How to plan a great beach day, according to beachgoers at Will Rogers

People lounge on the beach.
Loungers enjoy the beach.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Aug. 15. I’m Anna Braz, an intern on the features desk.

Picture a beach. Gentle turquoise waves meeting soft sand. The perfect mix of hot sun, cold drink and warm breeze. The smell of sunscreen and salt in the air.

Soon enough, this memory of the beach might be just that. A memory. It’s already mid-August, and beach season is rushing by. So to help you plan it out, I went to Will Rogers beach last week and asked regulars how they prep for the perfect beach day. Because, let’s face it, going to the beach can be daunting.

When to go


I embarked on my trip from Eagle Rock to Will Rogers beach at 9:30 a.m. on a Monday and ran into some traffic on the way. Rookie mistake. The optimal strategy for a weekday trip to the beach is to leave around 11 a.m. to avoid morning commuters, according to Jessica Chang, 28, of Little Tokyo, whom I met on the beach.

Beachin’ on a weekday means fewer crowds and more relaxation. Weekday traffic in L.A. is typically the worst from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., so aim for the sweet spot between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. On weekends, traffic is less predictable, but the beach is busier, so the earlier you leave the better.

What to bring

I packed my tote bag with the basics: towel, sunscreen, water bottle, hat, portable phone charger and book. But other beachgoers I talked to expanded my idea of The Beach Necessity.

Aaron Mckay, 27, of Inglewood deemed a speaker, alcohol, snacks and “good vibes” as his essentials, while Lisa Zafrani, 49, of Woodland Hills included chairs, an umbrella and a well-stocked cooler on her list.

A good book or headphones go a long way if you’re alone and don’t want to be bothered. An umbrella and chairs provide shade and comfort but can be a hassle to lug down to the beach and set up, so pick your battles. A cooler is key. I didn’t bring one and within 30 minutes I probably could have cooked ramen in my water bottle.


My friend Ethan Henes, 23, of Eagle Rock, who came to the beach with me that day, said spikeball was an obvious choice, along with a pair of goggles to explore the sea and a sleep mask for a midday beach nap.

Who to bring

Ethan said he invites more chill friends for a relaxing beach day and more active friends for a day of swimming and beach volleyball.

Going to the beach with people who don’t have the same beach day priorities as you can decimate the vibes. Leave complainers behind. (Yes, you got sandy. It’s the beach!) Small children? Go with other small children they can play with. Want to throw a frisbee with reckless abandon? Stop, or at least find friends who are into that, and a wide open space.

Why go at all

A 2021 study conducted in the U.K. found that each additional hour that participants spent outdoors in natural light was associated with lower rates of depression, antidepressant usage, neuroticism and tiredness and increased mood, happiness and ease waking up in the morning.


Where to go

If you’re into secret beaches, surfing beaches, the cleanest beaches, or even the dirtiest beaches in Cali, The Times has you covered.

I’ve been to lots of beaches in L.A. including Venice, Manhattan, Topanga, Santa Monica and Point Dume in Malibu. Each has their own pros and cons but for me, Will Rogers in Pacific Palisades takes the cake. It’s a big beach, but it doesn’t get quite as crowded as Santa Monica or Manhattan. There are public restrooms near the entrance, which is a plus if you get pee shy in the ocean, like me, and a snack shack next door. Plenty of picnic tables and volleyball courts line this beach as well. The beach is typically open from dawn to dusk, and parking at one of the three beach parking lots costs $9.

The most important thing is to remember that running into traffic or forgetting to bring the right snacks won’t take away from the beauty of the beach once your feet hit the sand.

After all, as a great philosopher once said, “it’s just beach.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California from Ryan Fonseca:


Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


A young student hugs his parent outside a school.
Kindergarten student Julio Ruiz hugs his mother, Clarissa Ochoa, before entering Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School on the first day of classes for LAUSD students.
(Al Seib / For The Times)

Monday marked the start of L.A. Unified’s school year as hundreds of thousands of students returned to class (or arrived for the first time). That included a large share of 4-year-olds — part of the district’s big effort to recruit more students for transitional kindergarten. Los Angeles Times

Fernando Valenzuela’s jersey number was retired by the L.A. Dodgers as part of a three-day celebration over the weekend. “El Toro” holds a monumental place in many Latino Dodger fans’ hearts. Some of them shared what the legendary pitcher means to them. De Los


The extent of the horrific devastation in Maui is still being measured. But as state and federal officials work to understand what could have been done to save more lives, California’s recent past holds many lessons. My colleagues Rong-Gong Lin II, Jack Dolan and Robert Gauthier explained how fires and landslides across the state “exposed major weaknesses in local, state and federal emergency responses and outmoded evacuation and alerting procedures.” Los Angeles Times

A battle over reproductive rights is playing out in Beverly Hills. An abortion provider based in Washington, D.C., that planned to open a clinic in the affluent city alleges leaders there “colluded and conspired” with antiabortion activists to keep them out and now intends to sue the city for damages. Los Angeles Times



Three small cities in southeast L.A. County took big steps to keep people housed. Leaders in Maywood, Cudahy and Bell Gardens have each enacted rent control and other tenant protections in an effort to stave off a crisis in the overwhelmingly Latino communities where most residents are renters. Los Angeles Times

State officials have set goals for cities across the Golden State to dramatically increase housing stock. In San Francisco, leaders are expected to create 82,000 new homes by 2031. The San Francisco Chronicle crunched the numbers and examined the feasibility, which doesn’t inspire much confidence. For example, that goal would require that 28 new housing units be approved every day over the next eight years. San Francisco Chronicle

Support our journalism

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


Two sea lions at La Jolla Cove
We would love to have heard the joke that had these sea lions in stitches at La Jolla Cove.
(Sarah McTague)

Some San Diego beachgoers are finding out the hard way that sea lions need some space, especially during mating season. Recent videos document several aggressive interactions between the marine mammals and with people, which one expert says is typical for males during this time of year. San Diego Union-Tribune

Three California hospitals that declared bankruptcy this year may be able to continue operating through some deals in the works with health chains. Two of those hospitals — one in the San Joaquin Valley and one in rural San Benito County — are each a lifeline for residents there who will otherwise go without local healthcare services. CalMatters



California made leisure a way of life, including for many Black Americans who created thriving beach communities during the Jim Crow era. A historian collected archival photographs capturing Black joy and recreation across the Golden State, which are now on display at L.A.’s California African American Museum. The Guardian

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at


Today’s California landmark is from Karina Moreno of Oakland: the labyrinth at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the East Bay.

A person walks around a windy labyrinth path made of small rocks.
Karina Moreno walks the labyrinth at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Oakland Hills.
(Karina Moreno)

Karina writes:

The labyrinth at Sibley is a hidden gem of community and contemplation in the Oakland hills. Hiking to the labyrinth involves wildflower-lined paths with stunning views of the San Francisco Bay to the west and Mt. Diablo to the east. The altar in the middle is as untamed and eclectic as its surroundings, where hikers leave notes, flowers, photos and whatever they find in their pockets or backpacks.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to