Everything you need to know to drop trou waterside
Named for the house number across the street, America's smallest nude beach could probably fit in your yard. And that's what makes it a magical place. You won't find crowds at this pocket size cove, which takes scrambling to reach and isn't recommended for children or anyone who isn't a good hiker. However, those who are agile enough to make it down a steep cliff and over some concrete blocks on the way down will probably be rewarded with an oasis of calm and a good spot to catch some sunrays. Even though there's a walking path just above it, the beach can't be seen from above. College students like to hang out here and, if they're lucky, get a glimpse of a local juggler who can sometimes be seen practicing his routines on the sand.
Directions: The beach is a few blocks west of Natural Bridges State Beach and about 2.5 miles north of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. From either north or south of Santa Cruz, take Highway 1 to Swift Street. Drive for 0.8 miles to the ocean, then turn right on West Cliff Drive. The beach is five blocks away. Past Auburn Avenue, look for 2222 West Cliff on the inland side of the street. Park in the nine-car lot next to the cliff. If it's full, continue straight and park along Chico Avenue. Use care in following the path on the side of the beach closest to downtown Santa Cruz and the municipal wharf.
PRIVATES BEACH, SANTA CRUZ
Surf and turf conditions at Privates are excellent once again. The beach — 4524 Opal Cliff Drive, north of the Capitola Pier — is nearly always pristine. "Privates is one of my favorite beaches," says Brittney Barrios, manager of the nearby Freeline Design Surfboards shop. "It's always very peaceful." Nudists, surfers, and families all mingle on the sand. "Everyone gets along," adds Barrios. "And it's never crowded." Barrios, who likes to lay out in the sun at Privates, says many of the local naturists share a favorite pastime: "They like to play paddle ball."
Directions: Some visitors walk north from Capitola Pier in low tide (not a good idea since at least four people have needed to be rescued). Others reach it in low tide via the stairs at the end of 41st Avenue, which lead to a surf spot called the Hook at the south end of a rocky shore known as Pleasure Point. Surfers can paddle on their boards for the short stretch between Privates and Capitola or the Hook. But most visitors buy a key to the beach gate for $100 a year at Freeline (821 41st Ave., Santa Cruz (831) 476-2950), 1.5 blocks west of the beach. Others go with someone with a key or wait outside the gate until a person with a key goes in, provided a security guard is not present (they often are). "Most people will gladly hold the gate open for someone behind them whose hands are full," says Bay Area Naturists leader Rich Pasco. The nude area starts to the left of the bottom of the stairs.
MUIR NUDE BEACH