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Nude Beach Etiquette: 7 Rules for First-Timers | Frommer's richard pross / Shutterstock

Nude Beach Etiquette: 7 Rules for First-Timers

The clothing may be optional, but these rules for avoiding a faux pas at a nude beach are not.

If the good Lord didn’t create bathing suits for Adam and Eve in the nudist resort known as the Garden of Eden, then why should you go your whole life without feeling the ocean on your bare bottom and sand in every crevice?

Before taking it all off, though, there are some things a nude beach newbie needs to know. 

First and foremost: Where are you going to go?

Clothing-optional options are limited in the United States, but there are a few public beaches where nudity is accepted, including Haulover Beach in Miami, Gunnison Beach in New Jersey, North Baker Beach in San Francisco, and Black’s Beach near San Diego.

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Internationally, the skinny-dipping cognoscenti give high marks to Es Trenc on the Spanish island of Mallorca, Wreck Beach in Vancouver, Praia do Pinho in Brazil, Red Beach on Crete, Plage de Tahiti in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera, and other sun-kissed spots in Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean. 

Then there are the many private “naturist” clubs, lodges, hotels, all-inclusive resorts, campsites, and condos geared toward those who want to vacation in the altogether. The American Association for Nude Recreation keeps a worldwide directory of those. 

There’s even an Airbnb-esque online platform for finding and booking clothing-optional stays. It’s called Naturist BnB, and it has nudist-friendly listings for home rentals, small inns, resorts, and other lodgings in locations across the globe. 

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Once you’ve found a sunny spot to strip down, there are some basic rules of etiquette to follow in order to avoid a faux pas—because while it’s true you shouldn’t be ashamed of your body, your behavior can definitely be cause for embarrassment. 

Familiarize yourself with the local rules

Before you hit the sand, make sure you’re clear on which parts of the beach permit nudity, and respect those boundaries by remaining covered up in the clothing-required sections and common areas such as the parking lot. Confirm also whether full nudity is allowed or just toplessness (as in many parts of the French Riviera). Additionally, it may be useful to know whether going without clothing is officially legal or merely tolerated.

Don’t stare

The cardinal rule of nude beachgoing. You can look (how can you not look?), but don’t ogle or gawk. People are vulnerable when they’re in the buff, so you want to avoid even the suggestion that you’re regarding them with cruelty or creepiness. Don’t you want the same in return? If you struggle to keep your eyes to yourself, crack open a book.

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Leave your camera at home

Another subsection of the larger don’t-be-creepy category. Even taking photos of the scenery can make people uncomfortable if they’re not sure where you’re pointing your smartphone, so it’s best not to take out any sort of photo-capturing device in the first place. If you must snap a selfie, be sure you don’t take a pic of anybody else without permission.

Carry a towel everywhere you go

Obviously, you’ll need a towel to lie on the sand. But at nudist resorts you’ll likely be required to bring along your own towel to sit on furniture at restaurants and bars or in any other common area—a convention we wholeheartedly endorse, by the way.  

Apply sunscreen liberally on all exposed skin

This is standard sunbathing procedure, but it bears repeating when we’re talking about sensitive body parts that don’t see the light of day very often. 

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Keep your distance from others

When you’re choosing a spot to sit or lie down, allow plenty of space between you and the next towel over—if possible, more space than you’d leave if you were clothed. That way, you signal that you have no intention of encroaching on your neighbor’s privacy. It’s another comfort thing.

Don’t try any hanky-panky

Lewd behavior, whether with your partner, with someone you just met on the beach, or with yourself, is a no-no. Most nude recreationists strive to sever the connection between getting naked and getting busy. In fact, the “Naturist Beach Code” devised by the British Naturism organization flatly states, “Any sexual activity is just as unwelcome and just as criminal as in any other public place.” 

As in most social situations, a visible erection is considered gauche. That’s somewhere in Emily Post’s handbook, isn’t it? If you’re a male beachgoer and the issue arises (so to speak) involuntarily, you should put a towel over it, lie on your stomach, or wade waist-deep into the chilly ocean and wait. Maybe try thinking about the U.S. tax code. 

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