Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “Topless sunbathing legal under state and city laws”, August 28, 2015

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper’s Kokua Line column at http://www.staradvertiser.com/columnistspremium/20150828_topless_sunbathing_legal_under_state_and_city_laws.html (premium content) answered a question yesterday about the legality of topless sunbathing under city and state laws. The writer of that article “checked with the Honolulu Police Department, the city prosecutor and the city and county’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Division to see whether the legal landscape had shifted at all since Kokua Line last addressed this issue about a decade ago. It hasn’t, which means that there is no state law or municipal ordinance specifically prohibiting women from baring their breasts on public beaches.”

The article further states that “There are laws against indecent exposure and lewdness, but neither statute applies to topless sunbathing. The exposure law, Hawaii Revised Statutes 707-734, refers to the intentional exposure of genitals, not breasts. The lewdness law, HRS 712-1217, describes open lewdness as a “gross flouting of community standards in respect to sexuality or nudity in public” that falls short of a sexual offense. The law includes case notes that specifically exclude the exposure of female breasts as an offense. This is an important distinction, lest discreet breast-feeding in public be deemed illegal, for example. A topless sunbather could commit a lewd act, but toplessness in and of itself would not be considered an offense.”

The article editorializes that “While topless sunbathing by women is not illegal, neither is it common, especially at crowded urban Oahu beaches such as Ala Moana Beach Park. Depending how seriously you feel about this issue, you could contact your state legislator or City Council member to urge them to change the law to specifically outlaw topless sunbathing by women on public beaches. This could be tricky constitutionally, HPD has pointed out, given that men go topless all the time.”

As readers of this blog know, indeed nipples of either gender are not considered genitals and both men and women are free to enjoy top free recreation at Hawaii city and county beach parks, although different laws apply to Federal lands and state parks.

Additionally, the Hawaii Supreme Court in the case of State of Hawaii versus Kalama, upheld the right to nonsexual nude sunbathing at Polo Beach (and presumably other locations).


The Kokua Line did acknowledge that “local sensibilities…might vary from site to site” so please continue to responsibly enjoy nude or top free activities at Hawaii beaches which are customarily clothing optional.