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Southern California Beaches - Southern Cities
- Cardiff by the Sea
- Dana Point
- Del Mar
- Huntington Beach
- Imperial Beach
- La Jolla
- Laguna Beach
- Newport Beach
- San Clemente
- San Diego
- Seal Beach
- Solana Beach
- Sunset Beach
Overview of Area
From Huntington Beach, aka Surf City U.S.A., to the southern tip of California, the coastline features numerous sandy beaches for swimming or a day in the sun. Driving on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), you can expect a lot of traffic going through these coastal cities, especially in the summer months.
Beginning in Seal Beach in the northwestern tip of Orange County and traveling south, there are plenty of public beaches. Up through the Newport Dunes, you’ll see some of the magnificent mansions of Newport Beach and Balboa Island. You’ll then travel through Crystal Cove State Park and into the hamlet of Laguna Beach.
Beautiful residential gardens are in view through Dana Point, where the coast turns east into San Juan Capistrano at Doheny State Beach and PCH joins Interstate 5. Stay to the right and you'll connect with El Camino Real (Coast Hwy) which runs next to the ocean through Capistrano Beach and enters San Clemente via the coast.
San Clemente, a quaint Spanish style town, is the last stop in the OC and one of the last true “beach towns” left in southern California. Then you enter San Diego County at San Onofre State Beach. No mistaking this: two giant nuclear generators appear out of the sand.
Next up is Oceanside, home to USMC Camp Pendleton and the California Surf Museum. Then you’ll drive through the flower fields of Carlsbad and past the beach cities of Encinitas, Cardiff by the Sea and Solana Beach where you can exit the interstate to PCH and be back on the beach again for Del Mar.
The road takes you through the towering Torrey Pines near La Jolla, head towards Mission Bay, the United State’s largest man-made aquatic park on the coast. If you have the time, take Highway 209 (aka Catalina Boulevard) to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse at the very southern end of the peninsula.
Back on Interstate 5 which will take you to the western edge of the bright lights of San Diego and Highway 75 will take you over the amazing structure of the Coronado Bridge to, you guessed it, Coronado, an island with a small town adjoining a U.S. Naval Air Station.
Hotels listed are within walking distance of the beach or are on Pacific Coast Highway with ocean view rooms.
- Harbour Inn & Suites in Sunset Beach
- Huntington Beach Inn in Huntington Beach
- Newport Beach Inn in Newport Beach
- Laguna Brisas Spa Hotel in Laguna Beach
- Inn-by-the-Sea in Dana Point
- Casablanca Inn in San Clemente
- Beach View Lodge in Carlsbad
- Motel 6 on the Beach Carlsbad - South
- Oceanside Inn in Oceanside
- Encinitas Inn & Suites at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas
- Inn by the Sea in La Jolla
- Blue Sea Lodge in San Diego
- Island Palms Hotel & Marina in San Diego
- Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado
The coastal towns of this region feature many places to dine, from small taco stands to enormous eateries.
Happy hour margaritas in Las Brisas in Laguna Beach allow you to watch the day’s end of volleyball, surfing and diving just south of the restaurant.
Further down the coast in San Clemente is the Beach Fire on Del Mar. Stop in for a dose of local surf vibe along with fantastic food. The walls are covered with artwork for sale by local artists.
At sunset, view the green flash optical phenomenon that appears over the ocean at The Green Flash Restaurant in Pacific Beach.
The Fishmarket and upstairs (upscale) Top of the Market at the Embarcadero in San Diego where it doesn’t get any fresher than this—they have their own fishing boat!
Peohe’s in Coronado has a gorgeous view of the downtown San Diego Skyline.
Even if you’re not a surfer, you can look like one with some shreddin’ gear from Huntington Surf & Sport in Huntington Beach.
From McDonald’s in the food court to the Neiman Marcus anchor store, you’ll find everything at Fashion Island inNewport Beach where “Luxury lives on the coast.”
Original paintings, sculptures and art using any media you can imagine can be found on Main Street in Laguna Beach.
Looking for some south of the boarder housewares and souvenirs? You don’t have to go to Mexico, try Old Town in San Diego.
Hiking in Crystal Cove State Beach near Laguna Beach or Torrey Pines State Reserve and Beach in La Jolla
Diving and Volleyball in Laguna Beach
Golf in Torrey Pines Golf Course near La Jolla or Coronado’s Municipal Golf Course
Explore the tide pools and snorkel in La Jolla Cove
Swimming at Black’s Beach (clothing optional) near San Diego
Spend a day at the museums of Balboa Park in San Diego
For theme park enthusiasts, inland from Newport Beach is Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure and Knott’s Berry Farm; and Legoland in Carlsbad. In and near San Diego you’ll find SeaWorld, Wild Animal Park and the world-class San Diego Zoo.
Music Festival in Laguna Beach
Return of the Swallows - San Juan Capistrano
- March through May
Flower Fields in Carlsbad
Newport Boat Show in Newport Beach
Crew Classic Regatta inSan Diego
Newport Jazz Festiva in Newport Beach
Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego
- June through August
Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair in Laguna Beach
Pro/AmSurf Series Surfing Competition in Huntington Beach
Festival of Arts in La Jolla
Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach
U.S. Open of Surfing in Hutington Beach
- July through August
Pagent of the Masters in Laguna Beach
Lido Yacht Expo in Newport Beach
Boardfest in Huntington Beach
Cabrillo Festival in Point Loma near Ocean beach
Open Skate & Surf Contest in San Clemente
Harbor Days in Oceanside
Octoberfest at Old World Village in Huntington Beach
Poinsettia Festival in Encinitas
Christmas Boat Parades in Huntington Harbour, Newport Harbor, Oceanside Harbor, Dana Point Harbor and San Diego