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Elle Ossello | 08.09.2016

If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver, B.C., you had better pack your swimming suit. The lively, vibrant city cozies right up to the glimmering Pacific Ocean, but not without leaving room for soft, sandy, beautifully maintained beaches. Pair that with the verdant, towering North Shore Mountains to the east, and you’ve got one drool-worthy scene.

These lovely beaches draw impressive crowds, so an escape east into the hills earns quick access to Vancouver and Southern B.C.’s Provincial Parks (more than 20 await). With typically warmer water temperatures and often a break from the breeze so characteristic of the city’s shoreline, any of these swimming holes is an excellent place to spend a leisurely afternoon. Don’t forget your hiking shoes—there’s almost always a scenic and well-maintained trail nearby.

Below are our top recommendations for an H20-filled escape to Vancouver. Grab your sunblock, your swimsuit, your travel pals, and go!

Beaches

Wreck Beach

Renowned for being North America’s largest nude beach, Wreck Beach is a relaxed, laid-back experience and is situated among raw, natural beauty. You don’t have to be nude to visit, but do come prepared to navigate the short, steep 447 steps down to the shore.

Spanish Banks Beach

Gathering volleyball players from all over the city and beyond, Spanish Banks Beach is a hub of seaside recreation. You’ll always find skim boarders flying down the shallow waterways, kayakers poking around the outer edges of tide pools, and windsurfers and kiteboarders hitching a ride on the gentle, consistent breeze.

Locarno Beach

Because Locarno Beach is flanked by more popular Spanish Bay Beach to the west and Jericho Park to the east, it sees less traffic than its two neighbors. The city of Vancouver has dedicated it as a quiet beach, so while you’ll still find chatty, laughing people, you’ll find reprieve from loud music. There are six beach volleyball courts at Locarno and plenty of real estate to spread a blanket and soak up the sun.

Kitsilano Beach

With sweeping views of Burrard Inlet and the Vancouver skyline and a wealth of activities and amenities, it’s easy to argue that “Kits” Beach is Vancouver’s most beloved. You’ll find SUPs, kiteboarders, kayakers, and windsurfers enjoying the beach by water; tennis players, volleyball players, sunbathers, bikers, and basketball players enjoying Kits Beach by land. To polish off what’s sure to be an already stellar experience, visit Kits Pool, the longest pool in Canada and a warmed saltwater recreation haven measuring over 150 yards long.

Sunset Beach + English Bay

With long stretches of soft white sand, behemoth beached logs, and excellent proximity to downtown, English Bay is an excellent, quick reprieve. You’ll almost always find beach volleyball players at the two sand volleyball courts and bikers cruising down the adjacent Stanley Park, one of Vancouver’s most iconic landmarks. Be sure to stop at the Cactus Club for lunch or a drink.

Second Beach

Just past Sunset Beach and English Bay and with an equally excellent access point to the city and Stanley Park, Second Beach is a no-brainer. When the tide is low, the sand does get a bit slimy and not very ideal for swimming, but the number and variety of hunting shorebirds is a worthy trade off. Plus, the Second Beach Pool is steps away and still enjoys an ocean view.

Third Beach

Though it’s a bit more challenging to get to than its neighbor, Second Beach, Third Beach faces directly west, and there’s hardly a better place to watch the sunset over the ocean. You’ll usually find locals that have carried in small barbecues, and you’ll always find curious souls poking around the prolific tide pools. While it’s still within close proximity to the city, the thickly forested Stanley Park buffers some noise and offers an excellent reprieve from a busy day.

Hadden Park

With a nearby bike path, tide pools, and spectacular views of Downtown Vancouver, this little park has plenty to recommend it. Many come here for the off-leash dog area. The area is rocky, to be sure, but there is enough sand for accommodate a small play area.

Porteau Cove

More than just an incredible place to camp, Porteau Cove Provincial Park is home to a beautiful stretch of coast that must be considered for anyone looking to escape the summer heat. Rock and sand beaches are options for the more straightforward day, the cliffs dropping into Howe Sound are perfect for short drops, and there are even sunken vessels for scuba diving!

Lighthouse Park

While the lighthouse at Point Atkinsons may be off limits, that doesn't stop visitors from hiking and climbing throughout this gorgeous park. Juniper Point is at the park's west end, and it makes a great spot for big air right into the sound. It's also a classic spot to catch a sunset, so don't forget the blankets and refreshments after the swim.

Buntzen Lake Beach

Just 45 minutes from Vancouver, this beach offers plenty of amenities. Aside from the large beach area that's perfect for stretching out for the day, dogs have a dedicated swimming area, and there is a dock that makes an ideal platform for leaps into Buntzen Lake. Nearby trails are great warm-ups for your afternoon plunge. Expect company on hot days.

White Pine Beach

Located on the northeast side of Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Regional Park, White Pine Beach offers visitors two beautiful beaches to choose from. The refreshing water of Lake Sasamat never looked so good. A concession stand, picnic tables, and a trail around the lake make this a great spot to post up for the day, but the lake is also close enough to Vancouver to be a quick break from the heat on short trips.

Swimming Holes

North Beach, Alouette Lake

With plenty of sandy real estate upon which to spread a blanket, North Beach is a popular and spacious swimming hole just east of the bustling city, though you can hardly go wrong with any of Alouette Lake’s swimming holes. With views of the snow-capped peaks in the far distance and ample room for kayaking, canoeing, swimming or stand-up paddleboarding, it’s a picturesque setting for a leisurely afternoon and a haven on a hot day. Don’t miss the short, scenic, North Beach Trail along the almost-chartreuse waters of Gold Creek.

Green Point Day Use Area + Swim Beach, Harrison Lake

The primary day use area for Sasquatch Provincial Park, Green Point is a super popular swimming hole in the hot summer months for city-goers looking to cool off and get out of city limits. Though it’s a bit colder than its neighbors, Hicks Lake Campground or Lakeside (Deer Lake) Campground, the sweeping views of the thickly forested surrounding hills are truly second-to-none.

30 Foot Pool, Lynn Canyon Park

North Vancouver's premiere pool for soaking your bones as the mercury soars. Cross the suspension bridge, take a left, and continue to follow the river for approximately 10 minutes to find this stunning emerald pool. Expect company, and always Leave No Trace.

Cultus Lake

If you have kids in tow, make a beeline to Cultus. Extensive swimming holes, low-consequence recreation areas, and a wealth of amenities make this lake an extremely popular weekend destination for Vancouverites. Pair that with Vancouver’s biggest outdoor waterpark, and you’ve alighted on a kid’s outdoor paradise. 

Gold Creek Falls

Located in Golden Ears Provincial Park, the trail to Gold Creek Falls is a short, mostly level walk that quickly leads you to a phenomenal opportunity to beat the heat. Clear pools entice at the base of the falls, though be prepared for a very chilly dip. The falls here are beautiful, and those with a little extra time owe it to themselves to walk a little further to the Lower Falls.

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