Our top 10 beach walks

From uninhabited and windswept to sunny and bustling, here's a walk for every mood

1. PACIFIC RIM NATIONAL PARK RESERVE, B.C.

Long Beach
This 10-plus-mile stretch of pristine, surf-swept sand near the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island is a beach trekker's paradise. Flanked by rolling Pacific waves and lush temperate rain forests, Long Beach feels like the misty edge of a new world; winter visits offer storm-watching opportunities as ferocious waves pound the shoreline. INFO: $6.55 U.S., $3.27 ages 6–16; off Provincial Hwy. 4 in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve; 250/726-7721. –Kim Gray

2. LANAI CITY, HI

Shipwreck Beach
A rusting World War II–era Liberty Ship, washed up on a reef, gives the name to this 9-mile stretch of sand and lava along Lanai's northeastern shore. On calm days, the water is crystal clear; other times, you'll be buffeted by strong trade winds, but they're a boon for beachcombers. It's not unusual to come across sea-sculpted driftwood, fishing nets, lobster cages, and the odd glass float. INFO: From Lanai City, go north on Lanai Ave. and bear right on Keomuku Rd. until the paved road ends, then follow the dirt road to the left for 2½ miles; 800/947-4774. –David Lansing

3. MALIBU, CA

Zuma County Beach
Whether you head southeast toward the promontory of Point Dume or northwest toward the oceanfront homes of the rich and richer at Broad Beach, you'll be treated to a sun-splashed cavalcade of surfers, dolphins, and volleyball players. Summertime or not, the living here is easy, and thanks to the well-packed sand along the shoreline, the walking is too. INFO: $6 per vehicle; off Pacific Coast Hwy., just west of Kanan Dume Rd.; 310/305-9545. –Matthew Jaffe

4. PRAIRIE CREEK REDWOODS STATE PARK, CA

Gold Bluffs Beach
Five miles north of Orick, California's northern coast really struts its stuff. For 10 beautiful miles, Gold Bluffs Beach abuts Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Redwoods and Sitka spruces tower on bluffs, and agile Roosevelt elk graze behind dunes in meadows carpeted in wild strawberries. You can walk the desolate beach to Fern Canyon, where steep walls covered in ferns press in on a cobbled stream. INFO: $6 per vehicle; from U.S. 101 north of Orick, turn left on Davison Rd., then drive 2 miles to beach parking; 707/465-7354. –Ken McAlpine

5. NORTH BEND, OR

North Spit
About 1 mile north of the mouth of Coos Bay, the rusting stern of the New Carissa, the most notorious of recent Oregon coast shipwrecks, looms above the surfline. It's an awesome sight best seen on a 4.2-mile round-trip walk over the dunes and down the beach on the North Spit. INFO: From U.S. 101 north of North Bend, turn west on Trans Pacific Lane, and follow it 4½ miles to the trailhead; 541/756-0100. –Bonnie Henderson

6. PACIFIC GROVE, CA

Asilomar State Beach
The Monterey Peninsula's beauty is breathtaking and enormous. But the Coast Trail will rein in your focus, guaranteeing a walk full of discovery, especially at low tide. Leave the trail at marked access points, and you'll see granite-edged tidepools — anemones reach out swaying neon fingers; a sculpin, more shadow than fish, darts at the edge of vision; a spiny purple urchin is mostly hidden below the deepest rock. Another step, another pool, where sea palms, like fans at a rock concert, shake their shaggy heads with each crash of the waves. INFO: 800 Asilomar Ave., with beach and trail access along Sunset Dr.; 831/646-6440. –Lisa Taggart

7. OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WA

Ruby Beach
On any given day, bald eagles float over sea stacks that guard the gravelly beach, where Cedar Creek spills into the Pacific. With occasional wading, you can hike south about 10 miles or north 1½ miles, but check tide tables before venturing beyond Ruby Beach, as some headlands are impassable at high tide. Feeling lazy? Kick back, spread a tablecloth, and picnic on a gigantic drift log. INFO: At U.S. 101 milepost 164, about 77 miles north of Hoquiam; 360/565-3130. –Jim McCausland

8. LA JOLLA, CA

   
 
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Village Coastwalk
Civilized. Refined. Genteel. These are not terms typically associated with the beach, but they offer an apt description of the easy stroll along the La Jolla shoreline. Just below the main village, the walkway edges the top of the city's rocky, scalloped coves, winding through waterfront parks with towering palm trees. If the soundtrack for most beach outings calls for classic rock or pop tunes, La Jolla is more suited to string quartets. Just because it's the beach doesn't mean it can't be classy, dude. INFO: From Torrey Pines Rd., turn right on Prospect St., then bear right on Coast Blvd.; 800/848-3336. –M.J.

9. POINT REYES PENINSULA, CA

Tomales Bay State Park
The 2.8-mile loop on the Jepson and Johnstone Trails takes you through gnarled coastal live oaks bearded with Spanish moss, coyote brush, huckleberry, and some hip-high grasses. Make a pit stop at Pebble Beach, then continue down a path that tunnels through the greenery and ends at Heart's Desire Beach, where a diving platform bobs ever so gently, beckoning you into the surprisingly swimmable water. INFO: $6 per vehicle; 4 miles north of Inverness, off Pierce Point Rd.; 415/669-1140. –Samantha Schoech

10. NEWPORT, OR

Nye Beach
After you've browsed the neighborhood's boutiques and bookstores, and grazed through the bakery and bistros, there's the beach itself: 4½ miles of wide-open sand from lighthouse to lighthouse. From the Nye Beach Turnaround, you can walk 1½ miles south to reach the mouth of Yaquina Bay and the stairs to the state's oldest wood-frame lighthouse, open for visitors but no longer in service. INFO: Turnaround at N.W. Beach Dr. and Coast St., just northwest of U.S. 101 and U.S. 20; 866/592-5556. –B.H.

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