Crystal Cove State Park
A mellow Southern California vacation where you step back in time in a secluded beachside bungalow without ever having to venture near any part of Los Angeles or its nightmarish tangle of freeways. That’s what you’ll find when you book a cottage at Crystal Cove State Park. Fly into Orange County Airport, hop in your rental car and you’re less than 10 miles away from Crystal Cove.
Where to Stay
Over 20 beautiful cottages have been restored and are a great place to stay when visiting Crystal Cove. One of the cabins was transformed into the thriving Beachcomber Cafe and bar at the water’s edge. On the north side of the cove, you can see some of the original structures waiting their turn at a makeover as soon as the funds are raised. Note that while the area is secluded, and the cottages have been restored, this place is packed in high season, and the rentals are charming but rustic. If your grandparents had a casual, little bare bones place at the beach, this would be it.
What to do
Situated on the Pacific Coast Highway, at the base of a jagged bluff, between Newport to the north and Laguna Beach directly south, Crystal Cove has a lot to offer visitors. The state park provides miles of backcountry trails for biking and hiking. Crystal Cove is also ideal for surfing and diving, not to mention dolphin and whale watching.
Where to go
There’s plenty to do within a fairly short distance from Crystal Cove. Head south on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), and in just under five minutes you’ll hit Husky Boy Burgers, a local landmark at the north end of Laguna Beach. Grab some burgers and the best-fried zucchini you’ll find anywhere. Heisler Park, a meandering stretch of green space perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy a cheap meal and a breathtaking view. Follow the bluff on foot, and in a few minutes, you’ll be in the village area of Laguna Beach, which is known for its many art galleries, boutiques, eateries, and bars.
You can stay on the PCH as you continue through the string of southern Orange County beach towns. At Dana Point, turn in to the harbor and follow the twisty road to the top where you’ll find a small visitors center overlooking spectacular harbor views. You can take a short hike along the private path at the center to get a closer look at the ocean, and some magnificent oceanfront homes. If you’re here during whale watching season, the Dana Point Harbor offers plenty of excursions.
The beach route stops for a bit at San Clemente, which is the last town in south Orange County. Before you have to get on Interstate 5 as you enter San Diego County and drive through the beach area of the massive Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Once you pass the base, you now have an even longer string of beach towns available to you. Oceanside offers a gritty 60s vibe and claims the California Surf Museum, while Carlsbad, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Solana Beach run together with more stunning sea views, plenty of eclectic shops and a fair share of brewpubs and casual seafood and Mexican eateries.
In the affluent seaside community of Del Mar, you’ll find the tony thoroughbred racetrack “where the turf meets the surf,” which Bing Crosby helped to found. Next door to Del Mar, in La Jolla, golfers will want to take in the renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Even the golf shop offers spectacular water views.
Pack A Lunch
If you want to spend an afternoon in La Jolla without breaking the bank, pack a lunch and head for the Torrey Pines Gliderport, where you can watch people dash off the cliffs and soar over the ocean. Established in 1930, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered the Kitty Hawk of the West.
Written by Summit Mortgage Corporation located in Lakewood, Colorado.