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?!

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

Naturist Extremes in Mexico – and figuring out what that means!

I’ve been procrastinating for nearly ten years in writing something about naturism in Mexico, mainly due to the fact that every time I think I have a comprehensive perspective as to what that means – naturism in Mexico – we visit again and I feel even more adrift in making any sweeping generalization that would help a newbie know what to expect. To be fair, our “research” on the topic has been limited to extended stays at two very different resorts, Hidden Beach near Tulum, and Playa Sonrisa at the southern tip of the Yucatan peninsula. We once stayed at a small inn on Solomon Bay that is no longer in business (for reasons that were evident during our stay), and we once did a walk-through at eco-resort Azulik which used to give more publicity to its clothing-optional status than it does today, but neither of those exist as viable naturist destinations today.

We have also met many people along the way who speak to the virtues – or lack thereof – of resorts with names like Desire and Temptation, but we’ve had neither the desire nor temptation to visit either of those as that simply isn’t our style, and thus, you’ll have to search those out on your own.

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

We have been to Playa Sonrisa twice in the past five years, perhaps four times to Hidden Beach over the past ten, most recently at the end of March in an effort to escape the mind/body-numbing cold of a prolonged Northeast winter. If only by price tag alone, Hidden Beach is most certainly high end, which has the implicit consequence of attracting a demographic that is willing to part with a small fortune for a week of naked nirvana. While many put down roots for a week or two at a time, we’ve never managed a stay longer than an extended weekend, partially due to the cost (Hmmm… A week at Hidden Beach or a month in Europe!?), but also due to the limited scope of the property. Beautiful and luxurious though it is, a walk down the length of the naturist beach might be stretched out to five minutes or so should you choose to stop and ponder the horizon along the way.

During our most recent visit, we arrived while a particularly convivial (read: boisterous) crowd was monopolizing the swim-up bar. While I’m typically pretty laisssez-faire about what one might encounter at a naked place, I found the tequila induced dancing on the bar a bit over-stimulating, having arrived this time in desperate need of respite and tranquility. But speaking frankly, my personal state of mind upon arrival should have little or nothing to do with an objective review of whether one’s nakation dollars are well invested in a visit to a specific naturist destination. A place is what it is The problem is figuring out what the place is before you arrive!

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach

This, to me, seems a marketing nightmare for anyone charged with growing the market for clothing-optional recreation anywhere, but especially on the Mexican Riviera, which is such a bizarre mixture of Spring Break destinations and All-Inclusive mega-luxury resorts, each in their own right intended to produce an overdose of self-indulgence amidst a landscape where the other predominant feature is an infinite jungle punctuated with smallish enclaves of poverty. Perhaps the fastest road to sobriety after a fun-filled night at the swim up bar is the realization that the monthly income of a middle-class resident on the Yucatan peninsula is roughly equivalent to a one-night stay at Hidden Beach Resort. Talk about a buzz kill!

But again, the mind of this naturist is meandering again, as what I find most fascinating about clothing-optional recreation in Mexico is simply defining what that is. And it seems I’m not the only one confused about that. Even in France, where naturist options abound, it doesn’t take a great deal of research to determine the difference between Cap d’Agde – famous and infamous for the pervasive sexual undercurrents, or family naturist destinations such as Montalivet or Belezy, where not only the “naturist etiquette” page makes the expectations forthright and clear, but the entirety of the website creates an ambiance where you quickly come to realize that this is not a good place to get frisky in the pool.

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The view from Hidden Beach

At this writing, I find the webpage for Hidden Beach to be particularly perplexing, where the splash page immediately triggers a brief video, along with seductive music, as a beautiful woman walks across the screen leaving a trail of undergarments (maybe a swimsuit?) in her wake. At last, the motto… “Come out of your shell… at Hidden Beach Resort.” That said, the policies at Hidden Beach are clear and seemingly well enforced, and beyond the aforementioned dancing on the bar, we’ve yet to experience anything there that would get one thrown out of a Disney resort. Nudity, notwithstanding, of course.

I also find it interesting that what has disappeared from the Hidden Beach website is the home-grown gallery of guest photos that was something like a TripAdvisor gallery, few of which featured full nudity, but most of which exemplified the people you actually meet and see at a typical clothing-optional destination, of which almost none (yours truly included) look like the 30-something models in the photos in the limited professional gallery that exists now. If you weren’t already intimidated by the naked factor, the beautiful people factor ought to frighten the self-conscious away, whether wrapped in a bathing suit or not.

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Playa Sonrisa

At the other end of the spectrum, and essentially at the other end of the country, is Playa Sonrisa, a quiet little resort that requires a five hour drive from the Cancun airport that leads you to a place that feels like the end of the world. Interestingly, owner/innkeeper Murph maintains two websites for this little naturist haven in the jungle; the original patchwork site found at www.playasonrisa.com, and a spiffier updated version at www.playasonrisa.net. In either case, however, he wants it to be clear before you make the long drive that what you will not find there is a swim-up bar, themed lingerie parties, or anything else that resembles a pulsing night-life. Additionally, your willingness to make the long drive will literally save you hundreds of dollars per day without compromising the main attraction – the opportunity for a few days of clothes-free, stress-free living.

We have many good things to say about Playa Sonrisa, beginning with the genuine hospitality of the owners best epitomized in the ethos of the 24/7 honor bar, to their unrelenting efforts in providing the necessary creature comforts in a part of the world just beyond the reach of broadband internet and your typical 900 channels of cable TV. In fact, that is their marketing niche, appealing to those who desire to get away from it all, including their clothing. With only eight or ten rooms at most, there seems to be enough appeal for this decidedly more rustic approach to make it difficult to book there less than a few months in advance. and Murph goes to great lengths to make sure you understand that what they offer is quite the opposite of the all-inclusive indulge-a-fest opportunities that lie to the north.

 

 

It’s worth noting that we’ve blown right past the opportunity to stopover at a newer condo-quasi-naturist resort in Tulum called Intima Resort, partially because we’ve never been willing to spend the time, and also, by name alone, we can’t quite figure out what it is. And therein lies the conundrum of the entire naturist marketing debacle. In fact, my confusion was confirmed recently when I stumbled across a GQ Magazine article from 2017 intended to help readers realize their clothing-optional swinging dreams. While focused on a couple resorts that are only mentioned casually here, they also gave a shout out to Hidden Beach as well, which explicitly rejects such playtime activities as part of their culture or acceptable behavior. (Thankfully, Murph and Playa Sonrisa dodged the bullet of an honorable mention altogether!) But how is the average consumer to know?

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A GQ artist’s depiction of clothing-optional Mexico

Or more importantly, how is the average moderately open-minded person to know what to think when clothing-optional vacations come up in casual lunchtime conversation? What if that spawns enough curiosity that she might go home and Google “clothing optional Mexico” just to figure out what it’s really about? That brings to mind another thread I recently saw on Twitter about the prudes who are so intolerant “about lingerie dances at nudist places.” What’s the big deal, she says?

The big deal is that it’s very difficult for the average person who has never experienced social nudity to differentiate where nakedness becomes provocative becomes sexually charged becomes the exchange of bodily fluids. And it’s always the GQ article that’s going to get the most hits and the most citations, especially from those looking for a reason to tell those crazies to “Put your clothes back on and behave!”

So there it is.

People are confused about clothing-optional recreation in Mexico. Sadly enough, I’ve been there at least a half-dozen times, and so am I. That’s not a good sign.

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Promotional photo from Hidden Beach