Sex + Dating

What It's Like Stepping Onto a Nude Beach for the First Time

The first question my guy friends asked when I told them I was going to St. Maarten was whether I'd be hitting the nude beaches.

Classy guys, I know.

Still, it got me thinking. I'd never been to a nude beach before, and I was heading into primo clothing-optional territory. Specifically Orient Beach, famous for its au naturel revelers and home to several naturist hotels and resorts. So with a heady dose of YOLO familiar to any traveler, I decided to get outside my comfort zone, drop trou, and hit the beach.

Dropping inhibitions did not mean dropping my need to overplan

Seeing as it was my first time hitting a clothing-optional stretch of sand, I decided to do a little bit of preparation before venturing forth.

First things first: Find out where on the beach clothes become optional. No need to get arrested for disrobing at the wrong location. Second, sunning in your skivvies requires a TON of sunscreen. You'd be surprised at all the bits on your body that are really unaccustomed to daylight; and no one wants sunburn on their ass for the duration of their vacation. Finally, I decided to throw some magazines and headphones into my beach bag since I'd be stripping down solo.

Even on the long walk to the nude section of Orient Beach, I hadn't fully decided if I would bare all, bare none, or just go topless. I figured I'd see what it was like before deciding. I eventually made my way past all the rocks, the bar, and the sign I'd been waiting for that declared this section of beach "Clothing Optional."

I set up camp by the entrance (a quick getaway if the need/embarrassment arose) and removed my top. I had to force myself from instinctively crossing my arms over my chest. I know going topless isn't that big of a deal, but for someone who is hesitant to remove so much as her signature hoodie, topless felt pretty massive.

It starts out pretty awkward, but ultimately everyone on a nude beach is in it together

I soon learned that I failed on a few levels my first time at a nude beach. First of all, sitting by the entrance meant that I felt like the focal point of the people walking past me. Slightly uncomfortable for a newbie, even though at 31 years old I was easily in the youngest 1% of the people there. That fact should have made me less self-conscious; but the amount of stares I got as people approached the beach made me very uncomfortable.

Second, and I can't stress this enough, KNOW THE CHAIR SITUATION. I got stuck topless in a long conversation with the chair-rental dude, which I found hopelessly awkward. Of course, someone more seasoned might not have flinched at the interaction.

And actually, I'll concede that I might have just felt hyper self-conscious trying a completely new experience alone and in the buff. It's entirely possible no one was staring at me. Either way, and realizing the latter was most likely true, eventually I calmed down. In no time I was able to just enjoy the feeling of the sun on so many parts of my skin. All around me, bodies of every shape and size enjoyed the beach. And, surprise, surprise, it felt downright thrilling.

Nothing beats the tan you get while topless

Everyone else at the beach was in varying stages of undress.

Some folks were completely naked chilling on chairs. There were tons of topless-only women like me, and plenty of fully dressed men with topless women. Some people chose, like me, to ease into getting naked by picking spots on the beach and slowly stripping throughout the course of the day. Others removed their clothes the moment they crossed the magical clothing-optional beach demarcation.

I worked on the most even torso tan of my life (I did keep my bathing suit bottoms on). Hands down, this -- and the tingling sensation of public nudity -- are the best parts of being at a clothing-optional beach.

No matter how naked you get, nude beaches are exciting as hell… and a bit addictive

Once the wind turned a little cooler, I headed back to my hotel. I was fairly giddy, and quite content with my experiment.

In retrospect, maybe going to a nude beach alone is a little awkward. It might be more fun if you weren't sitting there by yourself, but I'm not sure how you determine which of your friends to go with (although I'm sure any of my aforementioned guy friends would have been game).

In all honesty, it wasn't as tough or intimidating as I built the experience up to be in my head. I would definitely be willing to go back to a nude beach, and even bare all, in the future. In fact, I think my next naked adventure ought to be to a naturist resort. Since returning from Orient Beach, I've noticed my bucket list has become a whooooole lot more interesting.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Jennifer Hope Miller is a freelance writer and photographer based in New York City. She enjoys hanging out with her dog -- and now has quite the taste for Caribbean excursions to work on her forever summer tan and hang out on nude beaches.