The tropical Hawaiian island paradise of Oahu is renowned for its stunning beaches, tidepools, lava rock cliffs, surfing opportunities and family-friendly sandy coves. What it is not renowned for is nude (or naturist) beaches.
Oahu is among the most conservative of the Hawaiian islands – west Oahu even more so than the east – and the tourists flocking there and stripping for a swim have caused more than their fair share of conflicts over the past few decades.
Going nude on beaches is a topic heavy with legal and cultural complexities, with all parties involved needing to consider local tradition, individual freedoms, and societal boundaries in their discussion of the matter.
But What About Those Hula Girls, You Ask?
Interestingly, while you might expect native Hawaiian culture to be quite open about such things as nudity (with many of you no doubt thinking of the traditional Hula Dance costume which had women wearing more tattoos and flowers than clothes on their top halves), the century or more of Asian and missionary influence has impacted the accepted norms and made people much more conservative.
The Hawaiian Law On Public Nudity
In terms of Hawaii law, you can be topless, but not bottomless, on its state beaches, while local Oahu (Honolulu) police say there are no official nudist beaches on the island at all. State penal code 707-734, part of Hawaii Revised Statutes, identifies indecent exposure as a punishable offense, when a person intentionally reveals their genitals “in a context likely to alarm or seriously cause affront to another person.”
The law doesn’t distinguish between public and private spaces, but it clearly implies that individuals deliberately exposing their genitals on a beach may face fines or imprisonment. It is a law that is strictly enforced, particularly on more popular beaches, but not only – those disturbed by nudity will call in and report you without hesitation.
Kauai County and Hawaii County (Big Island) have similar laws to Oahu, prohibiting public nudity on all their beaches. Yet Maui has shown some acceptance of nudity on its quieter beaches, Little Beach being the best known of them, though nude bathing is still not a legal practice there.
So Can We Bathe Nude In Oahu Or Not?
With all the above considered, when tasked with finding a haven for the naturist bather in Oahu, we came up against quite a challenge. One beach, Polo, the center of many years of controversy and conflict between tourists, neighbors, nudists and conservative families, stands out even today as the most cited destination if you want to try out some birthday suit bathing, though even there it’s not guaranteed that you won’t be warned off by local police.
In this article, then, we’re going to share with you not only the best places to grab some full-on sun and surf in the nude while you’re in Oahu at its unofficial nudist beaches, but also give you some tips on how to stay safe and respectful so that you are less likely to get punished for doing it – because those of us who enjoy the naturist approach already know that in the vast majority of cases, there is no harm, no foul if you play it right.
Where Can I Bathe Nude In Oahu?
The reasonably secluded Polo Beach (officially the Makaleha Beach Park, sometimes called Polo Beach because of the nearby Polo Club) is located on the North Shore, about as far as you can get from the busy urban sprawl of Honolulu. Its isolation offers some privacy, which is why it is sometimes used for nude sunbathing, and why it is considered “gay-friendly.”
Access it via the long, sandy Polo Beach Access trail and head to your right (the left side is where the non-nude sunbathers head).
The sheltered Polo Beach, a little slice of paradise, boasts a pristine stretch of sand against a natural wall of ironwood trees behind you and the turquoise ocean in front. It will often be empty, or you’ll see it being used by horse-riders coming down from the Polo Club next door.
There are no lifeguards, so however enticing that water looks, tread and swim with care.
This is also a great beach to do some wildlife watching while you bathe au naturel. If you’re there at the right time, you might spot migrating whales off the coast, and (year-round) Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles coming up onto the sand for a rest (please don’t approach them).
Note – There has been some friction with local residents over recent years so we recommend you stay out of view if you want to nude sunbathe here.
The beautiful sandy Mokuleia Beach, not far from Polo, is also secluded, and on weekdays mostly empty. The sea can be rough (think 6-10′ waves in winter!), so unless you’re a professional wind- or kitesurfer, it’s more of a “sit and absorb the vibes” beach than one where you’d want to get in the water.
You’ll find both sun and shade, and the clothed and unclothed. Pick your spot respectfully, then lie back and enjoy the small aircraft and gliders playing overhead from the nearby Dillingham Airfield – they’ll certainly be getting a great view of you!
For fans of the TV series “Lost,” Mokuleia is where they filmed most of season one’s plane crash beach scenes, and just up the road is YMCA Camp Erdman- the “Others’ village.”
There’s plenty of parking here, though no facilities, so bring water and pack out what you pack in.
On the northwest corner of Oahu, Kaena Point State Park is a remote coastline park that offers hiking, picnicking, fishing and the chance to hunt for sea glass. There are two trails you can take: the Keawa’ula section on the west side and the Mokuleia on the northern. Getting to the point is a flat, 5-mile round trip hike from the nearest parking lot, and it can take up to two hours to walk one way, factoring in that you’ll want to stop and take a few photos on the way! The distance and climate (Kaena translates as “heat” – take plenty of water with you!) makes it less popular with tourists and locals, giving the beaches dotted along the way an appealing sense of seclusion.
The area is a bird sanctuary (albatross nest there) and is sometimes visited by the rare Hawaiian monk seal. It also has cultural significance- legend has it that this is where the souls of ancient Hawaiians would jump off into the spirit world to unite with their ancestors. Consider this cultural importance before you strip off there.
Here on the map, you can see Polo, Mokuleia and Kaena Point – all boasting great secluded spots for some careful nude bathing, though in most cases not great for swimming!
Kahuku (also named Kawela) is another beach that for many years has drawn nude sunbathers on Oahu. On the northeastern end of the island, it offers a gorgeous stretch of white sand behind Kahuku Golf Course that sees few visitors during the week- and you’ll need to actually cross the golf course to get there.
It can get very windy on this open, unshaded beach, and the sea can be rough and dangerous to swim in, particularly during the winter months. Also note that there are no facilities, so you’ll need to go prepared and pack out what you pack in.
We’ve read there used to be a nudist association that had get-togethers there, but it has been a while since they were heard of.
Go there during the week to have the space almost exclusively to yourself. This is a local spot, not touristy, and people head there to fish and boogie board in summer.
Alan Davis Beach
The Alan Davis Beach (officially named the Ka’Iwi Scenic Shoreline) is a hidden cove on the southeast coast of Oahu, near the Makapu’u Lighthouse.
From the lighthouse, it’s a 15-minute each way, 1.2 mile round trip on rocky-gravelly trail – bring the right footwear! When the trail forks, take the path on the right to the beach.
The beach is rarely crowded, meaning it can have the privacy you need for a relaxing time in the nude, if you get the timing right. It’s also popular with cliff jumpers who use the lava rocks and plank board at the end of the left fork of that entrance trail to jump into the turquoise water.
As a point of interest, Alan Davis is the man who established a 3,000-acre cattle ranch here in 1932 and named it Wawamalu Ranch. In 1946, it and the nearby village were completely destroyed by a tsunami..
From the Diamond Head Lookout viewing point on the side of the road near the lighthouse, to the left of the small monument to Emelia Earhart, is a trail that leads down to a beautiful, wave-pounded surfer beach. A section of the beach to the right is frequented by nude bathers.
Sand Island Beach
A simple, ocean-facing beach on a small island off the coast of Honolulu, this is an easy access destination with few visitors. Housing the coast guard base, this underutilized beach makes for a nice place to head to for some nude bathing.
It’s a great place for boat and ship-watching, though not so peaceful because of this, and also for this reason not so clean to swim at (and in winter, waves can reach up to 10 feet!)
The park has bathrooms, showers, covered picnic tables and urban camping on the weekends – which is when most families come, so keep this in mind when planning your trip. Bring in your own water and snacks and pack out what you pack in!
INTERESTING HISTORY: The island was known as Quarantine Island in the 19th century when ships quarantined passengers here if they were thought to be carrying contagious diseases. The US army had an internment camp on the island from 1941 to 1943 to house Japanese Americans and German and Italian foreign nationals at the start of World War II. Later, it became a POW camp and by the end of the war, 1,000 Korean and 1,000 Italian prisoners had been transported there. More recently, the island became a refuge for homeless people, but most have now been moved on.
Tips For Bathing Nude In Oahu
We’ll repeat that there are NO official nudist beaches on the island of Oahu (Honolulu), and it is against the law to go more than topless, however, there are numerous secluded beaches there that offer enough privacy to make it an option for those who like to partake.
To raise your chances of getting a relaxing afternoon at the beach in your birthday suit, without being frowned at or aggressively confronted by locals or taken away by the police, follow our advice:
- Go during weekdays, and start out early. Most you’ll likely get are a few fishermen on the rocks.
- Don’t bathe nude alone, especially if you’re a woman.
- Pick a spot away from the beach access, though not so far that you feel unsafe.
- Have a towel with you to quickly cover yourself with if needed, such as when others arrive on the beach – especially families with children. Flip the towel over your genitals and wait until they have moved away to uncover.
- Don’t be confrontational. If the police arrive, get dressed and move on. You are a visitor on their island and their law says no nude bathing. There’s nothing to argue.
To ensure everyone enjoys their beach time, whether they are nude or choose to stay covered up, have a look at these common principles followed by the global naturist community (and worth looking at even if you’re not one of the naturist team):
- Familiarize yourself with the local culture, customs and rules before you go, and make decisions based on these, accepting the consequences should you decide to go against them.
- Respect other people’s privacy and space and remember that not everyone is comfortable with nudity.
- Do not stare or point at other beach-goers.
- Read the mood and do not harass anyone. A fully exposed body isn’t an automatic green-light for non-consensual behavior.
- Avoid overly sexual behavior. A lot of conflicts with locals have arisen due to the misconception that nudity automatically equals something sexual and lewd.
- Be discreet. On unofficial nudist beaches, modest behavior will win over flashy.
- Do not aim your phones or cameras at other beach-goers.
It ultimately comes down to deciding between what the law and locals say and your personal choice to follow or not, when deciding if you should go nude on Oahu’s pristine sandy beaches. Above all we ask that you understand, respect, and tolerate others, whatever their bathing styles and customs, and to responsibly and carefully share the nature we have out there to enjoy and find peace in.
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the latest information about tourist destinations, sometimes life happens, weather happens, property owners happen, etc. We always recommend you go to the official web page and/or the relevant state authority page of your destination to check conditions, times and prices (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your adventure!