As relaxing as a beach vacation can be, visiting the beach alone can be vulnerable. Stripping down to a bathing suit can expose insecurities about our bodies, and leaving our belongings behind on the beach while we take a dip exposes us to a different kind of vulnerability: theft. In this article, I share my tips for enjoying a beach vacation as a solo traveler.
My experience as a solo travel beach goer
I’ll be honest with you, I have struggled with enjoying the beach as a solo traveler. In fact, I used to choose destinations based on avoiding beaches, convinced that they just weren’t my travel style. After my inaugural solo trip to Croatia, where I found beaches to be difficult to navigate as a solo traveler and a plus-size traveler, I began choosing cooler, landlocked destinations.
But just like the Adriatic on that very first solo trip, the water drew me back and I found myself exploring beaches as a solo traveler again, this time armed with a lot more experience managing the security of my belongings as a solo traveler and with far more confidence in my body’s right to enjoy the sun and the beach just as any other body (read more about my journey to becoming a confident fat traveler here).
Because this article addresses two big challenges to being a solo traveler on the beach, ask what this article into two sections:
1. Body Image When Visiting a Beach Solo
As a plus-size traveler, I will confess that learning to enjoy visiting the beach solo took a lot of work, more than a little time in therapy, and half a decade living in Seattle– a city on the leading edge of radical body positivity. Slowly, I discovered that investing in myself, treating myself with kindness, and choosing body-safe HAES spaces gave m the confidence to be fully present as myself on the beach and elsewhere.
Now, whether I find myself solo on a Croatian Island or exploring US Pacific Northwest beaches, I have more tools in my arsenal to let my body image insecurities take a backseat to relaxing and mindfully experiencing my travel to the beach.
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Here are a few things to remind yourself as you plant for a solo beach vacation and arrive at your destination:
Your body has a right to be there
Although you may have experienced “body policing” in the form of stigma, taunts, or bullying, there’s nobody with any authority to enforce body standards at the beach. Beaches are natural and every single beach on the globe is different- just like human bodies.
If you feel a wave of self-consciousness that whispers “you don’t belong here,” say right back (out loud if you can) “My body has just as much of a right to enjoy the beach as anyone else’s body.”
TIP: If you struggle with this, and the way that media’s portrayal of beaches show a skewed version of the average human body, plan a trip to a destination with clothing-optional beaches, like Lokrum Island in Croatia. There, on the rocky outcropping (which provides a bit of privacy for those inclined) a quick survey will normalize body diversity and remind timid travelers that beach perfect bodies are largely an illusion, paving the way for a wider embrace of your own body as it explores beaches and waves.
There are no bad bodies
Every body- every single body– is a good body. Bodies that have survived heartbreak, survived a pandemic, survived illnesses, survived countless hardships, and kept a heart beating and a brain functioning.
When we practice naming the goodness of bodies without exception, self-compassion and acceptance grow. With more kindness towards our own body, not only can we enjoy a solo trip to the beach without self-consciousness, but our radical embrace of the goodness of body diversity can’t help but extend into important social justice work back home and abroad.
No one is looking
One of the most helpful things to remember when feeling self-conscious about visiting the beach alone is that at the end of the day, no one else really cares. It’s true that on some beaches, rolling up alone and spreading out a towel might raise an eyebrow or two- but those eyebrows will soon return their attention to their own experience as you blend into the backdrop of their day. When you are feeling self-conscious alone at the beach, remind yourself that you aren’t the center of other’s attention- with that comes a lot of freedom.
You get to decide what you are comfortable with
It’s okay if you need to ease into being alone at the beach. Maybe your first few solo beach visits involve just a quick dip in the water and don’t include laying out in the sun, or perhaps you bring a modest cover-up or dress fully after swimming.
There’s no wrong way to enjoy the beach alone and giving yourself the permission to do what feels good and not do what doesn’t feel good can make you feel more comfortable. Honoring our body also has the benefit of helping teach our brains that we are able to give ourselves good care.
2. Keeping Your Stuff Safe At a Beach Solo.
Ask someone trustworthy to watch your stuff
When you arrive, look for a family that looks like they are just settling in for a day at the beach. Set up your towel and drop your bag nearby and be friendly. When you’re ready to take a dip, ask nicely if they will keep an eye on your stuff to prevent theft. Many solo travelers rely on this method for keeping their stuff safe at the beach while they are swimming:
TIP: be sure and tell them about how long you expect to be gone. As someone who has been asked to watch another traveler’s stuff at the beach, I know it’s helpful to know when to expect the owner back. Giving a time frame helps someone know if they can agree to watch it or if they’ll end up abandoning it!
What you have to bring, hide
My personal strategy for bringing a little bit of cash to the beach is to place a few bills of cash among the pages of whatever cheap paperback book I’m reading at the time. If you don’t happen to have a beach book on hand, your hotel or hostel may have books that you can borrow.
Dogeared books in a foreign language aren’t prime targets for theft- I tend to leave mine in plain sight on my beach towel to further the assumption that there’s no reason to steal it.
TIP: One traveler I spoke to swore by wrapping their valuables in a diaper and leaving it on their towel on the beach! She promised me that no one in all of her beach trips had dared touch that bulging, used-looking diaper.
Use a Waterproof Pouch
A good option to keep your stuff safe is to keep it with you- even when you are swimming. Waterproof pouches attached to lanyards are an easy way to keep your phone, keys, and credit cards secure while swimming. At less than $10, this universal cell phone dry bag is perfect for keeping your valuables safe while you explore a beach solo.
Tip: waterproof pouch lanyards made for phones and credit cards on the beach work a little bit better if you blow just a bit of air inside of the pouch before sealing it. The trapped air will make it obvious if there is a leak in the seal (allowing you to save your tech before it is flooded) and if you happen to lose your waterproof phone pouch, that little bit of extra air will help it float- making recovery easy.
Rent a beach chair
On some developed beaches, you can rent a comfortable chair on the beach. It usually includes an umbrella and sometimes drink service. More importantly, for a solo traveler, it also includes some basic security- attendants watch for people entering and exiting the area, and their attention generally deters most theft.
Don’t bring anything to the beach that you’d be devastated if you lost
It’s unlikely that anyone will steal your bag or your beach towel, but a general rule of thumb to avoid a devastating loss of personal belongings while at the beach solo is to not pack anything you’d be upset about losing. For many solo travelers, that means leaving their phone, money, or other valuables locked up in a safe or locked suitcase in their hotel or hostel. With valuables secured, you can swim or sunbathe without split attention.
I’m a recent convert to Loctote’s locking tote bag for travel. If you have a stable chair or even a railing which you can lock this portable safe to, you can secure your belongings in this slash-proof, theft-proof bag. Secure the bag to a beach chair, pole, tree, fence, or anything else that’s impossible to dislodge. It’s not foolproof- a theft with bolt cutters would make quick work of even this travel safe – but thieves generally reach for low-hanging fruit and avoid anything that will draw attention or take time, making a locking tote bag one of the safest options for securing your belongings so you can enjoy a solo trip to the beach.
Many of these beach theft avoiding tips simply serve to make you a little more challenging to steal from. Determine these can generally find a way, but it will stop people from thumbing through your belongings or casually lifting a bag as they walk down the beach.
What to Do When You’re at a Beach Alone
Some solo travelers enjoy visiting the beach solo, but aren’t sure how to make the most of a beach day without a friend or group of friends to swim, splash, and play with. To answer some of those questions about what to do, here’s a list of things to do at the beach alone:
- Swim – If it’s a beach safe to swim near, charge on into the water. As someone swimming alone, be sure to swim near a lifeguard stand.
- Sunbathe – While there are pros and cons to sunbathing, and good care for your body will likely involve a lot of sunscreen, it’s just not a beach day without stretching out in the sun and letting the warm sunlight warm your skin.
- Read a Book – A beach day (along or with friends) is all about relaxation. Enjoy blending into the crowd and not having to impress anyone, and bury you nose in a great mystery or thriller (the lowest quality of mass-market paperbacks make the best beach books, don’t you think?)
- Join a Game – If you see a group playing a game you’d like to join- ask if you can! It can’t hurt to ask, and often groups of friends might actually need an extra player to even up teams or make the game flow better.
- Make a friend – The beach is one of the few places where it’s easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Sometimes all it takes to make a connection is an offer (“hey, would you like this extra can of soda I have?”) or a request (“would you mind watching my stuff while I swim for about 15 minutes?”) to initiate an exchange that can grow into a real conversation.
- Enjoy a travel hobby – Travel hobbies are a fun way to keep your hands busy while you relax and enjoy the sun. Click here for ideas for portable, packable hobbies.
- Beach Comb – while some beaches are better for beachcombing than others, alsmost every beach has treasures to yield to travelers who are patient and observant. One fun thing to do at a beach alone is to explore the waterline, watching for interesting shells, sea glass, or bits of driftwood (all of which can be, with some creativity, made into amazing DIY souvenirs)
Artist, digital nomad, and highly sensitive person, Lynli started traveling full time as a digital nomad in 2018. Writer and Illustrator by day, remote-destination explorer by other-days, Lynli is passionate about pushing the boundaries of her own comfort zone, exploring the world as a female, fat, one-bag traveler, and journalling it all on WanderBig.com