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The West's amazing beaches, drives, city getaways, and wild places

Top 10 national park beaches

10 scenic spots to swim, float, and soak in the sun at the West's amazing national parks

El Matador beach
Photo by João Canziani/Getty

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

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