Spain beach etiquette: The ultimate guide to know how to behave

After booking your coastal trip to visit Spain it’s normal to think about Spain’s beach etiquette.

This post will teach you everything you need to know about how to properly behave on a beach in Spain and most importantly how to enjoy the beach day too!

You might want to just free ball your Spanish beach day but going informed is ideal. This post will show you:

  • what to do
  • what not to do
  • culture norms
  • lots more

Spain beach etiquette

Spain beach etiquette
Andalucia, Spain

When we think of general etiquette, we think of how to properly behave and use our manners.

Spain beach etiquette is very different from the majority of other countries.

This is why it’s ideal for you to learn how to manage your time on the beach in Spain.

Being educated about different cultural norms is always better than being uneducated.

Considering topless sunbathing and nudity are involved on some Spain beaches, this is definitely an article you should read. Even more, in case these topics make you feel uncomfortable.

Spain is a very laidback country, and although some might think nudity is truly inappropriate, it’s completely legal to be nude in open public areas in Spain since 1978.

So what to expect? Read on to get the details.

History on the beaches in Spain

Let’s take it back to 1975 to fully understand why Spain beaches are the way they are today.

1975 is the year Francisco Franco died. Franco was a very strict dictator in Spain. Towards his death, came more liberty and a lot of change for the Spanish people.

Spanish society was more than ready for change and freedom after years of being under his strict control.

As you can imagine with any dictator in office, Franco wasn’t someone too well-liked. Fast forward to 1978, the Spanish constitution changed Franco’s laws (which some found were prude) and officially made nudism a human right in Spain.

After some issues with these changes, in 1995 they officially put a penal code which is Article 185.

Under this article, nudity isn’t punishable unless it creates exhibitionism and sexual provocation.

Let’s break that down a bit more. Exhibitionism is defined by the Oxford dictionary as:

1. extravagant behavior that is intended to attract attention to oneself

2. a mental condition characterized by the compulsion to display one’s genitals in public.

Oxford dictionary

Because this is a protected right, there of course has to be some type of order. This is a right in Spain as a country and then each Autonomous Community (regions of Spain) can create its own additional rules.

For example, it is not legal to be walking around in a bathing suit in Barcelona, male or female.

What to Expect When Visiting a Spanish Beach for the First Time

spain beach etiquette

Though nudism is a right, the reality of the situation is you’ll mostly find people topless in beaches, pools, or lakes. You won’t find nude people randomly roaming the streets.

It honestly just means they are more flexible with being topless and nude in designated areas. These designated areas are things like bodies of water.

Complete nudity is for specific nudist beaches or secluded beaches. Some of these secluded beaches aren’t necessarily known as nude beaches but if its secluded you might see someone nude.

It’s really not that big of a deal considering nudity is legal and beaches are public property in Spain. Spaniards won’t really care to look at you twice.

Overall, nudity and topless women on the beaches aren’t meant to be sexualized. Nor is it something to gawk at. That’s really the true Spanish beauty of it. Just people, living free.

What is topless sunbathing in regards to Spain beach etiquette?

This means the bikini tops come off while women are in the sun laying out tanning. A lot of women take off the tops when they are laying out and put it back on when they go into the water or walk around.

It’s hard to really say where there is and isn’t topless sunbathing happening exactly as that obviously depends on the patrons visiting the beach that day.

When I went to Malaga capital I didn’t see topless sunbathing as much as I do on other beaches. There’s no specific reason for this. Read the room if you don’t want to be the first trend setter that day.

No one is going to really care if you do or don’t go topless. It’s a personal preference. Do as you wish.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a beach in Spain and thought, gee why can’t America be this laid back? Everyone’s going about their day as they wish, minding their own business, distant from others.

Reality is, it’s a different society where nudity has been sexualized way too much and America is a very judgemental society. I would never feel as comfortable topless on an American beach as I do on a Spain beach.

I know this is a fact for the majority of tourist women that visit Spain too. Many women don’t go topless in their own home countries due to legal laws, social stigmas, and other concerns.

It’s not legal in the US and there are other things to worry about. But it’s not like that in Spain. It’s truly a wonderful thing. 🙂

Spain beach etiquette guidelines and social norms

beach etiquette for your spain vacation
Costa Brava, Spain

Below are guidelines to keep in mind and social norms on how to enjoy the beach in Spain.

Spain beach etiquette Commandment #1: Do your research on the beaches you’d like to visit

Find a beach where you feel comfortable if you are visiting Spain.

Being comfortable is always important. If nudity is something you do want to practice, or if that’s completely taboo for you, do your research before you end up somewhere you might not want to be.

Here is a list of the best Spain nude beaches to keep in mind/or avoid when planning your Spain beach holiday.

Commandment #2: Get comfortable

You’ve gone all the way to Spain, the least you can do is have an awesome beach day. Time to get comfortable and cozy up on the beach! If you are thinking of getting swimsuits upon arriving in Spain, make sure you check out Spanish brands.

You want to be comfortable to enjoy the beach, your way! You don’t have to get topless to enjoy a beach day in Spain if you don’t want to.

It’s your trip, travel your way. If any type of toplessness or nudity of others makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s a good time to check in and think about why you are feeling this way.

Spanish people aren’t going to bother you either way. Perhaps the sexual connotation of nudity is what makes things weird. But leave sexuality out of it, it’s really so normalized here and has nothing to really do with sexuality. That’s the irony but the beauty of it, especially as an American.

Commandment #3: Don’t stare

This is pretty straightforward, but don’t creepily stare at anyone. This is a huge cultural norm. Spaniards won’t really care to look at you twice, topless or nude. This honestly takes a lot of awkwardness away from everything.

Topless is so normalized you’ll see moms hanging out with their kids having a normal beach day topless. If you find it weird, that’s your opinion. They are super laid back about this kind of stuff.

It’s more about liberty and enjoying the sun, not about being sexy.

This is something that’s really nice about Spain’s beach etiquette. You’re not expecting to see perfectly slim models. Anyone and everyone can go as they please.

It makes you think about all the beauty norms we’ve been taught when really every single person’s body is beautiful in its own way. Stop judging!

Commandment #4: Don’t judge

Cadaques, Spain

If you attend a public beach in Spain, there’s a huge chance you’ll see women of all different figures and forms sunbathing topless.

We need to forget our social norms of beauty and bring them back to real life. It’s really precious how confident and beautiful all these women are in their own skin. No filters, no botox. Just the real deal.

Don’t judge them for being confident and enjoying the sun. Instead, we should really be applauding the confidence these women have in their raw beauty.

In addition, nude beaches are known to have unsaid rules where everyone can come as they are so definitely a judge-free zone there.

Commandment #5: Do not take pictures or videos of anyone

Common sense but needs to be said. The last thing you want to do is catch anyone on camera partially nude or nude. That’s super inappropriate and most likely a potential lawsuit. Don’t look like such a tourist.

Commandment #6: Wear sunscreen – ideally SPF 50+

Any beach day calls for sunscreen, even more in Spain. The sun is super strong so definitely bring proper UV protection to the beach. Ideally minimum 50+.

If this is your first time sunbathing topless or nude, make sure to protect your private areas since this area is even more sensitive to your skin that’s always exposed – such as your arms.

Apply every 2 hours on dry skin or apply again right after you get out of the water. It’s important to protect your skin.

Commandment #7: Be mindful of the animals

Take a look around to make sure there are no dangerous fish, such as jellyfish. Sometimes this is signaled off with the beach flags. If not, you can ask a lifeguard if they are on duty.

The last thing you want is a painful bite from a creepy crawler.

Commandment #8: Note the color of the flags at the beach

In Spain, there are 3 common flags on the beach. These are yellow, green, and red.

A red flag means it is prohibited to swim and the water is very dangerous.

Yellow flag means still allowed to swim but practice with caution, there’s a potential danger with water tide or other risks such as jellyfish and pollution.

The green flag is the most seen and gives you the go-ahead to enjoy the water calmly.

In other places of Spain such as the Balearics islands, the orange flag means a lifeguard is not on duty.

Lastly, the black flag sometimes seen is to signal storms.

Prior to entering the water, it’s a great task to see what the beach is signaling to you and to take appropriate caution.

Commandment #9: Check to see if the Red Cross is in the area

In Canarias, specifically Tenerife, there is the Red Cross organization that monitors beach activity and is informing patrons of the water conditions.

Spain beach etiquette in this part of Spain basically means to check in with Red Cross to see if there are any swimming conditions you should know.

When I went, there was a Red Cross member mentioning that there was tar in the ocean water from a boat and that it wasn’t recommended to swim. It was swimming at your own risk, we didn’t swim.

If tar gets on you, it’s not necessarily dangerous but it’s hard to get off and not exactly ideal to swim in. It is important to know what kind of water you are swimming in. The Red Cross can inform you about that.

Commandment #10: Bring normal clothes and extra towels

Since you can’t enter private restaurants with just your bathing suit on, it’s a good idea to bring a change of normal clothes if you are going to the beach for the day.

You can also consider bringing extra towels so you can dry off sooner. If you going to be nude in any way, having an extra towel might help you feel more covered up or comfortable.

Spain beach etiquette

I hope you enjoyed reading about Spain’s beach etiquette. This article has taught you everything you need to know about mannerisms and what to expect. When preparing for your Spain trip, make sure you check out:

If you visit Spain, I encourage you to embrace the Spanish summer vibes and fully enjoy the beach however you want to. You are the only person who can manage your day and expectations so I hope you make the most of it!

And if you try going topless or nude, I’m more than confident you will feel more confident and liberated after. I encourage you to love your body more and consider forgetting your own social stigmas of what others may or may not like to see.

Vamonos a la playa! (let’s go to the beach) Have you ever gone to a beach in Spain?

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