Lesser Known California Beach Communities

Sometimes even the best beach vacation plans can go awry. What was meant to be a relaxing time at the beach turns instead of accommodation nightmares, extra budget-breaking expenses, and big disappointments? If you would like to enjoy a vacation at the beach, or you have had previous bad beach experiences, here are some destinations in California  – beach vacations for you and your family.

Huntington Beach, Orange County

Huntington Beach is a city in Southern California, built up around the seaside–meaning there’s plenty of beach scenery and activity.  The Pacific Ocean borders it on the west side, while the Seal Beach makes up the northern border.  It’s especially known for the eight and a half-mile stretch of beach, along with its excellent surfing and mild climate.

Some of Huntington Beach’s notable features are Huntington Beach Pier, its huge beaches, beautiful sunsets, supreme surfing, and the jogging and bike paths that have been set up close to the ocean itself.  There is also an abundance of affordable yet attractive resorts and beach sports.  For an unusual entertainment experience, you’ll want to check out Huntington Beach’s Main Street nightlife.  It tends to e old-fashioned, simple, and yet a bit on the funky side.

Main Street is an excellent place to dine and shop.  There are literally hundreds of shops that carry unique Southern California mementos of your trip.

If you’re the type who enjoys special events, there seems to always be something scheduled in and around Huntington Beach.  Some of the interesting annual events include the U.S. Open of Surfing, regular BMX competitions, skateboarding competitions, the annual Paintball World Series, an Independence Day Parade on July 4, an annual “Duck-a-Thon,” and the Main Street Halloween celebration.

One of the most popular aspects of beach life at Huntington Beach is its superb surfing experiences, as it has what is considered California’s — and indeed, the United States’ — best surf breaks.  There are four separate facing beaches at Huntington Beach:  Northwest, Southwest, West, and South.  The Northwest is comprised of Bolsa Chica, the Southwest is comprised of everything to the north of the pier, the West is comprised of “Dog Beach,” and the South is comprised of everything to the south of the pier.

Bolsa Chica is operated by California’s Parks Department and the Bolsa Chica Lifeguards.  This beach is quite narrow, with coarse sand.  Bolsa Chica has better surfing with Northwest – West swells during the winter.  In the summer, the beach gains some South-Southwest swells at a steep angle.

Almost as popular as the Bolsa Chica area at Huntington Beach is Dog Beach, which also has great surfing.  Incidentally, it gets the name “Dog Beach” because visitors are allowed to have dogs near the cliff area.  The surf here is even bigger than that at Bolsa Chica in the wintertime–and it’s often better, as well.  In the summer, though, the South-Southwest swells tend to slide by and break poorly.

Gaining in popularity at Huntington Beach is a sport known as kite surfing.  Kite-surfers use a power kite to pull them through the water as they ride a small surfboard (similar to a wakeboard).  Those who just want to watch can often see kite surfers in action at the pier’s northwest end.

So if you’re a beach-lover who is looking for the ultimate surfing experience, thousands of people who also love the sport would recommend you check out Huntington Beach.

Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County

Avila Beach is one of those little known out of the way places that cater to the lucky tourists that are in on the big secret. Avila Beach is located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and one of the most attractive points to Avila Beach is that the coastline is still undeveloped; the ocean view is crystal clear, and you will be able to enjoy your Avila Beach vacation looking at sandy shores and mountains instead of condos and high rises.

Avila Beach
Avila Beach

Avila Beach is so tiny that it only has a registered population of 797 people. While this is a small little town, they are big on catering to tourists as tourism makes up the majority of the town’s income. Luxury accommodations are available, and the prices are much lower than the standard ‘California vacation’ prices that most tourists have come to expect. In addition to luxury accommodations, plenty of activities, experiences, and places to see are all at your beck and call during your memorable Avila Beach vacation.

Some of the opportunities that you can take advantage of at Avila Beach vacation include fresh seafood dinners at local restaurants, unique stores for those who love to shop during their vacations, tasting the fantastic California wines that are produced locally, relaxing in the natural mineral hot-springs that Avila is most well known for, relaxing on the quiet and unpopulated beach, and watching the gorgeous sunrises in the morning.

Your Avila Beach vacation has another added bonus as well; Avila Beach is known as a place that has ‘the friendliest climate on California’s Central Coast.’ The scenic mountains and bluffs which surround the beach act as a barrier to cooler weather systems, and so Avila Beach is warmer than most cities on the coast in California. If you are looking for a lovely spot to vacation this summer and California has always been on your list of places to see, try an Avila Beach vacation for a quiet and relaxing California vacation.

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County

Contrary to what it sounds like, Manhattan Beach is not a beach located in New York.  Rather, it’s in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County on the West Coast–in Southern California.  Manhattan Beach is full of expensive homes, wealthy residents, and fancy restaurants. That’s why some people call it Beverly Hills on the Sea.

Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach has a scenic boardwalk that spans along the ocean.  Lining the walk are multimillion-dollar homes, bike paths, and volleyball courts.  At most times of the day, you’ll see bicyclists, skaters, and walkers enjoying this picturesque boardwalk.  But that’s not all there is to do in Manhattan Beach.  You can also head over to the Manhattan Beach Pier, second in size only to the Santa Monica Pier–and quite scenic.  If you visit in July, you can go watch the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix.  This is the next-to-oldest Pro-Am cycle race in the United States, with a circuit running along Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Valley Rd.

If your trip to Manhattan Beach will include a Tuesday, you’ll find that Metlox Shopping Center celebrates Farmer’s Market Tuesdays every week, from 1 to 4 p.m.  But don’t rely only on the farmer’s markets for your shopping.  There are numerous boutiques and shops lining Manhattan Avenue, going all the way down to the pier.  These shops provide the best flavor that this upscale community has to offer.

Need something to eat?  Manhattan Beach has a number of fine restaurants.  You should know, though, that this community is especially known for its many breakfast eateries.  They have a reputation for doing breakfast better than anyone.  Four of the best breakfast restaurants include:

  • Local Yolk, located at 3415 Highland Avenue in the El Porto area.  This an omelet-lovers paradise.
  • The Kettle is a 24-hour breakfast diner full of local character.  You’ll find it on the corner of Highland Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard.
  • Oceanview Cafe is a quiet, out of the way place with a charmingly-relaxing atmosphere.  It’s at 229 13th Street.
  • Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, as you would guess, specializes in truly memorable pancakes.  The restaurant has an ocean view that adds to Uncle Bill’s charm.  It’s located at 1305 Highland Avenue.

Of course, the food is not all about breakfast, and if you want a taste of fine-dining at Manhattan Beach, try Petros at 451 Manhattan Beach Boulevard.  Their upscale Greek food earned them the award for Best New Restaurant in the 2007 Zagat guide for Los Angeles.

Movie and TV fans might also be interested in knowing that Manhattan Beach is mere minutes from Hollywood.  In fact, probably because of that fact, there are studios right in Manhattan Beach.  For instance, Raleigh Studios at Manhattan Beach is the production center that has created previous TV shows such as “The Practice” and “Ally McBeal.”  Numerous people new to the industry have moved to Manhattan Beach because of the area’s growing studio industry.

Long Beach, Los Angeles County

Generally, when people are listing the ideal beach vacations, Long Beach isn’t on that list.  This is so, even though Long Beach is California’s fifth-largest city and occupies 52 square miles.  It boasts a thriving population of about 481,000.

Long Beach
Long Beach

In fact, some people would say it’s because it’s so big that it’s not listed as the perfect beach destination.  However, people’s misconceptions might be ill-founded.  In fact, there are so many attractions and things to do in the Long Beach area that one would scarcely have time to get bored if he vacationed in this part of the world.  Let’s take a look at just a few of the things to do and see in Long Beach.

Queen Mary
This is a historic White Star ocean liner with a rich past.  It has served as a troop transport during World War II and is even listed as a historic place on the National Register.  There are several tours of the ship that you can take; one of the more popular ones is the “Ghosts & Legends” tour.  On The Queen Mary, you’ll find several restaurants, a hotel, even a shopping complex. For information, call 562-435-3511.

Aquarium of the Pacific
The Aquarium of the Pacific is believed to be one of the nation’s largest aquariums.  It has 19 major habitats, with almost a thousand species inhabiting them.  Call 562-590-3100 to find out more.

The Scorpion (A Russian Foxtrot Submarine)
This is an actual Cold War Soviet sub, with self-   guided tours available, and a retired submarine officer there to answer questions.  The passages and hatches are quite small, so those who are claustrophobic will want to avoid this attraction. For details, call 562-432-0424.

Long Beach Museum of Art
This is a small art museum, but features a lot of 20th-century art, mostly by California artists.  Call 562-439-2119 to find out more.

Gondola Getaway
This is a romantic boat ride for couples, through the canals of Naples.  They even provide cheese and crackers.  Call 1-562-433-9595 for more information.

Recreation Park Golf Course
Yes, there’s plenty of golf available in Long Beach, and this is one of the best spots to find it.  It features 18 holes on its rolling terrain with various types of trees on the fairways.  Call 562-494-5000 to learn more.  Another good one is the Skylinks Golf Course, which features a Scottish links-style course.  Call 562-421-3388.

Belmont Plaza Pool
Belmont Plaza Pool is an Olympic-style and size indoor swimming pool that is much-used for major swimming events.  However, when there’s no event going on, the public is invited to use it.  To find out more, call 562-570-1805.

Long Beach Performing Arts Center
The Long Beach Performing Arts Center features weekly performances by the International City Theatre and the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra.  To find out their current schedule and prices, call 562-436-3661.

There are, of course, literally hundreds of restaurant possibilities in Long Beach, so it’s impossible to justice with a listing here.  Suffice it to say that there are Mexican, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, and even American establishments just waiting to serve you.

Newport Beach, Orange County

Take a trip to Newport Beach in Orange County, California, and your senses will be assaulted by sandy beaches, stunning sunsets as well as a harbor that has hosted thousands of yachts.  This is a beach town that is at once relaxing yet ritzy.  The harbor features numerous small islands.  It also plays host to attractions such as the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, the Newport Pier, and a few museums.  Some of the popular pastimes at Newport Beach include playing volleyball, surfing, and romantic walks along the shoreline.

Newport Beach
Newport Beach

Newport Beach is found on the famous Pacific Coast Highway of California.  It’s long been a popular playground for the wealthy.  One of the noted structures in the area is the Victorian-styled Balboa Pavilion.  Built in 1904, the Balboa Pavilion hosted many big band dances back in the 1940s.  It’s now a site that boards many cruise boats; the fun has been kept alive at Balboa Pavilion, though, through its numerous arcade games and amusement rides.

At Newport Beach’s pleasure craft harbor, you can find harbor cruises which depart daily, several times a day, from the Fun Zone.  And as long as you’re near the harbor, be sure to visit the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum.  It has scores of displays that pertain to the sport of boating.  There is also the Newport Harbor Art Museum nearby, with a large collection of post-war art created by California artists after World War II.

In fact, there are lots of sites of historical significance at Newport Beach.  in addition to Balboa Pavilion and the Newport Harbor Art Museum, there’s also McFadden’s Wharf, located at Newport Pier.  This wharf was finished in 1889 and launched a decade in which Newport served as a shipping port.  McFadden’s Wharf was built by Robert and James McFadden.  The pair shipped lumber to the port from Northern California.

Another historically significant location is Old Landing (located at Dover Drive and Highway 101).  The first steamer came into Newport Bay in 1870 and unloaded its cargo near this site that would eventually come to be called Old Landing.  At the time, it was named a new port — or “Newport”–and is hence where the city gets its name.  A highway and bridge sit on a portion of the site now.  All the rest of it is vacant.

And one other historical site you might want to see is the Rendezvous Ballroom.  It’s located between Palm and Washington on the oceanfront and was originally a small dance hall which was in competition with Balboa Pavilion.  A new facility was built in 1928 for the ballroom, and it then started hosting famous bands such as Benny Goodman.  Sitting on the site now, due to a fire that burned down the hall in 1966, are condominiums.

Rich history, opportunities for fun and food, and the scenic beauty–These are two reasons that people who love to explore their world keep coming back to Newport Beach.

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