Destinations - Mexico

Travel writer Dave O. Dodge finds that Merida, Mexico, has an appeal for LGBT baby boomers looking for a retirement place.

By Dave O. Dodge


South of the Border

Merida attracts expatriates with a climate that's warm and welcoming

The mere mention of Mexico can conjure up images of dusty border towns that have a history of drug violence, too many T-shirt shops and long lines at any crossing.

But our neighbor to the south is more than a sound bite on the local news. Mexico is fast becoming an alternative destination for aging gay baby boomers that are seeking value, climate and comfort.


One destination is Merida, known as "the White City," which is the capital of the Yucatan, a Mexican state that takes up most of the peninsula that separates the gulf and the Caribbean Sea.

It's a diverse region teaming with Mayan ruins, colonial architecture and many expatriates living large on retirement dollars secured to the north.

Located only a few miles inland and hundreds from any border crossing, Merida was founded in 1542 by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo.

With painstaking accuracy, the Spanish used the materials and stones from the Mayan city of T'ho to construct buildings along streets that have been sustained over centuries.

Today, with its white colonial buildings, narrow cobblestoned streets and welcoming attitude, Merida is on the radar of the older LGBT community looking for a place to retire that is warm, affordable and safe.

The center of Merida is the downtown Plaza de la Indepencia (1), also known as the Zocalo. This tree-lined square is a melting pot of local residents, street vendors and strolling tourists.

A walk around the Zocalo will have visitors thinking they are in an ancient European city.

It is nearly impossible to get lost here. With the streets laid out in a grid, walking is the way to go because parking is next to impossible.

Like any city from the Old World, when the sun goes down, the city wakes up. Streets around the Zocalo are closed off and cafes and restaurants create the ultimate in alfresco dining.

There is a general feeling of being safe and welcome here. Tourists, expats and locals are out to all hours, with most establishments serving dinner until midnight and bars open to the wee hours.

Many gay expatriates are attracted to this city for its colonial buildings. Most colonial buildings are restored and are lit at night from the ground creating a nightly walking architecture exhibit.

Another attraction is the value of housing, with countless neighborhoods to choose from with prices of just under a million.

Bargains can still be found in the popular Santa Ana neighborhood, which is a short walk from the Zocalo.Mex3

The typical home has three bedrooms and is built with living spaces opening to a courtyard.

From the street these homes are not much to look at, but inside there's an attention to detail. The columns, tile and floors can all be original under the layers of paint and dust.

Like the homes that are being rehabbed, the gay vibe here is still under construction. There are more than a dozen gay bed and breakfasts in the downtown area. There are gay owned cafes and many bars, where the crowds can be mixed.

Nearby there are countless Mayan ruins, including the impressive Uxmal (upper left).

The Biosphere Reserve of Celestun (3) is a day trip away where you can get up close to thousands of American Flamingos along the estuary. Close by are remote beaches for anyone in search of solitude.

Merida is no longer considered a side trip from nearby Cancun, but is a true destination in its own right.    -E

Dave O. Dodge is a freelance travel writer based in Phoenix.


Getting there

Merida is located about 200 miles northwest of Cancun. Driving time about three and a half hours. US Airways offer non-stop flights to Cancun from Phoenix.

United Airlines offer connecting flights through Houston to Cancun. Aero Mexico has seasonal non-stop flights and daily connecting flights through Mexico City.

Where to stay

  • Casa del Maya: A warm and friendly gay-owned establishment in the heart of Santa Ana with a pool. The renovated historical property features private baths, homemade breakfast and an international clientele.

  • Gran Real Yucatan: An authentic downtown stay in a private residence (above) that is a historic property and now a full service hotel.


  • If Mayan ruins and ancient cultures are your thing, then hiring a guide is the best bet to see and experience this diverse region.

More about it

  • Check these websites for listings of what is happening in Merida:

WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less