Laguna Beach: Thousand Steps Beach
Unlike the beach areas where I grew up — Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo Beach — the best beaches, like Thousand Steps Beach or Shaws Cove, in Laguna Beach are hidden and not seen until you actually park your car and go discover them.
One of the last things I did before I left Los Angeles in August was go to Thousand Steps Beach with Brittney and Krystal to find the "secret pools" I had kept hearing about. And also to see this beach.
Thousand Steps really is beautiful. After parking way up the hill in the neighborhood where parking is available (there's also a paid parking option just a couple blocks away from the Thousand Steps entrance if you really don't want to go up a massive hill), you get to the Thousand Steps entrance on 9th St. and PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).
You then walk down — what feels like 1,000 — 230 steps and get glimpses of the beach down below and wonder how people live on this beautiful cliff.
The water reminds me of Hawaii. That day was so hot that Britt and I wasted little time in jumping in while waiting for Krystal to come join us. I didn't have much cell phone service there so it was hard to communicate to Krystal where we were. The beach isn't that big though, so just prepare in advance in case you lose service too.
Once Krystal joined, we started our trek in finding where the private pools were.
These private pools, by the way, were kind of mythical to me. I knew they existed because of social media. But their location was difficult to pinpoint. Probably because it's private property technically. Even people from Laguna Beach couldn't tell me exactly where they were. Or misinterpreted them for some other pools. Because apparently that's a thing here.
And they can be dangerous. If you do a Google Search for these pools, one of the first things shown is this article about a teen's disappearance around them.
But...it was worth a shot.
When looking toward the water, we were first told by someone that the pools were to the right. So we started walking about half a mile toward some rocks. We came to this beautiful cove area where the water rushed through the rocks, slamming into them, and then through a small cave-like opening that led you to what seemed like another secret cove.
We stayed there for awhile too, observing the flow of the waves and cooling off in the beautiful water.
We went back to our initial spot, kind of in defeat. At least I felt we had tried and that was that. But then we somehow found that it was the other way from where we had gone.
So, looking to the ocean, you actually go left.
And there it was — the rock/cave you go through or around to get to the secret pools.
This blogger has some pretty solid directions, but they went at a different time than we did and could hike through a cave. Unfortunately I didn't have a waterproof camera with me, so I can just share with you our experience and you can check out accurate pictures here — and know why getting to these pools is so alluring.
First off, tell the lifeguard what you're doing.
We were hesitant to be honest, because we didn't want them telling us we couldn't go. Instead, he warned us that it would be dangerous, and that the beach was public property but the areas around it were private and asked us not to go through the cave (especially at that time) because there were sharp rocks on the bottom among other dangers there.
The only option we had was to swim around the point. He asked us about our swimming skills and we told him we were capable (I had done Jr. Lifeguards growing up as well as water polo and swim in high school), and then we went on our way.
It was about 3pm at that point. The tide was higher. The waves were tiring. I found out kind of quickly that Krystal was not as strong of a swimmer, and that she knew mostly how to casually swim versus any kind of freestyle competitive or backstroke. But Britt and I were there for her and we all swam together. It was probably about a half mile around that cove.
You don't see the private beach and glimpse the pools until you're around the cove. And then it opens up, and the waves help to push you in.
Once in the cove, it's easy to climb up to the pools. One is very visible, and the other you have to go past the first to see, but that's actually even cooler than the first one. We found a leftover boogie-board cut in half that was helpful on our way back. And we were the only ones there at first. Then some other people joined, as well as a couple guys walking from the other side of where we arrived.
If you have water shoes, it might be good to bring them because the rocks kind of hurt.
But otherwise, as long as you're being respectful, there doesn't seem to be any danger in seeing or exploring these pools. Just be prepared before you go. Tell the lifeguard. And know your personal limits.
On the swim back, Krystal's leg kept cramping. Luckily we had that boogie-board and that helped. It must have looked like she needed help though because the lifeguard ended up swimming out to us. And it wasn't until after that I found out the signal for "I'm Ok" to a lifeguard is to pat yourself on the head.
It was quite an adventure for sure. After all that, it was time to pack up and go home. We trekked up the 230 steps and then the really steep hills before realizing how hungry we were and making food our next priority.