Clothing-optional beaches are usually associated with tropical locations along the Mediterranean coast. However, the United States also plays host to many beaches where visitors can strip down and enjoy a dip in the water. Feel nervous about sporting your birthday suit in front of strangers? Don't be. It's perfectly acceptable to keep some clothing on at these four clothing-optional beaches. The only rule you really need to follow is to refrain from taking pictures with your camera.
Baker Beach, San Francisco
Baker Beach lies north of the Sea Cliff neighborhood in San Francisco, along the shores of the Pacific Ocean. It offers plenty of opportunities for beach and water sports, but the powerful riptides keep most beach-goers onshore.
While nudists love Baker Beach for its friendly and accepting vibe, it also attracts many history fans. According to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the beach served as a military base in 1907. It had a 97,000-pound cannon on-site, which was used to protect the harbor's underwater minefield. Today, you can see a replica of the cannon at Battery Chamberlin at the north side of the Baker Beach parking lot. It's nicknamed the "disappearing gun" because it can be moved in and out of its hidden enclosure when necessary.
History aside, it's the views that really make this beach special. You can soak up the sun on the city's warmest days while taking in views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the cliffs across the bay. The scenic attractions are the main reason this park can get crowded in the summer. If you'd like to find the perfect spot in the sand, be sure to get there early. For those who are serious about stripping down, head to the northern end of the beach.
Moshup Beach, Martha's Vineyard
According to the website Go Martha's Vineyard, this beach is also known as Aquinnah Beach. It's located on the west side of Martha's Vineyard.
To reach Moshup Beach, you'll need to follow Moshup Trail for about 10 minutes from the beach parking lot. It's a nice well-maintained path, so the hike should be a pleasant experience. During the summer, you'll have to pay a parking fee before you set out on the trail. Once you reach the beach, you'll have spectacular views of the Atlantic waters and Gay Head Cliffs. Note that Gay Head Cliffs is a National Natural Landmark, which makes it a protected area.
The Gay Head Lighthouse is located atop the Gay Head Cliffs. In the summer, you can book a lighthouse tour, but be aware that the lighthouse is one of the most endangered historic places in the United States.
For naturists, the "clothing optional" area on Moshup Beach is unofficially known as Gay Head Nude Beach. You won't find any signage about reaching a clothing-free section of the beach. However, you're sure to find sunbathers hanging out there in their birthday suits throughout the summer months.
Gunnison Beach, New Jersey
It's New Jersey's only legal nude beach, according to NJ.com, and it's only a few miles from New York City. In fact, on a clear day, you can actually see the New York City skyline from the beach. While the State of New Jersey has strict laws against nudity (the state-run Higbee Beach officially banned nude sunbathing in 2000), it's legal at Gunnison Beach.
That's because Gunnison is federally owned and managed, so state laws don't take precedence there. Clothed sunbathers should head to the north-side of the beach. Naturists usually congregate in the clothing-optional section in the south. That said, the clothing-optional section can get really busy in the summer. It's one of the friendliest nude beaches in the Eastern United States. Surprisingly, it's also one of the quietest. You won't find music blasting from anyone's radio, so it's the perfect place to relax on a sunny afternoon.
Be sure to plan ahead for your visit. There are no concession stands on the beach, so you'll want to bring your own snacks and refreshments. You'll also need to prepare for a bit of a hike because the parking lot is a fair distance from the beach.
Kehena Beach, Hawaii
Kehena Beach takes the top spot on this list of clothing optional beaches for several reasons. First, it's located on the beautiful island of Hawaii. Millions of people come to Hawaii every year to visit its beautiful beaches, and Kehena Beach is a prime destination. Second, it's a black-sand beach, something of a rarity in the United States. Chipped volcanic rock makes the sand black, and its inky appearance is part of the beach's allure.
Finally, Kehena Beach is also known as Dolphin Beach, due to the many sightings of spinner dolphins in the area. According to The National Wildlife Federation, spinner dolphins are the acrobats of the ocean world. If you're fortunate enough to be on the beach at the right time, you'll see these amazing creatures spinning, twisting, and flipping over the ocean waves. Some tourists have even been fortunate enough to swim alongside pods of these lively spinner dolphins.
Note, however, that during times of high tide, powerful rip currents and undertows make swimming a challenging and dangerous experience.
By all indications, Kehena Beach is relatively young in age. The beach formed in 1955 after a volcanic explosion, and you can still see some of the old lava deposits (now cooled and hardened) at the edge of the beach. Over the last 50 years, many vacationers have made this beach their go-to destination on the Big Island.
On certain afternoons, you may find exciting live performances by local dancers and musicians. It's definitely a spot to check out if you'd like to enjoy clothing-optional sunbathing in a free-spirited atmosphere.