So… this is a continuation of a series of posts I started last winter, or… if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, last summer! Quite amazingly, I had the opportunity to make my way to six continents in five weeks, hitting every naturist place I could manage along the way. (You can find my previous posts here about Naked Africa and Naked Thailand.)
For you travel geeks out there, I should explain that I often use the month of January to bulk up my mileage account in an effort the keep my airline status, which makes everything quite a lot more comfortable for more perfunctory travel over the rest the year. In this case, I was able to extend a couple business trips into pleasure excursions as well, which afforded me the opportunity to check out a few new naturist places.
To that end, it was only recently that I became aware of Refugio Naturista near Playa Chihuahua, about 90 kilometers north of Montevideo in Uruguay. Uruguay? Who goes to Uruguay? To get naked? REALLY?
Turns out that this may be the most promising naturist destination in South America. There are certainly some nice naturist beaches in Brazil, and I’m told there are one or two in Argentina and Chile as well, but for years I’ve been looking for something that would rival the best naturist beaches in Europe. A family vibe with long sunny days in a place where naturism is not restricted to a two-hundred meter section of seclusion.
And imagine if there was a nice place to stay nearby where nudity was permitted. We found the rather spartan accommodations at Praia do Pinho in Brazil a few years ago, but up until now, that was about the best we could do. How is it that the family-run Refugio Naturista had escaped our consciousness when they’ve been in business for nearly twenty years? So much time lost!
Marcela and Ricardo run the place with their young daughter (at least until she goes off to university) and welcome you as if you were visiting their home. In fact, they live just a few houses down the road, next to a small string of apartment units that they have apparently acquired quite recently in an effort to increase their capacity for naturist lodging. That’s where we stayed, which required wrapping in a pareo for the three minute walk to the main lodge where meals are served and a rather large iguana comes looking for table scraps the same way your dog might do so at home. Don’t be alarmed! He seemed way more interested in my bread crumbs than my toes!
I speak almost no Spanish. Marcela has enough English to help you deal with the necessities of living, (even enough to handle the nuances of a gluten free diet!) while Ricardo needs very few words to demonstrate his genuine kindness. This is clearly a labor of love as they have created a laid-back atmosphere where clothing is optional and stress is forbidden. We happened to be there for BBQ night, when Ricardo cooked up a huge pile of meat on the open fire pit while we played the game of “How many words do we have in common with the other guests from Bolivia, Argentina, and Europe.” As is typical, the game got a bit better around the second glass of wine.
It’s really difficult to know when you’re pissing off the locals, or in this case, just how much clothing you need to wear on the way to the naturist beach just a few couple hundred meters away. Here’s again, an immodest attempt with a pareo seemed to do the trick. A gust of wind comes up to reveal a buttock or a breast? Meh – No problemo!
At the end of the road, a huge sign announces you’ve arrived at Playa Chihuahua (Again! How is it I had never ever heard of this place until about a year ago!?) where a small boardwalk takes you over the dunes and onto an expansive beach where a significant majority of the people are naked. Nudity is not required, but obviously, most preferred, making it an excellent option for a newbie naturist or reluctant spouse who simply isn’t sure yet. Lifeguards are perched in their little house on stilts, a massage tent awaits for those seeking self-indulgence, and the little Explora Beach Bar proved to have a policy of “No shirt? No pants? What would you like for lunch?”
As one who loves a long naked walk on the beach, it turns out this requires a bit of careful planning, as a significant estuary denotes the western border of the naturist beach, unless the tide is out and you can simply wade across to the other side where an isolated beach awaits. We attempted this twice, the first time realizing we didn’t have enough time to walk as far as we wanted, the next time unsure if the tide was going in or going out. A lapse of judgement on that front could send you walking for miles – naked – up and around through the neighboring beach town. Research matters! I regret that we had not planned a bit more carefully, as the long, sandy white beach was truly idyllic for nude trekking, and most people we encountered there during our brief exploration were naked as well. Next time.
Other things I did not know about Uruguay? Apparently it claims one of the most stable economies in South America, which was well evidenced in some of the newer establishments, such as beautiful wineries that are springing up in the coastal hills. We did make the drive into Montevideo one evening, seemingly close, but not so much during rush hour, only to find that it lacked the panache of places like Rio and Buenos Aires. Once we realized that even the parking garages in the theater/restaurant district closed at 6:00 pm, we got spooked, bought a sandwich at a gas station, and high-tailed it back to our naked refuge near the sea. Perhaps we inadvertently missed the charm of Uruguay’s principal city, but come to think of it, I’ve never seen a travel brochure that says, “Have the time of your life in Montevideo!” Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and stay naked at the beach bar.
Would we go back? The actual question is simply – When? From where we live near NYC, it requires a bit of doing (including an airport change in Buenos Aires) to fly into Punto del Este (just a few minutes drive from Refugio Naturista and Playa Chihuahua,) but I think that’s the way to go! Sometimes convenience overrides saving money, and in fact, we could have done well without a car had it not been for our impromptu winery exploration.
In any event, you want this place on your bucket list. We only ask that you don’t book the last room at the same time we’re hoping to go! 😃