Featuring purple sand, shadowy benefactors and Hollywood superstars. Here are the wonderfully weird yet often overlooked beaches of California.
Rockaway Beach, Pacifica
Rockaway Beach viewed from the coastal bike path
A beach with 'chocolate sand' might sound like a child’s Willy Wonka-inspired daydream. Even though the sand here isn’t edible, Rockaway Beach doesn’t disappoint. The beach’s chocolate brown sand is caused by limestone erosion mixing with volcanic greenstone, giving this patch of Pacifica’s coast an eerie yet appetizing atmosphere. However, if you prefer a more familiar take on sweets, definitely try the Chocolate Mousse Cake at Oceano Hotel and Spa.
Pismo Beach, Oceano
Pismo Beach pier on a sunny day
Bookers can make the most of Pismo Beach’s massive sand dunes and scenic coastline by cruising over them either on ATV or horseback. Drivers can park their RVs right on the sand and set up camp for the night. But those looking for ocean views and excellent parking without worrying about high tides should check in to the Shore Cliff Hotel.
Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach
The Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach
The highlight of Victoria Beach is without a doubt the Pirate Tower. A 60-foot, medieval-style spiral staircase built in 1926, the stone tower was designed to give a homeowner who lived in a clifftop house high above the beach easy access to the ocean. A later tower owner used to dress up as a pirate (giving the tower its nickname), hiding coins and candy for the local children playing down by the rocks. Oh, and Bette Midler owned the tower at one point, too. For bookers keen to experience the surreal glamour of Victoria Beach, check out the picturesque Ranch at Laguna Beach.
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach is one of the more secluded beaches in Big Sur
At first glance Pfeiffer Beach looks like the site of an environmental disaster. After a closer look you’ll quickly realize it’s actually one of the prettiest beaches you’ve ever seen. The metallic, purple shimmer of the sand at Pfeiffer was caused by the erosion of nearby hills, leading to manganese deposits on the beach. This beach—like most Big Sur attractions that aren’t Highway 1—is notoriously difficult to find, so stay nearby and pick up tips from the locals at Glen Oaks Big Sur.
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
Sea-smoothed glass pebbles at Fort Bragg
The Glass Beach at Fort Bragg was one of California's most popular dumping grounds in the past. Decades after this practice was banned, the ocean washed all the dumped glass smooth, creating a magical, Dragon’s nest-like stretch of beach. While this isn’t the only glass beach in the world, it’s certainly the best-known and most picturesque. Bookers can make the most of the gorgeous scenery by checking into the Beach House Inn, which comes complete with panoramic coastal views.
Bowling Ball Beach, Mendocino
The bowling balls at Schooner Gulch Beach
At the Schooner Gulch Beach you’ll find the Bowling Balls of Mendocino – they’re two parts fantasy and one part oddity. Neatly lining the shoreline, these bowling ball-shaped boulders were apparently created when the softer mudstone covering them began to erode, exposing compressed balls of the much tougher rock below. Even so, we’d rather stick to the legend that says this beach was once home to an amateur giants’ bowling league. After you check out the evidence for yourself, spend some time relaxing in the ocean-view jacuzzi at Wharf Master’s Inn.
Black Sand Beach, San Francisco
The Black Sand Beach is also a popular spot for surfing
Black sand and nude sunbathing might sound like an odd combo, but don’t knock it till you try it at San Francisco’s south-facing Black Sand Beach. While it isn’t an officially designated nudist beach, many locals think of Black Sand as a clothing-optional location. And as soon as you see the breathtaking ocean views, the urge to get back to nature makes a lot of sense. The black sand of this beach creates a striking contrast with the Golden Gate Bridge, even though getting there involves a serious hike up and down the cliffs. Catch your breath at Cavallo Point on the way back.
#BeABooker and book your trip today.