Crystal Cove state park is both a beach and a wilderness area with many hiking trails, beaches, and historic beach cottages.
This 3-mile stretch of beach along the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the state park system's newest additions.
Heading inland, the park covers 3000 acres of hills, canyons, and trails. It also includes primitive campgrounds that only backpackers can reach.
To read about Crystal Cove trails, click on this link.
The beach system includes seven distinct areas. Each has its own character. The beaches connect during low tide – forming one long stretch of beach. But during high tide, the water blocks the way along the rocks.
Most beaches at the state park require a steep climb down the stairs or ramps towards the beach, so be prepared. You can avoid those steep inclines if you are at the Moro Campground.
Tip: Try to pack light for this beach trip. Just remember that you have to climb the same steep stairs or ramp on the way back up.
The beaches here are great for surfing, body surfing, rock climbing, and sea life exploration at the tide pools
Along the 3 mile stretch of beaches, there is an excellent pedestrian and bike trail. You can take this very easy hike instead of the El-Moro Canyon trail. The advantage: great views of the cliffs and the ocean. The disadvantage: You can hear the cars along PCH.
For additional exploration, try the other beaches at this state park, each with a distinct personality:
Moro is the southernmost beach, located closer to Laguna Beach and across from the new Moro Campground. Park in the day-use lot and walk through a short tunnel to this easily accessible.
Moro beach is popular with bodyboarders, stand-up paddleboarders, surf fishermen, and kayakers.
Reff point is popular for swimming, surfing, and scuba diving, and tidepools. It also has Little Treasure Cove and Muddy Creek, emptying out onto the beach from Muddy Canyon.
Historic District at Los Trancos Beach
This beach is home to the historic district with vintage cottages. If you are lucky and persistent, you might be able to snag a reservation at www.reservecalifornia.com.
The parking lot is across Pacific Coast Highway with a tunnel under the road. Walking through the tunnel to get to the cottages is a lovely experience – with green vegetation and running water.
At the cottages and right on the sand, you can enjoy a meal at The Beachcomber Café.
The beach slopes gradually, so it’s a narrow beach at high tide and a wide beach with rocks in the surf at low tide. There are tide pools at the north end near Pelican Point where scuba divers enter searching for even more marine life.
Treasure Cove Beach
Treasure Cove Beach is popular with surfers and scuba divers exploring the reefs in Crystal Cove Underwater Park.
In the wall facing Treasure Cove is a cave that is accessible at lower tides. There are also many tide pools in this area to enjoy at low tide.
Little Treasure Cove
This beach is the northernmost boundary of Crystal Cove State Park. Little Treasure Cove is best at low tide when the rocks and tide pools are exposed.
On the bluffs above, there is an observation tower marking the best spot for whale watching.