A vacation in the nude is not for everyone, but if the idea appeals to you, the opportunities are surprisingly varied.
You can, for example:
Cruise on a luxury liner or a Caribbean schooner.
Escape for a day to a Virginia farm.
Romp at two large and luxurious resorts in Florida.
Visit one of America's 200-plus nudist clubs or parks.
Sun on a beach in the Caribbean.
Explore a nudist village in the south of France.
Go canoeing on a Jamaican River.
The clubs and resorts give experienced nudists -- as well as beginners without qualms -- the opportunity to shed their clothes for the entire vacation. Other destinations that offer both conventional and clothing-optional beaches, pools and hot tubs may be a better choice for those who are hesitant or have companions who don't wish to bare it all.
The idea is to find someplace comfortable where nudity is accepted, and you don't have to worry either about offending or being hassled.
At least two U.S. travel agencies specialize in arranging vacations at nudist destinations in Europe and the Caribbean, and two national nudist organizations, the American Sunbathing Association and the Naturist Society, can provide information about where to enjoy an unclothed holiday in this country.
Longtime nudists and the resorts that cater to them say skinny-dipping vacations are becoming increasingly popular with Americans. They attribute it to a number of reasons: the sexual revolution of recent decades, the national fitness and dieting craze that has made many Americans aware and proud of their bodies, and the skimpy bathing suits that are fashionable for both men and women. From a bikini to nothing isn't a very big step. Europe, where nudism is practiced far more openly than in this country, also has been an influence.
"I think we're going to see a boom in nudity," says Jim Hadley, owner of Cypress Cove, a large nudist resort near Orlando.
Among first-timers, "It is usually the husband or boyfriend who wants to go," says Fred Bischoff, owner of Paradise Lakes, another large resort near Tampa. "But it is almost always the woman who wants to come back. When they see how wholesome and open it is, they really love it. It is a safe environment."
Opportunities for social nudity in the United States appear to be opening up at destinations not normally thought of as nudist-oriented. The Ventana Inn, a luxurious hillside resort on California's Big Sur coast, offers two large clothing-optional hot tubs and a sun deck. In Santa Fe, a mountaintop spa called Ten Thousand Waves provides a large outdoor communal hot tub where clothing is optional. Almost everyone goes naked. In sophisticated Key West, Fla., the Pier House, a classy hotel, has a private topless beach.
Over the years, the two national nudist organizations have worked to convince the uninitiated that going naked is not perverted, obscene or freakish. They contend it is natural, wholesome fun and a great way to ease out of the tensions of a work week. A nudist resort, they say, is like any other resort, except you don't wear clothing.
One survey cited by the Naturist Society of Oshkosh, Wis., concluded that 18 percent of the American public has gone skinny-dipping in a group setting with both sexes. "Skinny-dipping is as American as apple pie," says President Lee Baxandall.
The oldest of the organizations, the American Sunbathing Association of Kissimmee, Fla., has an individual membership of more than 35,000, most of whom belong to one of the association's 200 affiliated clubs or parks. It was founded in 1929, and it has worked to assure its membership the security of practicing nudity in private "without fear of harassment from the law." More recently, it has worked to establish clothing-optional areas at public parks and beaches, according to Executive Director Arne Ericksen.
The Naturist Society, founded a decade ago, took the lead initially, however, in working for clothing-optional sites on public lands. Its tactics have been openly confrontational at times. This has made for an uneasy relationship with the American Sunbathing Association, which has tended to work through less dramatic, legislative channels. The Naturist Society has about 17,000 members.
The society argues that public lands -- city, county, state and national -- should be set aside for nude swimming, hiking, sunbathing and other recreation. "We wish the National Park Service would take positive steps to acknowledge our presence as they do other activities such as hang gliding and snowmobiling," says Baxandall. He notes the example of Rooster Rock State Park, an Oregon state park on the Columbia River east of Portland. The park has an officially sanctioned clothing-optional beach. It is heavily used.
The two groups differ on other things. Practicing members of the Sunbathing Association generally prefer an environment where everyone vacations nude and most or all activities, including meals, are experienced unclothed. They call themselves "nudists." The Naturist Society -- members are called "naturists" -- ask only for the option of going unclothed at designated recreational sites, says Baxandall.
Travelers need not be a member of either organization to gain admittance to most of the American Sunbathing Association's affiliated clubs or to resorts in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. However, many of the clubs and resorts offer discounts to membership card holders.
In the United States, unaccompanied singles or homosexual couples may find it difficult to gain admission to many of the clubs and parks affiliated with the American Sunbathing Association. They are private organizations that prefer male-female couples and families. An exception is Sunny Rest Lodge in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains (see accompanying story, Page E1), which welcomes singles, male or female.
Ericksen expects that other clubs will follow Sunny Rest's lead. "I'm fighting for singles to be treated like anyone else," he says.
If a holiday unclothed interests you, consider these options:
A Caribbean cruise. You have a choice of a large schooner, a cruise liner or a luxury yacht. These "clothing-free" cruises are being put together by Caribbean Travel Naturally of Lutz, Fla., a travel company specializing in nudist getaways.
This year, the firm has chartered two sailing vessels in the famous Windjammer fleet for a series of four week-long cruises. The 66-passenger Yankee Clipper sails from St. Maarten on Aug. 5 and Dec. 30, and the 72-passenger Mandalay sails from Grenada on Sept. 30 and from St. Lucia on Oct. 7. The cost is $860 to $1,230 per person (double occupancy); the December voyage is an additional $200 per person.
The 320-passenger Ocean Spirit, a liner with such amenities as casino and disco, departs St. Petersburg, Fla., on Feb. 10 for the Mexican coast and Belize. The cost is $695 to $1,575 per person (double). Also in 1991, the luxurious Wind Star, a 150-passenger yacht, sails from Barbados on Oct. 27. The cost is $1,995 per person (double).
For information: Caribbean Travel Naturally, P.O. Box 897, Lutz, Fla. 33549, 1-800-462-6833 or (813) 948-1303.
A Virginia farm. Two organic farmers, Phyllis and Patrick Gaffney, have opened their Virginia peach and apple farm to day-trippers looking for a quiet, unclothed weekend getaway. The 211-acre farm, Avalon, is located on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Culpeper and Charlottesville.
The farm features a spring-fed pond with a cement bottom for swimming. Other activities include sunning and exploring the 40 acres set aside for nude visitors. You must bring your own lunch. The daily fee is $20. For information: (703) 923-4316.
A bus to the beach. A local Virginia tour company, Bare Buns Travel, is scheduling two overnight bus trips this summer to Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey, a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
A seven-mile stretch of the beach has become clothing-optional, reportedly drawing 2,000 or more visitors on a summer weekend. A ranger at the Sandy Hook Ranger Station -- who did not give his name -- insisted, however, that the National Park Service does not acknowledge the presence of nudity at the beach. The trips are scheduled for July 14 and 15 and Aug. 4 and 5. The cost for bus fare is $60 for singles, $100 per couple and $40 for children. Accommodations can be arranged.
The firm also plans a three-day visit, Sept. 7 to 9, to nudism's "super bowl" of volleyball at White Thorn Lodge near Pittsburgh. Bus fare and admission fees are $100 for singles, $160 for couples and $60 for children. Accommodations can be arranged. For information about these and other trips: Gary Brown, (703) 281-7736.
Two of Florida's fanciest nudist resorts. The two resorts, Cypress Cove near Kissimmee and Paradise Lakes outside Tampa, are among the finest full-service resorts in the country. Cypress Cove, by all accounts, tends to draw an older, quieter crowd and is more selective in its admission policies. Paradise Lakes is the livelier of the pair, which makes it popular with younger visitors, including singles.
Now in its 26th year, Cypress Cove is a 260-acre retreat wrapped around a sparkling blue 50-acre lake with a sandy beach for swimmers. In addition, there are six tennis courts, a swimming pool, a hot tub and a restaurant where dress is optional. Lodging is in 78 condo apartments or motel units. Campsites also are available. "The tempo is quiet and laid-back," says owner Hadley. Singles must be sponsored to be admitted. A motel unit rents for $65 a day; a condo apartment is $80 a day. For information: Cypress Cove, 4425 S. Pleasant Hill Rd., Kissimmee, Fla. 34746, (407) 933-5870.
Just 10 years old, 78-acre Paradise Lakes is a rapidly growing resort with a rather more sophisticated outlook than many nudist destinations in the United States. For example, it has five bars and a dance floor where, according to owner Bischoff, nudity is optional. Among the facilities is a 70-foot-long hot tub -- "longer than a tennis court." Also there are two other hot tubs, four swimming pools, five tennis courts, three volleyball courts and a five-acre spring-fed lake.
The resort, which has a large number of permanent residents, accepts singles but they must be members of the American Sunbathing Association. Accommodations are in a 150-room hotel, cabanas or condos. Rates range from $40 to $90 a night, depending on the type of lodging. For information: Paradise Lakes Resort, P.O. Box 750, Land O' Lakes, Fla. 34639, 1-800-237-2226 or (813) 949-9327.
America's 200 nudist clubs or parks. There are at least 10 nudist facilities within a reasonable drive of Washington that are affiliated with the American Sunbathing Association. These and other groups throughout the country welcome visitors who are considering membership. You don't even have to strip on the first visit or two. After three visits, you must become a member to be admitted.
Some nudist clubs have no facilities and meet in private homes. Many, however, own substantial acreage with a variety of recreational facilities such as a swimming pool. Most of these have campsites and a few have rental lodgings. The style ranges from rustic to swank, so it is wise to sample before you join.
A list of affiliated clubs and parks can be obtained from the American Sunbathing Association (see below). The association has just published a 200-page picture book, "North American Guide to Nude Recreation," which sells for $18.95 plus $3 shipping.
For information about Washington area clubs and parks, contact: Gary Brown of Bare Buns Travel, who also operates the Nudist-Naturalist Information Agency, (703) 281-7736. The agency is scheduling an informational session on July 20 in Alexandria for people interested in sampling nudism.
A nudist village in France. The village of Cap d'Agde, located on the French Riviera halfway between Marseille and the Spanish border, is probably the largest nudist center in the world. Nudity is practiced throughout the village -- at shops and cafes as well as on the two-mile-long sandy beach.
Skinny-Dip Tours of Bloomingburg, N.Y., has put together tour packages to Cap d'Agde as well as resorts elsewhere in France, Spain and Yugoslavia. At Cap d'Agde, the weekly rental of a condo apartment begins at about $520 for the summer high season. For information: Skinny-Dip Tours, RD 1, Box 294, Bloomingburg, N.Y. 12721, 1-800-828-9356 or (914) 733-4596.
A beach in the Caribbean: The Caribbean's two most-famous clothing-optional resorts are Club Orient on St. Maarten and Sorobon Beach Resort on Bonaire. Also, several of the all-inclusive clubs on Jamaica, such as Sandals Negril and Sandals Royal Caribbean, have clothing-optional beaches or offshore islands.
Tour packages at these and other Caribbean resorts are available from Caribbean Travel Naturally and Skinny-Dip Tours (see above) as well as most other travel agencies.
Canoeing in Jamaica. Since 1983, Peter Bentley of Maya Lodge has been leading nudists on nature excursions "to places which most people don't usually see." You can canoe a stream, hike mountain trails or relax on a secluded offshore island. The 15-acre Maya complex, which is located at a 2,000-foot elevation in the Blue Mountains, has a clothing-optional area. And Bentley can direct you to some 45 other small Jamaican inns and hotels with a similar welcome for nudists. Rates at the Maya are $30 a night for two people. For information: Sense Adventures, Maya Lodge, P.O. Box 216, Kingston 7, Jamaica, (809) 927-2097.
For information about nudism, contact:
American Sunbathing Association, 1703 North Main St., Kissimmee, Fla. 34744-9988, (407) 933-2064. Annual membership is $32.50 for singles and $47.50 for couples. The organization distributes a list of nudist clubs and parks in the United States and offers for sale a variety of other publications and videotapes explaining the nudist philosophy. They can be ordered by phone.
The Naturist Society, Box 132, Oshkosh, Wis. 54902, (414) 426-5009. As a part of its $30 membership fee, the organization distributes a quarterly 124-page magazine, "N (Nude & Natural)," that offers an update of nudist and naturist activities as well as articles about travel in the buff.