Rio Del Mar Beach

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Rating: C

While nudity isn't officially permitted at a string of four beaches that begin at Rio Del Mar, near Aptos, and continue through southern Santa Cruz County and northern Monterey County, it occurs anyway, usually in the sand dunes, when both families and rangers are not present. If you see a ranger or lifeguard approaching, put on your suit right away. "Most of the nudists are gay men, though straight folks also sunbathe without swimsuits at Rio Del Mar," says a reader. "The state police who patrol Manresa do drive beyond their assigned borders and down to this beach, but they've never bothered me." 

Legal status: Unknown.

How to find it:

Look for the beach .8 of a mile north of Manresa State Beach and 2.1 miles south of Aptos Beach State Park, just south of Aptos. Take Highway 1 to the Rio del Mar exit. Go all the way to the coast (about a mile or two), then turn left (south) on Sumner Avenue. Follow Sumner, continuing past Seascape Boulevard, for about two miles until it ends. The nude beach is just south of the Seascape condominiums and inn. Park near the end of the road, walk toward the condos, cross over the train tracks, and follow a nearby wooden staircase down to a path leading through greenery to the sand. Or, at the end of the road, look for a security fence over a gully and take either of the well-worn trails on each side of the fence to the dunes near the gully. The nude area is about 800 feet south of where you'll enter the beach.

The beach:

Sand, dunes, and grassy knolls. Nudists usually stick to the dune areas.

The crowd:

"I feel very safe here because of the family beaches on both sides and also because of the people walking by regularly," says a visitor.

Problems:

Unknown legal status; rangers; proximity to condos.

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