Best for surf and sun: Santa Monica Mountains National Rec Area, California
Malibu-ites know to skip the Zuma tourist zoo and come to El Matador. Officially one of three beaches that make up Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach—likely to provoke a “Huh?” even from locals—it’s
a gem tucked from sight at the foot of sandstone cliffs (and accessed by a dirt trail and stairway).
Out in the waves, bodyboarders and surfers perform aerial acrobatics. On shore, scenically carved sea caves make El Matador a favorite with photographers, often seen snapping away at leggy models.
Don’t miss: The chance to take a photo of one of Southern California’s best sunsets.
Get there: 10 miles up the coast from Malibu on Pacific Coast Hwy. between Broad Beach and Decker Canyon Roads; $8 per vehicle; parks.ca.gov or 805/370-2301. –Ken McAlpine