While the numbers of exclusively lesbian hotels and resorts dwindle, mainstream hotel companies are falling over themselves to offer women-only floors and rooms designed with the ladies in mind. There’s even an entirely new women-only hotel and spa for those who need somewhere to stay in Saudi Arabia. Depending on your outlook, the spread of all these segregated sections for sisters is either a bold stride forward or a teeter backward. Are we in some way relinquishing equal rights as we relinquish equal nights? Is the provision of turbo hair dryers, yoga mats and a copy of InStyle magazine patronizing? Is that really a Dolly Parton retrospective on the in-room movie menu? But bookings speak, and it seems that more and more women travellers are choosing women-only options. So if you want to go exclusively where the girls go, read on to check out where you can check in.
The last lesbian resorts
Key West’s legendary Pearl’s Rainbow went “all-welcome” in November 2010, but three of North America’s best-loved lesbian resorts, Queen of Hearts (queenofheartsps.com) and Casitas Laquita (casitaslaquita.com) in Palm Springs and The Highlands Inn in Bethlehem, New Hampshire (highlandsinn-nh.com), are still going strong. Opened in 1969, the nine-room Queen of Hearts is a secluded, palm-shaded getaway with roomy suites and mountain views. The Spanish colonial–style Casitas Laquita has a lush pool area and 15 casitas with full kitchens. The Highlands Inn is an 18-room resort on 100 acres in the White Mountains, less than a three-hour drive from Montreal. All three offer a host of special-events weekends and festive shenanigans.
So where else can we go if we want to be alone? Well, there’s Riyadh’s women-only Luthan Hotel and Spa (luthanhotel-spa.com). At the 25-room, women-owned, women-managed hotel in the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabian capital, sisters are doing it for themselves in every way, from fixing the elevators to (wo)manning the front desk to delivering guests’ bags. Opened in 2008, a project devised by a group of 20 Saudi princesses and businesswomen, it’s the first such property in the Middle East. In a culture where women are sometimes not allowed to check into hotels without permission letters from their fathers or husbands, it’s somewhere women can go without needing a mihrim, a male guardian, to escort them in public.
In Europe, Berlin is a great place to go if you want to stay with the girls. Artemisia Frauenhotel (frauenhotel-berlin.de) is one of two frauenhotels in the city. With its sunny roof terrace, extensive German breakfast spread and artwork by women artists, the cheerful 17-room Artemisia attracts women of all types.
Levelling with the ladies
While The Luthan owes its existence to cultural and religious mores, there are a slew of reasons cited for the proliferation of all-female floors, from Washington, DC, to Singapore. Female guests of Copenhagen’s Bella Sky Comwell’s (bellaskycomwell.dk) Bella Donna women’s floor say they prefer to stay on a women-only floor for its “sense of security,” for “rooms tailored to women’s needs” and because “it feels more hygienic to know that the previous guest was also a woman.” The Bella Sky offers extra-large showerheads, “fresh plants” and a minibar stocked with high-quality chocolate, champagne and smoothies, so it’s no surprise that it is often booked out.
While security is often stated as a reason to have women-only floors, New York’s Premier Hotel (millenniumhotels.com/premierhotelnewyork) trotted along with the trend at the request of women who wanted better makeup mirrors and more diet-friendly cuisine. They also added bath salts, women’s magazines and oversized bathtubs.
Here in Canada, the Georgian Court in Vancouver (georgiancourthotelvancouver.com) has opened its 18-room Orchid Floor, complete with in-room extras that include flatirons, curling irons, yoga mats, satin-padded hangers and an ingredients-unspecified “ladies emergency kit.”
Meanwhile, rooms on the women’s floor at the five-star Naumi (naumihotel.com) in Singapore boast what they call “feminine touches,” such as pink details and flowery wallpaper, while The Dukes (dukeshotel.com) in London sassily stocks up its lady bits with fresh flowers, hair-styling accessories and the like.
But the whole women-only concept has not developed without contention. A wannabe male guest complained about Copenhagen’s Bella Sky to Denmark’s Board of Equal Treatment in a fight for equality and access to those smoothie- and champagne-filled minibars. The hotel has defiantly ignored the judge’s ruling that maintaining the floor is discriminatory and illegal.
Regardless of this ruling and however many follow, it seems certain that, as far as mainstream hotels are concerned, the women’s movement is getting its own room.