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Thread: Best Beaches

  1. Default Best Beaches

    As part of our 2-week California trip, we will be driving on the coastal road from San Francisco to San Diego. Where are the best beaches, and is the water warm enough for a swim in mid October?

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-09-2006 at 04:37 PM. Reason: Added navigation link

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default I've Got (Barely) a Clue

    My own experience is a little limited, but I did spend an October week a couple of years ago in Oceanside (north of San Diego, just south of Camp Pendleton. I found the water quite nice for wading and a few quick little swims, but I will note that all of the surfers were wearing wet suits. The beaches in Oceanside and La Jolla were quite pleasant since the summer crowds had departed. I should think the state park beaches would be pretty much at their best for the same reasons.


  3. Default Colder water beaches in California... always

    I've been to a fair number of beaches along the coast in California, at one time or another. Some are good for walking, some are definitely surfer stops, some good for beach combing, and others just for hanging out at.

    In general, the water along the Coast in California is fairly cool -- ranging from typically in the low 70's in the summer down to possibly the upper 50's (degrees F). The water farther north is typically colder than the southerly waters along the coast -- and over a 600 or 800 mile range, that can be a fair range of temperatures. That's why you see most of the surfers wearing wet suits. Is this swimable? hmm.. depends upon you and the day and the beach you're at. For short periods I've swum in the water down to about 65. But at that temp, I don't stay in long at all. Also, the waves will tend to be higher in the winter, with a sharper break on the beach -- due to both weather and the currents.

    The beaches that stick in my mind are

    - Monterey Bay. Was there in December a few years ago. Big surf, and not a huge beach. In California the currents change in the winter, so the beaches are worn away, and in the summer the currents deposit sand on the beach, and at this time the beach had a rather sharp shore break on the beach, and pretty good sized surf to boot. I didn't go in, but wandered the beach a bit.

    - (Elephant Seal colony near Pedros Blancos). This isn't a swimming or walking beach -- but there is a substantial (1000 animal?) colony of large elephant seals about 10 miles north of San Simeon/ Hearst Castle on the beach. You can walk along the low beach blufs, about 20-30' above the seals on the sand below, and watch them.. Watching volkswagon sized animals cavort around the beach is pretty amazing... They are wild animals and can be somewhat touchy if they find a stranger in their midst-- and rather large and surprizingly fast. Most of the time they're pretty laid back, but even so, don't get near them...

    - San Simeon beach. Was there in the winter. Nice beach to walk and beach comb.

    - Guadelupe Dunes. Big sand dunes along the beach, with miles and miles of dunes and beach and not much population. I enjoyed it -- much better than Pismo Beach up the road a ways, which was very busy.

    - Surf Beach near Lompoc (actually you have to drive through Vandenberg Air Force Base to get to this public beach). Not an amazing beach, but a nice beach with a long sandy run.

    - Jalama Beach. This is one of the most isolated beaches south of San Francisco, at the end of about a 15 mile drive from the road through a twisting country lane. One of my favorites -- you can beach comb, hunt for Jasper along the shore, or try surfing in the large waves. There's a first-come-first-served county campground at the beach, and a small snack bar which surves burgers and the like.

    - Refugio Beach. Along the coast, very accessible by freeway. Not bad, but usually full of campers during the weekend.

    - Isla Vista/ Coal Oil Point. The early Spanish explorers reported finding a sheen of oil on the waters near here. Yep, there are natural oil seeps off shore here. A nice beach to beach comb and if you know where to look you can dive and watch the seeps come up from the sea beed off shore. Near UCSB campus and popular with the students. Picniced here a few times -- but watch out for tar balls on your shoes from the beach.

    - Santa Barbara City Beach. Pretty nice beach, right along the beach. Wide sandy beach, not huge waves and very accessible to the town.

    - Carpenteria beach. Another nice wide sandy beach, with some surf. Claimed "the safest beach in the country" although I'm not sure about that.

    - Zuma Beach/ Point Dume. Popular surfing beach along Malibu coast. Not bad -- wide sandy beach, not a bad break. (I've skipped a bunch of surfing beaches coming south along the coast.. lots of sites) If you rember all the Franky Avalon/ Annet Funnicello beach party bingo movies -- this is where most of those were set.

    - Santa Monica to Redondo Beach. This is a west facing wide sandy beach with a good break, if there are waves from the west. Santa Monica has good access to the city there, and the pier is always fun. JUst south of that is Venice beach with its rather showbiz culture with lots of fun things to see along the bikepath along the beach and lots of vendors in sort of a street fair on the weekends. The southerly end has several small yacht habors but is a good beach none the less.

    - Long Beach. This is a very calm, long wide sandy beach --- its inside the Long Beach/ San Pedro breakwater and very popular to sun bath on even in the winter on a warmish day. Not a lot of surf since you're inside the breakwater.

    - Seal Beach down to Huntingon Beach/ Newport Beach. These are fairly wide flat sandy beaches with a good south-west facing run, so they typically get fairly good surf in the winter. Long beaches for walking or riding your bike, with several interesting little surf-towns with restaurants, some fishing/ walking piers out into the water, and some smaller yacht harbors, until you get to Newport Beach. Pretty laid back in the winter, but nice to visit. State or city beaches pretty the entire length.

    I should note that the wedge in Newport is a world class body surfing spot. The waves come up and pile up in a wedge just outside the entrance to Newport Beach harbor. Sometimes huge waves, but can be a very sharp large break -- exciting, wild and sometimes extremely dangerous. Fun to watch an expert ride though..

    - Crystal Cove State Beach (just before Laguna). One of my favorite beaches -- very white sand, some rocky points to snorkel in the summer, and not amazingly busy in the summer.

    - Laguna Beach. The beach, which cotinues up and down the coast for a couple miles in a series of rocky coves is not bad. But the real attraction is the artists community at Laguna. Fun place to walk the town and explore the art galleries and shops.

    - Doheny Beach/ Dana Point. Not a bad beach, but the yacht harbor at Dana Point has taken away most of the break.

    - Capistrano/ San Clementa. Not a bad beach -- been some years since I went there though. San Clemente area is more known for the waves, whereas Capistrano is known more for being calm.

    - San Onofre. State beach along the beach you can camp at, and down below the bluffs near the power plant. Good surfing beach, good beach to wander -- another favorite.

    - La Jolla/ Torrey Pines/ Blacks Beach. A nice, but sometimes narrow sandy beach. Not usually amazing surf -- but good snorkling down at the south end near the point. And yes, Blacks beach at the northern end is the best known nude beach in California -- strictly unofficial of course. La Jolla/ Del Mar is a nice town -- lots of things to do and shops to wander through.

    - Coronado Beach, near San Diego. This has been voted the best beach in California several times. The one time I was there, it was pretty crowded, but a nice wide sandy beach and Coronado is a nice town to wander through as well as having a classic old famous hotel, right on the sand. South of there, along the spit of land south of Coronado is the US Marine Amphibious Training School -- and you can sometimes watch either SEAL classes or entire battalions cross the beach. A few years ago I was sitting on the other side of the spit, having a drink one evening with some friends watching a SEAL team doing water entry and some type of exercise starting with them dropping out the back hatch from a helicopter into Mission Bay.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Awesome post!

    That was a great post! Thanks for the run-down. I had started a response -- but your post, blew me out of the water... (again).


  5. Default

    Thanks for an excellent reply!!! I think I know all there is to know about California beaches now

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