Solana Beach, California

Unlike other spots in North County where the wide, straight beaches are uninterrupted for miles, the coastline in Solana Beach is more convoluted and the cliffs encroach right to the water's edge in places, making them impassible especially at high tide. Fortunately, staircases descend the cliffs at practically every street corner, so every part of the beach is accessible vertically, if not horizontally. This also makes a visit to Solana Beach a more adventurous experience. One staircase might lead you to a deserted locale where you can be alone with your friends and your thoughts; another might lead to a busy beach teeming with surfers, families and fishermen.

The five main spots from north to south include Seaside, a good surf spot with an outer reef called Table Tops that breaks on big southwest swells; Tide Beach, with the best sand of the bunch and a patch of reef that offers tidepooling; Fletcher Cove (also known as Pillbox), another spot popular among surfers; and Seascape Beach and Del Mar Shores on the north side of the San Dieguito river mouth, two spots frequented primarily by local residents.

Directions: From 5 FWY exit Lomas Santa Fe Drive west to Pacific Coast Highway. Continue straight through the intersection to Fletcher Cove or head north or south on Sierra Avenue to explore other the options. Seaside lies directly at the bottom of the hill as you drive north on PCH toward Cardiff.

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