One of the best things about living in Southern California, is the plethora of beaches. There are beaches for surfing, camping, swimming and even shopping. Most people are familiar with the main beaches like Newport, Santa Monica and Huntington, but many aren’t as familiar with the stellar beaches in the less traveled areas like Laguna Beach. This is exactly where the gem that is Thousand Steps Beach is nestled nicely within the many beaches near Laguna Beach, California, and even though finding it can be difficult, it is worth your time to put in the extra effort.
The public entrance to Thousand Steps Beach is located directly across the street from 9th Street and South Coast Highway (Pacific Coast Highway – PCH) just 2 blocks South of the South Coast Medical Center. There is a sign and approximately 250 steep steps leading to the beach. It is a trek going down and coming back up, yet it is worth the haul.
Thousand Steps Beach is one of the largest beaches in South Laguna Beach. It’s a wide sandy beach with volleyball courts, restrooms, tide pools and caves to discover. You can walk all the way through the cave (which is actually a tunnel) to a tiny rocky cove on the other side. At the north end of Thousand Steps Beach there is another rock tunnel, but this one leads to a large excellent beach that you must see. Unfortunately, this beach, known as Totuava, is only accessible at low tide when the short (in height) tunnel and optional route around the point are safe to pass through.
As I said, this beach is difficult to find. I think this is mostly because the locals would rather not have it become a tourist trap like Huntington and Newport has become, and I couldn’t agree more. That being said everyone should be able to experience its beauty.
WARNING: A PORTION OF THIS ADVENTURE IS TRESPASSING. FOLLOW MY LEAD AT YOUR OWN RISK. (I don’t think you will get in trouble as long as you aren’t entering onto anyone’s property *several houses border this area* just stick to the sand, don’t go climbing any stairs up to someone’s patio.)
The only real hard part is finding a place to park along the street. Then you arrive to the very spot, that gives the beach its name, Thousand Steps Beach. There may only be 250 something steps in total, but it feels like 1000, especially when you go back up them! So technically it’s not 1000 steps, but it is a catchier name than 250 Steps Beach! Walking up and down the steps will give you a decent sweat, that’s for sure.
Once you’ve made it to the bottom of the steps, you have two options, and you can see what all that effort was for. The California coastline! Its beauty is unmatched! The beach is about 400 yards of pristine sand, crashing waves, tide pools, and even a cave. It also offers views of some of the most lavish houses you have ever seen; all with their own fenced off areas of the beach, as well as personal steps to take them from their house to the start of the sand.
The blue waves crashing on the sand, the tide pools filled with an abundance of sea life, there is a reason why people spend millions of dollars just to live close. It’s absolutely gorgeous no matter which direction you look. The real adventure begins when you walk south on the beach, where you will approach a large cave opening.
It’s best to go at low tide, to avoid getting wet. At high tide the water can get up to your upper legs, so be prepared to get wet, or check the tide before you go! You can check the tide here. While it’s pretty easy and relatively safe to go at low tide, it can be dangerous at times, especially with the crashing waves. So please be careful. Parts of the trek to the pools are very rocky; I highly recommend water shoes/aqua sox, sandals, or anything that will protect your feet.
While the cave alone is alluring, the man-made, saltwater-filled pools with sand bottoms carved in rock just north of Lighthouse Cove are even more tempting. But the way to the “secret” pools is treacherous. The rocks are uneven, slippery and moss-covered. Locals know to avoid an area called the “blow-hole” that separates the small pool from the two larger ones.
If you decide to go north (right) on the beach walk along the beach and hop over the small rock ledge to the tidepool area. Note this rock ledge may not be passable at high tide. The tidepool area consists of two narrow benches and a boulder field. The two benches have large populations of mussels, barnacles, limpets, snails and smaller populations of sea starts.
I give Thousand Steps Beach a hundred thumbs up. This may be my new favorite place in California.
Have you been to Thousand Steps Beach? Is it on your bucket list?