You can find at least one nude beach or topless beach in almost every county along the California coast. In fact, there are close to 50 places at a California beach where nudity or topless sunbathing is allowed or tolerated.
Among California's nude beaches are Blacks' Beach, the most-visited nude beach in the country and the nation's oldest nude beach (San Gregorio, where people have been going topless since 1967).
If you're new to the clothing optional lifestyle and want to visit one of these beaches, the individual guides include reviews and visitor comments about what they're like. You don't have to be embarrassed or feel uncomfortable about how to act, either. You'll know just what to do when you check the Topless Beach Etiquette guidelines before you go.
California Topless Beaches by County
You can find clothing optional beaches in nine California counties. They're listed below in order from north to south. Each county link leads you to a map, a list of nude beaches in the county and local nudity laws. Dig further in, and you can get details on every beach that include detailed driving directions.
Del Norte, Mendocino, Sonoma, and Ventura Counties don't have any well-known nude beaches. Orange County's only nude beach, San Onofre State Beach closed to clothing optional visitors a few years ago.
Many people are surprised to find that LA County has no nude beaches.
Find out why - and where to go instead. That doesn't mean a few hardy naturists aren't taking off their clothes at beaches in those counties, but it's likely to be illegal.
- Humboldt County: It's a bit cold in one of California's northernmost counties, but you can find a couple of clothing optional beaches for those rare warm days.
- Marin County: Marin has more nude beaches than any other county in California - and it's close to San Francisco, too.
- San Francisco County: Most of San Francisco's topless beaches have views of the Golden Gate Bridge. And they're on federal land, so there's less chance of law enforcement hassles. The most famous is Baker Beach, which is in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
- San Mateo County: You'll only find a couple of topless beaches in San Mateo County, but one of them is San Gregorio Beach, which became the first clothing optional beach in the United States in the 1960s.
- Santa Cruz County: Santa Cruz County has several nude beaches and a laid-back attitude. The most famous is Bonny Doon, which gets consistently high ratings, but some of the other beaches in the area have gorgeous views.
- Monterey County: Monterey's spectacular coastline doesn't have many places for clothing-optional recreation, but it does have a couple of lovely beaches with lots of soft sand.
- San Luis Obispo County: Pirate's Cove at Avila near Pismo Beach is one of the state's best-rated nude beaches. You'll find a few others in the county, too.
- Santa Barbara County: Santa Barbara is rated tops for its nude beaches by our readers, but some of them are subject to zealous law enforcement
- San Diego County: You'll only find one clothing optional beach in San Diego. When you have the country's most popular nude beach, you don't need another (I guess).
California Nude Beaches and the Law
Nudity laws are complicated in California and depend on who owns and runs the beach. There are no Federal laws against public nudity in national parks, recreation areas or seashores. California state parks operate under internal guidelines, and the state has laws that cover unincorporated state-owned land. You can get a summary of all those laws in this guide.
Where counties have local nudity laws, I have included links to their statutes in the county profiles wherever possible.
No matter what the laws say, enforcement varies. Fines for going topless (or all the way) are stiff in some places. In fact, you can even be arrested for being unclothed at a topless beach.
I have made every effort to provide accurate information about topless beach locations and local nudity laws where I can find them, but the responsibility for knowing the law at the topless beach is yours.