Over the years, nude beaches may have gotten a bad reputation among many travelers who see them as dens of lascivious behavior. But, in reality, nude beaches are rarely the sexually charged places they are reputationally made out to be.
Proponents of nude beaches often refer to them as "clothing-optional" beaches to erase the negative image the word "nude" connotes.
While nude beaches aren't as common in the United States as they are in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, they do exist and are popular among beach-goers who want to experience the full freedom of sunbathing and swimming in the buff.
The American Association of Nude Recreation (link contains nudity) lists approximately 260 clothing optional resorts, beaches, and RV campgrounds across North America.
If you are considering a trip to a nude beach for the first time, familiarize yourself with nude beach rules and etiquette. Of most importance: use plenty of sunscreen and do not gawk at others.
Here are some of the most notable nude beach spots in the U.S. along the Pacific coast, the Atlantic, and even a lake, too.
Of all the nude beaches in the world, San Francisco's Baker Beach probably has the best view. This beach is set below the Presidio and shielded by rocky crags. On a clear day, Baker Beach offers a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Only the northernmost end of the half-mile-long beach is reserved for clothing-optional sunbathers.
While nude beaches are illegal in San Diego, authorities tend to turn a blind eye to clothing optional recreation at Black's Beach as it is fairly secluded and hard to access. Located about half an hour northwest of San Diego in La Jolla, Black's Beach is the top nude beach destination in southern California.
Considered "one of the greatest success stories in North American nudism," according to American Association of Nude Recreation, Haulover Beach is as fine a beach as any in southern Florida. This 99-acre clothing optional beach is in the Bal Harbour area of Miami. It attracts nearly 1.4 million visitors thanks to its white sands, warm waters, and a festive atmosphere.
A clothing optional hideaway since the 1960s, Moshup Beach, which is also known as Aquinnah Beach, provides a bit of bohemian flavor to tony Martha's Vineyard. Visitors to Moshup, which is located on the Massachusetts island's southwestern tip, must pay a parking fee then walk a trail to get to the beach. The beach's most outstanding feature is its brightly colored clay cliffs. The clay cliffs are ecologically protected, and it is forbidden to climb the cliffs or touch the clay.
Accessible via a short hike from Makena State Park's Big Beach, Little Beach is popular with Hawaiians and tourists, the latter of whom serendipitously stumble upon the relatively secluded beach. Park at the first Big Beach lot, and walk to the north (right) end of the beach. There is a trail over the rocky outcrop of an old lava flow. On Sundays prior to sunset, a drum circle breaks out, giving the strand a lively, hippie vibe. Nude surfing is not uncommon here.
While public nudity is technically illegal in Hawaii, it has been generally accepted that this is a nude beach, and the law is not enforced here.
Nude beaches are not only on the ocean—lakes work just fine, too. On the northern end of Austin, Texas, is Lake Travis, which has a clothing-optional park area called Hippie Hollow. The 109-acre recreation area about a half-hour from downtown is a relaxing place to escape from the hustle and heat of Texas's funky capital. It is the only legally recognized clothing-optional public park in the State of Texas.
Gunnison Beach in New Jersey
A former Army proving ground and now part of Gateway National Recreation Area along the Jersey shore, Gunnison Beach is the only legal nude beach in New Jersey. Also, this clothing-optional beach is within easy reach of New York City (you can see the Manhattan skyline from the beach). During the summer, round-trip ferry service to Gunnison Beach is available from Manhattan from Pier 11 Ferry Terminal (Wall Street) or Midtown East Ferry Terminal (35th and FDR) to the Sandy Hook Ferry Landing. This beach has a tendency to be packed on weekends.