California's Best Beaches: 3 You Should Check Out This Summer
California has about 850 miles of coastline, with hundreds of beaches for fishing, swimming, surfing, people watching, kite flying, and sun bathing. I have spent a lifetime souring it's rugged shores for the best beaches.
Huntington Beach is the iconic mecca of California beach culture and surfing. Nicknamed Surf City, it hosts the U.S. Open of Surfing every summer. Across the street from the pier, is the surfer hall of fame, where you can see the hand prints of Al Merrick, Kelly Slater, and Rob Machado, and dozens of other surfing heroes.
Positioned on Highway 1, or PCH as the locals call it (I used to be one of them), Huntington Beach has 8 and a half miles of beautifully groomed sandy coastline. At the center is the iconic pier, with a red roofed Ruby's at the end. All of the best surfing action happens near the pier, so a stroll down the planks will give you the best view of California surfers working their magic.
Main Street dead ends into the pier, and has tons of places to buy fish tacos, shop for board shorts, or rent a surfboard. A cement trail follows the entire length of the beach, and is popular for joggers and cyclists.
A trip to Huntington Beach will make you want to pick up a surfboard and sing beach Boy Songs. "Surfin' Safari" and "surfer Joe" both play tribute to Huntington Beach.
What You Need to Know:
Parking: There are a few metered lots. If you park downtown or in the residential areas, parking is free, but might be hard to come by.
Weekends: Huntington is very busy on the weekends in the summer. Expect a little traffic on PCH and hard to find parking.
Amenities: Free volleyball courts, public restrooms available near the pier, fire rings, skate park. Lifeguard towers are staffed in the summer months, but beaches are patrolled daily.
Newport Beach has three sections of beach that are unique and offer different activities. On the north side of the entrance to Now Port Bay, you will find some of the craziest boogie boarders on the planet, at a spot called "the wedge." During the wintertime, a southern swell can produce up to thirty foot waves .
On the south side of the rocks, you will find Big Corona, which tends to have a much milder set of waves. Big Corona is a popular family destination because of its easy access and tamer waves.
if you park up on the cliffs above Corona, at the end of Poppy, you will find a fire road. It is a bit steep coming back up, but Little Corona is a hidden jewel for those wanting a more secluded setting. It's a tiny section of beach, with an iconic stone arch, fabulous tide pools, and some of southern California's best snorkeling.
What You Need to Know:
Parking: There is a paid parking lot at Big Corona. If you park in the residential area, parking is free, but you have to walk about a quarter mile up and down a hill to get to the beach.
Amenities: Public restrooms, picnic area, summer season lifeguards, nearby Balboa Island has a small theme park, restaurants, and great shopping.
Tide Pools: The tide pools at Little corona are protected. It is illegal to step anywhere wet. You can look in them, but cannot step inside. The Department of fish and Game are know to be unforgiving in giving out tickets.
Newport is the Best Place to Watch Some of the World's Best Skimboarders
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California's oldest theme park and the perfect destination for having fun in the sun. Known for its wooden roller coaster, the Boardwalk has enough rides and attractions to keep you busy all day long. There's indoor mini-golfing, bowling, laser tag, a rock climbing wall, and a waterfront stage with live shows. The live music will have you rocking the night away.
What You Need To Know:
Parking: Several paid lots downtown. On the weekends the lots fill up very fast, so get there nice and early.
Amenities: The theme park rides are only open on the weekends in the winter, restaurants, public restrooms.
Cost: Individual rides are about $3-6 each. An all day pass is about $40, and a season pass is about $72.
Weather: During the summer, the days are mostly warm, but the nights can get a little chilly. It wouldn't hurt to stow a sweatshirt in your car, for the colder evenings.
© 2014 Jennifer Arnett