It’s summertime and the living is easy. Especially in sun-drenched California. But if you really want to kick it up a notch while you’re here, a word to the wise: It’s all about the beach. After all, beach culture was practically invented in the Golden State — think everything from the Beach Boys and Baywatch to the home of the World Surf League pro tour and today’s trendiest boyshort bikinis. Match that with nearly 900 miles of coastline where under-the-radar beaches await, and you’re sure to find your happy place on a California beach this summer. From SoCal to NorCal, the following is a list of some of our favorite off-the-beaten-path spots.
Beacon’s Beach, Leucadia, San Diego County
North County San Diego is where the laidback SoCal lifestyle has been refined to an art. A quintessential beach town, Leucadia features stretches of sand where you can unplug and enjoy the surf and sand a world away from urban San Diego’s more crowded beaches. Access here is via three sets of public stairs that descend steep, seaside cliffs (there are no services or lifeguards here). Drive north along Neptune Avenue and park in the small lot at the end of Leucadia Boulevard to get to Beacon’s Beach or continue north to other beaches like Stone Steps and Grandview.
San Clemente State Beach, San Clemente, Orange County
Live the OC dream at San Clemente State Beach where a mile-long beach provides plenty of room for you to find your own little slice of paradise. The beach area near the parking lot at the end of Avenida Calafia can get crowded, but walk south toward the famous Trestles surf spot and you’ll be rewarded with acres of empty sand where you can stretch out between the tawny sandstone cliffs and blue-green swells.
Westward Beach, Malibu, Los Angeles County
Los Angeles isn’t all glitz and glam. It has its wet and wild side, too, as in the chance to spot dolphins and whales cruising right offshore in front of north Malibu’s Point Dume State Beach. Adjacent Westward Beach is the place to for come sand, sea and solitude (especially on weekdays), or hike up Point Dume for jaw-dropping views of Santa Monica Bay, Catalina Island, and if you’re lucky, a few spouting whales.
Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, Guadalupe, Santa Barbara County
The Central Coast seems to have the best of everything, including food, wine and beaches that are as empty and inviting as those of Northern California but have weather more similar to those farther south. One of our favorites is Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve in Santa Barbara County. Part of the 18 miles of pristine coastline that make up the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex, it includes a wildlife refuge, state park and interpretive center. It’s also home to the largest movie set ever built (now buried in the sands), constructed in 1923 for Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. The surf can be rough here, so this is where to come for long beach walks, seeing protected birdlife, or just breathing in the salty air and forgetting what day of the week it is.
Baker Beach, San Francisco
Maybe lolling on a beach isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of San Francisco. So let us introduce you to Baker Beach, a mile-long stretch of sand that offers amenities like picnic tables, grills and access to hiking. Besides the chance to hang out on the beach in SF, your next favorite thing about Baker Beach will no doubt be the epic #OMG view of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge that is going to make you a social-media star.
Tennessee Cove, Marin County
Just over the San Francisco Bay Bridge you’ll find the perfect beach to spoil your inner escape artist. Located in lovely Tennessee Valley, the cove is an easy 3.7-mile round-trip hike through the Marin Headlands, so expect spectacular views along the trail. You’ll descend through a coastal chaparral valley (especially awesome during spring wildflower season) to a wide, welcoming beach that features a natural lagoon and rock formations. As with most beaches near urban areas, weekdays are best. But whenever you visit, Tennessee Beach is a beautiful spot for a picnic or just curling up on a sandy beach and losing yourself in that summer read.
Of course all of these beach adventures deserve an equally fabulous home base from which to explore. Luckily, Kimpton has hotels close enough to all of these stellar locations to make any of them an unforgettable day trip. Get the sunglasses out, slip on the sandals, and head to any of our hotels in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, and San Diego and make this an endless summer to remember.
And check out the latest and greatest in food, wine and wow in the Golden State on our California Blog series page.
Photos: Beacon’s Beach — Wikipedia Commons; San Clemente State Beach — Wikipedia Commons; Dunes Preserve — Dunes Center; Baker Beach — David McSpadden/Flickr; Tennessee Beach — Jesse Wagstaff/Flickr