Beaches: Outdoor Sober Adventures in Southern California

You don’t have to give up every activity you’ve ever loved while you’re in recovery. While you should certainly steer clear of tempting environments and activities that encourage drugs and alcohol, you can still have fun and maintain a sober lifestyle at the same time. Going to the beach is an exciting getaway you can enjoy while sober. A single day spent by the ocean can help you feel relaxed, boost your mood, and get you excited about physical fitness.

Southern California is home to some of the best beaches in the United States. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly beach with lots of activities, a calming place for a nice swim, a seaside spot to meditate, or a secluded stretch of sand that’s less crowded, the region has hundreds of waterfront locations you can enjoy. You can swim, fish, collect seashells, picnic, play games, read a book, listen to music, take pictures, or walk, stroll, or jog along the coast. Regardless of the activity you choose, going to the beach is an exciting sober adventure with many benefits.

Heath Benefits of Spending Time on the Beach

If you’re like most people, you go to the beach to relax and unwind. But as pleasant as relaxation is, a day on the seashore has more benefits than just taking it easy. Spending time in or near the water can improve your creativity, cognitive function, and emotional and mental wellbeing.

Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist and author of Blue Mind, explains that “water is considered the elixir and source of life. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, makes up nearly 70% of our bodies, and constitutes over 70% of our hearts and brains. The mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart, and induce relaxation.”

Research validates the neurological and physical benefits of spending time by the ocean. Psychologists have discovered that when you stare at the sea, your brain’s wave frequency changes, which can put you in a meditative state of mind. Listening to waves crash activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which may make you feel relaxed. When you breathe in the salty ocean air, negative ions calm your brain and boost your mood. Exciting water sports like surfing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, and water skiing encourage your body to release dopamine.

The release of this brain chemical helps you feel good and experience a sense of satisfaction. Time on the beach can also help:

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce feelings of depression
  • Change your perspective on life
  • Relieve insomnia, so you sleep better
  • Boost your physical fitness level
  • Increase iodine levels which may help balance your thyroid, hormones, and metabolism
  • Increase vitamin D levels, which supports your immune, brain, and nervous systems. Vitamin D also helps regulate your mood.

Now that you’re aware of the health benefits of spending time on the beach, we’ve put together a guide featuring some of Southern California’s best waterfront spots.

Southern California’s Best Beaches & Waterfront spots

welcome to Southern California message at the beach

  • Coronado Central Beach: This 1.5-mile long white sandy beach offers you views of the ocean and the iconic Hotel del Coronado. The coastal spot is an accessible location for families with kids as well as couples. Known for its calm ocean waters, this site is ideal for safe swimming, but you can surf and boogie board at this beach, too. The sandy coast is well-maintained if you prefer to sunbathe and watch the tranquil waters instead. You’ll find many lifeguards at Coronado Beach, and it’s a pet-friendly location.
  • La Jolla Shores and Cove: If you enjoy water sports, check out La Jolla Shores. You can get your heart rate up by kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, or bodyboarding at this well-known beach. If you’re in the mood for a more intimate experience, you can take a short drive down the coast to La Jolla Cove. You can find this small beach tucked beneath some sandy cliffs. Pop out your camera and take photos of this picturesque coastal spot, or go scuba diving or snorkeling to explore the colorful world beneath crystal blue waters. If you’ve never scuba dived before, you can also take beginner scuba diving classes at La Jolla Shores.
  • Crystal Cove State Park: This secluded beach stretches 3.5 miles and feels like an underwater park with reefs and more than 2,000 wooded acres for you to explore. You can escape the crowds at Newport Harbor and enjoy the quiet tide pools and coves that inspire visitors. You can also discover some of the park’s canyons or go mountain biking, horseback riding, or hiking after you’ve enjoyed Crystal Coves’ 3.2-mile shoreline and seaside views.
  • Catalina Island: This waterfront location is more like a waterpark adventure than a beach, but you’ll have plenty to do at this seaside site. You can snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, hike, and ride horses. Be sure to bring your camera. You might just snag a jaw-dropping photo of grazing buffalo that populate the area.
  • Arroyo Burro County Beach Park: This coastal park is known and loved for its picnic tables, benches, and barbeque grills. You can also surf and swim at this coastal site that’s just 5 miles from Santa Barbara. But perhaps the most fantastic thing about “Hendry’s Beach,” as locals call it, is seeing whales. Be sure to come back during the winter months to watch the whales migrate.
  • Newport Beach: This beach features a stunning 5 miles of coastline. Sunbathers, swimmers, and surfers flock to this luxurious waterfront spot. You can also walk across the beach’s two piers.
  • Huntington State Beach: Swimmers, bodysurfers, and boogie boarders love this waterfront location. This 2-mile long beach features beach volleyball and basketball courts, outdoor showers, picnic tables, barbeque grills, and 200 fire rings. You can also fish and walk on one of California’s longest piers for some breathtaking views.
  • Manhattan State Beach: With more than 4 million visitors every year, this seaside location is one of Southern California’s most popular beaches. This waterfront site has more than 2 miles of ocean frontage and 115 acres of sandy beach for you to enjoy. You can walk the 900-foot long pier, swim, play volleyball, or surf at this beach. You might also enjoy the Strand Walkway or the Marvin Braude Bike Trail once you’ve had your fill of water fun.
  • Leo Carrillo State Park: Just 35 miles northwest of Santa Monica, this state park has two beaches: North Beach and South Beach. Waves hit the shoreline hard, so you’ll want to check with lifeguards before swimming in these waters. Even so, sunbathers, surfers, divers, and beach walkers love this seaside spot. You can also see red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, owls, mule deer, and grey foxes. If you’re lucky, you might spot a whale and calf near the shore.
  • El Matador State Beach: There are no activities on this small and secluded beach. But if you’re in the mood to meditate, practice mindfulness, soak up some vitamin D, or take a long stroll in the sand, this might be the ideal coastal spot for you. If you venture up the coast a bit, you’ll discover some caves that may inspire your inner explorer. You can also find a few picnic tables that look out over the Pacific Ocean if you want to invite family and friends to a waterfront meal.

Managing stress can be one of the most effective ways to maintain your sobriety when you are recovering from addiction. If you’re fortunate enough to recover in Southern California, you can relax your mind, refresh your energy, and satisfy your inner adventurer by spending a day or two at one of the region’s many beaches. You can try one of our recommendations or find and enjoy some of Southern California’s many other beaches.

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