Natural Bridges State Park
At the tip of the West Side, Natural Bridges State Park (West Cliff Dr., 831/423-4609, www.parks.ca.gov, daily 8 a.m.–sunset) offers nearly every kind of beach recreation possible. The sand strip doesn’t stretch wide, but falls back deep, crossed by a creek that feeds out into the sea.
An inconsistent break makes surfing at Natural Bridges fun on occasion, while the near-constant winds that sweep the sands bring out windsurfers nearly every weekend. Hardy sun-worshippers brave the breezes, bringing out their beach blankets, umbrellas, and sunscreen on rare sunny days (usually in late spring and fall).
Back from the beach, a wooded picnic area has tables and grills for small and larger parties. Even farther back, the visitors center can provide great stories about the various national wonders of this surprisingly diverse state park.
Rangers offer guided tours of the tidepools that range out to the west side of the beach. You can access these by a somewhat scrambling short hike (0.25–0.5 mile) on the rocks cliffs. These odd little holes filled with sea life aren’t like most tidepools—many are nearly perfect round depressions in the sandstone cliffs worn away by harder stones as the tides move tirelessly back and forth. Just don’t touch the residents of these pools, since human hands can hurt delicate tidepool creatures.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition