Top 10 California Beach Getaways
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Just 5 minutes from San Diego, this family-friendly beach boasts wide stretches of sand, mostly calm surf and ideal whale watching (January through March). The lifeguards on staff, nearby public facilities and free parking along Ocean Boulevard add to its convenience -- and popularity. Couples can take a romantic walk to the luxury beachfront Hotel del Coronado and sip cocktails on its patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Pismo Beach, founded by the Chumash Indian Tribe, is located in central California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whichever direction you travel from, there’s plenty of activities to keep you here: fishing on the 1,200-foot-long pier, strolling through the Monarch Butterfly Grove, horseback riding along private trails, and exploring tide pools and caves, to name just a few.
You’ll have to leave the surfboards and boogie boards behind, but trust us it will be worth it. La Jolla Cove is the most desired area for swimming, snorkeling and diving; it is ecologically protected, making it a safe home for the bright orange Garibaldi fish (among others species) in the crescent-shaped cove. Called “the jewel” of San Diego, this beach is small, but you’ll find more room to stretch out on the mile-long La Jolla Shores to the north.
Sonoma Coast State Beach comprises 13 miles of coastline, stretching from Blind Beach to Bodega Head. It’s dotted with nothing save hidden beaches tucked between the rocky coves and tall bluffs. Follow the Sonoma Coast Trail to visit these secret beaches and take postcard-worthy pictures, #nofilter necessary.
Main Beach in Santa Cruz
For most beachgoers in Santa Cruz, Main Beach is where the action is -- complete with restaurants, shops, surfing spots, beach volleyball courts and, of course, a scenic boardwalk and bandstand. If you ask us, it’s just the right amount of Americana.
Huntington Beach Pier
With a location at the end of Main Street and a nickname like “Surf City, USA,” Huntington Beach evokes a time gone by. The pier (one of the longest on the West Coast), the year-round surf (thanks to ocean swells around Catalina Island) and Ruby’s Diner (the milkshakes are a must) will continue to draw crowds here for years to come.
Our resident beach expert, Marianela Pereyra, can attest to its weirdness, but there’s a reason Venice Beach is world famous. It may bring to mind visions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Muscle Beach of the ’70s, but let us assure you that the 1 1/2-mile-long boardwalk is still the perfect storm for people watching, street performers and souvenir shopping.
To the west of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the rocky serpentine shoreline of Baker Beach. Rip currents make swimming unsafe, but you’re here for the panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge … and maybe to picnic. Just don’t venture too far north unless you’re looking for another kind of scene: the northernmost end of Baker Beach, which attracts clothing-optional sunbathers.
Malibu Surfrider Beach
Formerly known as Surfrider Beach, Malibu Lagoon State Beach’s famous right point breaks have made it the most-surfed spot in Los Angeles since the ’60s. Arrive early to find a parking spot and pick a point -- some of the perfect swells due to Surfrider Beach will give you a ride all the way to the pier (a couple hundred feet away). And for non-surfers, the historic wooden Malibu Pier offers excellent saltwater fishing, bird-watching and picnicking.
Dockweiler State Beach
Located just west of the LAX runway, Dockweiler Beach is where people come to relax and party. That’s because the 3-mile-long shoreline is the only Los Angeles beach that has an RV park and allows bonfires. S’mores, anyone?