Rather than having the feel of a state park (think parking, events, camping, and large crowds), Thousand Steps Beach, nestled in a cove below multimillion dollar homes, has the feel of a secluded neighborhood secret. Not only is it difficult to find, but it's also difficult to access. Visitors must park on the Pacific Coast Highway and brave crossing its 45-mile-per-hour speed zone to a narrow and steep 223-step stairwell, all just to reach the beach proper. It is unclear whether the stairwell lends the beach its name or if the thousand steps are the number of footsteps required to walk from one end to the other, but, as beaches go, just getting to this one presents some challenges.
Once you're here, however, the reward is well worth it for those seeking a more intimate beach experience. The surf here is more appropriate for bodyboarders than surfers, which wards off a large crowd that might otherwise use the beach. The best break is around the rocks to the south of the stairwell, a section of rocks that divides the beach in two. Here, a strong south swell creates a good left. At low tide, the beach has tide pools that might host a lively and fascinating cross-section of sea life. Perhaps most alluring are the sea caves on both ends of the beach. On the northern end, a sea cave tunnels under the bluff and leads to Totuava Beach on the other side. On the southern end, a large cave features small pools to relax in, and it also tunnels under the bluff to a small, rocky beach that opens out on the Pacific. Isolated, the little rocky beach offers a moment of isolation on a Southern California beach, and how abundant is that?
Thousand Steps Beach isn’t the biggest or most active. It doesn’t demand attention with its opportunities for sport. But it does offer a rare commodity: privacy.
A few words of caution: Parts of the beach are private property, and visitors are urged to respect whatever conditions private owners set for use of their beach. As part of a marine protected area, it is unlawful to remove anything from tide pools. And when exploring sea caves, be sure to time your visit to be in and back out during low tide.