Hidden Beaches in Southern California


Beach Fuzz

Summer is officially here! Celebrate by kickin’ it old-school with a day at the beach. But not just any beach…here are three where the footprints are few and far between.

La Piedra Beach Malibu

Sight Unseen

Some beaches see all the action, and others are pleasantly hidden from plain view—meaning you won’t have to elbow your way to a place in the sun. Find room to roam at La Piedra State Beach in Malibu. This spot is far to the west end of Malibu, so people driving from Los Angeles pass a number of other tempting beaches first. And because the beach is tucked beneath sea cliffs, it’s not visible from the road: plenty of people cruise on by and without knowing what they’re missing. Pull off of PCH into a dirt parking area on a bluff above the coast and descend the short trail to a rocky and secluded shoreline. The beach begins with patches of cobblestone that keep casual sunbathers at bay, leaving rugged, less-traveled coastline that could double as a slice of Big Sur. To the west, you can’t get anywhere unless the tide is out (at which time it’s possible to walk .25-mile to El Pescadero State Beach). But it’s much nicer to stroll east and reach softer sand on a long, narrow stretch below bluff-top residences with wooden staircases dropping to this under-the-radar haven. In the distance, Point Dume looks like a finger pointing out to sea. At low tide (check the charts), you can pass through sea caves and around an outcropping to reach El Matador State Beach, a nice place to spread a blanket for a little sunbathing. Return the way you came. Seeing is believing.

Start from the La Piedra State Beach parking area on the south side of PCH (map). There is an $8 fee to park in the lot, where there are a few picnic tables. Walk down the trail .25-mile to reach the beach. It’s about .75-mile to reach El Matador State Beach, but check the tide charts. It’s not recommended to take unwise risks. No dogs.

Leadbetter Beach Santa Barbara

West Side Story

Santa Barbara’s crescent-shaped gem, Leadbetter Beach, usually wins the popularity contest among local oceanfront destinations: White sand, a consistent surf break, rock pools, golden cliffs and a picnic area are just a few reasons why this beach is a hot spot. What’s less expected is how easy it is to lose the crowds by heading west and slipping up the coast to a beach that’s just as beautiful—and lesser known. Time your visit for low tide and set your sights on the bold, orange rocky point jutting into the surf on Leadbetter’s west end. From a distance you won’t see anything beyond this point, but hike to it when the tide is out and make your way to the other side where you’ll be treated to miles of deserted waterfront perfect for strolling. The narrow beach, bordered by steep bluffs and mercurial waves, meanders past rocky sand rivulets that create tidepools. Flat stones specking the beach make smooth rock skippers. Stroll for 2 miles until reaching Arroyo Burro Beach. Here the crowds pick up again, which is your cue to flip it and head back the way you came. Beach-hopping bliss.

BONUS: Next to Leadbetter Beach’s parking area, Shoreline Café is a place to keep your feet in the sand while enjoying a Corona and some fish tacos.

Take Shoreline Dr. to the intersection with Loma Alta Dr. and turn south into the park by Shoreline Café (map). There is limited free 90-minute parking in front of the cafe. For more parking, turn right into the Leadbetter Lot ($2 per hour, $12 per day) or turn left into the Harbor West Parking Lot ($3 for three hours, $7 per day). Walk west up the coast to pass around the rocky point. Even if you don’t go at low tide, you’re likely just to get your feet wet, but it's best not to risk a rogue wave. After a of couple miles, you will hit Arroyo Burro Beach where the crowd resumes. This is a good place to turn back. There are picnic tables and BBQ grills near the parking area where dogs are allowed. Dogs are not allowed on the beach or in the cafe. 

Rosies Dog Beach Long Beach

Dog Days of Summer

Is Marley your wingman? Buster your best friend for a dog-day afternoon? Take your four-legged pal to three acres of soft sand and ocean swimming that’s officially pooch-friendly. Paw prints outnumber footprints at Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach, the only spot in Los Angeles County where dogs are permitted off-leash. This designation came thanks to a beloved bulldog named Rosie, who inspired her owners to lead efforts culminating in a dedicated stretch of beach where dogs could be unleashed. The canine-friendly waterfront is zoned by orange cones on a section of coast in Long Beach’s Belmont Shore neighborhood. The water is refreshing, the sand is smooth, and the views span Belmont Pier and beyond the surf to massive freighters chugging in and out of Long Beach Harbor. After entering the cone zone, unclip Bella and let the fur fly: dogs and puppies of all shapes, colors, sizes, and origins woof it up—romping around, playing fetch with their owners, or just sinking into the sand for a siesta. It’s a dog’s life!

BEER BONUS: Belmont Brewing Company next to the pier is a great patio for soaking up sunshine and ocean views while sampling one of the craft brewery’s award-winning ales, including Top Sail, a rich amber, or the sweeter Strawberry Blonde. Pair it with the house specialty, lobster bisque. The downside? No paws on deck. Leash your furry pal nearby.

The entrance to Rosie’s Dog Beach is located at the intersection of Ocean Blvd. and Bennett Ave. in Long Beach (map). There is free parking along Ocean Blvd. and a metered parking lot next to the beach. The dog beach is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dogs are permitted off-leash within the designated area and are permitted on leash on the beach between the lot and the off-leash area.  Dogs are prohibited anywhere else on the beach. No more than one dog per each adult. Belmont Brewing Company is located at 25 39th Pl. and is not dog-friendly.

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