California’s coastline stretches 1,350 kilometers along the Pacific Ocean, and is renowned for its scenic beauty. However, if you want to avoid crowds and traffic it’s a good idea to steer clear of the state’s most popular beaches. Instead head off the beaten track to explore some of California’s un-crowded secret beaches.
El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador
Tourists zooming west down Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway generally miss the three small but magnificently unspoilt beaches of El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador.
El Pescador is the most secluded, while La Piedra features some amazing rock formations. El Matador, sometimes called just “El Mat” for short, even includes a series of small caves you can explore – although be careful not to be caught by the incoming tide.
El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador are all “pocket beaches” that form part of the larger Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. They’re situated among rocky coves, and getting to them requires a little bit of scrambling down steep stairways. You’ll need to bring your own food and water, and no restrooms are available at the beaches – although there are portable toilets at the beginning of a trail that links the beaches.
West of Leadbetter Beach
Right in the heart of Santa Barbara, Leadbetter Beach is adjacent to the Santa Barbara Harbor. This beautiful white stretch of beach is backed by a park with lawn, plenty of trees and picnic and barbeque sites. It’s popular for walking, jogging and sunbathing, as well as windsurfing.
Although Leadbetter Beach is far from “wild” or deserted, it’s surprising how easy it is to find quiet stretches just by heading a little to the west. Look for an outcrop of orange-coloured rock, follow a path towards it and head round the bend. Soon enough you’ll find yourself strolling on miles of stunning beach, punctuated by occasional rocky patches and tidal pools.
Torrey Pines State Beach
San Diego’s Torrey Pines State Beach includes a long stretch of soft sand, set against picturesque cliffs with some excellent walking trails. There’s little parking near the beach, so you may need to walk a little to reach it – but once you do, you won’t be sorry. As well as being beautiful, the beach is rarely crowded, and you can easily head a little further south of the main beach to find more secluded areas.
Salt Creek Beach
In California’s Orange County surfers flock to Salt Creek Beach, at Dana Point, once a year for annual surf competitions. At other times, this beach is almost never crowded and it’s easy to find a quiet spot just to admire the turquoise water or get some sun.
The beach includes tidal pools and is backed by a grassy picnic area. Outdoor showers and restrooms are available, and a concession building with shops providing food and beach supplies, is open during the summer.
Also in Orange County, local scuba divers and snorkelers are among the lucky few who know of the beautiful beach and deep, calm waters of Shaw’s Cove. To reach this haven, you have to find your way through the residential neighbourhood at Cliff Drive and Ninth Street, in the northern part of Laguna Beach. A long series of steps is the only way to get to the beach, so only those fit enough for the trek back up should venture down.
Shaw’s Cove counts as one of California’s most secret and least crowded beaches; especially on weekdays when you may even be lucky enough to have it to yourself.