One of the big benefits of visiting Disneyland Resort is having easy access to Southern California beaches. I’ve been to Disneyland several times, but I never took the time to explore outside the resort.
For this trip, we decided exploration and putting our feet in the Pacific Ocean were mandatory and we reserved an entire day for our adventure.
We chose to rent a car and drive south along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at Huntington Beach and a few other spots (including In-and-Out) along the way.
We stumbled upon Crystal Cove State Park by accident, and it ended up being one of my favorite parts of our entire vacation.
Crystal Cove State Park is located along the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, California. The park spans 2,791 acres and has hiking and biking trails, beaches, and camping areas, but the jewel of this park for me is definitely the 12.3 acre area known as The Historic District.
Here, you can grab a bite to eat at the Beachcomber restaurant, catch some rays on the soft sand beach, explore tidepools, and even rent a cottage for an overnight stay.
The area feels very “retro California”. The beach was fairly busy, but there was plenty of room for everyone and it never felt crowded. Public restrooms are available as well.
Parking for beach day use is located across the street in the Los Trancos lot. To access the beach, you can use a shuttle (for a fee), or make the trek across by foot, which is what we chose to do. The walk across involves a pretty steep hill down and a bit of a hill up, so keep that in mind when deciding which way you want to go. The walking path does lead through a pretty neat tunnel lined with murals, and is totally worth the extra effort.
The trip to Crystal Cove State Park will take you less than an hour (just check the traffic before you leave.) I know, it’s crazy to even suggest leaving the bubble of the Disneyland Resort for a day to explore Southern California, but I promise you it’s one of the best choices you can make…no matter where you end up.
Car rentals are available right in the Downtown Disney Shops, so you can easily rent a car and return it without the hassle of a shuttle or paying for days you don’t need.