Bare bodies in natural environments started to gain momentum in the 18th century when the English town of Bath publicized its hot mineral springs for therapeutic and healing properties, according to the BBC. In the U.S., suit-free swimming was encouraged as late as the 1900s. In fact, from 1926 to 1962, each edition of The American Public Health Association standard health guidelines recommended it. Many prominent figures even publicly declared their love of skinny dipping, including American president Theodore Roosevelt.
But today, in a society where swimwear is the standard, taking a skinny dip can be exhilarating. Here, five locales at which to give it a go—plus, luxe hotel and resort options in each. *Note that skinny dipping is technically not legal in public spaces in Mexico or Key West.
Germany is known for embracing Freikoerperkultur (FKK), or “free body culture,” and official nude beaches have been around since the 1920s. The first one was established on Sylt Island. Guests seeking high-end comfort shack up at Hotel Stadt Hamburg, a former 19th-century country house and a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux luxury resort group. Germany’s largest Baltic island, Rugen, also has five nude beaches. Ceres, a member of Design Hotels, is perfectly situated just steps from a sprawling, white-sand beach in Binz, a popular resort town.
Here, locals and visitors alike celebrate all things beer, flip-flops, schooners, and even drag shows. It’s as chilled-out as a Jimmy Buffet song, and visitors can hop on nude boat charters and hang out at clothing-optional resorts like The Pilot House. Stay, though, at Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, which hugs one of the nicest beaches in Key West, and it’s a short distance (via foot, bike, or car) to all the attractions.
Skinny dipping and nude bathing are a strong pastime throughout the beautiful Greek isles, especially the beaches of Mykonos. The further you head away from the crowds at Elia, Paradise, and Paraga beaches, the more acceptable it is. (Ask your hotel concierge to point out the legal nude beach areas on a map.) San Giorgio is conveniently located in the middle of all the party action, but if you want to stay on a quieter side, Mykonos Grand is an affluent traveler’s preferred resort (each suite has its own pool).
While topless bathing is quite common throughout the beaches of the French Riviera, like St. Tropez and Cannes, you can skinny dip closer to home in St. Barts. Saline, one of the most popular beaches in St. Barts, allows swimsuit-free sunbathing, and the tropical sliver of powdery white sand at Gouverneur Beach is also skinny-dip friendly. Le Guanahani is a favorite for the jetset, perfectly secluded with many suites offering private jacuzzis or pools for skinny-dipping in privacy.
When in Mexico, head to sublime beach towns further from the crowds, like Tulum, Isla Mujeres, and Holbox, all of which embrace a laid-back, bohemian lifestyle. Plenty of luxury resorts in Riviera Maya (the perfect launching point to beach day trips) offer rooms with private pools. Check out Viceroy Riviera Maya, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, and Nizuc Resort. The best place to go au naturel, however, are the cenotes, the famed underground sinkholes deep in the jungles. With azure waters, hanging vines, and some underwater caves, they’re the most scenic place for a skinny-dip thrill. Mayans traditionally went nude here to show their respect for nature.