Southern California has plenty of sunny coast lined with sandy beaches and a lot of coast lined with gigantic scenic cliffs. Most people think of Southern California as girls in bikinis playing volleyball and guys surfing. Southern California has plenty of this, but also has a few less crowded beaches that offer hiking, camping and wildlife viewing.

The Southern-most part of the California coast has a large population including cities such as San Diego with a population of around 3 million and Los Angeles with a population of almost 10 million. This part of California is crowded, to say the least.

If you travel a short distance from San Diego or L.A., you can find little spots to access some of the less traveled beaches. Many of these can be hard to find due to no parking and, occasionally, locals intentionally take down signs and try to hide access spots to keep their favorite beaches hidden. But with a little luck and searching you can find the quieter beach accesses.

Farther north from the large cities, the terrain gets less populated and more rugged. As you start to enter the Las Padres National Forest and the Big Sur area, there are many more parks, camping and hiking areas. Most of this area is very step and rocky. You won’t find many sandy beaches for swimming and wading, but you will find some of the most dramatic cliffs and scenic coastline in the world. In the 1960s, the local government made laws to prohibit all billboards and buildings within sight of Highway 1 through most of this area so that the view from the highway would stay unspoiled.

There are a few state parks in this area that offer parking, picnicking, hiking and camping. They all require a fee and are fairly regulated. Many of these parks have migratory wildlife and plant life with delicate life patterns. The state parks and wildlife divisions spend a lot of time and energy protecting and studying these animals and plants. Consequently, you probably won’t find many spots to pull a truck on the beach and build a bon fire, but you can find some devolved camping spots and nice hiking trails.

The weather on this part of the coast is usually dry and sunny in the summer and can be foggy and cool in the winter. This area is very diverse with redwood forest just down the road from desert plains. In general, the summer months can be very nice with warm, but not hot, temperatures and a cool ocean breeze.

Southern California is a very populated coast, but there are still spots to be found that have fairly unpopulated beaches if you’re willing to look for them. It is a very nice climate and ecosystem, which is probably why so many people are living in this area.