After reading about it for years, we finally made it to Vera Playa on the Andalusia Coast of Spain. I’ll admit it, I had my doubts, assuming that this may well be the Spanish equivalent of Cap d’Agde, the (in)famous “naked city” in the South of France that, in my humble opinion, falls far short of Europe’s best naturist destination.
Turns out that Vera Playa is almost nothing like Cap d’Adge, except for the fact that it is a stand-alone municipality where you can walk down the neighborhood streets in your birthday suit, and to most of the locals, it will seem like business as usual. That is, unless you walk all the way across town and go into the grocery store. Seems that will turn a few heads, and most likely, get you thrown out of the market. (A significant difference from Cap d’Agde where the boundaries of the naked world are well delineated by a gate that separates the quartier naturiste.) No such boundary exists in Vera Playa, where the edges are growing increasingly blurry as the textile world encroaches with new condominiums and commercial centers.
There is an excellent on-line community dedicated to Vera Playa, with an extensive forum, and a vast array of resources, the most useful of which is a map of the beach and the adjacent residential communities. They have color-coded the map (and apparently updated it as things have continued to evolve) to indicate where nudity is expected, and where it is forbidden, while delineating those confusing areas where I think you can probably be naked and nobody will care.
We stayed in the only full service hotel in the village – the Vera Playa Club – operated as part of a large chain of resort hotels in Spain, and marketed as the only fully naturist hotel in all of Spain. It seems there are places on Mallorca and the Canary Islands that could challenge that statement, but to be sure, there is nothing else on this scale. The place has a Disneyesque air about it, (Thinking older Port Orleans resort Disney, not crazy big water park Disney) including a big amoeba-shaped pool with a couple of modest water slides, and a forest of palm trees to assist with the pacing of your exposure to the intense sunlight of the southern Mediterranean. Nudity is required in the pool area, (and it appeared to be 100% compliance during our stay, except for a few children in swimsuits), but nudity is not allowed in any public area of the hotel after 8:00 pm. Hard-core naturists have been ranting about this for years, but I suspect this policy solves a lot more problems than it creates for a seaside resort hotel with 250 rooms.
Followers of my blog probably know that I rely rather heavily upon (and contribute frequently to) Trip Advisor, acknowledging that while you can’t please all the people all of the time, it’s good to know where to set the bar on the anticipation scale before you get your hopes up. Vera Playa Club has taken a few hits in recent years as the place just celebrated its 25th year, and according to a few self-proclaimed ‘knowledgeable sources’ out there on the web, even though this hotel is only open from April to October, they run at the lowest capacity of any of the Senator Playa Hotels. This statistic was not evidenced during our stay, as nearly every lounge chair was filled around the pool during this particular weekend in late May. In any event, complaints about peeling paint and worn loungers are sad, but true, though I will note in the same breath that they were painting one of the main corridors during our visit. Is it a top flight, four-star hotel like a Hyatt Resort on Maui? Not even close. Is it one of the fancier naturist “resorts” we’ve ever been to, with a nice pool complex and most of the cushy hotel amenities you expect at a beach hotel? You bet! For the record, having read the recent reviews, I was pleasantly surprised by the amenities and condition of the place. My wife – while really enjoying the place, had only my filtered reports for setting her preconceptions, and thus, gave it lower marks on the luxury scale than I. I confess, I was clearly intoxicated from the over-abundance of sunshine and palm trees!
Acknowledging once again that our stay was on the shoulder season, at an excellent rate including breakfast, one couldn’t help but notice that the median age of the guests left us feeling like one of the young couples at the party; a sensation we don’t enjoy very often nowadays since our children have all graduated from college. There were a few young families, and couples in the 30-something arena, but they were by far the minority. But given that it’s another month until European schools let out for vacation, we were surprised to see any families at all.
What was remarkable, however, was to see so many aging naturists, some with significant disabilities, navigating stairways, tiles floors, and other pool area obstacles that can be hazardous to the young and nimbly athletic. In fact, it was heartening to think that this is a place where I could be very comfortable twenty-five years from now, meaning I’ve scarcely hit the midpoint of my naturist life! I met one British woman who had traveled extensively though naturist France with her husband, but now that she is alone, she simply makes a bee-line to Vera Playa. (Easily accomplished with several options for non-stop flights from the UK to nearby Almeria.) An important step in my own naturist journey is my growing appreciation of the inherent beauty of aging. One’s skin tells a lifetime of stories.
Of course, there is much more to Vera Playa than just this hotel. In fact, to read the banter out there on the web, the hotel is merely a distraction to the very heart and soul of the place. With a fair number of year round residents, many of the surrounding condominiums are owned as vacation homes; rented out when not occupied by the owners. On this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, the beach attracted a good crowd, with a more balanced demographic, including several young families with children. We developed a particular fondness for the Cota Zero beach bar, the rustic little shack right in the middle of the playa nudista. Good bar food, friendly employees, cold beer, and endless entertainment in the people-watching department were all on tap here. No shirt? No pants? No problem! We didn’t bother to check out the other eateries on the beach with naked clients, but even during shoulder season, it seems there are more than a few choices.
We were a bit taken aback by a couple of clubs of a tawdry nature down the street from the hotel, especially since we arrived on a Saturday night, and the fashion show was starting early as guests were assembling for a party across the street. Once again, nothing like the outlandish displays we’ve seen in Cap d’Agde, but it did make me wonder how I would explain the promenade to my 13-year-old daughter had we come here on holiday back when she was that age. But again, I say that knowing full well that we have friends who would say, “What, you took your kids to a nudist hotel?” Simply observing what struck me as an odd juxtaposition, just a few steps from the doors of a family-oriented resort.
So now we have another favorite naturist place, though it’s a long way from the place we typically call home. As beachfront property becomes an increasingly precious commodity, I hope the Vera Playa folks can hold their ground in protecting this naturist haven from those eager to don wet, clingy nylon. As an aside, federal law in Spain dictates that any beach can be a naturist beach as long as you’re not offending the locals. For many years, this proved true anywhere in Spain, until nudity (and perhaps the accompanying less than altruistic behavior) became commonplace on the streets of Barcelona, and legislation was amended to ban nudity in that Bohemian mecca.
I can only hope that’s not the leading edge of a sharper sword. Naturism is a good fit for Spain, and the perfect attire for Playa Vera is nothing at all!