Nude beaches around the world

Our expert offers tips on where to bare it all, plus cell phones in Spain and honeymooning in Oaxaca.

By Donald D. Groff

Published May 20, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Where can I go to bare it all in the Southeast United States? And are there any good guides to nude beaches around the world?

-- J.S.

Nude sunbathing has bounded out of the closet over the past 15 years, and there are many resources for tracking down clothing-optional beaches, resorts, organizations and activities in the United States and worldwide. There also are nude cruises and travel agencies that specialize in naturist vacations.

Chief among these sources is the Naturist Society, P.O. Box 132, Oshkosh, WI 54902; phone (920) 426-5009. At the Naturist Society site you can find a link to Nude & Natural, a magazine that covers all the territory you're considering. Click on "Network" for links to special interest groups, parks and resorts, bed and breakfasts, hot springs and travel consultants.

The range of au naturel groups titillates the imagination: Central Council for British Naturism, the Association of Czech Naturists, the Magyar Naturistak Egyesulete in Hungary. You'll be able to find a state or local organization wherever you're headed.

Be advised that in many quarters naturists find themselves under fire. A clothing optional beach near Cape May, N.J., was closed recently (multiple issues were involved), and Florida traditionally has taken a rigid stance against nude sunbathing, fearful that it doesn't fit in with the state's family vacation image. Even there, though, plenty of bare activity can be found.

The most recent edition of a longtime guide to nude beaches is Lee Baxandall's "World Guide to Nude Beaches & Recreation: New for the '90s," by Lee Baxandall (Elysium Growth Press, 1998).

Another intriguing and entertaining source is Salon's own Mondo Weirdo series of readers' recommendations of great nude beaches around the world.

I will be traveling to Spain this September and want to have a cell phone while I'm there. Are there arrangements one can make to get a "temporary" cell phone? I would like to use it to make local calls and receive long distance calls from the U.S.

-- Lupita

You should have no trouble renting a cell phone for your vacation in Spain, and you don't even have to wait until you depart. A number of U.S. companies will ship a rental phone to you before you begin your trip and provide you with the number to give friends and relatives. Upon your return, you ship the phone back. Many car rental agencies also arrange cell phone rentals abroad.

Companies offering rentals include InTouch, phone number (703) 222-7161, and Auto Europe, phone (800) 223-5555, extension 6031.

Cell phone renters pay a flat fee plus usage fees. Auto Europe said rates for Spain would begin at $60 per week, with discounts for longer rentals. Expect to pay $1 to $3 per minute for calls, depending on whether they're local or incoming from outside the country.

As you probably realize, your U.S. cell phone isn't likely to work overseas. European countries use a digital cell phone technology called GSM that differs from the standard here.

The term GSM, by the way, was chosen by the Europeans who planned the unified standard and comes from the French: Group Special Mobile. In 1989, new words were assigned to the acronym and it's now Global System for Mobile Communication.

Oaxaca, Mexico, sounds like a wonderful place, but I'm having trouble finding much information on it. My fiance and I are thinking about spending our honeymoon at a bed and breakfast there.

-- C.G., Columbia, S.C.

Oaxaca, 250 miles south of Mexico City, gets high praise from visitors. Many travelers credit the area's large Indian population for giving it a special atmosphere, and the town's main square -- the zocalo -- is especially colorful and lively. It's a charming city for walking, with many areas off-limits to automobiles.

Although it has a long-standing reputation for its crafts, silver-work and colonial architecture, Oaxaca is not overrun with U.S. tourists, hence the relatively low profile on the guidebook shelf. Still, tourism is growing and most Mexico guides feature sections on Oaxaca, including "Fielding's Mexico," by Lynn and Lawrence Foster (Fielding Worldwide, 1997).

You can find descriptions of Oaxaca from several points of view through Mexico Connect. Mexico Tourism can be reached at (800) 446-3942.

Several large markets, including the Saturday Mercado de Abastos, the 700-stall Benito Juarez Market and the Mercado de Artesanias offer a vast range of local goods, including the famous black-clay pottery still made using pre-Columbian techniques; rugs and blankets hand-woven of wool or cotton; baskets from tiny miniatures to designs too big to carry; Oaxacan wedding dresses and other traditional clothing; painted wooden animals and retablos -- dioramas.

Oaxaca also has a reputation as a good festival city, and the Day of Dead festivities in late October and early November are among the best-known in the country.

I am interested in going to Costa Rica in November. Any suggestions on what to see and do? I enjoy the outdoors, so biking, rafting and snorkeling are not out of the question.

-- M.R.

Costa Rica is a primo destination for anyone who appreciates outdoor sports -- hiking, biking, rafting, surfing, birding -- and natural attractions such as the aerial tram ride through the rain forest canopy at Braulio Carrillo National Park. The country is renowned for its national parks and its efforts to promote eco-tourism over logging and other destructive alternatives.

For travel planning, visit the Costa Rica Tourist Board site or call (800) 343-6332.

Costa Rica's status as a tourist hot spot means there are many guidebooks available. Among the best:

"The New Key to Costa Rica," by Beatrice Blake and Anne Becher (Ulysses Press, 14th edition 1999).

"The Costa Rica Traveler," by Ellen Searby (Windham Bay Press, 4th edition 1999).

"Costa Rica: Adventures in Nature," by Ree Strange Sheck (John Muir Publications, 1998).

"Costa Rica," by Rob Rachowiecki (Lonely Planet Publications, 3rd edition 1997).

Donald D. Groff

Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

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