Southern California and beaches are a match made in heaven. As the mountain ridges of Santa Barbara County dip down to the bright-lights metropolis of Los Angeles and then the palm-topped shores of Laguna Beach in the OC, you can find some of the country's – no, the world's – most beautiful sand stretches, surfing spots, and coves. It's all a part of this guide, which hops from Encinitas rentals to Dana Point, all to help you create that perfect Golden State getaway.
Surf's up around Encinitas rentals
The salt, sand, and sea breezes get everywhere in Encinitas, an out-and-out surf town that straddles Highway 101 with its cute bungalows and some chic villas. It's a fantastic spot if you're coming to conquer the waves of Southern California – from D Street to Cardiff, there are reefs, powerful beach rollers, and point breaks waiting close to surf schools. But that's not it. Hop from your rental and you can also meditate in clifftop Zen gardens, do yoga on the sands, and go birding in the San Elijo Lagoon.
Balboa Island rentals – a little off the wall
Hidden behind the glitzy promenades and sprawling malls of Newport Beach, Balboa Island is somewhere you really might not expect to find in Orange County. Hop the ferry over and be prepared for kitschy cottages and little bungalows with painted porches and drapes of wildflowers. And that's just the beginning. The creative eateries here serve fusion smorgasbords of Tex-Mex, Indian, and Asian, while craft boutiques brim with shell-sculpted antiques and jewelry.
The allure of Dana Point rentals
Ask any LA local where the best beaches are for a getaway from the big city and it's likely that Dana Point will be a mention. Just over an hour in the car from Inglewood and LAX, it's a meeting point for whale pods and dolphins, with a marina that's got all sorts of boating outfitters, and beaches that glow golden between the palms and stone pines. You should also notice the distinct upscale vibe of Dana Point rentals, which often come with infinity pools, ocean views, and hot tubs.
Pacific-side Del Mar rentals
It's hardly a surprise that the vacation rentals of Del Mar are synonymous with the ocean – the name means, simply, "the sea." On the clifftops are plush villas with pools and staircases leading down to rock-backed coves. Closer to the Camino just behind are cozy cottages with room to stash the board. Be sure to hit the beach trail for evening if you don't have a view of the Pacific from your pad, though – the sunsets here are to die for.
A welcome to Orange County in Seal Beach rentals
Seal Beach is the first pitstop in the OC as you head across from Long Beach in Los Angeles. And what a fine introduction to that surf mecca it is, too. There are age-old longboard shops that date back almost to the time when the Duke himself came on pilgrimage to California. You've huge, challenging waves to ride – or just watch others ride – at the mouth of the San Gabriel River, along with a rickety pier that's still one of the longest on the shores of the Golden State.
San Diego – myriad rental options
Southern California beach vacation rentals of all shapes and sizes meet in this cool and collected metropolis on the cusp of the Mexico border. Leave behind the saloon-slapping doors of the Wild West Old Town area and venture out to Coronado and La Jolla. They both have slick penthouses with views of the Pacific Ocean and gardens that open to bike-whizzing promenades. There's a more off-beat and boho scene of surf shacks and low-rise bungalows to be had in happening Ocean Beach, a town within a town, where you'll dine and surf next to an iconic pier.
Carpinteria vacation rentals – edging the Central Coast
Set beneath the winelands and flowering slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Carpinteria is a dramatic series of bluffs and rocky inlets that marks the region where Southern California begins to turn into the jaw-dropping Central Coast. It's famed for its avocado festival, for its proximity to the beautiful Spanish missions of Santa Barbara itself, and for frothing surf swells. To ride them and explore the shoreline better, be sure to zero in on the small bungalows that are just steps from the main beach parks.