My kids are so lucky to be growing up in Southern California.
We are just a few miles from Laguna Beach. To many people, this is a vacation paradise. To my kids, this is home.
I thought I’d share a little bit about what it’s like live in So Cal and to hit the beach here for a day. If you are considering visiting, you might find this helpful as you’ll have an idea what to expect.
Technically Salt Creek Beach Park is not in Laguna Beach – it’s in Dana Point. But it’s close enough that the summer trolly runs by, making stops here and at The Ritz Carlton hotel before continuing on up the Pacific Coast Highway to Laguna. The Ritz Carlton looms above this beach, on a cliff to one side. Guests have their own path to get down to the beach but are not separated in any way from others. The beach is public. The hotel does furnish chairs, towels and umbrellas for their guests, however, so it’s easy to spot the out of towners!
We like to get to Salt Creek early, before it gets hot and crowded – though I’ve never known this beach to get uncomfortably crowded. I grew up back east on the Jersey Shore where you often had to fight for your scrap of sand.
Perhaps this beach stays uncrowded because it is a bit of a hike down and through the terraced green park, to get to the beach. Note: bring a kite and a basket of snacks and you might decide to forgo the sand and water, in favor of a scenic picnic on the hillside above the beach.
In the summer time there is a golf cart that will ferry folks down (or more importantly back up) the hill between parking lot and sand for $1. It’s not always running though, so you might want to plan for some exercise at the end of the day and try not to overpack! But don’t stress. I’m not in the best shape and I always make it back up the paved path in ten minutes or less. Don’t worry too much if you’re in good health!
Salt Creek offers a very large parking lot. Parking all day ran me $4 this summer – not so bad. There’s always space to park and then you go down a short staircase where you cross under the road via a short broad tunnel decorated with murals, and bam! You are in the park with breathtaking views.
Down on the sand it’s easy to find a spot to park yourself. My favorite thing to do is watch the surfers. There are lifeguards on duty in the summer time. The waves can get big. The lifeguards designate different areas for swimming and surfing to prevent injuries.
My kids like to play in the sand – playing bury the little brother is a popular activity that never seems to grow old.
I also love to look at the Ritz Cove homes along the cliff. We’ve all heard rumors about which one used to belong to Barbara Streisand or an NFL player or another celeb. It’s fun to imagine what it would be like to awaken to those views and the sound of the surf daily.
On occasion we treat ourselves with a stay at the Ritz Carlton or even just dinner on their patio. It’s the next best thing and no airfare!
On our last visit the shoreline was littered with tiny crabs which was highly unusual. It’s the first time in 17 years I’ve seen anything like this. They say it’s from the el nino – warm water. It was spectacular and a little sad to watch. Except if you are an ocean bird. In that case, this is like a Vegas buffet.
Don’t expect to see this if you go to Salt Creek beach. The sand is normally pretty clean, with few shells other than an occasional broken mussel and little debris besides the occasional clump of seaweed.
This is one of the easier beaches to go to with kids because there are restrooms at the top of the hill in the parking lot and also at the bottom of the hill in a couple locations. There’s also a snack shack that is open in the summer. You can buy your classic summer beach foods there – burgers, hot dogs, ice cream and french fries. You can also get smoothies, and other cold drinks.
Here’s what to pack for Salt Creek Beach:
- Sunscreen – lots of it!
- Umbrella or shade structure if you are prone to burn
- Sand Toys & games
- Boogie Boards for older kids
- Flip flops – the sand can get very hot here!
- A camera – because it really is gorgeous
After a long hot day at Salt Creek Beach we like to head to the Rite Aid on Crown Valley Parkway and Alicia for some Thrifty Ice Cream. Best $3 ice cream cone you will find in the area. Plus you can pick up aloe if you didn’t bring enough sunscreen. Take it from a local!
You might also enjoy this post about a So Cal Staycation at Pacific Edge in Laguna Beach