Nudity is illegal at state beaches in Hawaii, according to state park regulations. That's the official position of the State of Hawaii, however, as is often the case, nothing is that simple. The fact is that there are beaches that are well known as "nude", "topless" or "clothing-optional" in Hawaii.
There is also some question as to whether nude sunbathing or swimming is actually illegal in Hawaii.
Dr. George R. Harker, a former professor at Western Illinois University and nude enthusiast based in Hawaii wrote an interesting overview of a court case addressing these issues in his article, "Is it Legal to be Nude on a Nude Beach in Hawaii?"
Putting the legal issues aside temporarily, let's take a look at some of the "nude" or "clothing-optional" beaches in Hawaii.
Big Island of Hawaii
Honokohau Harbor Beach is located in the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on the Kona Coast, north of Honolokohau Harbor off of Highway 19. The north end of this yellow sand beach is a popular gay beach. Privacy is difficult to find here, and Federal Park rangers often patrol to enforce a ban on nude sunbathing. However, with its warm climate and good snorkeling, this remains a very popular nude beach.
Kehena Beach (Dolphin Beach) is located in the Puna district (Hilo side) off of Highway 137 near the 19 mile marker.
This is a well shaded black sand beach protected by steep cliffs and tall trees. Swimming can often be hazardous due to rough current and high waves. It is a popular beach for local residents.
Steam Vents located near Hilo at mile Marker 15 of Highway 130 features clothing optional steam baths in natural caves.
This is private property, but the owners continue to allow people to use it. The large house nearby is a clothing-optional guesthouse called "Steamvent Guesthouse."
Donkey Beach is located 7/10 of a mile north of mile marker 11 on Highway 56. It is not visible from the road. Access to the beach is via a path through an old sugar cane field on private property. The previous owners allowed access to the beach. (All beaches in Hawaii are public beaches.) Donkey Beach was known as one of Kauai's best nude beaches, however, the new owner, a mainland developer, has hired security guards to patrol the area and enforce a no nudity policy.
Secret Beach, also known as Kauapea Beach, is accessed by hiking a trail at the end of a red dirt road off of Kalihiwai Road, which is found about a half mile north of Kilauea on Rt. 56. This has now become Kauai's premier nude beach, although County authorities attempt to enforce the nudity ban. Secret Beach is a long, yellow sand beach which offers beautiful scenery. Swimming in winter is not advised due to high surf, but at other times of the year excellent snorkeling can be found here.
View a gallery of 12 photos of Secret Beach (Kaupea Beach).
Next page > Nude Beaches on Maui, Molokai and Oahu
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Little Beach at Makena (Pu'u Ola'i Beach) is Maui's unofficial-clothing optional beach. Little Beach is adjacent to Makena Beach (Big Beach,) but is inaccessible by car. Drive to Makena Beach which is located a few miles miles past the Maui Prince Hotel along Makena Ala Nui road.
Park at the paved parking lot and walk to the beach. Theft from cars is common here, so remove your valuables from your car.
At the northwest end of the beach there is a path up the lava rocks that takes you over the outcrop to Little Beach. This is, perhaps, the best spot in Hawaii for nude sunbathing. The swimming and snorkeling are excellent.
9 Photos of Little Beach
Red Sand Beach in Hana (Kaihalulu Beach) is one of Hawaii's prettiest beaches, but it is difficult to reach. The remains of a caved-in cinder cone have created the beautiful cove in which this crescent-shaped beach is found. Drive to the Hana Community Center on Ua Kea Road, next to several cabins which are part of the Hotel Hana Maui. You will need to walk on private property to reach the beach. You can park on the street nearby.
At the south end of the Community Center is path that passes an old cemetery. The path crosses to the shoreline and up and along the face of the outside of the cinder cone. The path is narrow and footing is poor.
At the end of the path you'll find the Red Sand Beach.
The island of Molokai has no beaches which are unofficially designated as clothing-optional. Molokai is the least visited of the main Hawaiian Islands - not including Kaho'olawe which is closed to the public.
This is not to say that you will not be able to find a long stretch of beach that will be yours alone and provide an opportunity for nude sunbathing. On our last visit to Molokai, we visited Papohaku Beach, one of the world's longest beaches. For three miles we saw no one on the beach. If you want a private, secluded and beautiful beach, Papohaku is for you.
Like Molokai there are no unofficially designated clothing-optional beaches on Oahu, but for different reasons. Oahu is the most populated of the Hawaiian Islands and the island most visited by tourists.
Oahu also has the largest police presence in Hawaii. On a nice day, most beaches are crowded with locals and tourists alike. This is not to say that on any given day, that you will not be able to find a secluded beach or cove and proceed at your own risk.
It is somewhat of a mystery as to why beach nudism has not been officially accepted in Hawaii, a state known for sexual tolerance. (On January 1, 2012, Act 1, the Hawaii Civil Unions Bill, went into law providing that heterosexual and same-sex couples can now legally enter into civil unions in the State of Hawaii.) To the contrary, recent years have found more strict enforcement of the state's law prohibiting nudism, especially on the island of Kauai.
In many other areas of the world, it is common to see nudism, or at least topless sunbathing, on both public and private beaches. Large holiday resorts now cater for millions of sun-loving naturists each summer throughout the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Caribbean, Mexico and beyond. Totally legal nude beaches are found throughout the South Pacific including many of the islands from which the native Hawaiian people are believed to have migrated.
A 2015 NEF/Roper Poll indicates that two-thirds of Americans today support nude sunbathing at places accepted for that purpose. Over fifty percent of those polled believe that local and state governments should set aside public land for people who enjoy nude sunbathing. One of every three adults in the U.S. has been skinny-dipping or has sunbathed nude in a mixed-gender social setting.
One can only hope that at some future time, the State's lawmakers will revisit this issue and consider modification of current law.
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