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The Best Beaches to Visit in California
California offers some of the finest stretches of beach in the world. For a weeklong adventure, the following beaches offer the best California has to offer. They are ideal for family, couples, and friends alike.
PISMO BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Located half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco in southern San Luis Obispo County is the famous central coast beach city of Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach boasts stunning stretches of white beaches, sand dunes, and groves of eucalyptus trees, which attract migrating monarch butterflies every season. The Monarch Butterfly Grove alone is a captive sight to behold. The beach city holds a clam festival every October with clam chowder competitions ideal for families. Visitors may enjoy fishing at the Pismo pier, riding the sand dunes, surfing the waves, or golfing at some of the finest golf courses in the world. Go horseback riding or simply walk down this gorgeous stretch of sand for a relaxing, invigorating, and inspiring experience. Eateries include a casual, budget, family style seafood dinner at the Cracked Crab. Perched on the bluffs is the Ventana Grill where coastal fusion cuisine meets with an extensive selection of tequila flights surrounded by crashing waves. In the morning, enjoy gooey Old West Cinnamon Rolls to start another sweet day at the beach.
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
photo by flickr user wanderingnome
Rincon Beach, located just south of Santa Barbara with its curve of shoreline is an epic surf location. The beach is known for its wild breaks and near perfect rides. The narrow stretch of sand is at times covered in driftwood or sprinkled with rocks and seaweed. Located next to the historic highway 101, Rincon boasts the finest waves anywhere and attracts surfers from all over the globe. Surfing or simply watching surfers is an ideal way to spend the day at Rincon. Travel just ten minutes north into town for casual seafood and a lively, relaxed atmosphere at Brophy Bro’s Restaurant and Clam Bar or enjoy a cold tap beer specials and baby back ribs at Killer B’s BBQ & Bar.
VENICE, LOS ANGELES
photo by flickr user Storm Crypt
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, and Mar Vista is the world famous Venice Beach. Canals were originally built to drain the marshlands to create this special stretch of sand that now boasts a world famous beach boardwalk. One and half miles of sand and surf encapsulate some of the most festive, bohemian, and carnival-like experiences in the world. Travel to the west side to find street vendors and performers entertain by juggling, miming, and break dancing all with circus-like enthusiasm then head towards the east side which boasts store fronts equip with tattoo and piercing shops. Whatever direction taken, Venice is a Mecca for poets, artists, entertainers and true originators to express themselves. Venice offers terrific eateries such as sushi at Chaya Venice, a gathering spot for musicians and movie stars or for an organic, fresh experience head to Figtree’s Café. For a drink to remember head over to Hal’s Bar and Grill for some fantastic specials, some of the friendliest bartenders and some live jazz.
LA JOLLA BEACHES
LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA
From the charming stretch of sand at Windnsea Beach to the famous La Jolla Cove, the beaches in La Jolla are stunning and world renowned. La Jolla Shores boasts crystal blue waters with a fine sand bar break that lends itself to pleasurable swimming, surfing, or simply relaxing on the beach with the kids. La Jolla Cove offers a covey of wildlife along a wild coastline. Not far from the cove are fine restaurants and bars. After a swim in the cove travel up to Jose’s for some fine Mexican food including carne asada and enchiladas along with happy hour special margaritas or have a drink in the famous La Valencia Hotel for an authentic La Jolla experience.
Coronado Beach is a magnificent stretch of coastline set along Ocean Boulevard across from streets lined with mansions and gorgeous homes similar to the elegance and grace of Hamptons beach houses. Coronado has an island feel set apart from the city of San Diego. The wide stretches of sand are clean and family friendly. Open fires, family picnics, runs on the beach and couples enjoying vivid sunsets are just a few activities enjoyed on the beaches of Coronado. Travel down Orange Avenue to find a variety of eateries. Burger Lounge serves a simple budget menu of burgers, salads, and beers in a relaxed environment. For a family style approach there is Clayton’s coffee shop for local cuisine. For those willing to spend more, an evening at the Crown Room at the world famous Hotel Del Coronado cannot be matched.
Alexandra is a travel enthusiast who loves to write about tourism, beaches, food, and the wonderful things in the world. She provides her own insights on vacationing to the blogosphere. If you would like to learn more about her, follow her @alexsjourneys or visit her blog alexsjourneys.wordpress.com.
Submitted By Alexandra Jacobs on Feb. 21 , 2013
WHALES ON THE BEACH
The California gray whale is one of the largest of the baleen whales and every year they head from the plankton rich waters of the Artic to the tepid breeding lagoons of Mexico, appearing off the California coast in November to January. They head north again in February and March, but the mothers bring their nursing babies close to shore later, in April and early May. Armed with binoculars, I settle in on Zuma Beach to see these gray whale families. I watch the sea birds and a few sea lions. The local pod of dolphins goes by. No whales. I scan 270 degrees of the horizon, but see nothing. The wind begins to pick up and I know I'll have to leave soon.
Suddenly, she rises silently from nowhere. Next to her, her newborn rises with her. The newborn is the size of a VW. She is the size of a gray bus. They both exhale in unison, twin fountains of spray. Then they are gone as silently as they came, only rippling circles left to mark their presence. I rub my eyes, not sure whether I have seen one of nature's great wonders, or simply imagined it.
She rises again, much closer now, her baby right at her side. Her sheer bulk is overwhelming, but there is no sense of lumbering, only grace. Her baby flicks his flukes and they are under again. I keep scanning, fervently hoping for another glimpse.
My god! They are in the surf line, not 60 feet from me. Is she sick? Is she wounded? Do we need a bucket brigade? She lifts he great head half out of the water. A huge mouth and gray patches of barnacles marking her mass. Then she rolls, slowly, lazily. Her huge flipper stretching to the sky in peaceful languor. There is no struggle here. She seems to be simply stretching on this peaceful, California morning. Her baby does the same. He is so much smaller, but still far larger than a dolphin. Mother and baby slide in and out of the five feet of water. Back and forth, they raise one flipper, then their flukes. First one, then the other. After 10 minutes of sand massage, the two gray whales back out beyond the surf and glide along parallel to the shore. They surface every few minutes, but as suddenly as they appeared, they are gone.
The old timers say they love this beach and come to this shore every year. Some people say the whales do this just because it feels good. Some people say they are scraping barnacles off their sensitive skin. Maybe it is all of those things. All I know is I visit that beach every year to see the Leviathans lolling in the California surf.
California gray whales migrate every year. Good viewing spots in Los Angeles County are the south end of Zuma Beach in Malibu, Point Vicente on Pacific Palisades, and Sycamore State Beach. Central California offers good whale viewing from anywhere along Big Sur. Good whale watching expeditions leave from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Dana Point. For more information on the California gray whale, dolphins and other cetaceans, see the American Cetacean Society website at acs-la.org
Submitted By Penny Pedd on Feb. 26 , 2009
Cambria-San Simeon Serendipity
The quest for surf can sometimes lead to wondrous places. We found one of those places on Valentine’s Day in 1999. In the dead of winter, we went to the wild Central Coast for a romantic week end of roaring fires in the evening and roaring surf in during the day. We found all of that, but we never imagined what we else we would discover.
First we headed up to Big Sur, but there was no swell and most of the point breaks were inaccessible. You climb 100 foot, slick cliffs for surf when you are fifteen, not when you are fifty. The day was gorgeous and we had a cooler of Sam Adams, so we didn’t care too much. We followed a pod of gray whales for 20 miles. Picking out the grays at nearly every pull out, we became experts at how fast they were traveling and when the leviathans would blow. We finally lost them and headed back towards San Simeon.
Then we found it. Up ahead on the right, six or eight cars were pulled off on the shoulder in the middle of nowhere. No buildings for miles except the gorgeous Piedras Blancas light house. No roads. No reason for eight cars to be on the side of the road except for one thing –surf!! We stopped behind the other cars and jumped over to the beach bluff. Ten feet below us in a sheltered cove was . . . no surf. No surf at all, just a wide, sandy beach.
But what a wide sandy beach it is. A very special beach. Lined up just a few feet below us lay dozens and dozens of enormous beached elephant seals. The “smaller” females weigh in at 1500 pounds and stretch out to 13 feet. The doe eyed yearlings and pups belong on a World Wildlife Fund poster and they sleep together like sausage links on a plate.
Talk about personality! They chat with each other and snore. They grunt and say, “Get the hell off my flipper.” They scratch and yawn, and nurse the fuzzy little pups. The more you look, the more you see, the more entranced you become, and the more you want to see what all of them will do next. But they are not alone.
Late November through February is when the enormous bulls come to shore to fight and to mate. These behemoths weigh in at 4,000 pounds and measure up to 20 feet long. That’s two tons! Their huge dangling proboscis is what earns the elephant seal its name. These bulls are the largest of all seals and when mating rights are at stake, they use all of their bulk. The bulls’ rear up and call for their harem with a great clunking noise that sounds like cinder blocks being thrown into a vast metal dumpster. They fight, hurling their mass at each other and biting until their tough yokes are bloody with teeth marks. The beach shudders when they clash.
Only, evenly matched bulls actually fight. A smaller, less impressive bull with a shorter nose will run if he can and fight only so long as he is cornered. Never fear, the Beach Masters are so large they can only cover part of their harem at a time. The younger males lurk on the edges of the harem. When the mighty Beach Master is chasing off some other male, the younger ones slip in among the females, and grab whatever delights they can. As soon as the Beach Master sees them and begins to lumber their way, the upstarts race away. Mostly, the females and younger seals just try to stay out of the way. A few of the pups are crushed and die. This is not Disneyland. This is the cycle of life.
So many seals kept coming that the beach is now a park with trained docents to answer questions and parking just above the beach. Now anyone can watch these awesome creatures, one of the great spectacles of nature. Wooden board walks that are wheel chair accessible provide a wonderful view, even for small children. The rookery is about four miles north of Hearst Castle and about 1 mile south of Piedras Blanca Light House. This is the only major elephant seal rookery south of Point Reyes, and what a show the elephant seals give.
Submitted By Penny Pedd on Feb. 14 , 2009
Southern California Beach Day with Babies, Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers
So you love the beach, but the babies are coming and your old haunts have stiff rip tides or big surf or steep climbs for schlepping babies and baby gear. Well, your beach days are not even close to being over. Southern California has great beaches for the littlest kids. All of the beaches listed below are well sheltered with minimal wave action, short walks from parking, showers for sandy little mites and lots of sand, the best sand boxes in the world. Some have play equipment and most have lifeguards.
The Best Beaches in Southern California for Babies and Toddlers:
Mission Bay in San Diego- watch out for Sea World traffic
- Bonito Cove- lifeguards, showers, playground, what else do you want?
- Crown Point North- lifeguards, showers, playground
- Tecolote Shores- showers, playground, no life guard
Dana Point Baby Beach (next to the Ocean Institute-Doheny State Beach Interpretive Center),
Dana Point Harbor -
The big bonus is for the older kids at the Doheny State Beach Interpretive Center. Leave toddlers and babies at Baby Beach and take the older kids for a super treat at this small aquarium with touchy feely tanks and a superb staff. It holds the kids attention with excellent interactive exhibits, without being too large. Mom and Dad, don’t miss the gift shop which has great stocking stuffers and fun gifts for the beach-o-philes in your life. A native plant exhibit is fun for kids over age 6.
Doheny State Beach, San Juan Capistrano
The Beach Boys made this beach famous for the folks in Iowa and Maine, and generations of California surf families have raised surfers at this gem of a state park. Showers, lifeguards, sand and gentle waves. For visitors, Doheny is what SoCal is all about
Baby Beach, Ventura (on the harbor side of Ventura breakwater).
Mom or Dad can slip off to the big surf on the outside of the breakwater, while baby plays in the sheltered waters of Baby Beach. Be sure to check Healthebay.org for water quality reports.
Tips for Happy Beaching
Check HealtheBay.org for water quality reports on California beaches. Don't let kids in the water within 72 hours of rain and avoid drain outfalls.
For babies take an old playpen and position it under a large umbrella. Don’t forget to rotate the playpen and shade umbrella as the sun moves. Bring double plastic bags to dispose of nappies. A well insulated cooler for formula is a good idea.
Energetic toddlers are more challenging than babies. If you go to the beach a lot, consider investing in a good Coast Guard approved ski vest or miniature wet suits. It makes the kids buoyant if they do get away from you. Water wings are dangerous in the ocean-don't count on them. Get an inflatable kiddie pool and put in 2 or 3 inches of saltwater. The kids love it. Use plastic kitchen spoons and Tupperware if your supply of shovels and buckets is low. Count toys before you turn the kids loose with them. Consider all beach toys as disposable. Anything the kids are playing with is likely to be irretrievably buried or lost in the surf.
A good basic first aid kit should include band aids in a variety of sizes, some good wet wipes, good tweezers (urchin spines or slivers), a small container of ammonia (for jelly fish stings, rare, but possible on the Pacific Coast), a small box of baking soda for bee stings (also rare), some Neosporin, and spray on Bactine (psychologically good for boo boos). Keep a couple of bottles of clean water to wash out minor cuts and scrapes. And always tons of spray on sunscreen. Remember to sunscreen the tops and backs of tender ears and the tops of feet. If you are not comfortable letting the kids run naked (the easiest solution) remember that bathing suits move, so be sure to sunscreen under straps and anywhere the elastic can move. Some toddlers love their hats and others won't keep them on. At least try.
The best solution for sandy children on the way home is a good shower, but if showers aren’t available take talc. The talc makes sand slick. Then you can use a gentle brush or clean towel to dust off most of the sand. Have clean clothes for the ride home and towels big enough to cover the car seats that did not go with you to the beach. Dump wet bathing suits, beach toys and sandy beach shoes in big garbage bags. Sand in the car is the mark of a true beach family.
SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN. HAPPY, HAPPY BEACHING!!
Submitted By Malibu Mama on Aug. 10 , 2008