Despite the fact that Spring Break is over, the beaches in Los Angeles remain a great escape from the daily stresses of student life. When finals work picks up and the Occidental campus starts feeling too small, the best thing to do is pack up, grab some friends—and maybe a volleyball—and hit the nearest beaches. But with such a wide variety of options branching up and down the coast, it can help to know the superlative qualities of those closest to campus.
Best beach to watch a newly married couple take sunset pics: Laguna
It can be difficult to spend time at Laguna without Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean,” the theme song for the show “Laguna Beach,” playing on repeat in one’s head; and at 56.7 miles away in Orange County, Laguna Beach is a bit of a trip. However, if one can bear the car ride and Duff’s 2004 Radio Disney Music Award-winning masterpiece, the spot has a lot to offer. The beachfront town includes restaurants, a small, usually empty, movie theater and overpriced ice cream shops. But most importantly, the sunset at Laguna beach is dazzling. Added bonus: It is always entertaining to watch the couples who flock to the sandy shores to take pictures of one another with their professional-looking cameras.
Best beach to see Kerri Walsh Jennings: Manhattan
On a busy weekend day, Manhattan Beach is a great alternative to the generally crowded Santa Monica and Venice beaches. The beach boasts a pier, volleyball courts, a surf-town style shopping district, bike paths and dream houses. Only 28.6 miles from campus, Manhattan Beach crowd keeps it low-key, but do not be fooled by the fact that they are not as eccentric as the company at Venice. According to some Occidental students, there may even be someone who looks, dresses and plays beach volleyball exactly like Kerri Walsh Jennings, the professional volleyball player and six time gold medalist. It may even end up actually being her.
Best beach to buy a $50 Bacon, Egg and Cheese or get stuck on a roller coaster: Santa Monica
Located 23.4 miles away from campus, Santa Monica epitomizes the California beach experience. Although the surrounding neighborhood is a little swankier than other options, every type of person can be found at Santa Monica. One of the best things to do here is take a walk along the boardwalk toward Venice and look at the beachfront properties, which are as varied as the beachgoers. Some have winding staircases around the entire structure, and some look like the treehouse that you dreamed up as a kid. Santa Monica also has a pier—perfect for awkward second dates or an Instagram picture to make those East Coast friends jealous. The pier is home to a small amusement park, complete with a roller coaster, a ferris wheel and trampolines.
Best beach to get into a street performance and buy a “free” mixtape: Venice
Venice is perfect for those interested in speaking to people with birds in their hair, watching bodybuilders do 100 plus pull-ups in the blazing heat, having teenage boys accidentally skateboard over their toes or seeking out a “green doctor.” Known for its quirky, hippy, often radical charm, and just 24.2 miles away from Occidental, Venice offers an eclectic boardwalk, a wild crowd and a perfect tanning beach. The shops on the boardwalk are great for purchasing souvenirs. The options include, but are not limited to, shot glasses, stuffed animals, bathing suits and t-shirts that read “beervolution.” As a nice alternative to the sandy beach, there are expansive grassy patches by the boardwalk on which to lay out a picnic or enjoy a cold treat.
Best beach for Skinny Dipping: Zuma
Zuma lies just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, 42 miles from Occidental. It is one of Los Angeles’ most popular getaways, known for its wide beaches. Tucked away on the far side of Malibu, Zuma’s quarter-mile wide beaches never feel full. In classic “SoCal” spirit, the Zuma sand overflows onto the pavement of the parking lot. The lack of dogs, frisbees and surfers makes Zuma pristine and quiet compared to its neighbors to the south. At times, the utter lack of shade on the beach can create a desert-like feeling. But when the sun starts to set and the waves calm, the south-facing Zuma beach is treated to an exceptional view of Santa Monica and the blood orange sunset.
Best beach to claim you did not just tan but also went on a “nature hike”: Malibu Lagoon/”Surfrider Beach”
Located 42.7 miles away from Occidental’s campus, where Malibu Lagoon meets the Pacific Ocean, “Surfrider” beach holds true to its name. Upon exiting the car, one will often see a pack of extremely fit men in half-put-on wetsuits balancing surfboards on their shoulders walking by. In order to get from the parking lot to the beach, one must take a winding dirt path past an estuary nestled among the Santa Monica mountains. Although the beach is mainly populated with hardcore surfers, many families choose the hidden spot to lay out a picnic and relax for the day. Malibu Lagoon also offers guided tours of the wetlands and the Malibu Lagoon Museum. Brave souls can bring a surfboard and jump in the water, while those a little more conscious of their mortality can watch from the beach as some surfers tactfully maneuver a 20-foot wave and others get pummeled.
Best beach to pretend like you surf: Huntington
Located 42 miles south of Occidental, Huntington Beach consists of 10 miles of clean beaches. Huntington is the largest beach town in the Orange County area and features the most consistent waves on the West Coast, earning itself the nickname of “Surf City USA.” Swimmers can also be found here, enjoying the warm waters all year. Huntington Beach lies in walking distance from the Pacific Coast Highway, and there is generally ample parking available. However, be sure to get there early to ensure you can find a spot before the plethora of partially-clad teenagers arrive. A large network of lagoons and estuaries, which are home to a variety of local wildlife, can be found on the opposite side of the highway. Seagulls and beach critters are not an uncommon site at Huntington.
Each beach has pros and cons, but they all ensure a relaxing, if sometimes uncomfortable, break from Eagle Rock. Occidental students have the luxury of being located in close proximity to some of the greatest beaches in the world, so whether you’re looking for a tan or catching a wave, this is the season to make use of them!