The status of Santa Barbara County nude beaches changes more often than perhaps any other county in the state, depending on the attitude of law enforcement officials and also on who controls the land.
More Mesa, Rincon and Summerland Beaches are subject to Santa Barbara County nudity laws which are outlined below. Gaviota Beach is part of the California State Park system and subject to State Park Regulations.
Clothing Optional Beaches in Santa Barbara County
Your best bets for nude sunbathing without law enforcement hassles at a Santa Barbara County Beach are:
- Gaviota: a secluded beach protected by high cliffs. It's in a state park, but far from the main entrance and easiest to access by hiking down the hillside.
- More Mesa: In general, nude sunbathers aren't hassled at More Mesa Beach, unless someone complains (which is very rare).
- Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes: Lots of clean, soft sand and gorgeous sand dunes that make nice places to get out of the wind.
If you want to go somewhere outside Santa Barbara County, you'll have to travel for a few hours, but you'll be going to some of the best-rated nude beaches in the state, Blacks Beach in San Diego or Pirates Cove near Avila Beach, just north of Pismo Beach. You can also find a couple of other nude beaches in San Luis Obispo County.
Where Not to Go
North Rincon Beach (also known as Bates Beach) has been closed to nude sunbathing since mid-2000, although an active group of its fans continue to work to change that.
You can find more information at their website. So far, local officials continue to state that they must enforce anti-nudity laws. Officers frequently walk on the train tracks above the beach looking for any kind of illegal activity and if they see you nude on the beach, they will ticket you.
Summerland Beach is also closed to nudity and county nudity laws are strictly enforced.
Even if it weren't, this location is rapidly becoming an environmental problem because of oil seeping up into the sand from old pipes.
A few beaches have seen some clothing optional use in the past, the best we can tell, they are not used for nude recreation now. That includes San Onofre Beach (which is also called Secret Beach and not the same as the one in San Diego County) and Vista Del Mar, as well as Cemetery Beach and a few others.
The Southern California Naturist Association website is a good place to get the most recent updates.
Rating Santa Barbara County Nude Beaches
In a poll that got more than 11,000 votes, our readers rated Gaviota Beach as their favorite Santa Barbara County nude beach. Secret Beach got 21% of the votes, followed by More Mesa and Summerland.
Mapping the Santa Barbara County Nude Beaches
If you want to see where all the Santa Barbara County clothing optional beaches are located, use this Santa Barbara County Beach Map at Google maps, where the nude beaches are marked with pushpins. You can use it to get directions to each one.
Santa Barbara County Nudity Law
It is the intent of the board of supervisors to prohibit nudity in public places, places open to the public, and places open to public view whether such places are publicly or privately owned, even when such nudity is not sexually motivated or otherwise lewd. (Ord. No. 2507, S 1; Ord. No. 2564, S 1)
Sec. 24-15. Nudity --Offenses numerated; penalties.
(a) It is hereby declared a public nuisance and unlawful for any person to appear on any beach, park, street or in any other public place or place open to the public or exposed to public view, including specifically a view from any private residence or any portion of the real property in the immediate vicinity of such private residence, whether such place is publicly or privately owned, unclothed or in such a state of undress as to expose, in the case of a female, any portion of her breasts below the areolas thereof or in the case of any male or female, any part of his or her pubic or anal region or genitalia.
(b) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any acts which take place wholly within a fully enclosed building or any portion thereof; and nothing contained herein shall be construed to prohibit any act or acts which are expressly authorized or prohibited by the Penal Code of the state.
(c) Violations of this section shall be an infraction punishable by a fine in the sum of fifty dollars for a first violation; a fine in the sum of one hundred dollars for a second violation of this section within one year after the first violation; and a fine in the sum of two hundred fifty dollars for each additional violation within one year after a second violation and within one year after any subsequent violation of this section thereafter. (Ord. No. 2507, S 1; Ord. No. 2564, S 1; Ord. No. 2931, S 1)
This law applies to locations in Santa Barbara County. See also information about nudity laws on State and Federal Lands, which applies to the state parks and any federally-owned property.