They say our dreams are never cheap, yet one of the most inexpensive fantasies involves imagining ourselves lying in our bare skin, exulting in the luxury of a wild beach or a remote cove. The nudist beaches that dot Spain’s 8,000-km coastline have an innate ability to appeal to our physical senses as well as our inner dreams. The time has come to go out looking for them, as the waters of the Mediterranean will be warm enough for swimming by mid-June.
1. A sandy spit
El Puntal (Ribamontán al Mar, Cantabria)
Nobody is immune to the charms of this beach, which is located smack in the middle of Santander, but is only accessible from the city by boat, or after a 40-minute trek from Somo. The pier is just across the construction site for the new Botín Center. Once there, the beach bar El Puntal is living testimony of how this sandy spit has grown in popularity: 45 years ago it occupied the end of the beach, and now only 300 meters separate it from Punta Rabiosa. Beachgoers still fill the chiringuito at lunchtime because of its popular rabas (squid strips) and albóndigas de bonito (albacore fish shaped into balls). The Robinson Crusoes of this beach take up an area located 150 meters from the beach bar, near the white dunes, while the side facing the bay is reserved for kids, and everyone else gets the spot with views of Magdalena peninsula.
2. Generous dunes
Els Muntanyans (Torredembarra, Tarragona)
This superb chain of dunes stretching for nearly two kilometers has an area of 200 meters reserved for the Adam and Eve types, who can lie here with the sound of the crashing waves in the background. This may well be the most relaxing spot in the entire Costa Dorada. To get there, park the car near the Cal Bofill Environmental Activity Center and take the boardwalk located behind the magnificent dunes —The Mountains, as they call them around here — until you reach the nudist area, which entails around a 10-minute walk. The water puddles that form at the back, and which will dry up in August, attract birds who have learned to live with the sound of the nearby passing trains. For a taste of the local cuisine, try El Vaixell restaurant.
3. Decompressing in the sea
Playa de los Alemanes (Foz, Lugo)
Translated as Beach of the Germans, this is just one of many strips of sand named after the European pioneers of bathing in the nude. This particular strand evokes the Germans who used to work at the nearby kaolin mine, which is still in operation. It is the most dazzling of the nudist beaches in all of Lugo province, and is also referred to as Area Brava. Bathers form a large family within the 135 meters of fine sand backed by a shield of cliffs where pine and eucalyptus trees are reflected in the water. Los Alemanes, which lives up to ISO 14001 and EMS environmental standards, is better enjoyed when the tide is going down. To get there, drive by Cangas de Foz, take the exit to Burela and park in Areoura. The path leading down to the beach is tucked in between a cluster of homes at various stages of construction. For lunch or dinner, most everyone likes to head back to the car and drive three kilometers to the restaurant Lugar do Sixto.
4. Tasty coquinas from Doñana
Chiringuito Bananas (Matalascañas, Almonte, Huelva)
Sitting atop a tall fossilized dune with no other buildings in sight, the Bananas beach bar flies its rainbow flag to announce the friendly and alternative lifestyle that rules along a 25-km stretch of untouched coastline between Matalascañas and Mazagón. Chiringuito Bananas is Andalusia's gay beach bar “par excellence,” and a living tribute to the original owner and soul of this place, Salvador Jordán, who has since passed away. The nudist area is located around 150 meters from here. The bar serves coquinas (small wedge clams), grilled choco (small cuttlefish) and for dessert, shots of rum, whipped cream and cinnamon. Patrons can sit back and enjoy the sunset to the sound of chill-out and bossa nova.
5. This place really rocks
Roques Planes (Calonge, Girona)
On the Costa Brava, seekers of nudist havens must take the side roads. In Sant Antoni de Calonge, leave the car at the free parking lot near Martina tower, then walk south for 15 minutes to see for yourself that it is still possible to find a virgin stretch of coastline dotted with nothing but pine trees. There isn’t a lot of sand to go around, but there are lots of flat rocks and other spots to lay down a towel and enjoy views of the bay of Palamós. Erosion has created the Roca Foradada (Hole-drilled Rock) and the Espalda de Ballena (Whale’s Back). Until mid-July, the local restaurant Guillermo offers something called Menú de la Gamba, a prix-fixe menu that comes with anchovy on toast, a plate of local shrimp, fideuá (a type of paella made with pasta), drink and dessert for €36.
6. Under the giant Faneque
Guayedra (Agaete, Gran Canaria)
Now here is one of those pieces of Canary Island heaven that have yet to be truly discovered. A dirt path veers off the GC-200 road linking Agaete and La Aldea, shortly after Kilometer 5. This 900-meter stretch takes you down a ravine that was once a major settlement for the aborigine people of the island. We are inside the Natural Park of Tamadaba, where the contrast between the green hue of the palm trees and the harshness of the rocks creates a unique charm. From here, it is necessary to continue on foot a further 15 minutes before reaching the most enchanting nudist beach in all of northern Gran Canaria, a place of pebbles and volcanic sand under the imposing presence of the Faneque, with its 1,000 meters of free-fall. Swimming here is dangerous.
7. 'Flysch' world
Siete Playas (Mutriku, Gipuzkoa)
The well-defined beach of Saturrarán is an excellent place for a stroll over to the crags of Atxeku and the country house of the Count of Motrico. A footpath bypasses the estate on its sea-facing side and leads down a flight of stairs to the wild area of Siete Playas, known for its black flysch sedimentary formations. Old Neptune is always a menacing presence around here, so experts recommend coming on days when the sea is calm, and two hours before low tide if possible. After that, consider another stroll down the newly refurbished seaside promenade to Ondarroa, to sample the creative tapas at Bar Cantábrico. Those looking for offbeat accommodation should check out the watchtower-house Haitzalde.
8. From seashells to amulets
Ponzos (Ferrol, A Coruña)
In El Ferrol, large but dangerous beaches are the predominant physical forms along the seafront. A concrete ramp leads down to this wild setting, where spots for sunset-watching are at a premium. There is nothing in Ponzos quite like walking along the water at low tide and gazing down at the ojos vidales, seashells used to make amulets. There used to be a gold mine here, and a cylinder-shaped tower that is still standing marks the beginning of the nudist sector. Swimming here is dangerous, and experts recommend doing nothing more than “poking the wave,” or touching it and quickly jumping out again. The nearby campsite, Cámping As Cabazas (www.ascabazascamping.com), has a school offering courses in surfing, skating and longskate (punkodeslizamiento.blogspot.com.es)
9. Happy feet
Son Bou (Alaior, Menorca)
The longest beach in Menorca is slightly over two kilometers long, and boasts fine sand that feels very satisfying under your feet. To reach the nudist area, leave the car back at the hotel and walk around 300 meters. This area is also accessible from Santo Tomás. The dune’s vegetation slopes down in a great display of beauty, as it blends in with the bright green of the prat, the second most important wetland on the island and a watering hole for numerous bird species. Bathers should heed the flags alerting to the swimming conditions.
10. A miracle in the Levante
L’Ahuir (Gandía, Valencia)
Now here is a true prodigy, a piece of surviving nature — dunes included — in southern Gandía, where untrammeled development is not exactly what one would associate with conservationist values. Yet the success of this two-kilometer strip of untouched coast has led to a conservation effort that includes long wooden boardwalks to protect the dunes. There is a nudist sector and another one for pets, with complimentary doggy bags.
11. A closed cove, reopened
Las Gaviotas (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)
This is the nudist sister to the beach of Las Teresitas. Situated three kilometers from the neighborhood of San Andrés, Las Gaviotas was closed to the public in order to enlarge and repave the sinuous access road and to preserve it from collapse. It is a mixed-use beach where nudists and non-nudists share space with bodyboard fanatics. The strip of sand is narrow and bathers will find themselves losing their footing very soon after walking into the sea, which is normal for a cove at the foot of a cliff. Two recommendations: get there early to find a parking spot and bring water with you.
12. The tourist vortex
Bascuas (Sanxenxo, Pontevedra)
This is a terrific half-moon beach set against virescent cliffs, where nudist bathers represent 100 percent of attendance. But the tourist hordes that descend on Sanxenxo during the summer make it a good idea to come before school is out. The entire beach is protected from the cold northern winds that can blow even in the summer, while the islands of Ons provide a natural screen against the southern storms. An added bonus: the ground slopes gently down as one walks into the sea. The restaurant Cany Playa has been offering its specialties, calamari sandwiches and fish, for the last four decades.
13. Safe from the easterly winds
Faro de Roche (Conil de la Frontera, Cádiz)
There are up to nine coves along the coast of Roche, safe from the gusty easterly winds that blow here. Thirty-meter cliffs rise above the sea while the waves eat away at its base and the sunset showcases their impressive earthy tones. Around 150 meters from the watchtower-turned-lighthouse, there is a lookout point over the cove of Faro, which is hard to reach (no footpath is provided) and thus ideal for nudist sunbathing. Go only when the tide is low.
14. Stairway to heaven
Las Escaleras beach (La Oliva, Fuerteventura)
We are now on the east coast of Fuerteventura, a mostly unknown place. Four kilometers south of El Cotillo, we come to a short slope at the end of a dirt road and, soon after that, a right turn that leads straight to the cliffs. Only 132 steps separate us from a real gem: the beach of Las Escaleras (literally, the stairs) also known as playa del águila (Eagle beach). Its openness to the Atlantic makes it an ideal spot for surfers. Come at low tide.
15. Highly protected environment
Barronal (Níjar, Almería)
Although the entire Cabo de Gata natural park is comfortable with nudism during off-season, there is one particular beach that is radically off-limits to textiles: Barronal, which extends over several coves. The parking area is the next one down from Los Genoveses (around three kilometers away). From there, it is a 700-meter walk down a rural path dotted with agave, rosemary and esparto grass. The beach has 800 meters of grey sand produced by the erosion of basalt. Remember to bring lots of water with you.
16. An indiscreet glance
La Vinyeta (Calella, Barcelona)
Where the Montnegre massif slopes down into the sea, we find one of the biggest attractions on the entire coast of Barcelona. Leave the car in the esplanade under the lighthouse and take the underground passage. La Vinyeta features thick yellowish sand where people use bathing suits until a spot 100 meters from the Rocapins beach bar (which serves paella for lunch and has a rock-climbing wall to boot). After that, the proverbial laid-back spirit of the nudist sector takes over. But there is a surprise in store: passengers on the commuter trains headed for Calella have a one-second window of opportunity to cast an indiscreet glance on La Vinyeta.
17. Far from everything
Es Caragol (Santanyí, Mallorca)
There are few beaches with such a power of attraction for Mallorca’s nudist crowd as the remote Es Caragol. Getting there entails walking for 15 minutes from the lighthouse of Ses Salines. The sand has been colonized by lilies and marine thistles, and the waters are clean and see-through, forming a soft curve that ends with the rocky outcrop of Punta Negra.
18. Even in Benidorm
Almadraba and Tío Ximo (Benidorm, Alicante)
They say that Benidorm has no official nudist beaches, yet nudism is practiced inside the Natural Park of Serra Gelada, in hidden coves that are easily accessible. The name of La Almadraba harks back to a time when the locals caught fish here the traditional way, but this pebbly cove is very exposed to prying eyes. Better try the cove of Tío Ximo, where bathing suits are on display in its tiny bathing area but nude bodies abound on the sides.
19. Off on an adventure
Salvados cove (Alajeró, La Gomera)
Getting to this hard-to-reach cove makes for quite an adventure: the final step requires taking a leap down, since the rope that someone once left there is long gone. Leave the car at Medio beach, which accomodates both nudists and non-nudists, and walk over to Chinguarime, whose caves are inhabited by folks who have opted for an alternative lifestyle. Behind the next crag, there is a spot where the waves are small and fishermen once took refuge from the storms. The sand comes and goes depending on the weather. Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the descent should take their clothes off in Chinguarime.
20. Thanks, Cuchillón
Ballota (Llanes, Asturias)
Ballota, together with Andrín, is one of the best-known and most photographed beaches on the entire Asturian coast, thanks to the lookout point of La Boriza. Yet its nudist corner is little known, and separated from the rest by El Cuchillón, a jutting rock that acts like a natural and gigantic folding screen. The beauty of Ballota is closely linked to its islet and cliffs. Remember to come when the tide is low to avoid having to put your towel down on the pebbles.