Nude Beaches

Santa Cruz County

Scott Creek Beach


Rating: B

Scott Creek is a fun place, where surfers of many stripes -- ranging from board riders to windsurfers to kite surfers -- share the sand and water of pristine Scott Creek Beach near Davenport with both nature lovers (who explore its lagoon for birds and nearby Ano Nuevo State Reserve for elephant seals) and naturists. The surfers usually leave their towels on the north side of the beach, from October to May. But before you swim, check for possible riptides just offshore.

 

County land.Read more »

Rope Beach


Rating: C

Two years ago, we added a beach that's so remote that you have to lower yourself down a cliff while hanging onto a rope to reach its beautiful and nearly always uncrowded shore. "The rope is still there," reports beach regular Russ, who loves to visit this little-known treasure. "You use it to hold yourself close to the side of the cliff while placing your feet on footholds. The rope just helps you steady yourself. Usually, I'll go down first and then my wife will hand stuff to me as she's coming."Read more »

Davenport Cove


Rating: C

Often left with a washed-out, nearly sandless look after winter and spring storms, a clothing-optional shore known as Davenport Cove and Shark's Tooth Beach is favored by some nudists for summer retreats. "We went twice last year," says Russ, who prefers Rope Beach (see above). The beach, off Highway 1, is just south of Davenport's public beach. Swimming isn't recommended, due to dangerous waves and cold water, but some locals paddle around anyway. However, the wind-sheltered cove is good for suitless sunbathing. Read more »

Bonny Doon Beach


Rating: A

Recommended! Still not listed on the official state parks web site, one of the state's oldest nude beaches has been under the domain of the California State Parks Department since July 14, 2006, when it took control of the five miles of coastline including Bonny Doon.Read more »

Panther Beach


Rating: B

Tired of summer fog and gloom? Then perhaps you should visit picturesque Panther, some 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. By afternoon, it's often so sunny here that naturists erect umbrellas to keep their bare bodies from burning. Other popular activities include reading, picnicking, rock climbing, bird watching, swimming, exploring the shore, or -- a personal favorite -- simply giving in to "sand gravity" by doing nothing at all. Read more »

Hole in the Wall Beach


Rating: B

Shut off from access during high tide, Hole In The Wall Beach is a great place to relax on a hot summer day, especially if you'd like to get away from crowds, noise, and the usual litter you find on a public beach. Once or twice a year, the site might draw 50 visitors, but you'll more likely find a few dozen persons spread out on its 200-yard long shoreline. The beach can only be reached through its namesake hole in a wall of rocks at the south end of Panther Beach. Read more »

Laguna Creek


Rating: A

If you're searching for the perfect beach for tanning, reading, or some other quiet activity, then you'll probably love Laguna Creek, which is located just off Highway 1 between mileposts 25.96 and 26.01. Other pluses include coves that are good for beachcombing, and a lagoon that attracts both birds and birdwatchers. To find this delightful clothing-optional spot, drive 9.8 miles north of Santa Cruz to Laguna Road, which is adjacent to the beach.

 

Privately owned but publicly used.Read more »

Four Mile Beach


Rating: B

The south end of Wilder Ranch State Park, known locally as Four Mile Beach, has been visited by nude sunbathers for years. But they usually now only show up on weekdays when families are not present. Mike Oropeza, a former regular at Red, White and Blue Beach until it closed in 2006, says he has also gone nude at "the Table rock area near this blowhole (at Four Mile), where the waves crash" and the north side of the beach, when the surfers who frequent it are gone.

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San Lorenzo River


Rating: C

Improved directions!

Though beautiful and often filled with enough water for some old-fashioned skinny-dipping, not everything is peaceful at the Garden of Eden, in Henry Cowell State Park, between Santa Cruz and Felton. "We hate going down there on the trail because by the time we get there the problem we've heard about may be over," a longtime park ranger told me in June. "And you have to watch out for poison oak on the trail."Read more »

Natural Bridges Beach


Rating: C

Better known for its stunning butterfly refuge, Natural Bridges, at the north end of Cliff Drive, in Santa Cruz, also has a cove that gets scattered nude use on hot summer days. Several decades ago, small numbers of free beachers frequented Natural Bridges Beach. The site has tide pools and a shoreline (bring binoculars) good for spotting whales, seals, and otters. The still-emerging nude spot is a tiny, 150-foot-long "hidden" section located around the remains of the collapsed natural bridge that gives the park its name. Read more »

It's Beach


Rating: C

To leash or not to leash is the question at Its Beach, in front of a lighthouse at Lighthouse Point on West Cliff Drive, near Santa Cruz's Municipal Wharf.Read more »

2222


Rating: A

America's only nude beach with its own street address (it's across from 2222 West Cliff Drive) is also its smallest. It's not an exaggeration to say you can explore every inch of this beautiful little cove in less than an hour. After all, it's only the size of an average California backyard. You'll usually find fewer than 20 visitors on the sand, which might hold a dozen more. What 2222 lacks in size it more than makes up for in attributes: the beach is a great place to enjoy a little solitude or even watch a mime or other performer. Read more »

Cowell State Beach


Rating: C

The wooden deck at Santa Cruz's Cowell State Beach isn't considered clothing-optional -- or even a beach. But on the hottest summer days, we've observed a few people skinny-dipping right off the platform, which was definitely a surprising sight. The pier there is usually used by surfers to put on or take off their wetsuits.

 

State beach.

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Private's Beach


Rating: A

Highly recommended! Life couldn't be better at Privates Beach, where there's almost no litter, wind, noise, or troublemakers -- a locked gate and security guards keep the latter out -- and world class surfers, such as those who starred in Endless Summer II, regularly put on a free show for the naked people who share the pristine sand with surfers.Read more »

Elsewhere in Santa Cruz Area


Rating: C

Full nudity isn't accepted, but on warm days, a dozen or more women usually sunbathe topless at both Santa Cruz Boardwalk Beach and nearby Capitola Beach. For several decades, lifeguards and rangers at the sites have allowed the practice to continue. So far, they've received few complaints.

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Rio Del Mar Beach


Rating: C

Rio Del Mar, close to the town of Aptos, is one of four adjoining beaches in south Santa Cruz County and north Monterey County where nudity isn't allowed, but occasionally occurs behind sand dunes, away from the sight of families visiting the sand. If you see rangers approaching, put your swimsuit on right away. "Most of the nudists are gay men, though straight folks also sunbathe without swimsuits at Rio Del Mar," says a reader. Read more »

La Selva


Rating: C

Keep your swimsuit handy at La Selva Beach, in case a beach cop drives by the sand dunes to try to scare you and your naturist pals away. A few naked sunbathers show up here on a periodic basis. "It's duney, but also so wide open in places that rangers can drive up and down and harass people," a regular says. What little nudity occurs usually happens on weekdays or when there aren't many other people present. Use discretion.

 

Unknown.

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Manresa Beach


Rating: C

Families often like to visit Manresa State Beach because of its nice views and good, dependable, mostly flat sand. But in the sand dunes of the north end, it sometimes feels like a different world because of the small numbers of nude sunbathers who've been attracted to it for years. Those who stay in the dune area seem to have few problems. Read more »

North Marina


Rating: C

Improved directions!

Nude sunbathers have been appearing on a little beach just 300 feet north of Marina State Beach for years. "People have been going here for two decades," says Tom, of Monterey. Adds frequent visitor and local business owner Debbie, "It's warm and secluded." The main sunning area for nudies is between two large sand dunes close to the shore.

Unknown, believed to be private property.Read more »