a celebration to remember. The festivities begin that Friday with an Aloha Reception at the Maui Sunseeker. This mixer is a great opportunity to get to know the local queer community and hobnob.

The main event will be held at the Maui Tropical Plantation on Saturday, October 6. Entrance is free and there is always a wide variety of vendors and activities. That morning the Pride committee will also be sponsoring drag races and other fabulous events. Saturday night, return to the venue to hula your ass off! DJs will be spinning and live performances (including the local Deborah Vial Band) are scheduled to entertain the masses. The final day of the Pride festivities kicks off at Stella Blues for breakfast (8 am to 10 am). Cap off the final day with a snorkel tour or hidden waterfall hike.

Before you leave Maui, during Pride or any other time of the year, you must take a helicopter ride overlooking the island. Air Maui and other operators offer flights for tourists and it’s only about a 45-minute flight. The sea cliffs are breathtaking! The waterfalls, awe-inspiring.

When the luau is over and you’re depressed that you have to leave the dream vacation of a lifetime, take solace, when you say “aloha” it means goodbye and hello. The friendly islanders will be there to welcome you back with sweet, sun-kissed smiles!

For more information about Maui or other LGBT destinations please visit www.gaytravel.com

Photos above left, top and middle: Tor Johnson, Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Bottom: View from Maui Sunseeker deck, photo courtesy Mauisunseeker.com