How Nude Beaches Work

In the Flesh: Types of Nude Beaches

Haulover Beach
Two nude beachgoers survey the scene at Haulover Beach, Miami. Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images

Before you drop everything and drive straight to the local beach to, well, drop everything, understand that there are some distinct categories of nude beaches. They vary by region and by country, so what's totally acceptable in one place might get you a hot date with a police officer in another.

A topless beach is not technically a nude beach. At topless beaches, women (and obviously, men) are permitted to wander the premises without clothing covering their nipples. Both sexes, though, must wear bottoms, unless they want to face potential legal consequences.


Nude beaches (often called clothing-optional) beaches are different in that men, women and children can ditch all their clothes for maximum Vitamin D potential.

They tend to be set apart from regular beaches where bikinis and clothes are required. The spots may be miles away from areas with high foot or vehicle traffic, and may be harder to get to than more popular beaches. That is, of course, part of their appeal.

However, the terms "nude beach" and "clothing-optional beach" are not synonymous. A nude beach may feature compulsory nudity. That is, if you're there, you're naked — no hiding behind a towel, bikini or burka. A clothing-optional beach means that you don't have to be naked, but you can be if you want to [source: Mize].

Some nude beaches are official, while others are off the books. In the case of the latter, the acceptance of nudity might depend on the mood of patrons or law enforcement personnel on that particular day. Awareness to social cues is key.

Just like any other recreational area, many nude beaches are known as family-friendly environments, some more so than traditional beaches. Some nude beaches have lifeguard and concessions; others may not even have a pit toilet, much less modern amenities, like showers. Others allow alcohol and tolerate its sometimes raucous consequences.

No matter the type of beach, public sex is, how shall we put this — just too much. Overly sexual behavior (with another person or by yourself) is not only frowned up, but it may end with you being escorted from the area and perhaps arrested. If sex is what you're looking for, you're better off at a swingers' resort, not a nude beach [source: Mize].