Clothing-optional beaches in the US offer a liberating sense of au natural freedom, all while savoring a day out on the sand. These in-the-buff destinations are diverse and scattered throughout the States; from Florida’s nudist party scene to the laid back naked surfers of California and Hawaii. And while technically, public nudity is punishable by law there are a few states that bend the rules for beach-goers.
But that doesn’t mean there are no general rules of nude beaches you’re expected to follow while warming your nether regions.
I’ve visited nude beaches and clothing-optional hot springs from coast to coast. I’ve stripped down to my birthday suit on packed Miami shores, secluded cliff sides of California, mountain treks in Washington, skin-soothing sulfur ponds of Colorado and New Mexico, and the family-friendly sands of Massachusetts. Throughout my interactions with members of the nudist community and beach regulars, I compiled a list of the universally accepted rules all nude beach regulars wish newcomers were aware of. Here are some of the unwritten rules of nude beaches and things nude beach regulars wish you would stop doing.
1. Feeling like you have to bare it all
Undress only to your comfort level. Whether that means donning a revealing bikini, topless tanning, or stripping buck naked straight out of the gate — the choice is up to you. After all, in the US most “nude” beaches are clothing-optional. There’s no judgment here if you’re not ready to lose your bottoms.
2. Assuming every nude beach has the same vibe
Just like traditional beaches, every nude beach is different. Before you go to a new-to-you nude beach, be sure to do your research on that particular stretch of sand. Some beaches tend to draw a community of regulars that use this time in the sun as a social hour. Some are particularly popular with the LGBTQ community, some with families or those seeking a quiet refuge to sunbathe in solitude. Simply reading the reviews on Yelp can reveal a lot about the clientele. Or browse the small list of beaches that the Naturist Society has put together that adhere to their strict social guidelines of “respecting boundaries, the people, and the beach itself”.
3. Sitting far too close to your fellow beach-goers
Your towel is your happy place. The only strip of privacy you have to retreat to after strutting down the sand in the buff. If there’s a huge stretch of open sand and you place your towel within five feet of me, you’re breaking one of the unspoken rules of bare it all beaches. Depending on the beach’s particular social environment, some people like to mingle and you might be coaxed into an au natural small talk session. But don’t encroach on anyone’s sacred towel space.
4. Taking photos
While technically there are no “official” laws against taking photos of any kind on nude beaches, there is a social code of conduct. You should never photograph anyone without their explicit permission. While regulars understand that you may want to snap a selfie of this uncommon experience, be extra careful that you’re not capturing your unwitting neighbors in the buff. You can always move to a more secluded portion of the beach to take scenic photos or face the waves instead of the crowd.
The one written rule of clothing-optional beaches is no lewd conduct. Nude beaches are not your foreplay. They are not meant to be erotic and any sexual acts or heavy petting are not welcome in the community. A good rule of thumb is — if you wouldn’t do it on a family-friendly beach, don’t do it here.
6. Hitting on your fellow beach-goers
Enough said. I’m not saying you can’t find true love naked, but you should always respect the boundaries of those around you. Try to be particularly receptive of social cues to avoid coming off as creepy. And you absolutely should not visit a nude beach expecting to come home with a phone number.
I don’t want to harp on respecting boundaries, but according to the American Association for Nude Recreation, there’s nothing more important than respecting yourself, others, and the beach. Staring can make people uncomfortable. It’s as simple as that.
8. Stretching or working out in front of the beach
You know when you sit in an empty movie theatre and the group who comes in after you chooses the seats directly in front of you, right in your line of view of the screen. It’s like that. But naked. Add in your beach workout or yoga routine and your fellow beach-goers are getting to see a lot more of you than they bargained for. The polite choice would be to choose a more secluded section of sand or seat yourself toward the back of the beach.
9. Making a huge fuss over families sunning at nude beaches
In many cultures all around the world, nudity isn’t in itself a sexual state of being. Many families who want to raise their kids with a healthy relationship to their natural state often frequent clothing-optional beaches. That being said if you plan to bring your children to a nude beach, be sure to do your homework and ensure that the beach in question seems to be a kid-friendly place. You should always visit on your own beforehand and use your best judgment.
10. Being so self-conscious
Easier said than done, but remember birthday suit beachgoers have seen it all. No amount of body hair, cellulite, or sagging is going to surprise anyone here. Considering the average age of beachgoers at most US clothing-optional shores is closer to 50 than 20, regulars are often very comfortable in their au natural state. Full bush, no bush, scars, warts and all, the human body is a powerful vessel and nude beaches can be a great way to build self-confidence and practice self-love.
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