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An endless stretch of shell-covered shores, cliffs protruding from coves and seagulls flying overhead. A beach hidden away from the rest of the civilization.

Located along Pacific Coast Highway in Northern Laguna, Crystal Cove State Beach is a stretch of cliffs. A glorious  mass of  rocks and sand  that is one of the best places to explore in Southern California.

Like most desolate beaches, Crystal Cove is tricky to get to. First thing to note: if you are driving there, you have to pay to park. I would recommend getting a state parks parking pass since it’s a lot cheaper; if you go to the beach often, it can be applied to all the state beaches throughout California.

To get to the actual beach, there are several paths through the shrubbery that all lead to different trails down to the beach from the cliffs above. Take the north-most trail and you will wind up crossing a wooden bridge, ending at some stairs that lead you down to an end of the beach with a large cave and rocky cliffs.

At last, you are at the part of the beach which is best for exploring, an easy task to accomplish, since there are not as many people here as more popular beaches like Newport or Huntington.   Sometimes you might be the only person to walk along the shore, transporting you to a deserted island. Take time to breathe in the salty air, watch the birds scurrying along the sand and forget all of your stresses that may clog your mind. This is a chance to cleanse.

Another reason this is such a good beach for exploring is the numerous coves and inlets that each have their own individual beach environments. A day spent at Crystal Cove can end up feeling like a refreshing series of different oceanic adventures.

There are tide pools filled with green sea anemones of all sizes, colonies of hermit crabs scurrying around in the sand, brightly colored silver and orange fish and the occasional baby octopus if you are lucky. I remember as a kid feeding bread to my “pet” octopus who lived in one of the tide pools — probably  not the healthiest thing for the little guy.

Besides these more accessible tide pools, there are also some around the cliffs. Tap into your adventurous side and climb up the cliffs, satisfying more tide pool cravings while also getting a more elevated view of the ocean. Because honestly, everything looks cooler when sitting on a gigantic rock.

Around the first cliff there is a rocky “private” beach covered in shells and sea glass. Sunbeams reflect off the sea glass illuminating the ground so take a second to look down at your feet instead of out at the ocean. Sifting through the shells can also spark the child within all of us, collecting the tiniest shards to more complete ones that sing wave sounds when holding them to your ears.

Now is your chance to channel your inner Indiana Jones, as there are some large rocks that can be used for cliff diving if the tide is right. Just make sure you jump in the right spot where there are not any rocks and the water is deep enough for you to safely land. Cliff diving is just like diving off a diving board in a pool except in this case the pool is the Pacific Ocean and the diving board is a chunk of rock that broke away from the cliffs. Cliff diving is for more adventurous individuals who live life on the edge and aren’t afraid to jump off.

When the sun sets, climb one of the cliffs or walk to the area at the top of the stairs and see the reflection of the colors of the sky on the water and the rocky coves.

Crystal Cove offers many things that other beaches have such as caves, cliffs, tide pools, sunsets and the lack of crowds but what makes Crystal Cove special is the combination of all these things in a way that makes the place almost magical. This is the place you imagine when you think of a paradise.

If you are looking for a place to explore, clear water or just a quiet beach, then you should definitely check out Crystal Cove.

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