The world's best and worst jaw-dropping spectacles
by Lena Katz
Just like all so-called "sexy" concepts, the topless beach gone wrong can be pretty damn gruesome. On the flip side, some topless beaches provide a jaw-dropping spectacle of international hotness in all its thong-rocking glory. Follow our list to the must-see beaches below, and steer clear of the ones we warn against (unless hairy potbellies are something you want from a vacation). With a beach towel and Gucci shades at the ready, go forth and conquer. And please, for your own sake: Wear sunblock.
Hit These First
Topless sunbathing is permitted on all Miami beaches, but in South Beach you can really appreciate the best South Florida has to offer. Not only is this a favorite home-away-from home for European jet-setters and well-heeled South Americans, it's also a go-to spot for up-and-coming models looking to build their portfolios on the cheap, as well as buxom Botoxed blondes who couldn't make it on the high-fashion scene and have turned to more, well, adult ventures. Even with only a small percentage of the total crowd flaunting their goods every day, you're still guaranteed an R-rated eye candy extravaganza. The only question is: Are you hot enough to hold your own?
If the answer is yes, then you'll probably also feel right at home on a sun lounger at one of the various topless pools in Vegas. Right now, TAO Beach Club at the Venetian and Bare at the Mirage are two of the newest and hottest. Spendy see-and-be-scenesters splash down and party it up day and night, sipping top-shelf drinks and ogling each other in all their blonde, body-built, plastic-enhanced glory.
On the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, the exclusive beaches of St. Barths and Bermuda offer well-heeled patrons the opportunity to snooze beachside in peace and quiet. Hotels here are either so expensive or so secluded -- casual gawkers simply can't afford to breach their gates, while private villas take privacy to its utmost.
We can't talk topless beaches without mentioning Ibiza, the legendary summertime clubbing epicenter in the Balearic Isles. European and Aussie beauties siesta all day in the sun, wearing little more than a sliver of shiny fabric, then rouse themselves around 6 p.m. to rinse off and head to the clubs for an evening of theme parties and dancing to world-class DJs. Theoretically, this scene is ageless, but in reality you shouldn't even spring for the expensive trip unless you're willing to hook up and look nibble-worthy when stripped down to your skivvies and covered in foam.
Further afield but infinitely less high pressure are the many topless beaches of Croatia. The islands off the coast of this nation have something for families, nature lovers and bargain hunters and also offer a ton of clothing-optional zones, most of them close to a main village. Saharun on Dugi Otok is a hot spot with the clubbing crowd -- parties literally go for 24 hours or more at a stretch -- while the Cres Island beaches offer peace and quiet for naturists of all ages.
We hesitate to slam St. Tropez, just because it's such a legend, but two of our friends -- one male, one female -- have traveled there recently, on separate trips, and had no such compunctions. The woman pronounced herself "frankly underwhelmed," while our male friend said that while there was the occasional "totally hot" topless sighting, the majority tended to be "old, gay or granola." Cool for the gay crowd, not so much for the heteros.
To draw a parallel for likewise legendary Little Beach on Maui, we'd say: Cool if you're a 1960s-era free spirit, not so much if you were born post-1970. This protected little cove on Maui's southern tip draws about 90 percent men. And most of the nude ones sport ponytails, scruffy faces and, occasionally, fanny packs. The exception is the locals, who frequent this beach for its great waves, always wear board shorts and completely ignore the nakies even on the hilarious occasions when the surf plows them right into one another.
What is it about beaches with "black" in the name? Both Black Rock in Brighton and Black's Beach in San Diego draw a distressing number of creepy gawkers. British naturists warn women to steer clear of Black Rock; and when a flower-child friend of ours was meditating topless at Black's Beach, she looked up to discover an entire circle of men surrounding her, drooling lasciviously and encouraging her to lose her bottoms too. Yikes.
Do not hold us accountable if this one goes wrong for you. But if you know the Sonoma/Napa back roads well, try to make it to Bolinas one Fourth of July, where the local kids throw the coolest beach party in Cali. It's all barbecues, Red Tail Ale on tap and topless beauties running around with pierced nipples and pigtails. However, Bolinas is such a fiercely private town, they actually take the road signs down to deter guests from visiting, and if they spot you as an out-of-town gawker, they may try to escort you out. Still, if you can blend in with the locals, it's absolutely worth the trip.
Let Us Know if You Go
As adult resorts of all sorts (five star, all-inclusive, swinger, even "hostess"-style) spring up across the Dominican Republic, the beaches are naturally gaining an anything-goes reputation. However, it's too early in the game to see whether this Caribbean nation will turn into another Riviera Maya or a low-rent Jamaica. We're guessing it'll tip toward the latter, but if you've gone, feel free to comment. Your fellow risqué readers (and writers) would love to hear your feedback.