It’s hot. Beaches are closed. Here’s how to build one in your backyard

DIY your own personalized beach
DIY your own personalized beach.
(Illustration by Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Are the coronavirus beach closures bumming you out more than ever as the season’s first heat wave hits? Consider building your own backyard beach.

That’s right, your own Margaritaville, steps from your back door. Put on a few tunes and make Jimmy Buffett proud.

In SoCal, sunshine has always been the best medicine. We’re drawn to it like mums.

So your backyard beach (or your patio beach, or front porch beach or sidewalk beach, if you have enough space for social distancing) offers a psychic escape and the promise of better things to come. Parking is free, and you won’t get sand all over your car. Except for a 50-pound bag of sand, you won’t even need to run out to buy anything, since you probably already have most of the items in your garage.

Mostly, it’s just a matter of setting it up in a way that reminds you of Zuma, Manhattan beaches or any of the other top SoCal sun spots. Here’s how I did mine:

Check list

  • Beach chair
  • Portable grill
  • 50 pounds of sand
  • Sunscreen
  • Cooler
  • Umbrella
  • Boogie boards and surfboards
  • Reading material
  • Speaker/radio
  • Playlist
  • Ice
Backyard beach
Set up your own beach in the backyard.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Pro tips

The setup: Orient your beach setup toward the sun’s trajectory. If it proves too warm, you can always slide into the shade, or turn your back on the rays and set up your umbrella.

The right sand: This is what sets you apart from every other backyard beach-goer. Most large hardware centers sell play sand (about $6 a bag). One bag should do, though if you have kids and they’d like an instant sandbox, buy three. Be sure to spread it so you can wiggle your toes in it.

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Audio: White-noise surf sounds are available all over the internet. Have a nice nap.

The grill: Most SoCal beaches don’t allow grills. But yours will. Portable grills are available at hardware stores and drugstores, starting at about 20 bucks.

Cooler: No need to hide your alcoholic beverage from the lifeguards. Seltzer drinks such as White Claw are refreshing in the heat. Then again, you’re in Margaritaville. Be sure to rim the glass with fresh lime. This bourbon spritzer recipe from Southern Living sounds pretty good too: bourbon, club soda, Aperol.


Reading material: “If It Bleeds” is Stephen King’s latest.

Playlist: Need something beyond the sounds of the surf? Try “Pet Sounds,” the Beach Boys classic. Jack Johnson or Buffett can change your latitude and attitude, with their island vibes. Digital music services such as Pandora and Spotify offer all sorts of beach playlists, from surf guitar to Tyga.

Finally: Don’t forget your social post, so your friends back east can sunbathe remotely. Friday’s forecast for Chicago: rainy in the mid-40s; New York, about the same; Boston, even worse.