Recent Comments


    Summer Fun at Clothing Optional Beaches: Black Sands, Pirate’s Cove, and Black’s

    By John Chen–

    For this final installment of my summer clothing optional beach series, I would like to introduce three more beautiful beaches in our Golden State: Black Sands Beach in Northern California, Pirate’s Cove in Central California, and Blacks Beach in Southern California. Please refer to my feature in the July 27, 2023, issue of the San Francisco Bay Times ( ) for several important “know before-you-go” recommendations and advisories.

    Black Sands Beach

    Black Sands Beach is a spectacular west-facing secluded beach in the southern part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area below the Marin Headlands. This is truly a unique beach because the sand is not the typical white or tan, but a dark charcoal that sparkles under direct sunlight. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Ocean Service, “black sand comes from eroded volcanic material such as lava, basalt rocks, and other dark-colored rocks and minerals, and is typically found on beaches near volcanic activity.”

    Jared Miekush braces for a wave crash at Black Sands Beach.
    Photos courtesy of John Chen

    The beach is accessible via steep, but manageable, steps and a trail with breathtaking views of the western Presidio, Sea Cliff, and Lands End right across the Golden Gate strait. Unfortunately, due to the angle, topography, and position of Black Sands Beach, sunbathers will not be able to see the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, giving the beach an even more far, far away feel.

    At the bottom of the trail, turn right or head west, where the nude sun worshippers congregate and set up shop, sometimes beyond and over the giant rocks. You are more than welcome to turn left as long as you don’t mind sharing the space with families and tourists. Once on the beach, you will immediately be awestruck by the glimmering dark colored sand and the coarseness beneath your feet. Be forewarned: the black sand does get much hotter than light colored sand so be certain to have appropriate footwear.

    Pirate’s Cove

    Pirate’s Cave at Pirate’s Cove Beach
    Photos courtesy of John Chen

    Pirate’s Cove Beach is located in between Avila and Pismo Beach along the Central California coastline. Originally, the cove was where “liquor was smuggled into the area on ships headed to Port San Luis Harbor” as stated on the San Luis Obispo official visitors site ( ). “Over the years it’s become a local’s favorite and clothing optional beach.” This “hidden” beach is at the end of a clearly marked trail with rather steep steps ending on the sand. The cove is south facing and therefore somewhat protected from the elements, making it a suitable spot to bare it all.

    Trail to Pirate’s Cove Beach at sunset
    Photos courtesy of John Chen

    More than just a beach, the location includes several sea caves that are on Cave Landing, a bluff high above the beach. The most visited cave and also the easiest to reach is the Pirate’s Cave, which is really a tunnel that leads to stunning views of the Pacific and the nearby San Luis Bay. Be careful, however, because at the other side of the tunnel is a steep drop onto jagged rocks masking several hidden caves below and within the bluff.

    Black’s Beach

    Perhaps the most well-known LGBTQ+ frequented beach in Southern California, Blacks Beach is the “go-to” nude beach for naked sunbathers from Santa Barbara through Los Angeles and into San Diego. Although there are other “clothing optional” beaches such as San Onofre, Black’s is where beachgoers can play volleyball in the buff, watch surfers riding waves, and gawk at paragliders sweeping across the sky high above the cliffs.

    John Chen with Eric Morrie overlooking Black’s Beach

    Located just south of La Jolla in north San Diego, Black’s Beach attracts mostly adventure seekers because the journey to the beach from the parking area is no joke. In fact, the official San Diego tourism website ( ) penned the following description:

    “Discover Black’s Beach. Some of the best waves in San Diego, but not for the faint of heart … [Black’s] is better known to the rest of the world as San Diego’s nude beach. Although nudism is unlawful in San Diego, it has persisted at Black’s for decades with the only real deterrent being the hike to get there. The nudists (or ‘nakes’ as surfers call them) tend to hang out north of the Glider Port Trail … . For the most part, surfers and nakes are the only people motivated enough to make the hike to Black’s.”

    Earlier this summer, my buddy Eric Morrie and I made the arduous trek to Black’s Beach and let me tell you firsthand, the hike was definitely not for the faint of heart. On our way down, we passed numerous “tourists” who huffed and puffed their way back up while making multiple resting stops. I’ll spare you the glorious details of our climb back up. Thanks to Google, I found the descend/ascend is nearly 400 feet and practically vertical! That’s climbing nearly 40 stories! Yikes!

    Despite such challenges, the lure of baring it all, to see and be seen, and to be one with nature is motivation enough for my buddy and I, as well as scores and scores of LGBTQ+ nude sunbathers, to persevere and forge downward and then upward.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Published on September 7, 2023