16 Best Nude Beaches in California

The Golden State is without doubt home to some of the finest beaches on earth. Over 800 miles of Pacific coast dotted with stretches of golden sand and famed surf spots. Combine this with the state's laid back attitude and you won't be surprised to hear California is one of the best places in the U.S. for going au-naturel.

As with much of the country, public nudity is technically prohibited across the entire state. However, in reality California has many popular naturist beaches, both officially designated and unofficially tolerated. Generally speaking state parks tend to be stricter about enforcing the rules while at other recognized beaches it has become more or less socially acceptable. In addition, some parts of the coast are more tolerant than others. So whilst there are no clothing optional beaches in all of Los Angeles County, in Santa Cruz you will be spoilt for choice.

All these beaches are all clothing-optional, which means that people are free to wear clothes or not, as they choose. However, it is important to be respectful of others and to dress and behave appropriately for the beach environment. Often beaches listed as being naturist are mixed use and will have a clothing-free "zone", which is more likely than not tucked away at the far end of the beach.

Below are a selection of the best nude beaches in California:

  • Baker Beach // Northern California

    Baker Beach
    UltraView Admin

    Situated between San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge to the north, Baker Beach is a flat, wide expanse of golden sand approximately 800 metres in length.

    In the city's Presidio area, its natural vistas are improved by views of the entirety of the Golden Gate Bridge on all but the foggiest of days. Within Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it also boasts a coastal… read more »

  • Bonny Doon Beach // Central California

    Bonny Doon Beach
    Nick Amoscato

    Pretty Bonny Doon Beach is a gorgeous sandy cove backed by high cliffs and flower-covered slopes creating a natural amphitheatre.

    Situated just off the Cabrillo Highway near Bonny Doon Road in Santa Cruz, it is part of Coast Dairies State Park with free parking but no facilities. The paved parking lot is open 8am to sunset but it quickly fills up. Beach access involves… read more »

  • San Gregorio State Beach // Northern California

    San Gregorio State Beach
    Nathan Siemers

    Close to Silicon Valley in the South Bay Area, San Gregorio State Beach is a popular beach with a large car park and good amenities. Located on a wild stretch of the California coast this is a great place for picnics, birdwatching, beach activities, walking, hunting for fossils and exploring the trails.

    Accessed from La Honda Road and Cabrillo Hwy, you will find restrooms, picnic tables… read more »

  • Black's Beach // Southern California

    Black's Beach
    Raquel Baranow

    Situated on the beautiful California coastline north of San Diego, Black's Beach is north of La Jolla at Torrey Pines, just below the famous golf course of the same name. The name Black's Beach comes from the horse farm in the area that was once owned by the Black family.

    A little off-the-beaten-track, the beach is accessed down a steep sandy trail from the Gliderport Parking… read more »

  • Muir Beach // Northern California

    Muir Beach
    Jesse Wagstaff

    Twenty-five kilometres from San Francisco, Muir Beach is the first beach you'll come across heading north into Marin County. One of the cleanest beaches in California according to official data, it is a part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

    While not the longest of beaches, at around 300 metres in length, it is wide, at 60 metres. The broad sweep of dark sand is… read more »

  • College Cove Beach // Northern California

    College Cove Beach

    Beautiful College Cove Beach is one of the finest beaches in North California. This public beach is near Trinidad, about 75 miles south of the California/Oregon border. College Cove Beach is the northern cove of Trinidad State Beach and has a more secluded atmosphere. It is separated from the main state beach by "The Portal", a natural arch through the rocks.

    The beach looks… read more »

  • Red Rock Beach // Northern California

    Red Rock Beach
    Andrew Ballantyne

    Noted as one of the best nudist beaches in California, Red Rock Beach is just south of Stinson Beach in California. It has a steep trail leading down from the highway so wear sensible footwear to reach this remote wave-battered crescent of beach which is favoured by naturists. You can also reach it at low tide by walking along the sand and scrambling over the… read more »

  • Black Sands Beach // Northern California

    Black Sands Beach
    Ryan Devenish

    Backed by steep grassy cliffs and is studded with occasional large boulders, Black Sands Beach has a length of approximately 800 metres. A short drive west of the Golden Gate Bridge, it sits between Point Diablo Light and Point Bonita Lighthouse in Bonita Cove.

    Facing broadly south, it's well worth tackling the dirt path that leads to Black Sands Beach. Not only are there some great… read more »

  • Pfeiffer Beach // Central California

    Pfeiffer Beach
    Robert Brett

    Pfeiffer Beach is in the Big Sur area of California. Roughly a mile long, it is located down a twisting and unmarked two-mile paved road that is unsuitable for RVs and trailers as it has only five points at which vehicles are able to pass one another in opposite directions.

    However, this beach more than makes up for the slight difficulty in getting there in sheer… read more »

  • Marshall's Beach // Northern California

    Marshall's Beach
    © Frank Schulenburg

    Located in San Francisco's Presidio park, which encloses an area of historic military installations at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marshall's Beach is the closest beach to this icon of California and the United States.

    Offering exemplary views of the bridge, as well as of sunsets over Helmet Rock and the Pacific Ocean, its rich golden-brown sands are reached via boardwalk-style steps that… read more »

  • Lands End Beach // Northern California

    Lands End Beach
    Willis Lam

    Close to San Francisco, Lands End Beach is a clothing-optional beach which is particularly quiet and private during weekdays.

    To reach it, drive west along Geary Blvd and take a right at the fork onto Point Lobos Ave. You can park by continuing along to a large car park or by turning right again onto El Camino del Mar and parking at the end.… read more »

  • Pirates Cove // Central California

    Pirates Cove
    Sergei Gussev

    Another California gem for naturists, Pirate's Cove is midway between Avila Beach and Shell Beach / Pismo Beach.

    This south-facing cove is sheltered which is probably why it is favoured as a nudist beach. Its secluded position and rocky caves would have made the beach a natural hideaway for smugglers when ships heading to Port San Luis Harbour dropped off smuggled liquor.

    Despite its… read more »

  • Gray Whale Cove State Beach // Northern California

    Gray Whale Cove State Beach
    Christopher Michel

    When you hear that Gray Whale Cove State Beach is on an area of coastline known as "Devil's Slide" this should help convey that the descent to the beach is steep and tricky.

    Just 18 miles south of San Francisco, situated between Pacifica and Montara, this state beach is popular for whale watching during the spring migratory season, hence its name. Great white… read more »

  • More Mesa Beach // Southern California

    More Mesa Beach

    More Mesa Beach near Santa Barbara is a secluded sandy beach between Arroyo Burro and Goleta Beach.

    It is accessed from Mockingbird Lane in the Vista La Cumbre development, however there is no parking in that area so you need to park on Puente or Vieja Drive. Enter the park and walk about ¼ mile across the open cliff top towards the ocean and… read more »

  • Laguna Creek Beach // Central California

    Laguna Creek Beach
    Miles Gehm

    Laguna Creek Beach is within Coast Dairies State Park in Santa Cruz on Cabrillo Hwy. It is popular for sunbathing, birdwatching, exploring tidal pools and surfing. It is also unofficially a naturist clothing-optional beach, just so you know.

    There is a free parking lot at the north entrance of Laguna Road off Hwy 1. Cross the highway and look for a well-trod trail through… read more »

  • Shark Fin Cove // Northern California

    Shark Fin Cove

    Located just a few miles up Highway 1 from Santa Cruz, Shark Fin Cove is a different world. It isn't hard to see where the beach gets its name from; viewed from the right angle the hulking rock that guards the bay's entrance cuts the same profile of a huge shark's fin. The sandy beach is also known as Shark Tooth Cove, for the same… read more »