Let there be no ifs, ands or—wait for it—butts about it, when it comes to stripping down, there’s no place quite like the Golden State. From the sun-kissed beaches of SoCal to the sizzling Mojave Desert to the Bay Area and beyond, California is hands down (make that pants down) the best state for hanging out in the buff. If you really want to get creative, gay social groups like Nudies (www.nudies.club) host themed parties and meetups that take nude recreation beyond the beach. Whether you’re a novice, or seasoned, naturist, here is our list of the best gay places in California to get naked if…
1. IT’S YOUR FIRST NAKED EXPERIENCE
You’re nude curious, but convinced everyone will stare at you (they won’t), or that nude beaches are all creepy old men (they aren’t). Relax, we’ve got just the place. A 15-minute drive north of downtown Santa Barbara sits More Mesa, an ideal nude beach for first timers. More Mesa is a cinch to get to (parking is ample and the hike is easy); relatively gawker free; large with plenty of room for solitude (off season you’re likely to have the beach almost to yourself); and blessed with a lovely setting. If More Mesa is your first nude beach, chances are it won’t be your last.
2. YOU CAN KEEP A “SECRET”
Technically on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, but close enough to the Cal border to be included on this list, crescent-shaped Secret Cove might be the most heavenly place on planet Earth to bake your cakes. All the rumors you’ve heard about Tahoe’s piercing azure waters are 100% true and a naked dip here is practically life changing. Sand is a precious commodity when lake levels are high (a narrow strip fills up fast on hot weekends) so instead find a large, flat boulder and spread out for the day if not forever (although you may just want to stay that long).
3. RESORT LIFE IS WHAT YOU WANT
As gay travelers increasingly seek out mainstream lodging options, the more than a dozen clothing optional, gay guesthouses in Palms Springs offer an irresistible bulwark to chain hotels and lonely Airbnbs. The most elegant of the bunch is Santiago Resort (https://santiagoresort.com) an unpretentious slice of desert paradise featuring immaculately renovated rooms, a large pool and hot tub, hammocks, an outdoor shower, misters, all-day snacks, complimentary breakfast and lunch, and terrific staff. Rates are mostly north of $200 nightly, but you get what you pay for, and at Santiago you get a lot.
4. YOU WANT YOUR INSTAGRAM FEED TO BLOW UP
A requisite selfie in front of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge offers a cinch way to garner likes across social media channels. Now, combine those luscious orange towers with a shot of your luscious booty (if you dare!) and watch the likes and comments roll in. Marshall Beach is actually a trio of coves in San Francisco, the furthest of which sits so close to the Golden Gate that the bridge practically casts a shadow over it. Marshall has been nicknamed “Nasty Boy Beach” thanks to ubiquitous shenanigans. On a fog-free day it’s a slice of gay heaven—until the tide rolls in.
5. ACTION IS YOUR MIDDLE NAME
There’s nothing wrong with getting nekkid and getting it on, although we don’t recommend it at most of the places on this list. All World’s Resort (http://www.allworldsresort.info) is the exception to the rule. One of the few LGBT lodgings in the Palm Springs area to offer day and night passes for non-guests, the large and sprawling (and vaguely Romanesque) complex offers multiple pools, ample elbow room, and no-frills lodgings in the heart of the ultra-gay Warm Sands area. By late afternoon the pool scene really gets bumping and by nightfall the resort sees a lot of, well, humping.
6. YOU CAN SPOT A RANGER FROM A MILE AWAY
We can remember a time when hot days would draw hundreds of nudists (if not more) to San Onofre State Beach, an untamed and rock-strewn jewel of California coastline that is technically located within San Diego County, but is actually much closer to the population centers of Orange County. The beach is no longer the clothing optional demi-paradise it once was, but make no mistake that plenty of people go naked here. The water is gorgeous, the beach picture perfect, and the scenery sublime, but supposedly rangers issue occasional citations so be on the lookout.
7. L.A. STRESSES YOU OUT
Steamy is one thing California is not. Humidity is rare in the City of Angels and so, for that matter, is public nudity, which is strictly outlawed in Los Angeles County. What’s a WeHo boy and Silver Lake daddy to do? Meet up in Koreatown, that what. LA’s bumping K-town is famous for its traditional bathhouses of which there are many. Conan once visited Wi Spa, the nicest of the bunch, but if you really want to unwind and (wink, wink) get to know the locals, Century Spa (https://centurydayandnightspa.com) is the gayest of all. As for the cruise factor, let’s just say the steam room gets, um, steamy.
8. YOU WANT TO SEE A FULL MOON (IN THE SKY, THAT IS)
Foggy days and brittle NoCal temps mean you’re more likely to add layers to your Big Sur beach day than you are subtracting them. Instead, book the Public Night Bathing experience at the Esalen Institute (https://www.esalen.org). A fabled wellness retreat since the 1960s (this is where Don Draper ended up on the last episode of Mad Men), Esalen opens its doors to the general public for nightly bathing in its oceanfront, naturally fed hot springs. Strip down and soak while the waves crash around you and thousands of stars light the sky. Book your visit in advance as this intimate experience sells out.
9. IT’S TOO COLD TO ACTUALLY GO TO THE BEACH
The cruel irony of liberal San Francisco is that while the city is famously nude beach friendly, swaths of coastal fog can make stripping down a true daredevil’s feat—even in summer. But those chilly Bay Area days are all the better reason to hit up Kabuki Hot Springs (https://kabukisprings.com), a gay-popular, Japanese-style bathhouse where nudity is mandatory (and segregated by gender based on the day of the week). A quiet zone, Kabuki’s steam room, sauna, and hot and cold plunges make it a place to truly bliss out.
10. YOU CAN’T STOP CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’
The idolized vision of the laidback California beach town (think hunky surfers, cheap fish tacos, and rickety piers) still looms large in popular imagination, but is forever being encroached upon by development. But smack between Cal’s big cities sits Central Coast gems like Cayucos, Morro Bay and Avila Beach. The latter is home to Pirate’s Cove, a half-moon swath of sun-kissed beach that has been nude since the early ‘70s. Sure, several McMansions loom on the cliffs above, but keep your eyes on the brilliant blue water, and all the cute naked boys (gay & straight).
11. THE ‘60s LOOM LARGE IN YOUR IMAGINATION
Beyond touristy Haight-Ashbury, evidence of the counter culture and famous Summer of Love have all but vanished from the Bay Area. Not so in Santa Cruz, a fun and funky coastal college town where a hippie vibe still prevails. North of the city sits Bonny Doon Beach, the busiest of several nude beaches strung along Highway 1. On hot summer weekends Boon’s an ebullient smorgasbord of Frisbee-tossing Boomers, weed-smoking students, and adventure seekers daring enough to brave the frigid waters. In short, it’s paradise (just don’t tell the tech crowd).
12. YOU LIKE JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS
From downtown Los Angeles, it’s about a 90-minute drive to suburban Apple Valley. From there, drive another 45 minutes (partially down a dirt road) until reaching a private property where you’ll have to pay a small entrance fee. Now lace up your hiking shoes and hoof it another 40 minutes. The reward for all this is the Eden-like Deep Creek Hot Springs, a small, clothing optional and off-radar collection of pools of varying hot and cold temps. The crowd leans hetero (part hippie, part bro), but if you’re hot springs curious, Deep Creek is worth checking out at least once.
13. DIVERSITY IS YOUR JAM
Nudists are famously tolerant, but that doesn’t mean diversity always rules. At Marshall Beach in San Francisco the crowd is almost exclusively gay men (and horny ones at that). At North Baker Beach, however, SF’s melting pot is more fully realized. Among the hundreds who pack it on hot days, expect to see a cornucopia of young and old, LGBT and straight, plus singles, couples and families. Importantly, if your day in the sun includes hanging with your gal pals (straight or lesbian) North Baker is the place to do it. The views of the Golden Gate Bridge are amazing.
14. YOU WANT TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS
One thing we love about the gay guesthouse experience is that it’s an ideal way to meet fellow travelers. Most of the gay hotels in Palm Springs are small and when some or most of the guests are relaxing in the buff, inhibitions melt quickly. Our favorite gay guesthouse for socializing is INNdulge (https://inndulge.com), a Palm Springs icon. Not only have owners Jon and Sandy fully renovated the guestrooms, but they host a daily poolside happy hour
including complimentary booze and snacks. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting the town with new friends (but please wear clothes).
15. YOU WANT TO VISIT THE BEST NUDE BEACH ON EARTH
Tucked away underneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines in La Jolla (near San Diego) is Black’s Beach, our favorite of them all. We love it because on hot summer days, hundreds of men flock to the northernmost (and gay) end of the beach for an afternoon of undressed idyll including body surfing Black’s amazing waves, partaking in the occasional game of nude Frisbee or volleyball, plus boozing, cruising, and soaking up San Diego’s gentle sun. Sure, it’s a pain to hike to, but that makes this slice of heaven all the more rewarding. Black’s rules and that’s the naked truth.