Many people who come to Maui are confused about whether nudity on Little Beach is actually legal or not. My name is Richard Spacer, President of Kauai Naturists, and I’m here to help answer your questions.
Hawaii State Obscenity Code
Simple, non-lewd, non-sexual nudity on the beach in Hawaii is not illegal, contrary to what 95% of people believe. It is only illegal at state park beaches. Now you may say, Makena is a state park, and yes that’s true, but the boundary line is where Big Beach is divided from Little Beach. So while nudity is illegal on Big Beach, it’s actually legal on Little Beach.
There is a Hawaii State Obscenity Code that deals with public nudity, but two unanimous State Supreme Court decisions in September 2000 settled the issue. In the rulings for two cases, Hawaii v. Milford and Hawaii v. Kalama, justices ruled the “cult” of nude sunbathing was not affected by the law. One case dealt with men sunbathing nude at Polo Beach (near Mokuleia) on Oahu in the late 1990’s – they were arrested before being tried on Oahu at the First Circuit Court and eventually convicted. After deciding to appeal the decision, they hired three female attorneys and at the State Supreme Court, won.
Nudity at state park beaches like Big Beach and Diamond Head in Honolulu is illegal because of a DLNR administrative rule against nudity inside state parks. The vast majority of Hawaii’s beaches, however, are not within state parks.
Rule of Thumb
One would not take this ruling and be advised to go nude on Waikiki or other crowded beaches, as the prosecutors and judges would see you as intentionally trying to offend. A general rule of thumb is that if the beach is not visible from hotels, homes or roads and requires a hike to get to, you will likely encounter some nudity.
Top-free, the correct way to describe topless sunbathing for females, has been legal since a 1979 court ruling in State v. Crenshaw. The case from Diamond Head drew two legal conclusions – breasts are not genitalia and thus their exposure is not illegal, and, such exposure is not lewd. Hawaii also has an open lewdness statute, and the Crenshaw case and two cases in 2000 ruled top-free and non-sexual nude sunbathing as not lewd conduct.
I, Richard Spacer, have been unanimously appointed to serve as Area Representative for the Naturist Action Committee with responsibility for Hawaii. All issues of clothing-optional recreation in Hawaii are on my plate. Naturists and the public interested in learning more about beaches for this recreational choice may contact me to ask where to go, the legalities, etc. I also formed a group called Kauai Naturists, of which I am President, which serves as a learning source and action group for naturists on The Garden Island.
*This blog is not necessarily the opinions of the Naturist Action Committee. It is the opinion of me and of Kauai Naturists.