California Paradiso – not all beaches are created equally.

View from the Marriot Laguna Cliffs.

Half way between L.A. and San Diego lay the lazy beaches of Dana Point and Laguna. In an effort to escape the furious heat in Phoenix – which I am so fond of *sigh* – I run to the sea. In Doheny State Beach you see everything as you imagined – glorious tanned Thor-like hunks on surfboards, blonde beauties in tiny bikinis, seagulls ever watchful of your pretzels and of course the Hawaiian shirt clad tourist clinging to a camera. I chose Dana Point because it is a quiet place, call me a geezer but I’m not exactly the party girl. I go for the sea scrubbing. After an hour of laying out listening to the cresting waves I’m too daffy to even care that I have sunburned. I’m very pale – sunscreen only goes so far.

It is magic I tell you!

… And the rocks! I am an avid rock collector – many who know me would tell you it’s a problem. I tell people I was a penguin or a ferret in past life. Doheny Beach in particular has the best rocks and shells – there is basalt, limestone, rocks with holes in them, sea glass, spiral shells – ah heaven.

Secret Spot Alert! If you travel down Dana Point Harbor Drive – past the marina and park at the boating school – there are tide pools down the path behind the school. Just be aware of the tide, if you notice it coming in or it is already high leave it be. It has the potential to be a dangerous spot. You can see great examples  of crabs, little fish, mollusk colonies and anemones.

Disclaimer: I promise I was picking rocks…. not flipping my mother off!
Most of the streets are named for colored lanterns… for inquiring minds – it exists!

Dana Point and Laguna are actually the mecca of California surfing and boasts some of the best surfing in California. I can only vouch for Mission Beach, closer to San Diego, where I attempted to surf. Attempted. If you have time and a steel ego – rent a board and give it a try!

Hobie's surf shop
Hobie’s surf shop

Laguna beach is roughly twenty minutes north of Dana Point on the Pacific Coast Highway. The vibe of Laguna is lively. The palm trees are lush and the tropical hibiscus steal the scene with their vibrance. You half expect Brad Pitt to come strolling out of one of the many gorgeous beachfront properties. Any visions you had of California Paradiso exist here. Make sure you keep an eye out for wildlife dolphins and even whales – in the right season – frequent Laguna beach. If you are really lucky you could be joined by a sea lion or two. Just be aware that they are wild animals and should not be approached under any circumstances – no matter how adorable. Wild animal PSA.

Laguna through the lens.
Even the stairs down to the beach are vibrant!

You could make a day out of the boutiques that occupy the main strip along the PCH. Laguna offers food of all sorts and for all types of eaters – vegans, carnivores, and veggies alike.

I never thought I was a beach person. The sand is sticky, the ocean was green and smelly, too many guidos, too loud and too crowded. Turns out that is just the Jersey shore – my only exposure to beach life. But then came the beaches of California – the angels sang and the sand didn’t go to bad places.

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