1. Farme Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The 411: This gay section of the famed Ipanema Beach sits under chic apartment buildings and hazy mountain peaks, and acts as the natural habitat for bikini-clad demigods, smooching lesbian couples in thongs, gossiping twinks, and the random closeted Brazilian TV star.
Bringing Sexy Back?: It doesn’t take long to figure out what the locals term “Barbies” – perfectly browned, rippled men who strut their stuff on the beach here, doing push ups, pull ups, sit ups, anything to get even browner and more rippled, all to the delight of I’m-not-really-staring-but-I-am onlookers.
Watch out: Don’t leave your valuables unattended if going for a swim or for an ogle.
Overall vibe: Exhibitionist, urban, sultry, bronzed.
2. West Street Beach, Laguna Beach, California
The 411: Laguna Beach is Orange County’s queer enclave beach town where West Hollywood boys sojourn to let their hair down and firm up their Speedo tan lines. The surprisingly undeveloped West Street Beach is the main gay hangout, with a following of lipstick ladies to the north of the beach. Volleyball games, designer swimwear, and posing are the order of the day.
Bringing Sexy Back?: If you know your porn stars (and who doesn’t?), you could collect more than a few autographs by casually strolling the sands here.
Watch out: Great for swimming, but pay attention to the underwater drop-off and occasional riptide. Parking is tight, so arrive early.
Overall vibe: Preened, bulging, shiny.
3. Fire Island, New York
The 411: The gayest isle in the world is home to two queer communities – the A-gay Pines and the everybody-welcome Cherry Grove, forever separated by the infamous, forested Meat Rack (aka “The Petting Zoo”). Both boardwalk-lined ‘hoods are carless and hopping in summer, but you may need political connections to spend the night here (everyone seems to have a “share” or a full couch). But it’s worth the effort to gaze upon the something-for-everyone crowds of beach flesh.
Bringing Sexy Back?: Manhattanites can’t wait to show off their chiseled gym bods they’ve been covering up all winter, both young and old alike.
Watch out: Time a day-trip carefully, since you’ll need to coordinate train and ferry schedules if you don’t find a place to spend the night.
Overall vibe: Exclusive, societal, hunky, boozy.
4. Tamarama Beach, Sydney, Australia
The 411: Tamarama (a.k.a. “Glamarama”) may not have the wedgie-Speedo wet dream lifeguards of Bondi Beach to the north, but the views are just as inspirational at this look-at-me gay cove lined with sandstone boulders, under the seaside mansions and sidewalks cafes of a posh Sydney neighborhood.
Bringing Sexy Back?: Aussies love the outdoors and it shows with their trim, tanned figures littering Sydney’s beaches, complete with smiles that are as wide as their continent.
Watch out: In summer (our winter, mind you), small Tamarama can get packed to the gills, so get there early. And bring the 45 – the South Pole’s burgeoning ozone hole makes skin cancer in Australia a common reality.
Overall vibe: Amiable, cozy, flirty.
5. Hippie Hollow, Austin, Texas
The 411: A short drive from liberal-loving Austin, the man-made reservoir of Lake Travis is the setting for the best little gay beach in Texas. Wooded hills spill down limestone cliffs, and huge boulders lining the blue-green water make perfect nude sunbathing terraces. Many yahoos (both straight and gay) rent houseboats and cruise around the lake, making for weekends of Southern-style outdoor aqua parties.
Bringing Sexy Back?: Hippie Hollow has long been a hangout for cute students and hipsters, not to mention cowboys who don’t mind dropping trou.
Watch out: Leave the kids at home – a 1995 ordinance forbids minors under 18 visiting Lake Travis.
Overall vibe: Festive, cruisy, local.
6. Elia Beach, Mykonos, Greece
The 411: The once super-gay Super Paradise Beach has been usurped by nearby Elia as the queerest stretch of sand in the Mediterranean. A United Nations of gays from all over Europe and beyond bask on chaise-lounges while sipping cocktails from adjoining tavernas and gazing on to the electric-blue waters and the cruisy rocky mountainside nearby.
Bringing Sexy Back?: More democratic than, say, the South of France, arid Mykonos nonetheless attracts a wide swath of chic Euros who know how to make tiny mankinis and manpri pants look refined.
Watch out: If you linger too late in the day, taxis can be hard to come by and buses and ferries stop at relatively early hours.
Overall vibe: Rugged yet civilized.
7. Wreck Beach, Vancouver, Canada
The 411: Framed by the tall forests of British Columbia, Wreck Beach is a student haunt for the adjoining University of British Columbia campus. Nudist vendors amble up and down the gray sand selling everything from gourmet falafels to handcrafted jewelry. The tolerant, laid-back vibe of Vancouver is apparent everywhere.
Bringing Sexy Back?: For the lovers of all things pierced and mohawked, the youthful crowd here is easy on the eyes.
Watch out: Parts of the beach are rocky (bring a foam mattress) and the hike can be muddy (wear an old shoes).
Overall vibe: Social, intellectual, ecological.
8. Oval Beach, Saugatuck, Michigan
The 411: The mellow twin artist communities of Saugatuck and Douglas have long been a gay Midwestern magnet. A short drive west of town are the gay-popular dunes at Oval Beach, full of sugary sand along breezy Lake Michigan. There are rumors of the area being sold to developers – so go now before it’s too late!
Bringing Sexy Back?: The beach itself may be so tranquil it can veer on boring, but the forests beyond are famous for being more “social.” Who can say no to those gosh-darn friendly Midwestern fellars?
Watch out: The beach is technically on private land, so use discretion
Overall vibe: Down-to-earth, quiet, couple-y, cruisy.
9. Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii
The 411: Tucked away on the arid, lava-rock southwestern coast of Maui, this tiny but pumping beach is one of the rare places in the Aloha State where locals and tourists happily coexist side by side. Boogie boarders splash by nudist lesbian couples and swimsuit-clad Brad and Janet from Virginia – everyone anticipating the frequent humpback whale sightings and explosive sunsets.
Bringing Sexy Back?: Maui’s best bods like to strut their stuff on the little cove – especially during the beach drum circles on Sunday evenings!
Watch out: Rental cars can get broken into, and the tropical sun can make for third-degree sunburns.
Overall vibe: Chatty, hairy, elbow-to-elbow, diverse.
10. Black’s Beach, San Diego, California
The 411: Perched under dramatically carved cliffs where hang gliders leap off, this is one of the oldest nude beaches in the U.S. and a reason in itself to visit gay-popular San Diego. The expansive beach has room for everyone – straight, gay, or otherwise – and even dolphins and seals pop up offshore. Unlike many California beaches, the water is relatively warm for skinny-dipping.
Bringing Sexy Back?: Less coiffed than L.A., San Diegans are a friendly lot who all seem to know each other, stopping for naked chats on the beach. The muscled surfers don’t seem to mind laying out nude either.
Watch out: The climb back up the cliffs is a killer (even if you’re a Stairmaster master).
Overall vibe: Roomy, bear-y, surfer-y, family-friendly.