Here are 8 summery SoCal day trips to take when you are ready

Head trail guide Cole Wade leads riders near the Los Angeles Horseback Riding ranch in Topanga Canyon in July 2019.
Head trail guide Cole Wade leads a group of riders near the Los Angeles Horseback Riding ranch in Topanga Canyon in July 2019.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

One day, you will be ready to roam again — maybe not far, but in familiar territory. Here are eight places to start, all within a day’s drive of Los Angeles, some with overnight options, a few with beaches and one with that small-town feel.

Qualms? Just because they’re open now doesn’t mean you have to go today. In fact, state officials are still urging Californians to avoid nonessential trips.

For that day when you do feel comfortable heading out, these destinations await.

No matter where you go, health experts urge you to wear a mask unless you’re eating or in the water. (And if you’re eating or in the water, try to keep a distance from strangers.)

1. La Jolla

 Windansea Beach in La Jolla on August 19, 2019.
Believe it or not, this picture was taken before social distancing. Windansea Beach, La Jolla, is shown on Aug. 19, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

At Torrey Pines State Beach, swim, fish, walk the sand or sunbathe. (Active and passive recreation are OK on this beach.) The beach is 4½ miles long, between northern La Jolla and southern Del Mar, and lined by red-dirt cliffs, including Torrey Pines Natural Reserve (still closed).

For a memorable overview of nearby beach, cliffs and sea, park at the Torrey Pines Glider Port, watch paragliders take off, get a sandwich at the Cliffhanger Cafe and sit at one of the outdoor picnic tables.

Plenty of art and architecture await just east of the glider port on the 1,200-acre UC San Diego campus. You can take a self-guided tour among the artworks of the campus’ Stuart Collection and and check out striking academic architecture, including the otherworldly Geisel Library (interior closed) and the crooked little house atop the Engineering building.

In the Village of La Jolla, you can stroll past the shops, galleries and restaurants along Prospect Street and Girard Avenue. Or go tide-pooling or picnicking along Coast Boulevard near Children’s Pool Beach. There’s also pleasant walking along the Coast Walk Trail near Cave Street.

Or you could kayak around La Jolla Shores or the cliffs and caves near La Jolla Cove. Co-owner Michael Luscomb said La Jolla Kayak resumed rentals in late May, tours in early June. “We’re very strong on weekends,” he said.


For takeaway coffee or a snack, head to Pannikin (no sit-down dining) on Girard Avenue. For a fancy dinner, you might try George’s at the Cove, a longtime Prospect Street mainstay whose Level 2 and Ocean Terrace dining areas are open.


2. Laguna Beach

Sand and shoreline, Treasure Island Beach, Laguna Beach.
(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Laguna Beach, with its gorgeous stretch of sand, cliffs and rockscapes, once was an artists’ colony. Now it’s more of a gallerists’ colony, but undeniably pleasant to visit.

Beyond Main Beach (and its landmark blue-and-white lifeguard tower) in downtown Laguna, a path leads from Treasure Island Park (just south of the Montage Laguna Beach resort) to Treasure Island Beach (good for families, tide pooling and snorkeling). You might not be ready to spend $1,000 for a night at the Montage, but you might consider a patio breakfast, lunch or dinner at the resort’s Mosaic Bar and Grill. Downtown, there’s plenty of window-shopping among the galleries and shops. And there are three state parks in the area.

Crystal Cove State Park, which stretches from Laguna Beach to Newport Beach, has 3.2 miles of beach, a campground, the Beachcomber Cafe (where you’re invited to order by phone rather than touching a menu) and the Crystal Cove Shake Shack at 7703 East Coast Highway (which, believe it or not, has no website). Before visiting, check the beach website for updates.


3. L.A. County’s South Bay beaches

Damien Arredondo walks the slack line in Noble Park at the Strand in Hermosa Beach.
Damien Arredondo walks the slack line, while Cory Babinski takes a breather during their workout at Noble Park in Hermosa Beach.
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Wake up early, bring your bike or rent one and ride the Strand, a paved 22-mile-long beachfront route that includes Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches.

Officially, it’s the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, 14 feet wide and shared by cyclists, skaters, pedestrians and wheelchair users. It can take you far north of the South Bay, through Venice Beach and Santa Monica to Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades. The southern endpoint is Torrance County Beach. It’s always busy, so it’s best to try this early in the day, preferably a weekday.

Bike-rental options include Hermosa Cyclery ([310] 374-7816) in Hermosa Beach and Marina Bike Rentals ([310] 318-2453) in Redondo Beach.

Another alternative is to pick one or two piers — Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo each have one — and build a walk. (If you’re new to the South Bay, Manhattan Beach is the priciest of these places, Hermosa is more casual and rowdy and the Redondo Pier and King Harbor Marina are often more diverse.)

Need a cool snack? The Manhattan Beach Creamery has been a favorite for years.


4. Palos Verdes Peninsula

View of passing ships from the cliffs, Point Fermin Park in San Pedro.
(Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times)

Starting in Redondo Beach, follow Palos Verdes Drive as it loops around the dramatic peninsula to San Pedro. Stop at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Its interior was still closed as of July 13, but the grounds are accessible, and you can walk along the bluffs. About 2½ miles east, past Terranea Resort (which reopened in June) and across the street from Wayfarers Chapel (visitor center closed), you can walk the pebbly shores and bluffs of Abalone Cove Shoreline Park in Rancho Palos Verdes (parts of the beach are closed).

End in San Pedro, where you can walk to the Korean Friendship Bell (Angels Gate Park), with wraparound views on a clear day. Or walk the coastal side of the road (Point Fermin Park) to see the vintage lighthouse and rocky cliffs. Keep a lookout for brown pelicans, which often fly by visitors at eye level. There are pullouts throughout the drive where you can pause to enjoy the view.

For a bite, try Nelson’s, the scenic patio restaurant (with fire pits) at Terranea. (Nelson’s accepts walk-in customers.),,

View of Malibu Pier from the Malibu hills.
(Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

5. Malibu and Topanga

Head up the Pacific Coast Highway, enjoy some beach time, then head back by way of Topanga Canyon. Or vice versa. On this itinerary, you’ll see all sorts of beach scenery and canyon greenery. You might want to linger on the Malibu Pier, where Malibu Farm restaurant and cafe serve breakfast, lunch and dinner alfresco. The restaurant takes reservations and also serves early dinner; the cafe is first come, first served. You might hike in Malibu Creek State Park (parking is limited, the campground, Rock Pool and Century Lake are closed). Or you could try a lazy lunch and swim at Paradise Cove, a selfie-ready nook on the sand that humbly bills itself as “the best beach in the world.”

In Topanga Canyon, follow winding two-lane Topanga Canyon Boulevard through country scenes, passing quirky homes, businesses and landmarks with hippie overtones, including the Los Angeles Horseback Riding ranch ($100 for an hour, reopened July 6).


6. Ojai

The Ojai Valley Museum is housed in the former St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Ojai.
The Ojai Valley Museum is closed now but visitors can admire the site, the former St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Ojai.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Update: This may be a destination to save for next year. Within two hours of posting this article, we heard from several Ojai residents alarmed by the idea of more visitors because of the health risk they could pose. Hotels and restaurant might be eager for customers, but visitors might not feel welcome everywhere. Also, some trails in the area have closed due to heavy traffic. Los Padres National Forest has closed Santa Paula Canyon and Last Chance Trail through at least July 31 “due to overcrowding.” Also closed: the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center and Horn Canyon Trailhead, parking and trail.

First, find an oak tree and stand in its shade. Maybe rest for a few minutes in Libbey Park along Ojai Avenue, the main drag here. Window-shop in the Arcade.

Soule Park Golf Course is open. Hike or ride a mountain bike on an Ojai Valley Land Conservancy trail. If you brought a road bike (or a horse), test the Ojai Valley Trail, which runs 9 miles along California 33 to western Ventura, or the Sulphur Mountain Trail, an 11-mile dirt road full of switchbacks and valley views. Consider the Ojai Beverage Co. for a burger or Mandala for a sushi burrito (both have patio dining). If you’re in town on a Sunday morning, try the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market on Matilija Street — plenty of the goods are grown close at hand. If you’re ready for an overnight (and you’re ready to pay $450 a night for the luxury), the Ojai Valley Inn reopened in June.


7. Santa Barbara and Carpinteria

California poppies at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
(Santa Barbara Botanic Garden)

Start at Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf and get some sea breeze in your hair. Then peruse lower State Street’s shops and restaurants, especially the stretch from Haley to Sola streets, where local leaders recently banned cars to create an eight-block promenade.

Old Mission Santa Barbara tours and museum are still closed, but the nearby Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is open Fridays through Tuesdays, and the Santa Barbara Zoo reopened June 23 (reservations required).

South of town, take lovely, two-lane Foothill Road (California 192) between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria. There, you can stop and meander Linden Avenue, which ends at a beach with lots of sand and gentle waves. Get breakfast or lunch on the patio at Esau’s Café (call to check open days and hours: [805] 684-1070), where the surfer vibes are thick. Or grab a burger at the Spot, which has a rustic patio and food to go.


8. Coachella Valley

Palm Canyon's floor is shaded by some of the few native palm trees in all of Southern California.
Palm Canyon’s floor is shaded by some of the few native palm trees in all of Southern California.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

It will be about a thousand degrees here, which explains why you’ll find lots of room. At dawn or dusk, hike in one of the Indian Canyons — Palm Canyon is the most popular — or dawdle in the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert. Prowl Palm Canyon Drive, the main drag of Palm Springs, and consider a meal at festive Las Casuelas Terraza, which dates to 1958.

If this were a year ago, I’d recommend the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which zips from palm trees to snowy slopes. Now the tramway is closed “due to ongoing uncertainties.”

To get the flavor of the valley, you might need a date shake. If so, consider Hadley Fruit Orchards, in Morongo on the way in or out of town, or Shields Date Garden in Indio, which is surrounded by palms. The Shields shop and restaurant are open (patio dining only). The bad news is that its theater, which has been screening “The Romance & Sex Life of the Date” since 1953, is now closed. The good news is that the film, all 17 minutes of it, is now viewable on the Shields website and YouTube.