Do or Don't: Naked Vacations

The other night, I ate dinner with a friend who just returned from a California road trip. I expected to hear stories of coastal highways and see pictures of rocky cliffs and sparkly blue water. So you can imagine my surprise when she told me the most amazing sight was…


This was not what I expected.

“There were so many boobs!” she laughed.

She told me the high point of her trip was a late-night dip in the Esalen Hot Springs — beautiful natural pools with sweeping views of Big Sur, where clothing is sometimes optional (but eye contact is always appreciated).

“Everyone was nude, but it wasn’t weird at all!” she said. “There were people of all ages, shapes, sizes… It’s incredibly liberating. I would definitely do it again.”

The next day, while eating lunch at work, I chatted with an officemate who recently returned from a weekend getaway. Her favorite part? A visit to a nude spa. “I met this amazing woman who was there celebrating her 60th birthday,” she said. “We laughed a lot. The only weird thing was the waiters — you’re in a pool naked, and a fully dressed guy will come and bring you an iced tea.”

Intrigued, I surveyed a bunch more people — friends who work in book publishing and investment banking; humans whose outward personas don’t necessarily scream “I heart public nudity.” Surprisingly, many of them had participated in naked leisure activities.

Is this a trend? To paraphrase Mindy Kaling: Is everyone getting nude without me?

As it turns out, “nakationing” (yes, there is a word for it) is a $400 million global industry, encompassing everything from public beaches to five-star resorts.

While a nude escape doesn’t appear on my list of life accomplishments, on closer inspection, I suppose I have partaken in “acceptable nudity”: at a sauna in Queens or on a beach vacation in France. I can totally see how shedding one’s clothing could feel liberating. At the very least, you wouldn’t have to worry about tan lines or donning an ill-fitting swimsuit.

As my friends observed, going outside of your comfort zone can be surprisingly uplifting. While they expected to feel self-conscious, baring all allowed them to shake things up, forget about their flaws and just be. And isn’t that what vacations are for?

What are your thoughts on naked leisure? Have you ever been naked in a public space? Would you?

P.S. Naked babies at the beach and feeling comfortable naked.