Travel Thursday: Exploring The Best Gay Guesthouse In Fort Lauderdale

The glow of the Cabanas pool at night (author’s image).

Living in South Florida, I have my pick of many clothing-optional guest houses to stay at but there is one, for the life of me, I have not sunken my “teeth” into. Less than four miles from my home and right in the gay heart of Southern Florida in Wilton Manors, the Cabanas Guesthouse and Spa has been on my radar ever since I moved here in 2013. I pass it often, dozens of times a year, but I’ve never stopped in. While having some recent work done on my house, I decided to check it out and check in for a couple of nights.  A call was placed, a reservation was made, and very little packing was done for me to pop my Cabanas Guesthouse cherry. Here we go!

Well groomed and maintained property is a secret slice of paradise (photo supplied by resort).

Privacy –

I’ve experienced a handful of clothing-optional guest houses and they’ve all had their own feel and this guesthouse would be no different. As soon as you enter the gated drive, the Cabanas presents itself as a place removed from the outside world. Even though it is just off Northeast 26th Street and Federal, two arteries of the Fort Lauderdale / Wilton Manors area, the Cabanas and its multi-building complex, canal-side location, and several poolside relaxation spots, it was all just unexpected and smile-inspiring. The safety and privacy of the resort is immediately noticed. With the security gate, with the property surrounded by privacy fencing, you enter into a lush, tropical water front oasis. My room was on the north side of the property, along the water, and the seclusion was very satisfying.

Arial view of the relaxation pool and hot tub along the canal (photo provided by the resort).

Size Queen –

There are some things that resonate with me when thinking back on my stay. The Cabanas is surprisingly big! The benefit of encompassing five separate buildings, sporting one large pool with tons of waterside seating, umbrellas, and cabanas, and a second secluded relaxation pool along with a centrally located hot tub. There is so much space to be… and be naked. Having multiple relaxing (and viewing) spots kept the resort fresh and enjoyable.

(photos supplied by the resort)

Show the Boys Off –

I did an article a couple of weeks ago titled Travel Thursday: To Strip or Not To Strip When Visiting Las Vegas. We all need to remember we have options when traveling, and when I do go to a clothing-optional resort, I choose not to strip.  Does this make me a bad boy, a voyeur, a prude? Eh, maybe the first two options (which are not bad things) but not a prude, and to each their own. Balls out or balls tucked away, or spread further than spread eagle, you do you.  And you will find that no one gives a care if you’re wearing nothing, a thong, board shorts, or a burqa. Just be yourself and respect how others choose to present themselves, just like in the real world.

For the two days I was there, you would find me close to the pool’s water feature as it was soothing and pleasing (author’s picture).

Ready for Action –

Another one of those things that resonates with me still is the fact that the Cabanas was not a “parade yourself and hook up now” environment. I’ve been to some gay guesthouses where it feels like you better be lubed up and ready to go at the drop of your towel. And there must be posing and fluffing and cock rings galore. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that at all being on the agenda for some, but when it is the overall feel and design of the resort and you’re not 100% wanting that, it becomes uncomfortable. During my stay, when I talked to some of the regulars that have been coming back for years, their stated main reason for coming back is the environment and the staff. They loved being gay and naked and this was the place for them.  I am sure there is some extra play going on during their stays, but it was not paramount. Now there are others that desire to meet up and that was evident, and the weekend pool area might be having more vibrant feel. The Cabanas is a sex-positive place, with cute little cum towels by the bed, but for me, it was not as “have sex now, everyone else is” in your face vibe. Yes, I could have had sex with some of the guests while I was there, some were day passers and some registered guests, but I was not in the sexing mood at the time.

The Cabanas truly provides day and night and waterside relaxation. The on-site spa adds another way to relax and get pampered (author’s photos).

Humble Beginnings –

The property was purchased in 1998 when it was a housing complex inhabited mainly by transients. It started off in dire need of T.L.C., rehabilitation, and a vision. John Dorry and Bill Barnish had that vision for a guesthouse in Wilton Manors, which in pre-Y2K, all that was really in the Wilton Manors area was the Alibi bar, Richard’s Barbershop, and a Social Security Office. Cabanas was one of the early pioneers of Wilton Manors, heavily contributing to the beginnings and the growth of the gay community. And it was a risk not being near the beach, where some of the other guest house options were and are. But the Cabanas is in a great spot as the beach is close, but the nightlife is even closer, just less than a mile from Rosie’s Bar and Grill and the rest of the rainbow fabulous offerings of one of the gayest cities in the nation.

In talking with Bill and John, they mentioned it’s been fun owning the Cabanas and seeing Wilton Manors grow and prosper, but they stated its also been important to remain relevant to the gay community and its ever changing demands over the past 23 years. From the original gay men’s clothing optional guesthouse design, they’ve expanded to also include a men’s day spa, and most recently they’ve added a Tiki Bar, which provides registered guests and day-passers with food and drinks as well as yet another place to strike up a conversation.

And as for those guests, excellent service and amenities galore keep them coming back year after year with over 50% of their business being repeat guest. (there’s also a Cabanas Rewards System people should check out). My visit fell mid-week, and when I talked to the other guests, I think most were repeat customers. Some were from New Jersey, Toronto, Houston, and West Palm Beach. Mid-week was still a great time to relax and meet new people. I was also there in September, a shoulder month which still sees high occupancy (85+%), a time between the heavily booked summer vacation months and the winter busy season.

Proud to be recognized as one of the best offerings for our community for many years running (resort photo).

Look At Me Now –

Some of the gay male only, gay owned, and gay operated guest houses in the area are no more as they have either been torn down for high-rise projects, bought up by straight investors, have decided to mix men and women, change policies to not fully nude in the entire property or not at all. Businesses stay open and successful because they know what they’re doing.  Recent Cabanas Guesthouse and Spa accolades restating its success are:

  • Voted Best Gay Guest House 8 years in a row by SFGN Best Of List
  • Voted Best Men’s Day Spa 8 years in a row by SFGN Best Of List
  • Trip Advisor – Excellence Award, 2022
  • Trip Advisor – Traveler’s Choice 2022 – Ranked in the TOP 10% of Hotels Globally.

So they have the accolades, the repeat business, and a great place to be. BRAVO!

When things started to reopen from COVID, people just wanted to get out. The Cabanas was a good place for locals to get out of the house on the weekdays and weekends as the guesthouse provides a Day Pass option, something I am highly considering as it would be a lot cheaper than me putting in my own pool and I get to be around naked men! And with the Circuit program offering affordable rides around Wilton Manors 7 days a week, there’s no need for a local to bring their car or worry about transportation.

Circuit Program Shuttle

Touch Me Deeper –

And yes, I did try the award winning spa out for a 60-minute massage and then a facial. The spa staff was clearly educated and at the top of their game. I’m always overly satisfied when the masseur has chiropractic knowledge (they have a couple on staff with that) and they incorporate the glutes nicely into the massage. Two snaps from me. The facial was relaxing and extracting, just what my pores needed. I can see why they have the attention of the both visiting guest and locals.

Screen shot of the resort’s website.

Ready to Go Again –

I will return to the Cabanas Guesthouse and Spa, but since I live just four miles away, I feel a day pass will be happening soon and often. For gay travelers, I would say it’s a must check out if you want to be by the restaurants, bars, shops, entertainment and nightlife of Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale. Visiting the Cabanas Guesthouse and Spa was great treat and a good staycation for me. I highly recommend this place to my fellow gay travelers as well as locals. I’m not sure I could have picked a better spot to soak in the sun, relax in comfort, and see the sights you can only see at an all-male, clothing-optional guesthouse.


For more on the Cabanas, check out:

Website:  thecabanasguesthouse.com

Instagram   cabanasfortlauderdale

Facebook:  cabanasguesthouse

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