Beachcombing: Know your Southern California beaches!

Photo by Matt Niemi via Flickr Creative Commons
Surfing Santa and his entourage bring the Christmas spirit to Seal Beach.
The mellow grounds of Pepperdine University overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu.
Photo by Yeshwanth Rao via Flickr Creative Commons
The Huntington Beach Pier is located near the fire pits that are free to beachgoers.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Bottlenose dolphins swim ahead of the bow of a boat off the southern California coast on January 30, 2012 near Dana Point, California. A coalition that includes Native American tribes, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council is on the National Marine Fisheries Service for more protection for dolphins, whales, and other migrating marine animals from the use of sonar in training by the US Navy on the West Coast. Environmental groups argue that mid-frequency sonar alters the behavior of sound-sensitive marine life and, in some cases, causes fatal results. Some whales are believed to communicate across hundreds of miles of ocean through sound.
David McNew/Getty Images
Ventura pier with a view of Catalina in the distance.
Photo by JoePhilipson via Flickr Creative Commons
Venice Beach mural
Photo by meeshypants via Flickr Creative Commons
Venice Beach Skatepark, Jan. 22, 2013.
Rebecca Hill/KPCC
A fin whale swims off the coast of Los Angeles. These whales can get up to 70-feet long and weigh up to 150,000-lb, making it the second largest animal on earth.
Mae Ryan/KPCC
Elephant seals on a beach along California’s central coast in San Simeon Calif.
Reed Saxon/AP Photo
Crowds gather at the beach, Sunday, July 18, 2010, in Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Large waves break at the Venice Beach Pier.
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Waves hit the Redondo Beach Pier in Redondo Beach, Calif., Monday, April 8, 2013. Strong winds have begun raking parts of Southern California. The National Weather Service says the gusty northwest-to-north winds will become widespread across the region Monday and continue into the night.
Jae C. Hong/AP
A file photo of the San Diego coastline.
David McNew/Getty Images
Sept. 3, 1983: Spectators crowd Huntington Beach for surfing championships
Photo by Paul Chinn via LA Public Library

This story is part of our summer series "Beachcombing," in which KPCC reporters will explore the ecology, economy and culture of Southern California's beaches and coast. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on KPCC's Facebook page.

With this post KPCC begins a look at the best, most popular or most awesome beaches in Southern California. We've picked five that we think merit a visit, but we want to know what YOUR picks are! Let us know in the comments, send us a photo, post on our Facebook page or tweet us @KPCC with the hashtag #Beachcombing.


Pismo Beach

Bugs Bunny once hit a well-documented detour while searching for California's Central Coast gem, Pismo Beach.

The promised land of clams — located in San Luis Obispo County — is 60 acres of regional beach, pier, promenade, creek and dunes. The family-fit Pismo is also a destination ripe with local wineries, ruled by majestic Monarchs and ready to the celebrate the clam by the bucketful.

Keep current with surf, weather and water temperature reports when planning a pilgrimage. And don't forget to bring your own waveforms — Here's a starter track for your will-dig Pismo playlist. (READ MORE)


San Buenaventura State Beach

The "City of Good Fortune," San Buenaventura's state beach suns itself near two significant, historic landmarks in Ventura:

Shell out $10 to get into the park for access to dozens of bike trails, hiking trails, scenic routes, and two miles of sandy beach and dunes. Then shell out for oystersThe "Mission Impossible" theme should lead any mix you make for the occasion. 


Manhattan Beach 

The density of ESPN-quality eye candy makes Manhattan Beach a sweet place to hang out. Boasting a population of professional athletes, the town also plays host the events like the International Surf Festival and the Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball Tournament.

Between the chance encounters with chiseled perfection be sure to find time to engage your inner (and outer) athlete on the beach. Over 50 volleyball nets are set up on the sand for both public and private use and the two mile "Strand" is open to runners and bikers.

If walking is more your style, you’ll have plenty opportunity with the location's notoriously difficult parking. Let this Jock Jams, Vol. 1 classic be your inspirational soundtrack. 


El Matador State Beach

The sign is easy to miss. The beach is hard to forget. 

Hidden in plain sight off the side of Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu’s rocky, romantic and film-ready El Matador State Beach is a secluded alcove painted with cliffs and arches making it one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California. 

Park for free along PCH or for $8 in the lot. Walk the trail to the edge of a 150-foot high bluff overlooking the beach and hike down the path. It's steep, so wear comfortable shoes. And plan ahead — no restrooms (or anything else, for that matter) once you hit the sand.

Can anyone see a rocky beach without thinking of "Grease?" 



Carlsbad State Beach

Scenic cliffs and marine life welcome you to these San Diego beaches maintained by the California State Parks DepartmentIf you're bringing your own wildlife, keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on Carlsbad beaches but leashed pups are are permitted on the city’s trail system. 

Popular surfing destinations Tamarack, Warm Water Jetty, and Terramar are located near the lagoon. Craft beer and banana waffles are but a stroll away. And a recent gift from the Friends of Cardiff & Carlsbad State Beaches means the staircase off Poinsettia Avenue is getting a makeover. 

A San Diego soundtrack can go one of two ways. Choose wisely.