Thanks USA Media – for confusing everyone about the concept of naturism!

About a year ago, I decided to augment this blog about naturist travel – which consists of things I have written about experiences I have had – with a second blog called The Discerning Nudist, dedicated to posting articles that are thoughtfully written, but mainly appear in the mainstream media, hoping that doing so will contribute to the over-arching ideal that naked is normal. Requisite of such a project is the arduous process of searching the web for material about naturism that one might actually call “thoughtful,” let alone effective in giving the reader some concept as to what naturism is actually about.

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Photo from European publication about naturism

As it happens, naturism, or nakation as it is often called these days, has been quite frequently in the news as of late, both in mainstream US publications, and any number of newspapers and periodicals abroad. What’s striking, however, is how the sensibilities of social nudity are portrayed in North America compared to that of Europe.

Consider, for example, this excerpt from a British newspaper, The Telegraph, speaking to the recent boom in naturist activities in France…

Some explain the popularity of nudism by an increasing desire to feel liberated from societal norms and the constraints of urban life. Sylvain Villaret, a historian, said: “The practice of naturism is linked with periods of great upheavals. Nowadays people are looking for meaning and many turn to causes like responsible consumption, environmental protection or social solidarity, especially the young. The values of militant naturism are in accord with with these causes.” 

France embraces the nudist lifestyle with yoga, restaurants and galleries  (The Telegraph, July 22, 2018)

Strangely enough, I have always held the perception that the British had the corner of the market on prudery, but even recent changes in law enforcement have reduced public nudity to a nuisance offense at most, and it seems more and more Brits are opting for clothes-free vacations at home and abroad. But then again, I’m not sure they have quite the same enticements one might find in an NBC news-feed…

Last night was crazy. Not in the Las Vegas sense of over-imbibing and forgetting where your hotel room is kind of crazy, but the kind where you go to a toga foam party and everyone ends up naked in a sea of glorious, sudsy, wild debauchery. And that was only the first night I spent at Jamaica’s Hedonism II, a clothing-optional resort situated against the sparkling blue Caribbean Sea.

Then later…

“Many, many people have at least unconsciously some sexual inhibitions, and they may long to feel less conflicted and more uninhibited,” she says. “Having an entity — like a resort — that other people endorse and subscribe to and gives permission to be extremely uninhibited (and in fact, for our society, unusually permissive), helps these people to feel excited and free in a way they normally cannot.”

Why Travel’s latest trend – the nakation – is gaining momentum  (nbcnews.com, July 21, 2018)

Excuse me? The nakation is gaining momentum? Which element of nakation? The toga foam party element or the permission to be extremely uninhibited element?

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Photo from American publication about naturism

But wait, let’s try a different source. Say, Forbes Magazine; a publication dedicated to leading business practices that had two features about nude travel in their July publications. Let’s start with the article about “cruising as the sexy way to travel.”

Like Bliss Cruise, Desire Cruise, whose parent company is called Original Group, is more than just a clothing optional experience for older travelers for whom curiosity is burning a hole in their bucket list. The cruises they host offer top notch dining and beverages, spa services, a clothing optional pool and erotic themed nights. According to their website, Desire Cruise invites couples to take their relationship “to the next level.” This, of course, does not refer to a higher deck on the ship.

Nude Cruising is the Sexy Way to Travel  (Forbes Magazine, July 30, 2018)

In fairness, that article talked about several nude cruise options, and that quoted clearly was at the extreme, but then again, if you lead out with the words “nude” and “sexy” in the title, it’s pretty clear where you’re headed.

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Photo from European publication about naturism

For another perspective, a female author wrote a quick guide to naturist resorts where she identified the benchmark destination as Hedonism II in Jamaica, a place that has found their marketing niche in helping people leave their inhibitions and their clothing behind.

Considered the granddaddy of clothing-optional resorts, Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica, has been catering to open-minded travelers since 1976. Guests have the option of staying on the “nude” or “prude” side.

Nude and Clothing-Optional ‘Nakations’ are on the Rise (Forbes Magazine, July 12, 2018) 

Considered the granddaddy of clothing optional resorts? WOW! Grandpa’s really got it goin’ on!

Under the banner of interesting timing, Nick and Lins of Naked Wanderings just published a very interesting blog post called, Can a Nudist Feel Comfortable in a Sensual Resort? They make a very compelling argument for the live and let live perspective, which I largely agree with – beginning to end. In fact, I have no desire to get into the weeds about the underlying values or morality of one resort versus another, or what people are looking for when they get naked (or not) with their friends. And to reinforce what Nick and Lins have found, the only time we have found ourselves in a awkward position of an unsolicited advance was at a place that was considered by most to be the epitome of holistic naturism.

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Photo from American publication about naturism

This is not a matter of whether there should be different strokes for different folks, but more accurately, the inability of the media, and I daresay, most Americans, to discern that there is a difference between a naturist place and a sexual playground! People in France know what to expect when they go to Cap d’Agde, and how a vacation at a family naturist center like Belezy or La Jenny will have a completely different ambiance. But how do you explain that to your next door neighbor on Main Street, USA when even the headline news tells you that social nudity is about foam toga parties, lingerie dances, and embracing open minded ideals. What does that mean, exactly… “open minded?”

I don’t know that I actually fault the American media for broadcasting such a bizarrely mixed message (Or maybe it isn’t mixed at all!) about naturism. It seems that every journalist’s first call is to the AANR (the American Association for Nude Recreation) which has had its own share of problems drawing the line regarding what defines acceptable behavior at a nudist place, starting with the pudding toss, and sliding off the edge about the time the lingerie dance begins. And I have made the case in several other posts that when you’re dealing with a limited demographic, it’s essentially impossible to be all things to all people without pissing most of the people off at one time or another. To that end, it’s not the media circus that’s driving perception, but the paranoia and Puritan ideals of your average soccer mom that is driving the media. How on earth does one stop that vicious cycle?

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Only mildly seductive. Does that count?

Twenty years ago, when we first started taking our children to French naturist resorts, I had hoped that one day in our lifetime, the barriers and prejudices related to social nudity in America would go the way of so many civil rights issues. But alas, I fear we live in an age where we have never been so deeply divided by our social, religious, and moral beliefs, which has created nothing less than a feeding frenzy for the press. Why would one think it would be anything less when it comes to a flashpoint topic like social nudity.

It’s quite a conundrum. One American writer states, “‘Nakations’ – or naked vacations, are on the rise and the nude and clothing-optional travel industry is booming.” Part of me is really happy to hear that! Maybe the numbers will grow to a point to where the naturism tourist industry can multiply and divide? But in the meantime, it looks like I either need to book a another plane ticket for Europe, or if I’m staying in my homeland, I’d better allow time to pick up some sexy underwear on the way to the airport.

Sigh…

 

 

TOP PICKS: Naturist Hotels

My more fervent blog followers will know that as I write this, we are currently on Mallorca in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. As is typical when “breaking the ice” with other naked people you don’t know yet, we’ve played quite a few rounds of the Where have you been? game. If you’re a naturist, you most certainly know the drill – a roll call of sorts to see who has been to most, or at least the most exotic, naturist clothing-optional destinations.

We have had the good fortune to visit quite a few, but in this case, I decided to focus specifically on naturist (or at least clothing-optional) hotels, each of which have been subjected to an incredibly intense screening process that consists of two very directed questions:

  1. Did we – my wife and I – like it?
  2. Would we go back ?

There will be subsequent blog posts to share our opinions about other types of clothes-free accommodations, such as naturist resorts with self-catering units, B&B type places, and maybe even a list of most exotic naturist destinations, (Brazil, Australia, and South Africa come to mind.) but in this case, I set out to identify full-service hotels that include amenities and conveniences you might expect at similar properties where clothing is required. And… the place should be enough bigger than a B&B so you can have some level of anonymity should you choose to do so. (A place with two or three guest rooms simply doesn’t offer that!)

So here we go. Our faves, listed in alpha-order:

FRANCE: Heliotel


This little hotel with about 16 rooms sits near the top of Heliopolis, the naturist village at the crest of Ile de Levant off the Cote d’Azur in France. The rooms are quite simple, but tastefully decorated and air-conditioned, which is especially welcome in the evening when the mosquitoes come out. They have an excellent restaurant overlooking the sea that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and while most dress for dinner, it is not required to do so. Ile du Levant is sort of a quirky place with a unique set of regulations that frequently turn up in the news, but it’s difficult to find a more serene naturist environment, and there are several dining options within walking distance, many of which are clothing optional as well, which is good, since civilian cars are not allowed on the island.

Of course, one of the main attractions of Heliotel is the island itself, which offers a calm little beach and an excellent trail along the rocky shores were nudity is obligitaire! We typically try to make it down to the shore and back before breakfast, as climbing to the top of the village under the midday sun gets pretty intense.

GREECE: Vritomartis

To fully appreciate Vritomartis you have to have stayed in other little Greek hotels to contextualize the “luxury” of this naturist destination. Every place seems to have a unique set of rules, and those at Vritomartis mandate that you dress for breakfast and dinner, but if you’re having lunch at the poolside tavern, wear as little as you wish! There is a main building with traditional hotel rooms, and several blocks of bungalows, with rooms that are more spacious and have a better view of the sea. All have air-conditioning.

Breakfast and dinner are also served buffet style, which while offering a nice selection can feel a bit pedestrian after the third or fourth night. We typically alternate between eating there and making our way into the nearby village of Chora Sfakion where there’s a nice array of seaside tavernas featuring lamb, goat, or the catch of the day.

In all, the place may make you pine a bit for the good old days in Eastern Europe, but they’ve continued to upgrade from one year to the next, and the organized/optional activities, such as naturist hikes and boat-trips, are a nice diversion. An hour’s drive takes you to the breathtaking Plakias Beach, or you catch the early morning taxi boat to Sweetwater beach, then walk the rest of the way – naked – to Loutro.

HONDURAS: Paya Bay

You have to have a bit of adventure in your blood to go to Paya Bay, a smallish resort that first opened as a yoga retreat with one or two naturist weeks, but now seems to advertise itself as a naturist retreat with one or two yoga weeks. It’s located on the tip of Roatan, an island well isolated from the civil unrest on mainland Honduras, but we still feel most at ease when they come get us at the airport in a private shuttle and take us right to the resort. The rooms are quite charming, several perched precariously over the crashing waves, but you have to be willing to deal with a few third-worldish things like power outages and non-grounded electrical fixtures. (Don’t hang your toiletry kit on the bathroom light fixture! 😬 )

You can be naked pretty much anywhere on the grounds EXCEPT in the restaurant, but the real charm of the place is the network of paths and quiet places to sit with a glass of wine and contemplate life and the sea. The yoga hut is perched at the top of one such hillside that oozes peace and calm whether you’re into yoga or not. If you’re into snorkeling and have been dying to snorkel naked, book one of the packages with daily snorkeling excursions. You might need a pareo to get to the boat, but after that, you can work on your all-over tan on the boat and off.

MALLORCA: Skinny Dippers Boutique Hotel

Patrons of Skinny Dippers on Mallorca are a fiercely loyal crew, and for good reason. From a hospitality perspective, Grant and Jordi are hard to beat! At present, they are running two properties that are essentially next door to one another: the first with twelve rooms including full-service (most days) for three meals a day, the other essentially self-catering apartments. The attention to nuance and detail is world class, as are the amenities around the pool, and thus, they tend to attract an international clientele that have made this their annual naturist destination, which can be something of a challenge if you like booking your holidays at the last moment. Most people book here at least a year in advance. (Jordi says that 85% of their guests are repeat customers. Enough said!)

While one can remain quite anonymous here, the conviviality of the hosts, and the evening meals at the long communal table are a significant part of the Skinny Dippers experience. A little wine usually produces a copious amount of laughter, and Jordi is quite magical in the kitchen with his various culinary creations. Here again, we find that alternating between naturist dinners at the resort and exploring local eateries provides just the right balance. You’re only a short drive from the turquoise waters of naturist beach Es Trenc, and we’ve enjoyed many early morning naturist treks along the sea near the Cap ses Salines lighthouse. Truly a special place for the discerning naturist.

MEXICO: Hidden Beach Resort

In a class of its own, which in this case I would call, you pay (a lot!) what you get! We have never fully succumbed to the all-inclusive ideology, which seems to suppose that you’re going to drink your weight in tequila to fully maximize your investment. That said, this forty-room luxury resort is among the nicest naturist places we’ve been to. Perhaps it’s the proximity to the US, but of all the places I’ve mentioned so far, there’s always a bit more of a party atmosphere here – never inappropriate like some other places that cater to friends with benefits, but a little less holistic than its European naturist counterparts.

Perhaps not so ironic is that the beach at Hidden Beach is… well… hidden! You can spend the day under a waterfront palapa and even hear the waves crash, but it’s really not what you think of as a beach on the Mexican Riviera, lacking a few basic amenities like jet-skis and sand! The other thing to prepare for is the restaurant scene. We’ve had particularly positive experiences with the food service at Hidden Beach Resort proper, which tends to vary from one day to the next with an extensive BBQ set up, but you also have access to the all-inclusive (except for fine wine!) restaurants at the adjoining resorts. Call us foodie-snobs, but we have found the other resort restaurants somewhat reminiscent of eating at Disneyland. As one reviewer put it, it’s like the chef took a course of how make things that look like gourmet food, but missed the day they talked about flavor. We concur.

As I write this, I realize I sound a bit lukewarm on the place, but we really do enjoy staying there when we can get past how much it costs! We can justify (and totally enjoy) a long weekend. Not sure it would merit a two-week stay!

THAILAND: Lemon Tree Resort (Peace Blue)

OK – I’m a bit more passionate about this place than my wife – at least so far, but to be fair, I have had three opportunities to visit this sweet little hotel on a side street near Rawai, Phuket, and the only time my wife was with me, half of the resort was closed for a private party. That’s all of little consequence in the end, however, since they are about to move to a new facility built intentionally as a naturist hotel. (At one point they had considered keeping both properties, but apparently that didn’t turn out to be a viable option.)

Run by young entrepreneurs, Patty and Golf, they take the hospitality part of the equation to heart, bending over backwards to make sure you’re having a wonderful stay. (You see this again and again in the Trip Advisor reviews.) Particularly impressive are their efforts to organize naturist outings, such as speed-boat trips out to nearby islands where naturist snorkeling and nude sunbathing is possible – neither of which would be tolerated on a beach near the tourist center on Phuket.

During out last stay, they drove us past the construction site for the new resort, Peace Blue, which looks like it will rival any modern luxury hotel in the region. And of course the best part of the deal? When the rest of the planet is freezing cold in January and February, you can count on warm (and mostly sunny) days in Phuket. It’s quite a trek to get there, but at least you know you’ll be warm when you do!

USA: Desert Sun Resort

Formerly Desert Shadows Inn, we have been staying here since they first opened with nine rooms in the early 90s, and have stayed in each section of the resort at least twice. As far as we’re concerned, it’s really about the only viable option for a nakation in the United States, especially if you rent a condo room and the restaurant is in full-service mode during your stay. (The original hotel rooms are quite small, and feel, unremarkably, like reconditioned rooms from a vintage hotel!)

We’ve heard people say that Desert Sun simply isn’t as friendly as the other nearby naturist places, but quite frankly, I think that’s what we’ve most enjoyed about the place, as we typically go there for a weekend getaway with the intention of not interacting with other humans. And here again, there are a plethora of fine restaurants just down the street in downtown Palm Springs if the food on offer at the poolside restaurant fails to inspire.

A bit of trivia for those who keep track of such things. The original Desert Shadows was run by Stephen and Linda Payne who, before opening this naturist inn in the desert, had been in charge of Papagayo at Club Orient in St. Martin. They would later return to St. Martin to manage the entire Club Orient resort which has tragically washed out to sea in a category five hurricane last summer. At this writing, Stephen is regularly updating the Club-O Facebook page about the challenges of rebuilding a naturist resort below sea level in a hurricane path. Don’t know if I would have included Club Orient on this particular list, but it certainly isn’t there now. 😧

So there you have it! There are a lot of other choices out there, including a few honorable mentions, like Vassaliki Club or Panorama Hotel in Greece, Mira Vista Resort in Arizona, Living Waters Spa in California or even Hotel Eve in France, (Cap d’Agde is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish) but those listed above have simply become our go to places – again and again. Have a question about our stay at one of those places? Ask Naturist Dan!

Authors note: An interesting detail about assembling this post is where I was able to comfortably take our own photos as space and custom allowed, and where I had to defer to stock photos found on the web, as it simply wasn’t prudent to grab a photo on the grounds. That also says something about the ambiance of each property, don’t ya think?!

GALLERY: Nakations on Mallorca

We’re currently enjoying our third “nakation” on Mallorca, each time finding a new little cove or a quiet trail for a naturist walk. We never tire of the turquoise sea and the brilliant blue skies, nor the amazing service and conviviality at Skinny Dippers Naturist Retreat. Thought it was time to post a gallery of some of our greatest hits from the past three years.

You may wish to see our other three posts about “nakationing” on Mallorca:

Nude Beach Combing in Mallorca

Mallorca Hospitality – Grant and Jordi Style

The North Side of Naked Mallorca

Yet another round of CRAZY on Ile du Levant!

I have been to Ile du Levant twice in the past six months, once by myself over a weekend adjoining a business trip, then just a few weeks ago – again for a weekend – with my wife and daughter. An annual pilgrimage of sorts. It’s an incredibly serene, beautiful place, well removed from the hustle and bustle of Nice and Marseille. The South of France as one might imagine it before all the hoo-hah about Bridget Bardot and celebrities at St. Tropez. But the best part… it’s a naturist island! Ostensibly, people live there – or at least vacation there – to live naked on the day-to-day. In this author’s opinion, there’s scarcely a better place in the world to do that. At least, until the police municipale* arrive to write you up for… wait for it… BEING NAKED!!

*In my original post, I had referred to the police as gendarmes. An on-line friend from France tells me that, in fact, the police municipale are actually quite a lot less that gendarmes – at the bottom of the ranking order for official authority in law enforcement. (Somehow, I’m thinking security guard at Walmart – with all due respect to those who perform that service.) But it does add to the comical drama of the thing. “Dispatch the security guards to secure the island from nakedness at once!” Ah, geez!

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If you read French, you can click through to read the entire newsflash (no pun intended) here! As it happens, the village of Heliopolis on the “Island of Levant” is actually a commune (or a borough) within the greater metropolis on the mainland called Hyères. It is apparently the law enforcement unit from that municipality that has dispatched two officers out by ferry boat to the island to make sure the inhabitants and visitors are abiding by three simple rules.

  1. You cannot be naked at the port! (Don’t want to frighten the people on the ferry bound for the next island. Seems a bit irrational in France, but let’s go with it.)
  2. You can be naked in the town square, but only if you are walking across the town square in transit to someplace else. If you want to stop to talk to a friend about the fresh croissants, you need to cover your genitalia – for hygienic reasons!
  3. You may not be naked in the shops on the island. Because… um. I don’t know because.

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In fact, we’ve been to Ile du Levant perhaps a dozen times now and I thought I had read every bit of legislation regarding nudity there, but this was the first time I had even heard about rule #3! Apparently, this has been a particular issue at a little grocery store with a terrace attached, where locals tend to perform on an open mic while onlookers soak up the late day sun over a glass of rosé. Mais non! say the police! Cover up now or we will issue a citation.

By the account in the newspaper, the locals – at least the diehard naturist locals – are outraged, which as has been typical in the past, leads to a call to bare arms and rally for the rights of people to live naked on the naked island.

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I have probably mentioned in a previous blog entry the most excellent book by Stephen Harp, Au Naturel: Naturism, Nudism, and Tourism in Twentieth-Century France. Among other things, the author tells the story of how the naturist movement first began on Ile du Levant well before World War II and continued to grow into a tourist boom-town, especially for Germans who were all too thrilled to learn of a place that was both warm and legal for nudists. Right from the start, there were issues with the local government about how naked is too naked, which resulted in this bizarre little garment called le minimum, which I think we would refer to today as a “banana hammock.” You can still buy them on the island, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do so, as stuffing my genitalia into a little cloth sack held up by a g-string seems way more sexualized (or at least sensualized) than being completely naked.

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Interestingly, the post-war tourism boom brought even more people to this little nude island, which while controversial, was generating big money in both tourism and taxes, so the story goes that the local magistrate turned a blind eye to the entire enterprise under the guise of freedom of expression. But as societal norms became more liberal, altruistic mores like naked for the sake of nature and health became much wider, which attracted the swinger crowd who embraced a different mantra something like – “You’re naked. I’m naked. Let’s do it!”

Apparently, that all changed when the naturist quarter of Cap d’Agde came on line in the 1970s. The amenities were greater, the accommodations more modern, and you didn’t even have to take a boat to get there. The legend goes that the swingers moved to Cap d’Agde, and for the most part, Ile du Levant returned to its sleepy little self where naked was normal in the most bucolic of settings.

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I suppose the argument for hygiene is a legitimate one. Apparently, the authorities are reporting that people are showing up at the bars in the town square, buck naked, and planting their bare asses in lounge chairs to enjoy an evening cocktail. I have to say though, most of the naturists I’ve encountered – especially in Europe – have been incredibly conscious about hygiene, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone seated anywhere on the island without a towel or pareo underneath. The implicit dangers of stopping for a moment while walking across the square seem a bit too grotesque to imagine, but it’s difficult for me to fathom that’s really a problem having visited so many French cities where the smell of urine permeates the air of a plaza or parking garage from somebody’s makeshift urinal of the night before. (I was in a big city in France the morning after the World Cup, and I have to say, it smelled disgusting!!)

Of course, I’m an outsider. Maybe there’s more to the story that I simply don’t know. But I can report that every time I’ve brought this topic up with a local on the island the response is pretty much the same – a puzzled facial expression, and a simple reply, “It’s complicated.”

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Seems not so complicated to me. When I stop to consider the officer who reported to work one day last week to get his assignment, “Take the boat to Levant and yell at the naked people,” I have to wonder about the bewilderment on his face. It’s one thing to be pissed off about catching an policeman writing you up for a parking violation, but getting a verbal admonition for being naked, on a naturist island? Sounds like that’s a bad day for everyone involved.

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