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A Local’s Guide to Southern California Beaches

With Labor Day comes the close of summer, but not in Southern California. Here the 70-degree weather and endless sunshine continues into October.

As crowds head home, hotel rates in Southern California dip below their summer highs. Beachfront resorts and spas are available for a fraction of the price, making ritzy coastal towns and hidden surf colonies a possibility for many off-season visitors. In recent weeks fall air fares have been drastically reduced from both the West and East coasts, including these new sales from AirTran and Fly.com.

On the weekends locals flock to their favorite beaches, but during the week these sandy havens remain barely populated. Next time you visit pass up on the main beaches and get in-the-know with this local’s guide to the best beaches in Southern California:

  • Avila’s Beach -- veer just south of San Luis Obispo to the halfway point of California’s coast. This bustling beach town is only a few streets long, but is an up and comer along the Pacific Coast with several new hotels, a nearby pier and yacht club. Preserving its small town vibe, the streets are filled with mom-and-pop delis, surfer boutiques and beachside bars.
  • Arroyo Burro Beach -- known to locals as Hendry’s Beach, it is hidden by cliffs and against an estuary in Santa Barbara. This surfers paradise is dog-friendly and has free parking -- a rarity on the beach scene. The sand is scattered with driftwood, seaweed and picnicking families. The Boathouse restaurant, a favorite among locals, sits on the sand offering perfect sunset views. Stay under three miles from the beach in downtown Santa Barbara at the upscale Canary Hotel for 30% off.
  • Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach -- climb over the rocks of Leo Carrillo State Beach and Point Dune, and visitors will end up in one of the Meyer coves: El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador. For the less adventurous, park at the top of the cliffs off Pacific Coast Highway and walk down the dirt paths to the water. In the summer these Malibu beaches are heavily frequented by locals, but as August winds down they transform into private coves.
  • Laguna Beach -- one of the most well-known towns in Orange County, but what most visitors don’t realize is that at the end of every street is a unique beach. Coming from the north, the endless string of beaches starts with Crescent Bay, a smaller version of Main Beach with public restrooms. Head into the neighborhood, down Cliff Drive, and make sure not to miss the almost-hidden entrance and sign for Shaw’s Cove. With a wide sandy beach and calm waters, this local’s beach has become a favorite amongst families. When the tide is out, climb over the rocks and venture over to Boat Canyon and Diver’s Cove. Drive past Main Laguna Beach and turn on Moss Street, here lies the tiniest cove hideaway in all of Laguna -- fitting at most ten beachgoers. Make sure to check the tides before going as low tide reveals tide pools and high tide washes away most of the sand. For $89 venture a mile south to Aliso Creek Inn.
  • Windansea -- this no-frills surfers haven in the ritzy La Jolla community of San Diego has been around since the 1940s. Written about in novels, surf magazines and portrayed in movies, this beach came to fame in the 1960s when surf legends began frequenting it. A rocky coastline and its original surf shack, now a historical landmark, sets a scene right out of “Endless Summer.” Grab this $119 deal from Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, and stay just 5 miles away.


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Tips by

Deal Expert, Los Angeles
Monday, August 13, 2012
See more Tips from
Blaire Constantinou