The temperatures in Southern California are forecasted to rival the surface temperature of hell this Labor Day weekend, and while it’s going to be unusually crazy hot at the beaches, there is a good 15-20 degree difference between the coast and the valleys, making a beach escape very tempting.
For our family, a trip to the beach usually means a drive down Interstate 5 to south Orange County. My parents-in-law live at their beach house in San Clemente, making it an easy getaway. It’s always fun for the kids to visit their grandparents, and even more so when that visit means a day full of swimming and boogie boarding in the cool Pacific Ocean just south of T-Street.
Of course, with 42 miles of coastline, there are many options for an ocean adventure in Orange County, California. Many a school or scout beach trip has happened at Bolsa Chica State Beach, right along Pacific Coast Highway just north of Huntington Beach. Maintained by the California State Parks department, this beach is clean, and offers a lot of parking. There is a $15 parking fee for the day, but whenever we go, we stay the day. There are first-come, first-serve fire pits for sunset bonfires, and it’s a fun hangout.
Seal Beach is another hot spot among our youth. This easily accessible beach features a small playground area by the pier, and pre-Covid was a popular trip for truly So Cal-style playdates at the beach or church youth group hangout days. The kids’ favorite taco joint, Taco Surf, is just north on PCH. This beach is also pretty clean, and parking is decently priced at $3 for two hours or $6 all day. The pier is a nice little walk which offers a nice panorama of the Pacific. From time to time, you may even see a seal or two.
My favorite ocean hangouts, though aren’t sandy beaches. I love visiting tide pools and observing the sea life living within the rocks. I visited the Dana Point Tide Pools near the Ocean Institute last time I stayed down there. The boulders provide homes for the tidal animals and fill with the tide. Anemones, snails, crabs, and mussels can be found within the shallow pools. The rocks are slippery with algae, and caution is required to protect the animals and to keep from getting injured. I wore boots for this trek, and was happy as a clam exploring among the rocks.
There are many fun spots along the cooler Pacific Coast to beat the infernal inland heat. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and some good beach snacks. Also be sure to observe current social distancing guidelines. But most importantly, have fun, chillax, and be safe. Happy trails!