The Naked Truth about Naturist Brazil

So, it’s September. Our summer travels are over and it’s back to the grind; a time that is always a period of reflection for me as I comb through photos of our travels while I start dreaming about the next adventure for the drawing board.

This time, I came across the photos from our trip to Brazil a couple years ago, realizing that I never actually blogged on our experiences there. Well, that is, at least not in the present or past tense. I did write a post about our perils of trying to to get there in the first place called “Getting Naked in Brazil = Complicated!” At the time, we were living in France, and we simply couldn’t find a way to maneuver the complicated task of getting an American tourist visa to Brazil while residing in France.

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Praia do Pinho

What I had NOT expected in response to that post was an admonishing email from a reader who warned me about the covert operations of the naturist movement in Brazil, and offered disquieting news about a particular place in Brazil where he cited a sort of pyramid scheme gone awry that ended in huge monetary losses and even allegations of murder!

Murder!? What the hell??? We already knew you had to be careful about pick-pockets in Rio, but is one really in danger of getting murdered while naked in Brazil?

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Cabins at Colina do Sol

Finally, at the end of 2015 (and into the beginning of 2016) we made it to Brazil, book-ending our trip with requisite visits to Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls, with stops along the way at the naturist beach (resort?) Praia do Pinho, and finally, the infamous Colina do Sol – yes indeed, the very place the dude had warned me not to visit. “And for God’s sake, don’t try to buy a house there unless you wanna get dead!”

Spoiler alert. We stayed a week at the place. We didn’t buy a house. And nobody got murdered!

While we were there, we stayed in the “Hotel” Ocara – something of a foreshadowing of our entire experience at Colina do Sol, which might best be described as an amazing idea that never quite came to fruition. It seems that one naturist entrepreneur named Celso Rossi had acquired a large plot of land in the beautiful green hills above Porto Allegre, then proceeded to lay out the plans for an expansive naturist village with summer homes sheltered in a tropical forest, a man-made lake, a full service restaurant and even a hotel. We spent quite a lot of time with Celso during our visit, who we found to be warm and resoundingly enthusiastic about all things naturism, but spoke candidly about the evolution of this naked utopia in Brazil.

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The lake at Colina do Sol

The story is long and tangly, but resonated deeply with me as I have a brother who got buried in the complexities of running his own business until he ended up in a negative cash flow situation, using tomorrow’s projected revenue to pay yesterday’s bills – always a landslide in the making. Add to that mix the Socratic (I use the word with trepidation) negotiations of the home owner’s association as various people bought into the dream of their own personal naturist vacation hamlets, and a particularly fervent group of Americans who were going to make Colina do Sol their go to place when it’s cold up here and the middle of summer down there. Even by Celso’s account, the sand started slipping from beneath his toes on his own beach, and the untimely death of one of the homeowners led to speculation and allegations about fiduciary scheming and criminal wrong-doing!

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Celso, our host

At the time of our visit, (2016) we stayed in the three story hotel where the top two floors remained unfinished. The lakeside restaurant that had once been the center of social activity had recently closed, and hours on the beach near the lake were decidedly quiet for a summer weekend day, though there were obviously people living in the cabins on the sprawling roads that provided a terrific circuit for morning naturist walks. We were the only guests at the hotel during our stay, and perhaps the first Americans to visit since the whole property management debacle of some years before, so Celso spent many evenings with us, guitar in hand, retelling the dream of his naturist nirvana and his unrelenting passion to see the project move forward, despite the hurdles of the past. At this writing, I think he still lives on the property with his wife, but is no longer involved in the naturist center (restaurant and hotel) that is rumored to be under new management and poised for a renaissance.

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The pool – heated by the warm air of Brazil

Would we go back? Despite the unpredictable weather, (It rains a LOT in that part of Brazil!) I liked the place quite a lot (more so than my wife) and could imagine a very pleasant stay in one of the little cabins when there’s nine inches of snow on the ground at home. Seeing video footage of the place when it was at its zenith – ten years ago, perhaps – I found myself longing for the vitality of the naturist centers in Europe, thinking this might be a viable winter alternative on this side of the Atlantic. That was not the case during our visit, but as is the case with most naturist places, timing is everything. It’s most definitely worth keeping an eye on the place, though indeed, I’m not likely to buy a home there!

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On patrol at Praia do Pinho

Our other naturist stay in Brazil, with its unremarkably modest accommodations, was at Praia do Pinho, about a 90 minute flight south of Rio. Here again, weather had a significant influence on our impressions of the place where rainy periods significantly outnumbered the sunny ones, and our small room became claustrophobic when sun-worship on the beach simply wasn’t viable. The beach itself turns up on many “most beautiful nude beaches in the world” lists, and I think that designation is well deserved. It simply hadn’t occurred to me that summer in the south of Brazil does not come with the arid climate of summer in the South of France. Interestingly, there were a lot of nice places to stay near Praia do Pinho that would have greatly influenced our overall read on the place, though it’s always difficult to weigh the value of the luxury walking naked from your room to the beach. I suppose it just depends on what you think a nakation actually is.

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A walk to the beach

As a footnote to our Brazilian experience, with all the fuss about that scantily clad girl from Ipanema, we saw exactly zero naked people or topless women on the mainstream beaches in Brazil. To be sure, the bikini bottoms looked (uncomfortably!) skimpy, though you see that just about anywhere these days. But suffice it to say, there was nothing on the beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana that would not meet the stringent Facebook rules for public decency – which the seasoned naturist knows to be ridiculously conservative. Like most South American countries, Brazil has its own fair share of prudery that belies the implicit notion that social nudity is really a thing there.

A beautiful county worth exploration? Absolutely.

A naturist destination for the sake of nakation? Sadly… not quite.

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Contemplating the story of Colina do Sol

 

 

Naked at the ends of the Earth – Part I

At this writing, I’m sitting on the veranda of my apartment in a lovely little naturist resort on Phuket – Lemon Tree Resort – one of but a few places where it’s legal to get naked in Thailand. Well worth the trouble to get here, but it is, indeed a bit of trouble to get here, which inspired the name of this post. As it happens, I love to explore and find places that I wouldn’t stumble into without some sort of incentive. For a naturist, that incentive is finding a new naked destination; good enough reason to spend a bit of time on internet finding a way to get naked at the ends of the earth. The main criteria for making this list is: 1) I doubt I would have come here had it not been for the opportunity to discover a new naturist destination, and 2) it has to be someplace I would consider visiting again.


#1 – Lemon Tree Naturist Resort near Nai Harn Beach, Phuket, Thailand

IMG_2484This is my second visit to this fabulous little place, and if you look it up on Trip Advisor, you will see that the young couple that runs the place, Patty and Golf, have developed quite a following in their first 18 months of business. (If you keep reading the reviews, you’ll also see there are some interesting challenges in running a naturist business in Thailand!) But as reported, they are gracious hosts, and have found a niche market in naturism, despite the fact that they are not naturist themselves.

IMG_2437It’s a smallish resort, but the rooms are among the nicest we’ve seen at any naturist venue, anyplace. Well appointed, clean and complete with kitchenettes. The pools are also relatively small, but the water temperature is perfect for floating and lodging yourself – mostly submersed – in a corner with a good book. Getting naked outside the resort is tricky, though they do run boat excursions during high season to smaller nearby islands, secluded enough to make a naked picnic on the beach. My timing was right during my last visit to take advantage of that, and it was truly a perfect naturist day.

Patty tells me she is encouraged that they are already seeing a pattern of repeat guests, which is a good omen for the long-term prospects of this business venture, and good news for people who are looking for a naturist destination when it’s icy cold in Europe and the US.


#2 – BB at Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

IMG_7919I was pretty consistent about blogging about our naturist trek that took us down the east coast of Australia over New Years 2017, but I lost footing about the time we got to Byron Bay, where we stayed in what I guess you would call a naturist B&B there, named simply, BB at Byron Bay. Debra and Michael are an intriguing couple who purchased this gorgeous home on a hilltop surrounded by green rolling hills just inland from the hippie haven that is Byron Bay. Our room was simply lovely, with a veranda looking out toward the sea, and we found an interesting mix of guests there that, like us, seemed to think “If I’m going to pay for a place to stay, all the better if it’s a place I can be naked.”

IMG_1437While adhering to European naturist values, (Deb had a few interesting stories to tell about various booking inquiries) this is hardly your typical naturist place, and it took us a couple days to figure out the routine of simply coming and going. (I think we actually set off the burglar alarm one evening!) Our hosts were truly gracious in sharing their home, but as is often the case when staying at a B&B, it took a while to figure out what was ours and what was theirs, especially during the morning breakfast routine.

But all that aside, the location was fantastic for exploring the beach towns near Byron Bay, while affording us a visit to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to bulk up our photo collection of Koalas. I hear there’s some controversy regarding the continued naturist status of Byron Beach. Would be a shame should that become non-naturist as it was truly one of the finest naturist beaches we’ve visited with miles of walking to be had au naturel. Don’t know when or if we’ll get back to that part of the world, but if we do, I hope BB at Byron Bay, and the nearby naturist beach, are still alive and well.


#3 – Harmony Nature Farm near Rustenberg, South Africa

IMG_7336It’s been a few years since our visit to Harmony Nature Farm, and I think a lot has happened for Piet and his crew since that time, so I was delighted to see the recent update to their website, suggesting that naturism is booming in this unique hillside retreat about two hours north of Johannesburg. We stayed for a week in December of 2013 and were literally welcomed like family.

A stay in the local Hilton this is not! Accommodations are in little stone cabins that Piet and his father built one by one over years of developing their little naturist nirvana. As indicated on their new website, most of their naturist business is on the weekend, and we had to remain attuned to the sensitivities of the staff during the week, as social nudity IMG_9505is far from the norm in this part of the world. Piet took us along on his grocery run one day so we were able to lay in provisions to cook for ourselves during most of our stay.

While requiring clothing, the highlight of the week was most definitely Piet’s personal safari for us and one other couple who frequent the resort. It was a full-day affair as Piet forged the innumerable dirt roads of the Pilansburg Game Reserve outsmarting giraffes and elephants en route to the best watering holes. This is our only genuine safari experience to date, so we don’t have much to compare it too, but it’s difficult to believe it gets better that Piet’s version.

As a naturist destination, it’s a long ways to go to get naked, and even in the early South African summer (the week before Christmas) it was a bit chilly much of the time for total nudity, but a stay at Harmony most definitely provided a unique spin for our African adventure.


#4 – Panorama Naturist Hotel on Zakynthos, Greece

There are a few excellent opportunities for naturism in Greece, including nearly any secluded beach on a Greek island if the timing is right, but our visit to the Panorama Naturist Hotel on Zakynthos was particularly memorable, largely due to the people who run it. Natasha, her parents, and their little white dog Poochi won our hearts immediately upon arrival – once again, a case where a non-naturist family opened a naturist operation in hopes of finding a niche clientele. With so many repeat guests during our stay, it seems that was an excellent business decision.

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While not quite so far off the beaten track as Thailand or South Africa, what most surprised us about Panorama was how subtly it blended into the neighborhood, marked only by a simple sign that indicated Panorama Café and Swimming Pool. We would have never found it had we not know exactly what we were looking for.

As you will find in online reviews, the rooms and the food are basic, but Natasha’s cheerful personality made it pleasant and enticing for guests to hang out near the bar. And even though this is the quiet end of Zakynthos, we found several tavernas within walking distance with great food and lovely ambiance – worth getting dressed for.

IMG_7045As opposed to the vast possibilities on Crete, we found naturist beach combing on Zakynthos a bit disappointing, particularly by late September, though hanging by the pool proved a worthy endeavor, which is where we spent most of our naked time chatting up a few regulars from The Netherlands. For that alone, Panorama is most definitely on our “get back to one day” list.


#5 – Colina do Sol near Porto Alegre, Brazil

Many of our naturist quests have been spawned by the desire to find someplace dependably warm in the month of January, particularly challenging with the loss of some of the tried and true Caribbean locations. Since January is the height of summer in South America, naturism in Brazil seemed like the perfect answer.

IMG_0189As it happens, there are several naturist enclaves scattered throughout Brazil, though perhaps none as renowned as Colina do Sol in the rolling hills above Porto Alegre. The last time I mentioned this place in my blog was during our initial inquiries about the naturist scene in Brazil, which kept leading me back to this once vibrant naturist community. The whole place was the dream-child of one Celso Rossi; an entrepreneur of sorts who laid out the original plans for a community of cabins, shops with the basic amenities, and finally, a lakeside restaurant and hotel.

That post elicited a fiery response from an angry American who was part of a cohort of folks that sought to make Colina do Sol an American nudist destination. Despite hearing the stories from the Celso himself, it’s still difficult to figure out just what happened, but today, Colina do Sol remains a picturesque naturist community nestled in a lush valley of Brazil. The hotel and restaurant are now under new management and a new name – Hotel do Lago – and you can actually rent a couple of the cabins on Booking.com.

IMG_0223Our stay there was nothing short of pleasant and nostalgic, if not a bit moist with a good bit of rain and humidity. At the time, the hotel was still unfinished, but our simple room on the ground floor was adequate, and the makeshift restaurant-nightclub on the top floor afforded gorgeous sunset views over the lake. Were we to return, I think I would try one of the rental cabins, as many of them seemed well appointed with covered terraces and screened-in porches. It seems that in it’s heyday, naturism was a booming business in this little valley, and while most of the houses and cabins – perhaps 100-200 of them – seemed inhabited, it was very quiet during our stay. Not quite the mid-summer French naturist resort vibe we had been hoping for.

I’ll be eager to see what becomes of the new Hotel do Lago, and it appears there’s a new effort to make subletting the cabins a bit easier than it has been in the past. The place was an incredible dream, and alas, most definitely does offer a place to get naked in the dead of North American winter!

Watch for Part II about our travels to Corsica, the Canary Islands, Mexico, Honduras, and a very different naturist place in Thailand.