You might find the idea of hitting a nude beach exciting, intimidating, or both, but if you find it enticing at all, it’s worth trying at least once in your life. It’s relaxing and empowering to commune with nature in your own natural state, and there’s no shame in having a body or showing it to other people.
But in addition to packing plenty of sunscreen, there are some particular rules of etiquette and conduct you’ll need to know before you go (bottomless) so your outing doesn’t turn awkward — or worse.
5 things you should never do at a nude beach
Everyone is at the beach to enjoy themselves, maybe get a little colour, and relax. In this context, nudity means something very different, and it’s important not to treat people like objects. According to Frommers, the “cardinal rule” of nude beachgoing is that you can’t stare. Of course you can look — everyone will be looking, at least a little. But it’s key that you don’t stare long enough to make anyone uncomfortable. To that end, British Naturism, an organisation dedicated to nudism, has created a code of conduct for nude beaches. It includes “do not be an exhibitionist” and “avoid being a nuisance.”
Wear sunglasses so it’s less obvious where you are looking — which isn’t an invitation to stare, so bring things to do so you aren’t tempted to do nothing but. Try reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle, or napping on a nice pillow. This is a beach, after all; you can, and should, still do regular beach stuff.
Don’t ignore your surroundings
Read every sign you come across, for real. Some beaches are split into nude and non-nude sections, and you can’t risk entering the wrong area. Keep a towel or cover-up with you in case you need to go to a non-nude spot, and keep in mind that you’ll likely be required to sit on your own towel in any communal spaces, like on a deck chair or at a table.
Look out for other posted rules, too, like any sign that notes cameras are prohibited. Use your best judgement when taking a picture, either of the waves or people in your own party or family. Ensure as much as possible to keep strangers out of the shot, and to make it obvious you are doing so. Don’t do anything that would make someone else feel uneasy or like they’re being preyed upon. Stay aware of your surroundings.
Don’t try to make it about sex
As British Naturism’s guide to nude beach etiquette notes, “any sexual activity is just as unwelcome and just as criminal [on a nude beach] as in any other public place.” Even with your own partner, do not engage in any remotely sexual activity.
Again, when you think of a beautiful beach where everyone is nude, it might seem inherently sexual to you, but that is your issue, and not reflective of the reality: people are really there to relax. Do not be a pest. Do not make people feel scared or uncomfortable. Do not expect bacchanalia or try to force it on anyone.
If you do become publicly aroused, lay low for a while. You should have plenty of space between your towel and the towels of others, so stay on your towel in a prone position until it passes or wrap yourself in a cover and head to the bathroom or off the beach until things simmer down. Take a dip in the chilly water. There’s no shame in getting a little excited, but there is shame in forcing anyone else to take notice.
Don’t shame anyone who isn’t down to be fully nude
Naturists refer to people who prefer to be clothed as “textiles,” and British Naturism warns those who prefer to be nude against “confronting or approaching” them at these kinds of beaches.
On an old Reddit thread about the worst experiences people have had at nude beaches, one user recalled, “This guy gave me and my friends shit for not getting nude… I was just about to undress when he came along.” They called it “rather weird,” and it is. Some people may not be comfortable fully disrobing, and that’s fine, provided they are following the posted rules of the beach. It’s really not your business.
Don’t get burned — literally
Beyond matters of etiquette, the usual advice for beach-going still applies, perhaps more so than usual. Wear and reapply lots of sunscreen, follow all rules to the letter, and do your best to remove sand from yourself and your belongings before you leave. UV rays and sand will get into even more parts of your body than usual, and you don’t want to come away from this experience with a sunburn or scratches on your intimate areas. Otherwise, have fun, relax, and enjoy naturalism. Just be a decent person while you do it.