Crystal Cove

Rethink Beach Day

There’s nothing wrong with lying in the sun or frolicking in California’s surf, but choose the beach at Crystal Cove State Park and the menu gets a lot longer. Spanning nearly 3,000 acres of coastline and wilderness, Crystal Cove beckons the hiker, birdwatcher, historian and scientist in all of us.

Locals discovered Crystal Cove in the 1920s and established a community of cottages that now comprise the park’s Crystal Cove Historic District. Though the area no longer houses full-time residents, it does offer a host of activities through its nonprofit partner, Crystal Cove Alliance.

For nature lovers with a “citizen scientist” soul, pencil in Field Science Saturday (second Saturday of the month), and help gather data for research projects, including measuring the effects of rabbit herbivory on restored native habitats. Reservations are a must.

History buffs will enjoy the Historic District tour held the third Sunday of every month. Led by CCA founder and acting president Laura Davick, the walking tour recounts the District’s colorful past, current restoration plans and future vision.

The ocean offers another gift: surf-tumbled sea glass. Fragments of glass—amber, blue, white—are weathered by saltwater and roughly polished. These “gems” nestle in the sand and among the pebbles; seek, and the treasures you may find! You also can make your own sea glass jewelry Wednesdays in the Historic District’s Education Commons.

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Prefer to search for sea life? Check the tide schedule and explore tide pools teeming with sea anemones, bat stars, sea urchins and hermit crabs. Scan the surf for migrating gray whales December through April and for massive blues May through September; scan the skies to see some 150 species of sea birds, including squadrons of graceful brown pelicans.

To satisfy your own creature comforts, grab breakfast or lunch at The Beachcomber on the water’s edge, a watering hole cottage formerly known as The Whistle Stop. In a nostalgic nod to a bygone era, the martini flag is still raised daily at 5 p.m. For a midday pick-me-up, visit Ruby’s Shake Shack. Perched atop the bluff and known for its date shakes and ice cream treats, the Shake Shack offers a full menu and unimpeded views to Santa Catalina Island.

One more thing: Shop! The Store at Crystal Cove helps the nonprofit CCA raise money for restoration and education. It offers keepsakes, apparel and fine art by local plein-air artists.

The Resort at Pelican Hill® offers its guests an hourlong Crystal Cove fitness walk at 8:30 a.m. daily. A complimentary Resort shuttle, which also makes runs every two hours all day, conveys walkers to and from the beach.

A day at the beach can be typical, or it can knock your socks off. Why not try both? After all, if history is any guide, Crystal Cove isn’t going anywhere. end-of-story-icon

For reservations and activities, check the calendar at

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