By Monica Luhar, Southern California Public Radio (89.3)
This story is part of our summer series “Beachcombing,” in which KPCC reporters will explore the ecology, economy and culture of Southern California’s beaches and coast. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on KPCC’s Facebook page.
We asked about your favorite SoCal beaches, and you answered. Here are another set of beaches to get to know before this summer fades into fall. Read our earlier post on ‘beaches to get to know’.
Popular for its fire and barbecue pits during the summer, this beach is where the party’s at on weekend nights. Prepare to be greeted by an eclectic mix of beach people: reggae aficionados, families by the dozen and even the occasional beat boxers.
Pro tip: Make sure you claim your fire pit well before evening so you can enjoy your s’mores and star gaze for hours. Some hardcore fire pit fanatics actually claim their spots by 10 a.m. we’re told. If you’re still scrambling for fire pits, your best bet is to just crash a fire pit party (bring wood. No booze allowed).
Heads up!: You may have to cut your meditation session short when international flights take off and interrupt the peace every ten minutes or so.
With nearly four miles of shoreline, Dockweiler is one of the larger beaches in L.A., about 10 minutes from LAX.
Parking: Lot parking is $10, but there’s plenty of free parking on Vista Del Playa. Just make sure you don’t get a hefty parking ticket, as the beach closes promptly at 10 p.m. Head over to Fat Burger and try the XXL Challenge on Venice Boulevard once you get booted out of the beach at 10 p.m.
El Porto Beach
Despite recent shark sightings, the “coast” is now clear at El Porto Beach – the ultimate surfing destination for newbies and pros.
Surf’s up: Grab a bodysuit, boogie board and get pro lessons from one of the area’s many surfing instructors. But before you head out, have a quick read-through of Magic Seaweed’s surfing report for weather and surf conditions.
New to surfing? There’s a school for that. In 2009, Los Angeles Magazine recognized El Porto as the “Best Beach for New Surfers.” And, in 2011, it stole the spotlight in LA Weekly — earning the title of “Best Surf Spot in Los Angeles.”
Parking: Located near Dockweiler and Manhattan Beach, El Porto has plenty of metered parking near 45th Street, not to mention outdoor showers to get rid of that funky smell.
Salt Creek State Beach
Great for picnics and sunbathing, Salt Creek Beach is known for its sprawling pristine coastline conveniently laid out near luxurious hotels like theRitz.
Located in Dana Point, Salt Creek warms languid locals and tourists alike to soak in the sun on the edge of salty waters. For UCSD students, Salt Creek is yet another excuse to ditch studying and laze outside picnicking and exploring the coast.
Pro tip: KPCC listener William Young says you should check out the beach’s “big sloping, grassy lawn above the beach, similar to the one at Pepperdine,” otherwise known as Bluff Park. Snag a green spot, curl up with a good book to read and watch the sunset.
Parking: $1 an hour, all-year round. Find out how you can sign up for annual beach parking at a discounted price. Yelp user Ming-Jou C. suggests parking near the hill, a seven-minute walk from the beach.
On the other end of the spectrum is Zuma Beach. This beach is all activity, best symbolized by a Baywatch-era David Hasselhoff running along the beach while the ladies wonder at his 6-pack. And they did. Baywatch was filmed along the beach, along with many other shows and film scenes.
One of the largest beaches in L.A. County, Zuma is popular among athletes and health-conscious hardbodies like the Hoff. Aside from surfing and ocean swimming, you’ll find kiteboarders, windsurfers and vollyballers on the sand.
Swim beside dolphins and expect to find dozens of competitors participating in exhilarating 9.7-mile long paddle races from Zuma to Surfrider Beach. For those who can take it, the beach is home to the Nautica Malibu Triathlon – the athletic showdown where you’ll find swimming, running and bike ride competitions along the turf.
Parking: You can settle for daylong parking along the beach for a fee, or scour the nearby roads for an empty free space.
Fact! No Doubt’s lead singer Gwen Stefani named her child Zuma after the beach.
What’s more? The beach even made this year’s honor roll for its excellent water quality in Los Angeles. That’s an A+ ocean water.
If the name is putting you off, fear not. RAT is just an acronym for “Right After Torrance” (or Redondo and Torrance) Beach.
Conveniently tucked between the beautiful shores of Redondo and the affluent Palos Verdes community, RAT is one of SoCal’s lesser known beaches – a secret getaway near Malaga Cove. Secluded and beatific, this South Bay beach is a favorite among locals. No parking headaches, no annoying crowds. It’s just you and the big blue ocean.
Over the years, a whole series of origin stories for the beach’s name have developed, spanning everything from a well-known surfer’s pet rodent to smuggling operations to the area’ 50s-era sanitation issues.
Which is real? No one knows. Lay back, embrace the mystery, and enjoy the beautiful beach.
Note: Crustacean aficionados, plan ahead and head over to Redondo’s Lobster Festival in September. Tip: You might want to save your appetite until after that 62-mile Rat Beach Bike Tour, which takes place just before.
Parking: There are over 400 parking posts at the beach. During the winter,parking ranges from $2-$6. In the summer, it’s $3-$7. Here’s a map of where you can park.
Torrey Pines State Beach
Named after the rare Pinus torreyana tree, this beach boasts miles of clean water, bluffs and oceanside trails, its cliffs are another unique feature that sets it apart from neighboring beaches. Be warned: their beauty can lure you into trouble. Plan ahead and be careful if you’re planning on hiking, and scale not its cliff-face.
Or you could skip the schlep and follow this guy via bike camera as he sails down the roundabout Torrey Pines Park Road.
If you’re not feeling Torrey Pines or want another view, Pacific Beach and Black’s Beach are close by. Black’s in particular is said to be the one of the first public beaches in the U.S. to allow nudity, bringing hippies to the coast in droves through the late 60s and 70s.
Parking: Day use parking is available, but you can also find free parking near Hwy 101.