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A body builder at Muscle Beach in Venice, Calif., where Arnold Schwarzenegger got his start.

JD Lasica / Special to Cruiseable

A body builder at Muscle Beach in Venice, Calif., where Arnold Schwarzenegger got his start.

6 early summer beach escapes in Southern California

Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, Huntington Beach & more

Summer is here (as of 12:24 am ET yesterday), the weather is warming up and, in Southern California, that means it’s time to head to the beach. Blessed with beautiful beaches and miles of sandy shoreline, it could be hard to know where to start. 

Here are six suggestions for those looking to get the most out of your Los Angeles or San Diego getaway before, during or after a cruise vacation. Let's take it from north to south. 

Malibu beach at sunset. (Click to enlarge.)
tpsdaveMalibu Beach at sunset. (Click to enlarge.)



Malibu is an iconic L.A. beach destination and, while it may slow down in winter, the beach scene picks up again starting around spring break each March. The water may be a bit chilly, but the weather sure isn’t so it could be the perfect time to try something new — like stand-up paddleboarding. For a relaxing day at the beach, Paradise Cove is where to head. Set yourself up in the sand with a beer and an umbrella and watch as the hours pass by. Malibu is one of the priciest areas in SoCal, so keep that in mind when booking restaurants.

Map: Malibu is northwest of L.A. and Santa Monica along the coastline. 


The Santa Monica pier at night. (Click to enlarge.)
Pedro Szekely / Creative Commons BY-SAThe world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel rises 130 feet above the Santa Monica Pier. (Click to enlarge.)

Santa Monica


The Santa Monica Pier got an upgrade a few years back, and it’s never been more fun for families. Spend some time sitting on the beach and soaking in the sunshine and then head over to the pier for roller coasters, arcade games and other attractions. Stick around after dark and watch the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel, which offers great views from more than 130 feet overhead. You'll need a taxi, Uber or rental car to travel to some first-class dinner spots. (See Cruiseable's Los Angeles travel guide.)

Map: Santa Monica is perhaps the most accessible beach from downtown L.A.


Venice canal ... (Click to enlarge.)
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableSome of the architectural marvels along the canals of Venice, Calif. (Click to enlarge.)



A little seedier than neighboring Santa Monica in some stretches, the funky coastal town of Venice (technically part of the city of Los Angeles) is people watching heaven. The sun and surf are first rate here, and Venice close to L.A. and not far from the cruise port of Long Beach. The boardwalk hugging the oceanfront is home to surfboard shops, head shops, beachwear shops and world-famous Muscle Beach. What a lot of beach-goers don't realize is that a six-block walk eastward from the boardwalk brings you face to face with fabulously designed multimillion-dollar houses lining the Venice canals — SoCal variety.  

Map: Walk south on the boardwalk from Santa Monica and you'll enter Venice Beach. The Venice canals are six to seven blocks east of the boardwalk, and that area is off-limits to cars.


A surfer at Huntington Beach. (Click to enlarge.)
Surf's up at Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA. (Click to enlarge.)

Huntington Beach


Head to Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA, to experience a surfing paradise that also offers up stellar cuisine, a sprawling coastline and fun-filled events. Huntington Beach is perennially rated one of the best beaches in America. Not far from the Magic Kingdom, a stay in Huntington can also be combined with a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim.

Map: Huntington Beach is an hour south of downtown L.A., but that drive could easily stretch to two hours or more by mid- to late afternoon.


Balboa Island. (Click to enlarge.)
MaxxGirrThe view from Balboa Island. (Click to enlarge.)

Balboa Peninsula, Newport Beach


Farther south in Newport Beach, tucked away on the end of the peninsula, is Balboa, where visitors can indulge in sand and sea to their heart's content. And when they’re done, they can check out the Balboa Fun Zone for Balboa bars, Skee ball games, arcade magic and more. If that’s not enough fun in the sun, take the Balboa ferry across Newport Harbor to Balboa Island, an ideal location for a one-mile stroll along the bayfront. It's beautiful.

Map: Balboa and Newport Beach are south of Huntington Beach, a long way from downtown L.A.


A sea lion at Mission Bay in San Diego spotted during a kayaking outing. (Click to enlarge.)
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableA sea lion at Mission Bay in San Diego spotted during a kayaking outing. (Click to enlarge.)

Mission Bay


Mission Bay, the storied neighborhood in the heart of San Diego, is not a day trip from L.A. But it should be part of any visit to San Diego. Mission Bay consists of more than 4,600 acres of land and water and 27 miles of shoreline. It offers rowing, boating, water skiing, picnicking, swimming and more for visitors year-round. Go kayaking for some close-up photos of sea lions, shore birds and other marine life. With no surf and no significant current, it's an ideal location for families — especially if you have small children. The bay is also located near Sea World and other San Diego amusement parks, perfect for combining your beach vacation with other local attractions.

How about you? Have your own favorite Southern California beaches or hideaways?

— Cruiseable news services contributed to this roundup

Cruiseable team
The Cruiseable editorial team consists of award-winning travel writers, cruise bloggers and journalists.