This piece originally appeared as part of our Be A Tourist in Your Own Town guide, in the December 2017 issue of Los Angeles magazine.
Routine is inevitable in a city like Los Angeles, where less-than-ideal urban planning and traffic thwart spontaneity at every turn. So it makes sense that, when presented with the option to either hit our go-to beach or drive an hour in either direction to check out a new one, we choose the path of least resistance. But the 74 miles that make up our coastline are as diverse as our metropolis, and exploration is rewarded with discovery—even if it requires getting up early on a weekend to avoid queuing up on PCH.
When you want to bypass the crowds at Malibu’s more sought-after sands, head to Carbon Beach, aka Billionaire’s Beach, which is still blissfully unpopulated most of the time. (It only opened to the masses in 2015 after years of public-access lawsuits.)
El Matador State Beach
When you want to explore aquatic life along the seashore, the rocky outcroppings at El Matador State Beach are home to starburst anemones, snails, and fish, too, and it’s three miles closer than Leo Carrillo State Park, to which the tide pool seekers often flock.
When you want a lot of options, you could join an estimated 17 million yearly visitors at Santa Monica Beach, or steer about two and a half miles south and set up shop at Venice Beach instead. You’ll still be able to see Santa Monica’s famed pier, but you’ll also have a little more room to spread out—plus, when those midday munchies hit, you can walk up Windward Avenue to Pacific Avenue for a Blue Smoothie bowl from Great White. And even if the Venice Beach Boardwalk’s eccentricities don’t speak to you, it’s still worth taking your in-laws to marvel at the skate park and Muscle Beach. When you need a break from the artisans and drum circles, dip into Small World Books. The selection is surprisingly diverse (local authors, indie imprints), and the store cat is pretty adorable, too.
Dockweiler State Beach
When you want to avoid the sun, consider a trip to the alien landscape that is Dockweiler State Beach. The place is best enjoyed at night when you can huddle around one of 40 fire pits—it’s the only beach in L.A. County that allows bonfires. Pro tip: get there early (like, pre-sunset) if you’re hoping to make s’mores with your pals; groups tend to grab them fast, especially on cooler evenings.
When you want to scuba dive, there’s Malaga Cove, a sand-and-rock swath at the base of the Palos Verdes Peninsula that has a kelp forest, bat rays, angel sharks, and other sea life (it’s also less populated than Laguna Beach’s Shaw’s Cove dive). So don’t shy away from finding a new slice of serenity—returning to your routine might be sweeter once you do.
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