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: Reminiscing on Greece 2018

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We have two naturist adventures this summer – the first being Gavdos and Crete (the second is yet to come) – each of which are stunning for naturists in very different ways. Where I live, the weather has been bleak, rainy, and humid, so I decided to binge a bit this morning while reminiscing about […]

Vritomartis: The flagship for the naturist marketing conundrum!

We’re just back from Greece, or more specifically, Crete – where we made our fourth visit over the span of about ten years to the beautiful naturist hotel/resort Vritomartis, located due south of Chania. Directions: Leave the airport, drive through the industrial wasteland near the airport, climb over the daunting mountains ever-attuned to dodging stray goats on the winding roads perched on precipitous cliffs, until you reach the sea. Turn right, then left, then take off your clothes.

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An oasis on the edge of Crete

I keep looking for a word other than quirky to describe this remote naturist destination, particularly since I’ve used the quirky word in the titles of several other blog posts, at least one of which was about Greece. But quite frankly, I simply can’t conjure up another word that does that trick.

I’ll lead out with the ranting part first, which on the flip side turns out to be something of a statement of affirmation. Granted, going anyplace in Europe during the month of June, before schools have let out, puts an immediate and noticeable skew on the holiday destination demographics, but Simpsons fans will immediately relate if I suggest that the clientele of this Greek resort quite closely resembled the residential population at the Springfield Retirement Home. I realize that’s hardly fair, as we, ourselves, are hurdling through middle age at lightening speed, and my typical dismay of seeing Homer in the mirror each morning is slowly turning over to recognizing traces of the emerging Abe Simpson. Now in our late fifties, we are becoming part of that skewed demographic, but golly! There were a lot of folks in the 80+ crowd at Vritomarits this time around. GOD BLESS THEM EVERY ONE! But again… wow!

Bear in mind, getting to the southern shores of Crete is a bit more complicated than finding your way to La Jolla or the Jersey Shore. Even if you can find a direct flight from London, you’re still in for a 90-minute car ride over the goat infested mountains (Actually, we adore the goats!), which involves either a hefty taxi fare, or a demanding drive that requires a good sense of acuity and quick response time. (Again… lovin’ those goats!)

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Resort promo photo

This year, we met Anka, the new animateur from France, who not only led us on the naturist walk down the gorge above Anapoli, but was also charged with doing the morning water aerobics; yet another Simpsonesque scene with an attractive young (naked) woman leading high precision dance-like routines for a wildly un-synchronized group of folks that, even if unimpeded by the viscosity of water, were nowhere close to keeping up with this high intensity workout. Not especially different than when I encounter the water aerobics classes at our local YMCA, conveniently located across the street from a sprawling retirement community, but even there – a bit sobering when the place becomes overwhelmed with the 9:00 am fitness classes donning names like, “You can stay alive another year!” Those folks at the Y are all in swimsuits, but simply put, it’s always something of a mortality check. Like seeing the recent Paul McCartney bit on James Corden the other day – “Damn Paul, you still got it, but dude! You’re getting old!”

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Workout time at the pool

I’ve been working on a blog draft of the “Top Ten Places we’d go with our Clothes on,” in an effort to identify places that have amenities beyond what one might expect at the typically more rustic naturist/nudist establishment. We’ve found several places that would make the list, most notably those in Palm Springs, Mexico, France, Spain, Mallorca, and a couple places in Greece. But not surprisingly, at each of these places, we continue to encounter the recurring story of the people who decided to “live life dangerously after that last kid was out of the nest.” We got into naturism in our late twenties, and pulled our kids into the mix through most of their adolescent years, so we’re never quite sure how to weigh into that conversation that leads out with “Do your kids know where you are right now?”

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The naked walk in the woods

I guess that’s my point. Not that the over-eighty crowd shouldn’t feel at home in their own skin at a place like Vritomartis, and to be sure, that’s a serious part of the affirmation thing. Comfortable in your aging skin is a wonderful testament to the intrinsic value of naturism itself, but naked or not, it presents something of a marketing conundrum for upscale naturist resorts in their attempt to attract a balanced age distribution as most thirty-somethings may not be ready for an exotic holiday in a place where the other prevailing clients are 40+ years their senior. And despite all of the quippy blogs and articles that preach the virtues of naturism as a way of reducing vacation costs, that simply doesn’t hold true if you’re seeking accommodations nicer than a pop-up trailer at a rustic campground. In fact, the expense of getting to a naturist destination, and the implied surcharge of staying at a property with little or no competition in its class, typically means you pay a significant up-charge for the privilege of getting naked, which ironically skews the demographics even more as those same thirty-somethings are likely lacking the discretionary funds requisite for an upscale naturist holiday. Really! A marketing conundrum from most every angle.

As we’ve been to Vritomartis four times already, I suspect we’ll find our way back there within another two or three years. We really do love the place. You can find nearly 800 reviews on TripAdvisor that speak to the various amenities you will find there, and their new website is beautifully designed as they seem to be targeting a more upscale clientele, while making smallish upgrades along the way to create a more international, Club Med environment than what you will find at the parochial little hotels down in the nearby village of Chora Sfakion where you can find a basic room with a sea view for a fraction of the cost. Vritomartis is a must see destination for the discerning naturist traveler.

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Truly an oasis – a room with a view

All that said, perhaps of greatest intrigue is a quick analysis of all the banter about the aging naturist population under the “Doom and Gloom” headers of various naturist forums, as opposed to the proliferation of articles in mainstream media about recent trending patterns for those seeking something different this year – maybe it’s time for a Nakation! Seems to me that, as a whole, there is no immediate danger of the naturist marketing niche dying off anytime soon, (and I mean that as literally as it sounds), but for each eighty-something who simply can’t make it again to some far-flung remote, luxury clothing-optional destination, there will likely be three other fifty-somethings who have just rid themselves of their children, and in doing so, have decided to ditch their inhibitions and clothing as well. Vritomartis, and similar resorts in Mallorca and France, are running at full capacity for most of the season, which provides clear evidence that the naturist population isn’t actually dying off, but rather, it’s just a changing of the guards of clothing-optional recreation. Unfortunately, we’re not getting cadet naturists in the 20 and 30-something bracket one might hope for.

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From the Vritomartis photo contest

A few years ago, we visited a very remote naturist resort in Brazil (another interesting post I never got around to writing) which featured a funky hotel in the middle or a residential community that once again, has become something of a retirement community that opens its gates to a few adventurous travelers, not terribly unlike the atmosphere of Florida’s Cypress Cove, where the more modern facilities are flanked by rows and rows of little houses where people have settled in for their Golden Years. Our next stop in Brazil was a run-of-the-mill textile resort situated near the entrance to Iguazu Falls, crowded with exactly the holiday crowd you might expect; some older than us, and lots of families a good bit younger than us. I remember sitting near the pool, Caipirinha in hand, wondering if the day would come in my lifetime when we would experience this eclectic mix in a clothing-optional setting. Wouldn’t that be something if the swimsuit simply became a matter of preference rather than something ordained in the name of public decency? But in the meantime, we will continue to pay the nudity tax for our luxury clothing-optional travel endeavors, hoping that as time goes by, the mainstream media will help get the word out that naturist travel is not just for the aged and eccentric. It’s simply a choice to leave one’s swimsuit behind as apparel that is hardly useful and usually uncomfortable. The folks at Vritomartis are doing their part to promote that message. Hoping many more will take up their cause until choosing a naturist destination becomes as normal as deciding between the Marriott and the Westin.

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Another promo short from the resort depicting the good life. So who needs a swimsuit?

 

 

Naked with Goats in a Distant Land

So there it is!

In my very first blog post, I stated that maybe one day I might be able to tie all my musings and travelogues together into a single publication. A printed on paper book? Eh… I doubt it. But maybe one of those Kindle publications that sells for something between free and three dollars, ninety-nine cents. I’ve read quite a few of those now, each time thinking, “Hey, I could do that!”

IMG_7259In the meantime, a friend said, “You’re headed out for nakation in Greece. What will your next blog post be?”

How about “Naked with Goats in a Distant Land! What do ya think?”

“I’m pumped. Send it when it’s done!”

It was a magical moment of sorts. Thinking about that potential book deal with Kindle. (Is that what you call it? A book deal? With Kindle?) And how would I frame such a volume? Does the planet need another book about clothing-optional recreation? Or for that matter, another blog post even? How much more can one say other than “Go find a beach, take your clothes off, fait accompli.”

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But alas, here we are on Gavdos, a small island off the southern coast of Crete that requires a significant acumen for travel planning along with – at least – a recessive gene for adventure. Gavdos hails itself as the most southerly point in Europe as the lower tip of the island points down into the Libyan Sea well south of the shores of northern Africa. Egypt and Israel are merely a Greek athlete’s stone’s throw from here.

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Not unlike naturism itself, Gavdos is something of a dichotomy. As most are moored in deep religious ideology, Greeks have something of a mixed opinion on the subject of social nudity. While a few are willing participants, most see naturism (and the beaches where such things take place) as one spoke in the wheel of the bigger tourism economy. The number of “nudity tolerated” beaches outnumber the number of “official nude beaches” by at least 100 to 1! Quite different than France or Croatia with their massive naturist centers where you can be naked 24/7 should you so desire. In Greece, you’re always playing the “Can I be naked here?” game.

But let’s get real! Getting naked after sundown in southwest France (where the biggest family naturist centers are located) requires a level of endurance and resolve that is only one step removed from those crazy people in the Northeast USA who participate in the annual Polar Bear Plunge, charging into the January sea to gather data about what really shrinks in cold water! France’s largest naturist centers on the south Atlantic coast can be downright frigid at night, even at the height of summer. Greece, on the other hand, has the perfect climate for naked – such a bummer that religious dogma and the like gets in the way of clothes-free progressives.

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At this writing, we are at the end of day two of our second visit to Gavdos, most infamous for its unrelenting hippie culture of, “Don’t worry, get naked.” Our first visit, a couple years ago, was merely a one-day turnaround from the port of Chora Sfakion, allowing exactly enough time to find our way to the “big chair” at the southern tip of Europe, exploit a quick photo op, and skedaddle back to the boat to make our way back to our cushy accommodations at Vritomartis just minutes from the port.

This time, we decided to double down and really discover Gavdos. Is nudity accepted everywhere? Is it accepted anywhere? Is there a naturist hotel on the island? (I’m going with “no.”) Can I be naked on the veranda of my room in a non-naturist property? The owner of Gavdos Princess says, “Yes – as long as you use the veranda not facing the restaurant.” Can I walk through the villages on the island without clothing and without judgment? I very much doubt that. The villagers look like long timers who have little or nothing to gain by keeping the naked hippies happy, a sub-culture here on the island that seems to keep to their own enclaves under the scrubby trees near the beach.

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Can I walk the forest and coastal paths naked without fear of being convicted of a lewd or criminal deed? Well, there’s a question. Who’s going to arrest you? (I have yet to see a police car, let alone a person who would drive one, though my wife says she spotted a plain clothes police guy yesterday. Wonder if he notices we had no clothes?) And what would they arrest you for? Or more to the point, who comes to Gavdos without full knowledge that if you go near the sea, you will see naked people. And you don’t live on Gavdos without going near the sea.

What I can tell you for certain is that Gavdos is the small Greek Island that time seems to have forgotten. Said to have had thousands of inhabitants back in the Byzantine era, today it is the quiet, simple life that is most pervasive, where getting caught in traffic means you are surrounded in a herd of goats who take their time in crossing the road. In fact, it would be a great place to settle in for a few weeks, surrounded by calm seas and starry skies, and say… write a book! Maybe something like, Naked with Goats in a Distant Land.

Let me get to work on that.

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Nakation Chronicles VI: Mexico, SXM, and Greece

With our youngest graduating from high school, 2008 began a new era in our naturist meanderings, as the emphasis changed from family naturist destinations to, “Hey!? Are there other interesting places in the world where we can get naked?”

January of that year would bring our first visit to Hidden Beach Resort near Cancun, Mexico, noting that the opportunities for nude photography there were (and are) far and few between, and thus, the lack of photographic evidence here. We also made our annual trip to St. Maarten, which was beginning to feel a bit routine by then. But the big nakation of 2008 took us all the way to Crete where we found the naturist haven on the sea, Vritomartis. (Interesting timing as we will return to Vritomartis in a couple weeks, for the fourth time, I think! Most definitely on our top ten list.)

Greece is a funny place when it comes to naturism. Frowned on by some locals given the deeply religious nature of many who live there, but celebrated by others who even if they are not naturists themselves, appreciate this unique tourist niche, and the $$$ that follows. I think we’ve visited all the recognized naturist resorts in Greece since this first foray, but naked on the southern coast of Crete still gets our prize for most stunning nakations.

Make sure you check out the previous Nakation Chronicles installments:

Nakation Chronicles I: The Pre-Digital Age

Nakation Chronicles II: France and Corsica

Nakation Chronicles III: St. Martin, Croatia, Corsica and France

Nakation Chronicles IV: Living Waters, St. Martin, Cap d’Agde, Ile du Levant, and France

Nakation Chronicles V: SXM, Spain, and La Jenny