Seven summer heat-beating ideas from our California Bucket List

Clockwise from top left: Sunny Jim Cave in La Jolla; ferris wheel at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier; tracks at Jalama Beach; A tail-gater at Bolsa Chica.
(Christopher Reynolds and Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Here are several ideas for fighting the heat that’s baking so much of the state right now. Most are in Southern California, a few are farther north. All are drawn from our popular California Bucket List, which has grown to more than 365 entries.

San Diego

Crystal Pier
Crystal Pier Hotel, Pacific Beach, San Diego. Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times

Why: You won't find another pier in California with cottages on it, and this pier stands along one of San Diego's most popular beaches.

What: The Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages go back to the 1930s. Despite changes in owners (and many a dispute with city officials) in early decades, the operation has been run by the same family since 1961. The pier is wooden, with fishing at the end. The 31 units are painted white with blue trim and flower boxes. The beachfront promenade, Ocean Front Walk, is San Diego's answer to Venice -- a boisterous concentration of people, bikes and beach culture that runs three miles through the Pacific Beach and Mission Beach neighborhoods.

Where: 4500 Ocean Blvd., San Diego, 115 miles southeast of downtown L.A.

How much: Rooms (with kitchenettes) run $380 to $600 in summer, with a three-night minimum. And take note: You can't make reservations online -- just by phone and in person.


Jalama Beach County Park, Santa Barbara County. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

Why: Raw coastline, juicy burgers.

What: To reach Jalama Beach County Park, you follow a twisting, two-lane highway from Lompoc to the edge of the continent and confront a horizon full of rough surf and raw, windy coastline. This campground (better for beachcombing than swimming) feels solitary, but there's a general store where they'll make you a Jalama Burger (carnivores, say yes) and sell you firewood or groceries, wine or beer. There are 109 campsites, some cabins, hot showers, a playground and a set of railroad tracks.

Where: 9999 Jalama Road, Lompoc — which is actually 18 miles southwest of Lompoc, 170 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

How much: $10 per car. Jalama Burger, $7.95.

Bolsa Chica, Huntington Beach

Bolsa Chica State Beach
Mike Anderson of Covina relaxes under an umbrella next to his Casita at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach. Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Why: It's elementary. Homo sapiens like sitting on sand, watching water lap the shore while a bonfire crackles in a light breeze.

What: Bolsa Chica State Beach is a prime beach bonfire destination, three miles long, with 200 fire rings available nightly (first come, first served) from 6 to 10 p.m.

That's an increasingly rare distinction. Authorities have banned fires in many coastal areas, focusing increased attention on those that remain.

Bolsa Chica, a long, flat beach, is also known for its surf fishing and grunion runs. Just inland you have the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, a 1,300-acre estuary and wetlands area that attracts about 200 species of birds (and almost as many sub-species of birders). There are various beach concessions nearby.

Where: Bolsa Chica, north of Huntington Beach's Seapoint Street and south of Warner Avenue, is 33 miles south of downtown L.A.

How much: Day use is $15 per car.

Bolinas, Marin County

Smiley's Schooner Saloon & Hotel, Bolinas, Ca.
Smiley's Schooner Saloon & Hotel, Bolinas, Calif. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

Why: Bolinas, a lagoon-adjacent haven of 1,600 bohemian souls in an oft-overlooked corner of Marin County, has been operating incognito for decades. Locals steal road signs so that outsiders can't find their way in.

Now that attitude might be softening, and the town, surrounded by hiking, surfing and kayaking opportunities, is fascinating.

What: About 50 years ago, hardcore Bolinas locals started stealing the town's highway sign and they never stopped. The goal, conceived in back-to-the-land idealism, was to build a nature-friendly community without the distractions and economic distortions of tourism.

But as properties turn over and GPS renders signage moot, Bolinas seems to be evolving. Whether you're on the water or Wharf Road, it's a great place to think about hippie legacies and the nature of community at a time when Bay Area real estate is very nearly a blood sport.

Don't expect a tourist welcome center, but if you show up mellow and humble there's no reason you shouldn't drop in for a bite at the Coast Cafe; browse the tiny but well-appointed Bolinas Museum (open Fridays through Sundays only), or drink at Smiley's Schooner Saloon and Hotel, which goes back to the 19th century.

In fact, Smiley's (which got new owners in 2015) offers live music four nights a week and rents out six rooms in back. I slept comfortably in one. On the street and in Smiley's, I was an obvious outsider with a camera around my neck, but everyone I met treated me well.

You'll see plenty of gray ponytails (and experience rotten cellphone service). And keep an eye out for BO Gas, the only nonprofit service station I've ever encountered. The rates are shockingly high ($4.66 a gallon in early August) but the money helps support the Bolinas Community Land Trust.

Where: Wharf Road, the commercial heart of town, is 25 miles northwest of San Francisco, just north of Stinson Beach, south of Point Reyes Station, 414 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

How much: It's free to take a walk or check out the museum. The rooms at Smiley's go for $135-$225 nightly.

Info: There's no Bolinas Visitors Bureau — probably never will be. But there's a Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau to tell you what's nearby.

La Jolla

Sunny Jim Sea Cave, La Jolla
Sunny Jim Sea Cave, with kayakers beyond, in La Jolla. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

Why: It'll make you feel like a pirate. Or a sea lion.

What: Back in the first years of the 20th century, somebody hatched a nutty idea and hired two guys to start digging through this sandstone bluff top toward a sea cave below. And they made it.

Nowadays, this neighborhood's real estate prices are enough to chase mere millionaires away, but if you enter the modest-looking Cave Store and head for the rustic-looking stairwell, the tunnel remains.

Its 145 steps will take you down to where waves crash and sea lions sometimes bellow. Chances are you'll also see kayakers through the opening as they make their own approach to the same cave. (The store also stocks jewelry, art and souvenirs.)

The cave was nicknamed "Sunny Jim" by Frank Baum (author of "The Wizard Oz") because the outline of the opening looks like a cartoon character called Sunny Jim who was used in advertisements for British Force Wheat cereal products in the early 20th century. (Sunny Jim had unruly hair toward the back of his head.)

Want to see it by kayak? Bike & Kayak Tours offers rentals and tours of the seven sea caves in the area, as do La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks and La Jolla Kayak.

Where: 1325 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, 115 miles southeast of downtown L.A.

How much: $5 for adults, $3 for kids 16 and younger. Open daily. Kayak tours of the caves start at about $40.

Manhattan Beach

Casual volleyball, just north of the pier, Manhattan Beach
Casual volleyball action, just north of the pier, in Manhattan Beach. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

Why: If this were just any wealthy beach city, it would be a great place to run, bike, surf, people-watch and nurse your real estate envy. But Manhattan Beach is also the birthplace of beach volleyball as a way of life. Whenever you visit, you'll probably see seriously talented athletes at play.

What: Among the South Bay beach cities of Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan, this is the northernmost and wealthiest. Plenty of restaurants and shops are lined up on Manhattan Beach Boulevard, the main drag.

At the end of the boulevard, the concrete Manhattan Beach Pier reaches 928 feet into the sea, with a cafe and the small, kid-friendly Roundhouse Aquarium at the end.

The volleyball happens on the sand courts just north and south of the pier. Besides frequent competitions there are lots of classes for kids and adults. Be warned that the Manhattan Beach Open, a summer institution since 1960, draws tens of thousands of fans, making a demanding parking situation downright diabolical.

No matter when you visit, you can read the brass plaques along the pier's Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball Walk of Fame: Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings has seven plaques there. Karch Kiraly, also an Olympic gold medalist, has 10.

Take a walk along the Strand or bike the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. (Both parallel the shore).

Get a beer at Rock'n Fish, a cone at the always-busy Manhattan Beach Creamery, or a meal at any hour in The Kettle. (All three are within a few blocks on Manhattan Beach Boulevard.) The Shade Hotel is a short walk away, pricey and stylish, in Metlox Plaza.

Where: The Manhattan Beach Pier is 22 miles southwest of downtown L.A., 5 miles south of LAX.

How much: Ice cream cones at the Manhattan Beach Creamery cost $5.25 for a single, $6.25 for a double. Homes along the Strand routinely fetch $10 million.

Santa Monica

Pacific Wheel, Pacific Park, Santa Monica
Pacific Wheel, Pacific Park, Santa Monica Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times

Why: Unless you charter a flight or build a better jetpack, you won't get this view of Santa Monica, the bay and city, any other way.

What: The Santa Monica Pier went up in 1909, was largely rebuilt in the 1980s, and added an amusement park, Pacific Park, in the 1990s. Basically, it's the payoff at the end of Route 66. Its high point, about 130 feet up, is the Pacific Wheel, a Ferris wheel that started spinning in 1996.

On your way to the wheel, notice the carousel, which you might remember from the 1973 movie "The Sting."

Once you're aloft, take a good look at those bright lights all around you. They were amped up in May 2016. This is billed as the world’s first and perhaps only solar-powered Ferris wheel. Kids taller than 42 inches can ride alone.

Where: 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, L.A. County, 16.7 miles west of downtown L.A.

How much: $10 a ride.

Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

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