Searching for sun and fun? SoCal’s got you covered. Whether you’re a budding surfer, seashell hunter or freewheeling hippy, you’ll find a beach that’s right up your alley. Inland, you’ll uncover artsy enclaves teeming with galleries and a striking blend of architecture ranging from Spanish-inspired missions to futuristic concert halls. The food scene is also out of this world, so make sure you fill up on the region’s famous fish tacos before you go.
Traditional homes, antique shops and a wide array of restaurants occupy the palm tree-lined streets of Ventura’s historic downtown district. Admire the 18th-century Mission San Buenaventura and consider catching a show at the award-winning Rubicon Theater. You can also pick up fresh produce at the farmer’s market. The city also acts as the entry point to Channel Islands National Park. Nicknamed the “Galapagos of North America,” these five remote islands are home to 150 species of endemic flora and fauna. Board a ferry and get ready for hiking, kayaking and diving opportunities galore. Keep an eye out for the island fox.
2. Playa del Rey
Drive 69 miles • 1 hour, 14 minutes
Bohemian spirit thrives in this part of SoCal. Head to the north end of Playa Del Rey Beach to do hang tens on a surfboard and then stroll the Venice Beach Boardwalk to mingle with fortune-tellers, street performers and other eccentric characters. In Marina del Rey, cycle down the 22-mile Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail or take a YOGAqua class, an activity that blends yoga with stand-up paddleboarding. Finish your day with a dinner cruise where champagne and seasonal dishes are served alongside sweeping harbor views.
3. Laguna Beach
Drive 56 miles • 59 minutes
This swanky beach town can’t wait to show you its artistic side. View works by local artists at the Laguna Art Museum and pick up a piece for your home at galleries like Kush Fine Art and Virga Gallery. In the summer, watch actors pose for living paintings during the Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters and admire everything from hand-blown glass to photography during the Sawdust Art and Craft Festival. Before you leave, stop by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to meet rescued sea lions and seals. There is no admission fee, but donations are appreciated.
4. San Diego
Drive 73 miles • 1 hour, 14 minutes
With warm temperatures year-round and 70 miles of coastline, San Diego lets you indulge in beach time fun every season. Bring the family to the La Jolla Shores for a day of paddleboarding and beachcombing or perfect your surfing skills at Mission Beach. There are dozens of beaches to choose from, so you’re sure to find the perfect patch of sand for your outdoor pursuits. When the sun goes down, go to the historic Gaslamp District for dinner and guzzle down craft beers in Miramar, a neighborhood that locals call “Beer-a-Mar.” Discover new flavors and take some bottles home.