Top 10 secret coastal escapes
1. TOFINO, B.C.
A hidden hot springs cove It’s rare to find hot springs near the coast. But the rarest experience of all is to soak in a natural stone pool so close to the water’s edge that the ocean swells gently flow in and out, bathing you alternately in hot and cold water. Where to seek out this singular experience? At the protected hot springs in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park at Hot Springs Cove, on the west side of Vancouver Island. Take a guided daylong boat tour out of Tofino and hike a mile through stunning old-growth rain forest before surrendering yourself to a half-dozen rock pools, each slightly cooler than the next. Tours from $94 U.S.; www.remotepassages.com; 800/666-9833. -Abigail Peterson
2. PACIFIC CITY, OR
Fish from a dory boat Time was, fishermen on the Oregon coast put to sea in dories that they launched right from the beach, negotiating the waves to reach the open ocean. At Pacific City they still do, and you can join them. Dory captain Joe Hay takes as many as six passengers, conditions permitting, for a day’s fishing for tuna or halibut, or a few hours of angling for lingcod, cabezon, and other bottomfish. Once you’re back on solid ground, he’ll gladly snap your picture and fillet your catch. From $110 per person; www.haystackfishing.com; 866/965-7555. -Bonnie Henderson
3. LITTLE RIVER, CA
Lighthouses from the air You haven’t seen Mendocino at its best till you’ve seen it from above. Craggy cliffs become puzzle pieces, jutting into the ocean; the water grows calm and multi-hued, in brilliant shades of blue; and its four historic lighthouses appear pencil-thin, presiding proudly over their respective points. It’s just you and Coast Flyers’ extremely capable pilot, cruising through the crystal-clear sky in a four-seater Cessna at a cool 130 knots ― lifting as high as 2,000 feet and, swooping like a seagull, as low as 100. Circle above Point Arena over to Point Cabrillo, following the edge of the earth up to Cape Mendocino and Punta Gorda. All along, keep your eyes peeled for gray whales making their spring migration to Alaska. From $180; www.coastflyers.com; 707/937-1224. -Rachel Levin
4. LA JOLLA, CA
Breakfast by the sea Perched on a bluff above the shimmering Pacific (by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier) is Snackropolis, with its weathered picnic benches and $4.25 breakfast burrito ― a piping-hot heft of tortilla wrapped around scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, and salsa (salt provided by the sea breeze). Open weekdays only, it’s a perfect prelude to morning tidepooling on the rocks north of the pier. Take the kids, or just act like one; you’ll have the squishy sea anemones, sea stars, and scuttling hermit crabs all to yourself. Snack bar 7:30-2:30 Mon-Fri; check local tide tables for low tide; www.hds.ucsd.edu/snackropolis; 858/534-2025. -Ken McAlpine
5. GUADALUPE, CA
A lake among dunes The Central Coast’s Oso Flaco Lake is inset like a blue sapphire within white dunes ― and it makes a top spring hike as the yellow blossoms of giant coreopsis and the violets of silver bush lupine dab the dunes with color. Getting there is an adventure: You reach the freshwater lake after bouncing down a farm road running between broccoli fields. A causeway leads to a boardwalk that edges and crosses the lake. Continue a bit farther and you’ll reach one of California’s longest and wildest stretches of beach. $5 per vehicle; www.dunescenter.org; 805/343-2455. -Matthew Jaffe
6. MONTEREY, CA
Taste wine by the waves What’s better than an ocean view? An ocean view with wine, that’s what. Housed in a 90-year-old building on Cannery Row, A Taste of Monterey is a contender for the most spectacularly located tasting room in the world ― a second-story, glass-walled aerie where you gaze out at seals, otters, and kayakers while enjoying some of Monterey County’s best wines. The offerings include hard-to-find vintages from the county’s smaller wineries. $5 tasting fee; www.tastemonterey.com; 831/646-5446. -Peter Fish
7. DEPOE BAY, OR
Top whale-watching Twice a year, gray whales cruise past Oregon’s shoreline between summer feeding grounds up north and the winter breeding scene off Baja. From late March to June, as many as 18,000 whales will pass by, some feeding close to shore. At Depoe Bay’s seawall, one of the best spots to watch on the entire Oregon coast, whales may even swim between the seawall and whale-watching charter boats. If the weather sours, watch from the shelter of the Whale Watching Center. Call for hours; on U.S. 101; www.whalespoken.org; 541/765-3304. -B.H.
8. OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WA
Our favorite beach boardwalk Waves crash on offshore sea stacks, sea otters lounge in the kelp beds, and bald eagles careen overhead and perch high in the brooding Sitka spruce ― it’s the remote wilderness beach at Olympic National Park. To get here you’ve hiked 3 miles from Lake Ozette through the dripping temperate rain forest. So why aren’t your shoes soggy? Trails to both Sand Point and Cape Alava follow a wonderful wooden boardwalk nearly the entire way. $15 per vehicle; www.nps.gov/olym; 360/565-3100. -B.H.
9. MALIBU, CA
Hidden pocket beaches The trio of tiny beaches at Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach offer retreats to secluded coves that most people miss. There’s a good reason: All three are tucked beneath Pacific Coast Highway (State 1), so drivers never even see them. That also means that these evocatively named beaches ― El Matador, La Piedra, and El Pescador ― require steep walks down and, of course, back up the bluffs. If you visit just one beach, the sea stacks at El Matador are hard to beat. $4 per vehicle; www.parks.ca.gov; 818/880-0350. -M.J.
10. STINSON BEACH, CA
Soaring hang gliders Watch the pros launch from the top of Mt. Tamalpais and land 2,000 feet below on Stinson Beach. It’s hard not to gasp each time a flyer runs downhill to leap off the cliff’s edge. “It’s incredibly beautiful up there,” says San Francisco Hang Gliding Center owner Pat Denevan, “and just so silent.” If watching makes you want to soar too, sign up for a tandem lesson. Your instructor will manage the tricky parts ― takeoff and landing ― and you can just, uh, hang out. Tandem lesson from $295, reservations required; gliders launch from W. Ridgecrest Blvd., 1/2 to 1 mile west of Pantoll Rd.; www.sfhanggliding.com; 510/528-2300. -Lisa Taggart