Immortalized by the Beach Boys and Tom Wolfe’s Pump House Gang, the sunshine-filled communities that line the lower part of Highway 1 are beloved as much for their shore breaks as for their barefoot appeal. After arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, pick up a Chevrolet Corvette convertible at Midway Car Rental (6225 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; 800/824-5260; midwaycarrental.com; rentals from $45) and head south to Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA. Start at the International Surfing Museum (411 Olive Ave., Huntington Beach; 714/960-3483; surfingmuseum.org), where salty locals congregate for concerts, to learn about more than 100 years of wave-skimming history. The collection includes the windup Bolex camera that director Bruce Brown used to film The Endless Summer (1967). Ready for lunch? Take a five-minute stroll to the pier and order the fried lobster tacos and Stone Brewing Co. India Pale Ale on draft at Sandy’s Beach Grill (315 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 714/374-7273; lunch for two $50), a new spot right on the sand. Eight miles south is palm-lined Newport Beach. Park your car near Alta Coffee Warehouse & Restaurant (506 31st St., Newport Beach; 949/675-0233; tea for two $3), which serves a refreshing mango iced tea under a pergola, or for a sweet snack, stop by the oceanside Jane’s Corndogs (106 McFadden Place, Newport Beach; 949/675-1770; dessert for two $6) for its ice cream-filled Balboa Bars, dipped in chocolate and coated with peanut shavings or sprinkles. Crystal Cove State Park, nine miles away, lures nature lovers to the shoreline. For hilltop ocean vistas, request a western-facing bungalow at the palatial Pelican Hill Resort (22701 Pelican Hill Rd., Newport Coast; 800/820-6800; pelicanhill.com; doubles from $545), with its 14,500-square-foot circular pool. But should you prefer to be close to art galleries and small boutiques, opt for a Beach Front room with a balcony at the renovated Pacific Edge Hotel (647 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach; 949/494-8566; pacificedgehotel.com; doubles from $215), in downtown Laguna Beach. While there, catch the tangerine-colored sunset from the roof deck of the 1929 La Casa del Camino Hotel’s K’ya Bistro Bar (1287 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach; 949/376-9718; drinks for two $12), where freestanding heaters and fleece blankets keep the evening chill at bay. Don’t miss dinner at Sapphire Laguna (1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach; 949/715-9888; dinner for two $125). The inviting dining room is lit by Moroccan-style lamps. Iranian-born chef Azmin Ghahreman oversees an international menu full of small plates such as chicken-filled Tak-Koji tacos with lime sour cream.
Video: Stand Up Paddleboarding