Bonny Doon Beach is a peaceful beach used by many visitors. It is frequently used for clothing-optional recreation, which is what this guide focuses on. But don't let that put you off. If you prefer not to bare it all, stay on the south end of the beach.
This beach was sold in 2001 and now belongs to the State of California. The State Parks Department took control of the property in 2006, but they don't yet list it as a state park. As of 2019, state officials plan to allow nudity on the north end of the beach unless there are complaints.
You may be taking your clothes off when you get there, but wear good shoes to protect your feet from broken glass that litters the trail on the way down.
Things to Do at Bonny Doon Beach
Sunbathing is the most common activity, but people also enjoy playing in the sand. There are no lifeguards and swimming is not advised because of strong undertow.
In the winter, you might see a migrating whale passing — or at least you might see its spout as it surfaces for air.
Nude Recreation at Bonny Doon
The crowd is mostly naked, especially at the north end of the beach. People are friendly, and you'll find more women here than at other area nude beaches. That could be because the regulars try to keep things clean and fun.
Gawkers can be annoying, but they are so far away that they have to use binoculars to see you.
- Dogs are allowed, but please don't let them terrorize everyone else on the beach.
- There are no restrooms or other facilities.
- This part of the coast is often foggy (and cold) all day, especially during conditions called June Gloom which can happen anytime between May and August.
- After-hours assaults have happened. Don't go alone and get out before dark.
- Burglaries from parked cars are also a problem. Don't leave anything valuable inside.
Driving to Bonny Doon Beach
You can get driving directions online, but they won't include the helpful tips and landmarks in these directions:
- Follow CA Highway 1 north from Santa Cruz or go south from San Francisco and Half Moon Bay.
- This location is easy to spot. Look for the Bonny Doon Road sign on the east (land) side of the highway and a large paved parking area on the opposite side.
- If you're driving north, Bonny Doon Beach is past Fambrini Produce. Driving south, it's just past the town of Davenport. See a photo of the parking area on the next page.
- Watch the milepost markers to know when you're getting close. The beach is at milepost 27.6. Read how to interpret a California milepost marker.
If you would rather not drive, Santa Cruz Metro buses can take you to Bonny Doon Beach. Check their schedule.
Parking at Bonny Doon Beach
The paved parking area on the west side of the highway is free to use, but it can fill up early (and is closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
And don't think about leaving your vehicle beside the road nearby. Parking is illegal on CA Hwy 1 in the vicinity and also on Bonny Doon Road.
Getting from the Parking Lot to the Beach
- Follow the path that starts near the north end of the parking area and walk over the railroad track. It is an active railroad line, so take care to watch for trains.
- There are several paths to the sand, but most are steep and slippery.
- Walk about 50 paces to the right after crossing the railroad track to a path that goes up the hill. At the first fork, go left. The right fork will take you uphill and away from the beach.
- Follow the path to the beach. The next left fork leads to a set of steps that are also steep, but they're made of rocks and provide better footing.
- The nudist area is at the north end.
Nudity Laws and Bonny Doon Beach
Laws regarding nudity at the naturist beach vary by location and fines are stiff in some places. This guide makes every effort to provide accurate information, but the responsibility for knowing the law at Bonny Doon Beach is yours.