Southern California’s Best Shores

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If you're headed to Southern California, chances are it's to either San Diego or Los Angeles. Lucky for you, there's plenty of sun and surf in both spots. Here are our picks for the best beaches for . . .

A family outing

Silver Strand State Beach, San Diego
This quiet Coronado beach is ideal for families with little ones eager to test out their swimmies. The water is calm, lifeguards and rangers are on duty year-round, and there are places to rollerblade or ride bikes. Four parking lots provide room for more than 1,500 cars.

Romance on the rocks

Windansea Beach, San Diego
The beach's sometime towering waves are truly world-class. Its incredible views and secluded sunbathing spots set among sandstone rocks help make Windansea one of the most romantic of West Coast beaches, especially at sunset.

A hike followed by a dip

Torrey Pines City Park Beach, San Diego
One of San Diego's best beaches contains 1,700 acres of bluffs, bird-filled marshes, and sandy shoreline. A network of trails leads through rare pine trees to the coast below.

Doing pushups with seals

Coronado Beach, San Diego
With the Hotel Del Coronado as a backdrop, this stretch of sandy beach is one of San Diego County's largest and most picturesque. It's perfect for sunbathing, people-watching, or Frisbee. Navy SEALS teams are known to exercise here.

The best people-watching

Venice Beach, Los Angeles
The surf and sand of Venice are fine, but the main attraction here is the boardwalk scene. And what a scene it is. Avoid getting in the way of fab-looking roller bladders and bikers whizzing by.

Pleasing ten different personalities

Zuma Beach, Los Angeles
This two-mile stretch of white sand has it all: from fishing and diving to swings for the kids to volleyball courts; there are even decent restrooms. This is the perfect beach for clean water, swimming, sunbathing, boogie boarding, dolphin sightings, sand castles, and powerful surf.

Making underwater friends

La Jolla Cove, San Diego
This is one of the prettiest spots on the California coast. Palm-lined Scripps Park sits on top of cliffs formed by the incessant pounding of the waves. At low tide the tide pools and cliff caves provide a destination for explorers. Divers and snorkelers can explore the underwater delights of the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve.

Chatting anybody and everybody up

Santa Monica Beach
It's the first beach you'll hit after the Santa Monica Freeway runs into the Pacific Coast Highway, and it's one of L.A.'s best-known and most crowded. Wide and sandy, it's the place for sunning and socializing: if you love a scene this is your beach. Climb up the stairway over the PCH to Palisades Park to get a bird eye view of the chaos.

Angling away the day

Newport Pier, Newport Beach, Orange County
This pier, which juts out into the ocean near 20th Street, is the heart of Newport's beach community and a popular fishing spot. On weekday mornings, head for the beach near the pier, where you're likely to encounter the dory fishermen hawking their predawn catches.

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