“Feel the freedom!” That’s the mission statement behind the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), a not-for-profit group based in Kissimmee, Florida. Since 1931, the AANR has helped hundreds of thousands of nudists find like minds and safe spaces for wholesome, clothes-free fun.
Those curious about nudist gatherings might wonder how social interactions differ when one or both parties are unencumbered by clothing. To find out, we asked Carolyn Hawkins, the public relations coordinator for the AANR and a frequent presence at Kissimmee’s Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. Here are a few things to keep in mind should you ever find yourself on “nakation.”
1. You might be able to keep your clothes on at a nudist resort.
Some organizations like to ease first-time nudists into the unfamiliar world of genital exposure by arranging what’s known as a “clothes-optional” gathering. That means attendees are welcome to keep their clothes on—even if it’s just a long T-shirt—until they’re comfortable enough to leave them behind. “Clothes-free,” however, means that you need to shed your fabrics without reservations. If you find yourself in the former group, remember that certain areas will still frown on a lack of crack. “In all of our clubs,” Hawkins told Mental Floss in 2016, “you have to be nude to get into a pool or hot tub, even if it’s clothing-optional.”
2. A nudist resort might block your camera lens.
The advent of cell phones with megapixel cameras has made protecting privacy at nudist gatherings slightly more difficult; Hawkins said that anyone who strolls into a group clutching a cell phone will probably be called to the side: “At Cypress Cove, we have a red dot policy. If someone brings a phone, we ask them to put a red dot over the camera lens. No one’s complained about it yet.”
3. At a nudist resort, you need to bring a towel with you everywhere.
While no one is casting aspersions on anyone’s personal hygiene, most nudist gatherings mandate that guests carry a bath or beach towel with them at all times and use it as a barrier when sitting down. “It’s for sanitary purposes,” Hawkins said.
4. Footwear is welcome.
Because Florida is populated by fire ants, Hawkins said she frequently runs into nudists who sport shoes or sandals on an otherwise naked body: “There are also little sticks and things like that on the beach.” Hats and jewelry are also common.
5. At nudist resorts, people eat in the nude.
While this sounds like it might be hazardous when ordering hot soups, Hawkins says most resorts welcome nude diners (provided you bring that aforementioned towel). Some patrons might find a dining area chilly and wear something light to avoid feeling cold. And while most servers are nudists themselves, they remain dressed while on duty.
6. People at nudist resorts don’t monitor toenails. (Clip them anyway.)
While it’s probably good form to keep your nails trimmed, Hawkins said that most groups aren’t going to make a big deal out of some slightly lax hygiene. “That would be at a person’s discretion,” she said. “It’s about body acceptance.”
7. Public displays of affection are a no-go.
While you may discover a newfound appreciation for nature and the freedom of a non-clothed lifestyle, you can’t let it get out of hand. According to Hawkins, most clubs have the modesty of the minister in 1984’s Footloose when it comes to touching. “The most public affection displayed would be holding hands or a quick hug when you meet friends,” she said.
8. A single person might not make it into a nudist resort.
“The clubs try to keep a gender balance as best they can,” Hawkins said. While couples typically won’t have trouble being admitted, singles could be. “If a single male or female comes to the gates, they’re asked if they have nudist experience,” Hawkins explained. If not, and there’s no singles function planned, they might need to reconsider their nakation.
9. You can be nude, but you can’t look sexy.
For clothing-optional gatherings, Hawkins said that there’s actually a type of dress code: provocative lingerie, dresses, or tight jeans aren’t welcome sights. “That’s sex appeal, not a nude body,” she said.
That doesn’t preclude romance: Hawkins arranged several nude weddings for people who met at Cypress Cove during singles gatherings. And yes, the brides saved a lot of money by not having to buy a dress. “They can spend it on the honeymoon,” Hawkins said.
A version of this story was published in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.