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Sun soaked: Southern California's secret beach spots
Coronado, California: Savvy sun-soakers pay to park at the Hotel Del Coronado, then dine and sunbathe on premise in between ogling the Navy SEALS jogging the beach. This flat, mica diamond-studded beach has low tides so you won't be surfing the waves anytime soon, but you will enjoy the R&R while watching stingrays and napping in the sand. When you're done with the beach, stop in for a boutique beer at Coronado Brewing or catch some p.m. blues and brews at McP's.
South Mission Beach, California: This is the ultimate partyspot in San Diego, and parking is a premium. Come early, stay late and throw your bike or roller-blades and a party frock in the car for beach bar bumming when the sun goes down. You can kayak the bayside on this isthmus, or surf and body slam on the Pacific side - both within walking distance. At night, the Pennant and Beachcomber rock, especially during the summer and Over The Line in July. The old-fashioned roller coaster, video arcades and Wavehouse occupy the mini-pints and the sunset is best of show.
Del Mar, California: In addition to Torrey Pines State Park and Dog Beach, the artsy village of Del Mar serves up two beach hang-outs not to miss, Powerhouse and Seagrove Park near the Fifteenth Street surf break. Surfing can be gnarly here, and the view of the Pacific as you wind off I-5 and around the lagoon stops your heart--as do Del Mar's coastal cuisine--Roberto's tacos, Il Fornaio's wood-fired pizzas and enoteca, Pacifica Del Mar's seafood specialties and Del Mar Plaza's whimsical terrazza shops and breakfast nooks. South of the Del Mar Racetrack, the beach south of the Brigantine on PCH1 is hard to park at, but worth walking into. Better yet, bike on over.
San Onofre, California: Real surfers know that this hangs better than Malibu and it's the quintessential California campground where for a small fee at the gate, you can pretend you are in Hawaii. Play volleyball, loll in a grass hut with your cooler of cocktails and snacks, compare long-boards and tales of catching a South swell at the three main breaks: the Point, Old Man's and Dogpatch. It gets crowded on weekends, so arrive early with the blenders and pick up a few of Pedro's fish tacos in North San Clemente for the ultimate alfresco breakfast.
Catalina Island, California: Here, the sand is your boat. Moor in Avalon or sail around to beautiful Emerald Bay, offering 99 moorings and anchorage for 5-10 boats, a perfect day trip. Catalina Express runs daily boats over to Avalon from San Pedro or Long Beach, and a Key West bacchanal is the catch of the day every weekend during summer. In addition to swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling, Catalina offers kayaking, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, biking and even a Zipline. Explore the Avalon beaches by golf cart, or just sun from your boat.
The above was contributed by Nanette Wiser, a Seed.com writer.