Agua Hedionda Lagoon is forty minutes north of Downtown San Diego, in the city of Carlsbad. The lagoon is over 400 acres and is the home to numerous plants and animals, as well as a recreational playground for humans and leashed dogs!
There are several trails to choose from at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Today, we are going to explore the Hubbs Trail which is situated closest to the Ocean at the northwestern portion of the lagoon.
This article is a continuation of my epic adventure examining the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center, which also included hiking the Discovery Center Trail. So for more in-depth information on the Discovery Center and all the other trails, please click here.
Looking straight down the middle of the photo- the smokestack belongs to the Encina Power Station owned by NRG Energy, which uses the lagoon’s water to cool the power plant. Because of this, the Encina Power Station is considered the “steward” of the lagoon and is in charge of dredging every 2 to 4 years.
As a result of this dredging (removal of sand and silt), the Agua Hedionda Lagoon is also used by two aquaculture businesses: the Carlsbad Aquafarm that raises Blue Mussels, Pacific Oysters and Ogo (edible seaweed); as well as, the Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute that runs a White seabass hatchery.
The Wild Radish, pictured above lives and dies in one year. It is considered a habitat threatening invasive species.
Did you notice the loud humming in the background and the silt in the water? The Encina Power Plant was dredging the lagoon today.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon Upper Trail
Before going down on the main trail let’s now take a look at the lagoon from up above. There are many plants up here to see, and the view is incredible!
Let’s head back and go toward the northeast and check out where the Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute is.
Have I also mentioned that I would LOVE to work there?
As we are getting closer to the beginning of the trail, do you notice those black contraptions on the side of the cliff?
According to the official website of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, these thick sheets of plastics are being used for a solarization project headed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Carlsbad Strawberry Fields.
The goal of the project is to remove the non-native plant species, such Algerian Sea Lavender and the Hollentot-Fig and the Wild Radish from local salt marshes by using the heat of the sun.
Studies have shown that increased soil temperatures, as well as lack of sunlight, have helped in eliminating invasive species and their seed banks.
The solarization study began in December of 2017, so fingers crossed!
Check out all of these activities that are offered here at the lagoon!
Here is a peek at the dredging machine, and boy is it loud!
Time To Go Down South Toward Hubbs-Seaworld Institute
Here we have ice plant taking over the retaining wall.
Fun Fact- The Hottentot-Fig, commonly referred as ‘ice-plant’ is a habitat threatening invasive species originally from South Africa. In the late 1800’s, California imported this plant as a way to stabilize the sand dunes and the dirt in between the railroad tracks. Later on, CalTrans did the same up along all of the freeways.
The fact is, the opposite is true; in other words, this plant adds to the erosion problem as well as inhibiting the growth of native plant populations.
Another fantastic spot close to the Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute, which provides relaxation and a spectacular view to boot.
We are getting closer to Hubbs now.
Do you notice the piping in the lagoon leading to the platform offshore? Here is a holding pen for the older and larger White seabass to live in before released into the wild.
According to the Hubbs Seaworld Research Institute, since 1986, over one million juvenile White seabass have been released into bays and nearshore coastal areas in southern Califonia. In fact, this facility is capable of producing over 350,000 juveniles each year!
For more information, click on the link above.
Here we have a Snowy Egret hanging out on the mudflats at low tide. It just so happened to catch a fish while I was watching!
How did this heart form in the eelgrass?
In this direction, we can get another good look at the mudflats.
What is around the corner?
Water Sports in the Agua Hedionda Lagoon
The outside section of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon is not accessible to the midsection except by a water vessel such as a paddleboard or a kayak. As you can see, the path ends underneath this bridge. Here I have an example of where the two sections of the lagoon meet.
I had a mishap while filming, as my finger seemed to get in the way.
I love how this video shows the current going out because of the low tide, so I am ignoring the finger!
Agua Hedionda Lagoon is considered to be a “passive recreational’ water park.
No swimming is allowed, and you may not anchor a boat, but in the northeastern part of the lagoon, many activities are offered at California Watersports: such as wave runners, waterskiing, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, peddle boats, wakeboarding, and boat rentals.
It is important also to note that there is a ramp available here as well as picnic tables.
Fishing is permitted along the shore, but not by boat.
The average depth of the lagoon is 8-10 feet.
Right under the bridge in the distance is where you will find California Watersports.
Heading Back Towards The Ocean
Now it is time to walk back toward the coast.
What a beautiful sight to see the mouth of the lagoon fully open since water exchange between the ocean and the lagoon is exceptionally vital.
Another great spot to hang out and watch the current of the lagoon go out into the Ocean or vice versa.
At this vantage point, we look back at the lagoon before heading onto the bridge. Do you notice the beginning of the trail up on the hill to the right?
Directly across from the street to the right is Tamarack Beach and to the left is Warm Water Jetty Beach. Let’s have a look at the water from on top of the bridge.
Time to make our way back to the beginning! How did you enjoy the tour? I love it here so much as it brings back great memories when I use to interview fishermen here.
It looks like someone is going fishing in a kayak.
One more look before we say goodbye!
Well, thanks again for joining me on a tour of the Hubbs Trail at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. As you can see this is a unique place! I hope one day you will be able to come and visit here in person! Hopefully, it will be on a day when there is no dredging going on. It would be a, how do you say- a quieter experience.
Please feel free leave any comments or questions below.
I can not tell you how excited I was to go and check out the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center! I have always been fond of this lagoon. In fact, when I used to work as a Fisheries Technician, I would find a large number of shore anglers fishing on the western edge of this lagoon.
In San Diego, there are several lagoons as well as complimentary Nature Centers filled with valuable information on local flora and fauna.
It has been my goal to visit everyone! Today is the day to check out the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center!
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
Located in North County San Diego, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon is a 400-acre saltwater lagoon situated forty minutes away from Downtown San Diego in Carlsbad.
Agua Hedionda means “Stinky Water” in Spanish. Before dredging in 1954, the lagoon was initially cut off from the Ocean by a massive amount of sand, so I can easily see how it received this name.
The Agua Hedionda Lagoon is unique in that several businesses share this lagoon:
The Encina Power Station owned by NPG Energy uses the water of the lagoon for the Power Plants cooling systems. Of special note-they are the stewards of this lagoon and are in charge of dredging it every two years
Here you will find some fantastic displays which showcase historical as well as the biological significance of the area.
Let’s have a look around, shall we?
When I first walked in, I encountered the guinea pigs cages within the Rancho Room.
In the early history of California, the Spanish and later the Mexican governments would hand out large land grants and deeds to set up Ranchos to raise cattle and sheep.
Over in the far left corner, there is an insect display showcased.
Here we have the Birds of Agua Hedionda Lagoon Exhibit. Each tile has relevant and interesting facts on several species of birds found here.
The Reptile Room display showcases several species as well as giving you the option of handling them if you wish. I have to say that I passed on that opportunity today, but if I did have the chance, I wouldn’t mind holding one of the snakes.
Across the room, you will find the Discovery Centers Fish Aquariums where you can get a general idea of what is going on underneath the waters and also see some of the native species that call this lagoon home.
In this showcase- The Column of Life, you will get a first-hand look at what is going on at the bottom of the lagoon as well as each layer. In essence, here you will learn the ecology of the lagoon and see how each layer works together as well as learning how important wetlands are to the coastal environment.
Here, see for yourself what lives in each layer!
Luiseno History and Cultural Exhibit
This display was a collaborative effort between the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseno Indians and California State University San Marcos.
One of the primary emphasis of this display is to show how important the native plants played in general to the Native American lifestyle.
In the Kid’s Corner, there are several activities for the children to experience, such as an Archaeological Dig, many books to look at as well as plenty of things to color and draw on.
I know that if my kids were still small, they would find heaps of things to do here!
Agua Hedionda Lagoon History Hallway
I always get a little excited when I see a designated History area, as I revel in learning as much as I can of the past of San Diego. There is something to be said about past knowledge that adds to the experience of any location.
Let’s now take a stroll down History Hall!
It so fascinating that the history of this area goes back all the way to 5000BC!
A Spanish commander, Gasper de Portola was the first sighted the lagoon, and named it “Stinking Waters.” I find this interesting because where I live (20 miles inland) in Temecula, one of the major roads is named De Portola Road!
Before the 1920’s the Agua Hedionda Lagoon was closed off to the Ocean, but that all changed after a series of powerful storms finally opened up the lagoon to saltwater circulation.
On March 3, 1990, the Aqua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation began.
Between the years of 1992 and 1998, a system of trails was planned and eventually created around the lagoon. During these formative years is when I became familiar with the lagoon.
At the time, the only trail that I was aware of was the Hubbs Trail located at the northwestern shore of the lagoon. This area has always been a favorite spot to fish from shore.
Between the years of 2000 and 2003, an invasive seaweed species named Calerpa taxifolia was introduced into the lagoon after being released from a home aquarium.
As a rule, never, ever dump your aquarium water into the wild as you will be introducing foreign, competing species!
Anyway, this strain of seaweed grows extremely fast, up to 12 inches a day. Because it is so fast growing, the lagoon almost came to ruin, but through due diligence, the seaweed was ultimately eradicated. If you are interested in learning more, please click here.
I appreciate immensely how much time and effort that the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation puts into educating the children in the area about the importance of the lagoon. All of the awards that they receive are proof of that!
Tour Around The Outside
When I walked outside of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center for the first time, I became swarmed by a flock of swallows! I had no idea that they were back in town, so it was a pleasant surprise!
Fun Fact- Each year the swallows return in large groups to Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19, St Joseph’s Day. The birds travel over 6000 miles from Goya, Argentina. To read more, click on the link above, it is fascinating!
If you zoom in and look under the eave of the roof, you will find holes lined up where the swallows can build their mud nests.
Can you imagine yourself sitting here with a cup of coffee taking in the sights? I sure can!
Let’s now take a walk around toward where the trail starts.
Here we are on the back patio.
Looking back at the back patio, we are on our way now to take a short .25 mile hike!
Aqua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center Trail
Walking down this slope, you can not help becoming overwhelmed with all the smells of the coastal sage scrub community of plants. Within the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center’s grounds, there are more than 800 native plants, highlighting over 60 different species!
Here you can sneak a peak of the Discovery Center from the bottom of the first hill.
Walking down a little farther, I spy a bit of orange, which can mean only one thing our State Flower, the California Poppy!
I get so excited when I find them!
Fun Fact- You may pick a California Poppy, but only if it is not on any state grounds. If it is outside a school or a courthouse, or even on a street median do not hurt it or pick it!
Here we are making our way on the final stretch of our hike. Did I mention that it smells delightful?
If you are ever in the area, guided bird walks are offered monthly here at the Discovery Center! What a marvelous opportunity to go bird watching with an expert for free!
Here we come upon the Ecological Reserve portion of the lagoon. No one is to enter this area, as it is critical habitat for many species.
It is important to mention that this is not a closed loop trail, so now it is time to make our way back.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center Native Garden
After our lovely walk, let’s now head over the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center’s Native Garden which hosts over 50 native species of plants.
First off, here is a list of all the species that are found here to use for later reference.
Heading over to the Native Garden, we pass by these fun sandboxes for children to explore in.
Over here, we find the Franciscan Manzanita which is extinct in the wild. How fortunate to have this particular plant on display!
Today, I would like to take you on a tour of the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center which lies between Encinitas to the north and Solana Beach to the south in San Diego North County. I have always wanted to explore the San Elijo Lagoon as you can see it from both HWY 101 and off of the Interstate 5 Freeway.
Come and join me, would you?
First off, here is a bit of information for you.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife; as well as, the County of San Diego Department of Parks are in charge of overlooking the lagoon.
Please click on each photo to see a larger version.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
There are over 1000 acres with 7 miles of trails and eight trailheads available to walk around at the San Elijo Lagoon.
Located within the reserve are six plant communities to explore:
Coastal Sage Scrub
Let’s now have a look inside!
San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center
Established in 2009, the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center offers a variety of interactive displays as well as historical facts.
According to the San Elijo Conservancy website, “The 5,600-square foot building is Platinum-Certified by U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The two-story building is made from recycled materials and relies on solar energy, natural light, and ventilation.”
This state of the art center, which even uses recycled water to irrigate the landscape, replaced the nature center that hadpreviously opened in 1988.
There are several examples of fragrant plants in this display. It helps you get a good idea of what you are smelling while walking around the lagoon.
A Brief Look at the History of this Area
I was very interested in going over these historical displays.
Here you can learn very quickly all that has been happening in the area for over the past hundred of years!
Let’s have a look!
Time For A Nature Walk!
So today, we decided to walk around the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Trail Inner Loop which is only .3 miles long.
Here you get to walk next to the inside of the lagoon and experience the Salt Marsh, Brakish-Freshwater, and Coastal Sage Scrub environments.
Before we start our adventure, I have found a couple of excellent resources to help you out in identifying the plants and birds at the lagoon compliments of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.
Today, I would like to present to you a comprehensive list of all possible San Diego fishing piers. We will start the journey in North County San Diego at the Oceanside pier, making our way south, all around San Diego Bay and finally ending at the Imperial Beach pier less than two miles away from Mexico.
San Diego Fishing Piers-Which one to Choose?
Do you like to fish?
Do you like to take walks on piers?
San Diego has several piers to choose from depending on where you are or what kind of fish you wish to catch.
Each pier has something unique to offer, be it the type of bottom or surrounding views. San Diego Bay alone has five different piers!
Underwater Environment– Sandy shore with a rock quarry artificial reef out toward the end of the pier
Fish cleaning stations
Snack shop/bait shop
A restaurant at the end of the pier Ruby’s has an outdoor second story option
24 hour metered parking
Beginning for the pier- Here you will find the sand dwellers such as croakers, corbina, barred surfperch, Sargo, round stingrays.
Middle of the pier- Halibut, barred sand bass, white croaker, yellowfin croaker, topsmelt, jacksmelt, herring and gray smoothhound sharks.
End of the pier– Here you will find more of the pelagic species such as small yellowtail, small white sea bass, bonito, Pacific mackerel, barracuda, kelp bass, barred sand bass. Sometimes even small thresher sharks, blue sharks, leopard sharks and Salema.
Best Spot– MId-pier
Rating– Good to Great
Let’s have a look what is going on under the water! Special thanks to the TASI Youtube Channel for the use of the video.
Underwater Environment– Sandy shore with no rocks. The pilings are covered with mussels, and there is a right amount of kelp growing around the outer and the end of the pier. The water is not as deep as the other coastal San Diego Fishing piers.
One fish cleaning station.
limited night lighting
limited metered parking at the front of the pier/ no handicap parking
Size– 1971 feet- making it the longest concrete pier in Southern California. The pier is T-shaped with 360 feet on the south end and 193 feet on the north end. There is over 1 mile of pier railing.
Underwater Environment– The Kelp Forest is on the south end of the T, with a depth of 25 feet. There is a reef off the north end of the T and yields the most fish out of any other areas on the pier. Inshore is rocky intertidal.
Two fish cleaning stations
bait and tackle shop
benches and lights
24-hour parking adjacent to the pier
handicap parking at the foot of the bridge
On the south end which is in the kelp forest, yields kelp bass, sand bass surf perch, bonito, Pacific mackerel, California scorpionfish, California halibut, California lobster (keep only when in season) and occasionally a small Giant Black sea bass (illegal).
On the north end, is where most of the fish are caught due to an underwater reef just off the pier.
Midway out, on both sides of the bait shop, you will see white croaker, queenfish, jacksmelt, Pacific mackerel, barracuda, walleye surfperch, and small white sea bass. This area also yields California halibut, shovelnose guitarfish, and bat rays in the Spring and Summer.
Inshore, the foot of the pier is built over a rocky cliff area. When the tide is high, this shallow area will yield rocky intertidal species such as rubberlip seaperch, black perch, halfmoon, opaleye, blacksmith, senorita and occasionally a moray eel or even a California spiny lobster.
Underwater Environment– Sandy shore, 20 feet deep with short finger jetties to the north of the pier. There is a substantial growth of mussels and barnacles on the pilings and an artificial 1/2 moon-shaped rock reef near the end of the pier.
a restaurant at the end of the pier
a parking lot near the foot of the pier-$2 all day, $1 after 5 pm
free parking on adjacent streets
regular police bike patrols
End– Pelagic species such as bonito, Pacific mackerel, bonito, small barracuda and occasionally a small white sea bass or small yellowtail. Fishing in deeper water by the pilings may land you a rubberlip surfperch.
MIdway– Shallow species such as white croaker, queenfish, walleye surfperch, jacksmelt, California halibut, gray smoothhound shark, shovelnose guitarfish.
Inshore– Surfline species like barred surfperch, California corbina, yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker, thornback ray, stingrays, shovelnose guitarfish and sometimes a California halibut.
Best Spot– According to Pierfishing.com, the best spot is behind or in the surf zone and about halfway out right where the pier begins to slope upwards.
Fun Fact- Imperial Beach is the most southwesterly city in the United States!
San Diego Bay Fishing Piers
San Diego Bay is a natural harbor with an average depth of 22 feet which is over 13 miles long and 1-3 miles wide.
There are five different fishing piers to choose from.
First starting closest to the mouth of the bay is Shelter Island Pier, followed by the Embarcadero Pier that is located right behind the San Diego Convention Center.
Next, in National City, the Pepper Park Pie is adjacent to the Sweetwater River Channel, followed by the Bayside Park Pier in National City located just outside of the Chula Vista Harbor.
Finally, looping around the San Diego Bay, I will be ending the list with the Coronado Ferry Landing Pier which is found behind the Coronado Ferry Landing Marketplace.
There are many options to choose from when fishing in San Diego Bay!
For a general overview, typically when fishing in the bay, you will find that the fish on the top include topsmelt, jacksmelt, Pacific mackerel and bonito. While croakers, bass, sharks, rays, and perch, are found on the bottom.
Underwater Environment– Located right next to where the Sweetwater River Channel enters into San Diego Bay. Sandy bottom with little growth on the pilings. Some of the deepest near-shore water fishing opportunities are found here due to the dredging of the flood channel. On the other side of the river is the Sweetwater Marsh National Refuge which acts as a fish nursery.
Resident species-topsmelt, jacksmelt, white seaperch, black seaperch, kelp bass, barred sand bass, spotted bay bass, croakers, rays, California halibut, turbot, gray smoothhound shark, leopard shark, shovelnose guitarfish, bat ray.
Seasonal pelagics, Pacific mackerel, bonito and barracuda.
Best Spot– Any
Rating– Fair to Good
Fun Fact- Seeing that this pier is located right next to a river channel, in the winter after a big storm the water surrounding the pier becomes less saline. As a result, fish populations become sparse.
Size– A small concrete pier located at the entrance of the Chula Vista Marina in the south end of San Diego Bay which is an industrial area.
Underwater Environment– Muddy and shallow water situated right next to the Marina.
Here you will find the typical bay species such as queenfish, topsmelt, jacksmelt, diamond turbot, California halibut, shiner perch, shovelnose guitarfish, bat rays, round stingrays, gray smoothhound shark, and leopard shark.
Not as common but these fish have been seen here as well- Pacific mackerel, bonito, California needlefish, black perch, barred sand bass, spotted sand bass, yellowfin croaker, and mullet.
Best Spot– On the outside of the pier.
Rating– Fair to good
Coronado Ferry Landing Pier
San Diego Fishing Piers
1201 1st St, Coronado
Hours– Open 24 hours. The pier is located behind the Ferry Landing Marketplace which is a group of small shops and restaurants.
Size– 377-foot boarding area for the Coronado Ferry that allows anglers to fish but away from the Ferry landing.
Underwater Environment– Shallow water mix of sand, and mud, clam beds with eelgrass. Pilings are covered in mussels
restrooms found in the shopping center
bait cutting platforms
free and metered parking
food in the shopping center
Pacific mackerel, bonito, jacksmelt, topsmelt barred sand bass, spotted sand bass, kelp bass, black perch, white seaperch, rubberlip seaperch, sargo, white croaker, Salema, gray smoothhound shark, bat rays, shovelnose guitarfish, needlefish, California halibut, and sometimes shortfin Corvina.
Best Spot– Grassy areas for barred sand bass and under the far left corner for halibut.
So there you have it!
We sure have a large selection of fishing piers to choose from here in San Diego.
Regardless of what you are looking for, in terms of a fish species, you are in for a treat. Each pier has something unique, so I suggest you try them all out and find the right “fit”, so to speak.
I hope you enjoyed yourself, and one day you too can walk up and down these piers in person!
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions down below.
Have you ever walked down the southern Oceanside beaches? Did you know that at the very end, right near the border of Carlsbad there is a private beach named Saint Malo Beach?
In fact, the community of Saint Malo owns the part of the Buena Vista Lagoon closest to the Pacific Ocean.
Not much is known of this beach, and because of this, I was extremely intrigued to learn more. I would like to mention right up front, that there is hardly any information about this area on the internet.
I spent countless hours trying to find something, anything!
Well, I found just enough so here I am to take you on a mini-tour of this infamous beach.
Let’s have a look!
The History of Saint Malo Beach
Saint Malo Beach was the very first private gated community ever in the San Diego area!
The houses here were first built in the late 1920’s by a Pasadena architect and his wife, Kenyon and Louise Keith.
Initially, he was only interested in buying a few beachfront houses but ultimately he ended up having to purchase 28 acres of prime beach real estate.
And as they say, the rest is history.
The Saint Malo Community
A high majority of the original owners in this community are from notable “old money” Los Angeles families.
Approximately 2/3 of the 80 houses have been owned by the same families generation after generation.
Over the years, the property owners would sell to just family members and friends as a way to keep the community as tight as possible.
Again, it seems to have worked!
Saint Malo Beach was the “It” place to go in the 1930’s and 1950’s. The wealthy elite and Hollywood types would jaunt down here from Los Angeles on the weekends using the train.
You see, a train station is only steps away from here. Some notable guests that have spent time here include Harpo Marx and Al Capone.
With a little more digging I found Prince Andrew and Princess Anne stayed her during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and Julia Childs parents had a house here at one time too.
Even to this day, Saint Malo maintains to be an ideal location for summer homes and vacation rentals for the rich and famous.
Saint Malo Home Design
Saint Malo Beach was inspired by the island-city of Saint Malo, located off the Brittany coast of France. The architecture of this community is unique as all of the houses are designed in a French Normandy village style.
For instance, homeowners are to keep to strict architectural detail:
Slanted wood-shingled roofs
Red brick chimneys
Animal shaped weather vanes
Code of Silence
Not only do all houses have to adhere to this design, but the residents also have to keep a code of silence.
Seeing that I have lived in the San Diego area for over 30 years and I have never heard of this place, I would say that this code of silence has worked rather well!
To respect their wishes, I will not add any of the families names, but I will give you a few hints.
One family has their name on a very famous street in Los Angeles, in fact, I grew up one block away from it.
Another family has a State Beach named after them. And as a matter of fact, this State Beach is only 34 minutes north of here!
So are you ready to go and see this mysterious place? Well, to begin with, to get there you will need to walk for a little under a mile, starting at the South Oceanside beach entrance off of Cassidy Street.
You see, this is the only entrance from Oceanside, or you could start further south at Carlsbad City Beach. Today though, we will be starting in Oceanside.
Saint Malo Beach Walk
To start our adventure, we first had to park off the street as there is no parking lot.
As a rule, this beach access route is entirely dependent on the tide due to how narrow it is. Because of this, always check the tide report before walking on this beach.
About halfway on our walk, the Saint Malo community begins. Each house has it own unique stairway making its way down unto the beach.
When taking a look up top, I am not going to lie, but I was pretty nervous walking up this stairwell.
Keeping my eye on the sign which plainly states no trespassing, I intentionally kept this photo shoot short!
I appreciate how all the houses have the same slanted wood shingled roofs. Don’t you find this charming? I especially like the animal shaped weather vanes.
View From the Top
When visiting today the tide was low, but when the tide is high, the waves crash right into the rocks, making this beach impossible to go on.
Could this be another reason why not many are aware of this area?
Can you imagine the waves crashing onto the rocks here and how wonderful that would sound!
Here is a look at the private beach which includes a lifeguard!
What a gorgeous spot to sunbathe!
The Backside of Buena Vista Lagoon
As we come toward the end of Saint Malo Beach, we come upon the backside of the Buena Vista Lagoon.
The Buena Vista Lagoon in the past used to be a saltwater lagoon because it connected to the Pacific Ocean.
But in the early 1940’s that all changed. The homeowners of Saint Malo, placed a small dam (weir) to keep the ocean out.
Ultimately this weir has turned this area into a freshwater lagoon.
Long story short, the Saint Malo community believed it was in their best interests to have a freshwater lagoon, compared to a saltwater lagoon. Needless to say, but there has been controversy over this decision ever since. If you would like more information as I have written more on this in-depth, please go here.
Can you imagine what the views must look like from inside of these houses?
Here we are at the city border-Oceanside is on the right and Carlsbad is on the left.
Let’s now walk toward the water again and soak in the views.
Well, here we have come to the end of the tour.
I hope that you enjoyed our quick tour walking the beach of South Oceanside and Saint Malo Beach!
What do you think about the architectural design of the homes? How about the sense of community? How has this spot been keep secret for so long?
I am happy that I was finally able to come here and see it for myself. I hope that one day you will too!
Until next time!
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# Please click on each photo to see a larger version size.
Let us now go over a few things before we take our hike.
The Buena Vista Lagoon is 223 acres of freshwater wetland that serves as a natural barrier between two cities- Oceanside and Carlsbad.
I think it is also important to mention that there are no other freshwater lagoons in Southern California.
So needless to say, we have a unique coastal ecosystem here!
You may fish from shore and hiking is allowed on designated trails only.
I have always wondered about this lagoon/ coastal wetland ever since I moved down here over 30 years ago.
Not only do you notice it when driving on Interstate 5, but you can see it as well on Hwy 78 which runs east.
In fact, this waterway (Buena Vista Creek) runs parallel with Hwy 78 for almost 10 miles inland.
Who is in Charge of the Buena Vista Lagoon?
The lagoon is owned and maintained by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
There are also two non-profit organizations that help support and preserve this site: The Buena Vista Audubon Society and the Buena Vista Lagoon Foundation.
Buena Vista Lagoon History
The history of the Buena Vista Lagoon is fascinating.
Back in 1939, an ordinance was passed stating that firearms were allowed to be discharged within the adjacent areas around the lagoon. Ultimately this is what turned this location into a bird sanctuary.
In 1968, the Buena Vista Lagoon became the very first ecological reserve to be designated in California.
Initially, this body of water was a salt marsh. The inlet once connected to the Pacific, so the lagoon relied heavily on the tidal action to help with the water circulation.
The Placing of the Weir
In the 1940’s a weir was put up to stop this connection and as a result, created a freshwater lagoon.
A weir is a small dam used to raise the level of a stream, or in this case, a small lagoon.
A group of private homeowners at Saint Malo Beach damned up the lagoon to keep it freshwater only.
Saint Malo is a unique private gated community of multimillion-dollar homes built in a French Normandy style situated right on the coast. With the adding of the weir, they now had their private lake as well.
There has been significant controversy over weir ever since.
More on that later.
Do you like birds?
Did you know that the Buena Vista Lagoon is a part of the Pacific Flyway?
Can you believe that millions of birds pass by this area during their annual migrations in the Winter and Summer?
Needless to say, but this is an excellent spot to go bird watching!
The Four Basins of Buena Vista Lagoon
Referring to the aerial shot of the Buena Vista Lagoon above, you can see that it is broken up into four separate basins.
The last one is hard to see in this photo, but it is right before you get to the beach, where a weir is set up.
A group of private community homeowners at Saint Malo Beach own the last of the four basins.
Their primary objective is the keep the Buena Vista Lagoon as a freshwater lagoon.
The Buena Vista Lagoon has been in a state of decline due to excess sedimentation and the uncontrolled spread of cattails and mosquitos because of this weir.
As of today, there has been no dredging of the sediment since 1982! Whenever something is about to be done, another court case is filed once again.
Talk about red-tape!
Saltwater Lagoon vs. Fresh Water Lagoon
I can not tell you how many headaches this small little dam has given to this community
There have been four options:
Restore the lagoon to saltwater marsh flushed by the ocean.
Create a hybrid lagoon with eastern half freshwater and the western half salt water.
Dredge and improve the existing freshwater lagoon.
Pro Saltwater Lagoon
After several years of environmental impact studies done by the city as well as the state, the conclusion was that the removal of the weir is in the best interests of the lagoon as well as the most economical.
Advocates for removing the weir site numerous studies showing how the infestation of the cattails and mosquitos would disappear and biological diversity would increase.
You see, the cattails have been growing out of control. Many of the waterways have been chocked off thus making the water stagnant and in turn, making for a natural breeding ground for mosquitos.
Opening up the lagoon to the Ocean would also help improve circulation of the waterways.
Additionally, a brackish (salt/fresh) water environment would be ideal for many marine species as a nursery ground.
Is Freshwater Really Best?
Opponents of the measure (the private homeowners) claim that if they agree to remove the weir, then sooner or later a 100 ft wide channel would be made on the beach.
Because of this, it would be impossible to walk between the two city beaches over 37% of the year.
They also fear that the lagoon would end up decreasing in size and would result in a stinky mud flat. The bottom line is the homeowners do not want to see a decrease in home value.
On the other hand, many inland residents feel as if they are being held ‘hostage” by the few who own the weir.
Their main complaint is the evergrowing mosquito problem overtaking adjacent areas around the lagoon. Everything can be resolved by just getting rid of the weir.
Mosquitos cannot live in salt water!
Are you interested in more information?
Check this video out!
What do you think?
Walking On the Trail At Buena Vista Lagoon
Now let’s get back to the main reason that we came here in the first place, to take that walk around the Buena Vista Lagoon Nature Center Trail.
We started just outside of the Visitor Center and proceeded to follow the path to the left.
I would like to add that the local Eagle Scouts have posted classifications placards for many of the plant species all along the trail (see map above.), which I appreciated so much!
The lagoon edges are taken over by narrow and broadleaf cattails, spiny rush and bulrush.
It is evident here that the lagoons water level is rather low.
Do you see how tall these cattails are?
A Look at a Few Native Species
I was pleasantly surprised to see two Torrey Pine trees while we were making our way back to the Nature Center.
If you are not familiar, the Torrey Pine is the rarest pine trees in the country.
The Torrey Pine tree is only found in North County San Diego. There is one exception though- a small grove is located on one of the Channel Island off of the coast of Santa Barbara in Central California.
I would like to start my list with one of the most popular beaches in La Jolla. There is so much to do here that it is not a surprise that I have listed this beach as the first entry.
What Make’s La Jolla Shores So Unique?
Right offshore of La Jolla Shores beach is a very deep underwater trench-The La Jolla Submarine Canyon.
The ocean bottom here slopes and suddenly drops 500 feet and reaches down to 600 feet within the park. That is a huge drop!
Because of this trench as well as other offshore reefs, the tidal swells slow down considerably.
Because of this, the waves are gentle and forgiving, which makes for great swimming as well as other water sports, such as, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding and of course learning how to surf.
Do You Like to Walk as a Family?
Here you have an extensive sandy shore where you can walk for miles north on a low tide. In fact, Black’s Beach is just a three-mile hike or else only 5.4 miles to Torrey Pines State Beach!
How about a short 10-minute walk to the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier?
There are many sea creatures to check out on the cement pilings as well as excellent photographic opportunities at the pier.
A Playground and Picnic Area
Another enjoyable aspect is the large children’s playground. I can not tell you how many times I have brought my kids here for a picnic and how much fun they all had at this playground!
To sum it up, La Jolla Shores has everything that you would need for an outstanding Family Friendly beach experience.
There are several lifeguard towers, two sets of restrooms, showers, playground, water sports rentals, picnic areas and finally a large parking lot.
Word to the wise though, come early, or you will have to look for parking in the residential neighborhoods.
Another fantastic Family Beach is Torrey Pines State Beach. Here is where my husband and I would bring our children when they were small.
We would pack up the baby playpen, umbrella, towels, food and we were all set for a fantastic day at the beach!
The views here are incredible, especially the towering 300 feet sandstone cliffs. There is something to be said about how small you feel standing next to these giants!
Do You Like to Walk as a Family?
Torrey Pines State Beach is an excellent place to go “Beachcombing” In the photo above is the display case showing objects and creatures found by fellow beachcombers.
I wonder if anyone ever saw my husbands’ wedding band that he lost here while in the water 22 years ago?
As stated previously, Torrey Pines State Beach during low tide is a fabulous location to take a very long beach walk. In fact, as previously mentioned above it would be 5.4 miles from here to Scripps Pier at La Jolla Shores Beach!
Los Penasquitos Lagoon
I would also like to comment that there is a trail that goes across the street over to the Los Penasquitos Lagoon. The Marsh Trail makes its way along the southwestern part of the lagoon and marshland shore for about 3 miles.
Los Penasquitos Lagoon is a prime spot for the serious birdwatcher.
Torrey Pines State Beach has two parking lots as well as a few spaces along the road leading up to the park entrance.
In summary, Torrey Pines State Beach is one of the best family beaches in La Jolla, or in all of San Diego if I had my say.
There are many lifeguard towers, restrooms, a picnic area set up in both parking lots, showers, sinks and even the option of hiking up top at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, but more on that later.
Now how often do you get to see California sea lion or a Harbor Seal up close? When I say up close, I mean more like 30 feet away at least.
Anyone caught bothering them or trying to scare them back into the water will be fined $500.
These marine mammals are seen off the coast of La Jolla with much frequency and love to hang out here at the Children’s Pool or on the big rock-Seal Rock just outside of the Children’s Pool.
Ideally, this spot was a perfect place for children to swim because the seawall shelters the area. But there is a problem with water pollution due to these animals, so it is not recommended to swim here.
Though that doesn’t seem to stop some from doing just that; nevertheless, I for one would not.
A great time to visit is during the Spring when the babies are born.
Windansea Beach is another extremely famous surfing beach in San Diego and the west coast in fact.
The surf is considered to be a moderate to a severe shore break due to the steep beaches which result in the hard-hitting waves right on the shoreline. Because of this, it is recommended to surf during low tide when the waves are a little farther out.
Windansea Beach is suggested to be for advanced wave riders only as there have been many serious accidents that have taken place here in the past.
The Surf Shack
The palm covered wooden shack (The Surf Shack)- was first built in 1946 by three famous surfers-Woody Ekstrom, Fred Kenyon, and Don Okey.
It was knocked down by large waves and a high tide on Dec. 24, 2015, but was eventually rebuilt by locals in June 2016.
The Surf Shack by Windansea Beach was further named a historical landmark by the San Diego Historical Resource Board on May 27, 1998.
Fun Fact- Windansea Beach was the inspiration for the many “Beach Films” of the 1960’s
Parking might be a problem here as there are only a few designated parking spaces for the beach in this residential area. Furthermore, there is no restroom or shower at this location.
There is one sure winner for the best diving/snorkeling spot, and that would be the La Jolla Cove!
Look at this place!
A tiny white-sand beach positioned between sandstone cliffs is the gorgeous background you will experience while swimming in the clear blue-green waters. Visibility here can sometimes be more than 30 feet!
As stated earlier, the La Jolla Cove is part of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve, so everything here is protected. Nothing is to be touched or taken. Also stay away from any seal or sea lions as they may bite if frightened.
The diversity seen here is incredible. You can stay in the cove and experience the underwater sandy shore and rocky intertidal or swim out a bit and discover the Giant Kelp Forest!
I do not have an underwater camera, yet, but I found this lovely video that high lights this location. I am sure you will enjoy!
Driving up to Camino de la Costa Beach Access, I had no idea what I was in store for or what I was about to discover.
After parking in the residential neighborhood, I proceeded to the stairway and immediately noticed that this beach was made up entirely of medium to large stones with a tiny bit on sandy shore on the south side.
I have to say that when I turned my head to the left ar the stairway, I was taken aback by what I saw.
Million dollar views!
Here is the only little bit of beach.
Mind you; it was low tide so I can only imagine that the water most likely covers the whole area during the high tide.
I am so thrilled that I found this spot. Next time that I visit, I plan on sitting on a rock ledge and gaze out onto the horizon. Hopefully waiting to see if some whales or dolphins pass by the shore.
Just one more look before I say goodbye.
End of the List
I hope you enjoyed my picks for the best beaches of La Jolla. As you can see La Jolla is a pretty spectacular place to visit.
Please check back soon as I will be making a comprehensive list of touring companies as well as hotel and motel deals!
I would like to leave you with a few Honorable Mention Photos of other great beaches in La Jolla because I felt these other four needed to be seen and appreciated.
# Of particular note, click on a photo to see an enlarged version.
North Pacific Beach
On our adventure today, we will be looking over North Pacific Beach, Tourmaline Surfing Park and finally be ending at the Linda Way Beach Access point.
It is important to realize that all locations mentioned above are connected when the tide is low and makes for a lovely walk.
First off, Pacific Beach is considered a hustling beach town, with many college students and young professionals living and playing here.
Surfing and partying are all the rage here, but there are a few quieter spots in North Pacific Beach, and I am here to share with you a few prime locations.
Beach and Bars
It may be a cliche, but the two most popular activities here are beaches and bars. There are many bars and restaurants on the boardwalk, close to the pier, not to mention throughout most of Pacific Beach.
If you take a look at the map above you will see that North Pacific Beach or Law St Beach starts about half a mile north of Crystal Pier.
The large patch of green is Palisades Park, which overlooks Law St Beach.
Looking carefully, you can see that the locations that I have mentioned above tuck under what is called False Point, but more on that later.
It is important to mention before starting that there are several stairways and ramps to use when entering this beach.
Entrances are on Loving St, Crystal Dr, Law St (where we are), Chalcedony St, Diamond St, and Felspar St.
There is no parking lot, so you must park in the residential area.
Restrooms are available here at the Law Street entrance as well as at the Diamond Street entrance.
Here we start to make our way down to the beach which is surrounded by 75-foot cliffs. How fortunate to have this access.
Up at the top, there is a walking path that is a continuation of the boardwalk which starts just past the Crystal Pier.
Here we have a local surf school set up at the entrance of the beach.
Before heading up top to check out Palisades Park, let’s have a quick look at Crystal Pier.
Crystal Pier- Pacific Beach
The construction of the Crystal Pier began in the early 1920’s. Eventually, it was named the Pickering Pleasure Pier and soon became a popular vacation destination.
The Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages at the beginning of the pier, built in 1930 provides the ‘one and only’ experience of sleeping over the ocean water. Click here for more information on these incredible rentals! Some of them even have balconies!
Here at the end of Crystal Pier, fishing is the thing to do.
An interesting fact is that in 1927 this was the site of the Crystal Ballroom. Back then there was a “Midway” with carnival-like attractions and games leading to up to the end of the pier to the ballroom.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the ballroom and the midway only lasted for three months.
What a great hideaway that I found! There is a narrow stretch of green grass with benches with the most incredible view! At this park, you can experience everything about the beach without the sand.
And do not forget that there is a walking path as well as several dirt trails that will take you down to the beach.
The Pacific Ocean +Yoga= Pure Bliss
I also found an exciting activity that takes place here every Saturday and Sunday at 9 am.
There is a yoga instructor, Namasteve that happens to live across the street from this park. He sets up in his front yard and provides a donation based Vinyasa Yoga class overlooking the Pacific Ocean! I would love to try this someday, as I could only imagine that it would be spectacular.
If interested, please make sure to get there early because over 100 people show up!
Looking north, you can see the Tourmaline Surfing Park, as well as False Point, sticking out.
Tourmaline Surfing Park
Tourmaline Surfing park is right at the border of San Diego and La Jolla. Surfing at this beach has been extremely popular here since the early 1930’s.
Nestle between towering cliffs, the surfers, would call this place ‘The Canyon” because of the unique access to the beach due to it being a canyon.
Back in the day, access to the beach was very limited due to all the residential housing in this area.
While researching this site, I found some interesting facts that happened here at the Tourmaline Canyon in the 1960’s, so if you would like to know more, please visit here.
Here we have the vast parking lot. Do you notice the descending roadway making its way to the parking lot?
Looking at the memorial at the restroom, I discovered that the motto of this park is: “Surf well, spread Aloha, share waves without judgment.”
Family Friendly Surfing
Tourmaline Surfing Park is a beautiful family beach and a great place to learn how to surf.
There are two surf breaks here, one close to shore which is ideal for beginners as well as a break farther out for the more advanced wave rider and both great for longboards!
During the winter time and with a north swell, False Point helps to form some incredible waves which will travel all the way to Tourmaline.
There are several surfers out in the water riding the more advanced waves found near False Point.
We are getting close to False Point, so let’s have a look!
False Point-Linda Way Beach Access
I was so excited to find this access way to the beach! The view here is out of this world!
There is no parking lot and no real beach to think of, just a bunch of rocks. But, when the tide is low, this is an excellent spot to come to, to check out the tidepools.
Here we have the perfect example to showcase that Southern California is a semi-arid desert. Where else can you see cacti next to the ocean?
Linda Way/False Point Tidepools
Looking toward Tourmaline Surfing Park to the right, you can see that when the tide is low, both beaches are connected.
In other words, if you would like to go for a walk here, checking a tide chart is a must!
False Point is a popular site for tide-pooling, in fact, the Birch Aquarium offers naturalist-led tide pool expeditions here. Click here for more information!
Oh no! A storm drain!
I good rule of thumb is to never go into the ocean the day after a storm, especially near a storm drain.
Exploring the beaches of North Pacific Beach was so satisfying, as it felt like I was the only one on the beach.
There is nothing better for the soul than a day at the beach.
End of the Tour
So there you have it- North Pacific Beach, Tourmaline, and False Point are all connected when there is a low tide.
The bluffs are magnificent as well as the views of the incoming waves. The walk is just spectacular but very rocky over at False Point.
All in all, you can not go wrong visiting here on a negative low tide day.
There is so much to see and do. I especially enjoyed watching the surfers off of False Point.
It is hard to imagine paddling so far out to catch a wave!
I hope you enjoyed your mini-exploration, and my only wish is for you to come out and enjoy the area for yourself!
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below! Also, please check back, as I will be concentrating on the nine other beaches I visited on this day, starting with the beach right around the corner from False Point.
One of my favorite places to explore for over the past 30 years in the Los Penasquitos Lagoon. I would like to take you on tour, would you join me?
Ok! Let’s go!
Located between the city of Del Mar to the north and the border of San Diego to the south, the Los Penasquitos Lagoon is a 510-acre coastal salt marsh estuary.
Translated from Spanish, meaning “The Little Cliffs,” the Los Penasquitos Lagoon frames the northern part of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and is designated as a Natural Preserve.
Los Penasquitos Lagoon is one of the last remaining salt marshes left in southern California. In other words, the lagoon supports a large variety of plants and animals, including seven threatened or endangered species.
Another interesting fact is that this lagoon also serves as a refuge for migratory birds that use the Pacific Flyway.
Since joining the State Park System, there have been quite a few changes to help increase the overall tidal flow here at the Los Penasquitos Lagoon.
Development within the lagoon in the 1880’s and the 1930’s have modified the lagoons hydrology process.
There are several reasons for how this eventually happened.
Sante Fe Railroad Track
First off, in 1925 the Sante Fe Railroad built a single-track roadbed causeway embarkment down the center of the lagoon for its Surfline.
Can you believe that this track is still in use today on a daily basis?
The embarkment severely restricted the normal historical lagoon drainage for the first time and ultimately this changed the tidal flow.
Highway 101 Bridge
In the 1930’s the Pacific Coast Highway, otherwise known as US Route 101 was expanded, the roadbed along the beach heightened, and a bridge built over the mouth of the lagoon.
The waterway under the bridge would continually get clogged with sand and debris due to the 72 wooden pilings. This debris, in turn, would impact the flow of water between the ocean and the lagoon.
In 2005, a new bridge was built for uninhibited water flow.
Do you notice that there are only four cement pilings? Because of this, the lagoon being closed off by sand and debris doesn’t happen anymore.
Due to the very low tide, the tidal flow out to the beach is stronger than usual.
Fun fact- My husband and I would consistently come out here to Torrey Pines State Beach back in the early 1990’s when we were dating.
One of our favorite things to do was to go at night with flashlights. We would shine the light into the mouth of lagoon looking for Gray Smoothhound sharks and other fish. Their eyes would glow green with the reflection of light.
Let’s now have a look at the mouth of the lagoon from on top of the bridge on Highway 101.
Do you see the metal pole sticking out of the water towards the left? That is a monitor that keeps track of the tidal flow that comes in and out of the lagoon.
North Beach Entrance Parking Lot
In 1983 the Los Penasquitos Lagoon Foundation was established. The primary function of this foundation, to this day, is to keep the mouth of the lagoon open, improve circulation of the lagoon as well as to restore habitat.
According to the Los Penasquitos Lagoon Foundation and the State Coastal Conservancy, the building of the fully paved North Parking Lot in 1968, considerably altered the lagoons hydrology (water circulation).
Could this lagoon ever catch a break? First, off the railroad, then clogged bridge pilings and then finally a cement parking lot. All three structures played havoc on the water circulation!
Continuing from the North Parking lot and following Carmel Valley Road, there is an unofficial path in which you may view the lagoon from behind a barrier. Let’s go!
Los Penasquitos Lagoon Trails
Although almost all of the lagoon is off limits to the public, there is one trail- The Marsh Trail that is open to exploring!
To reach this trail, you must start at the South Beach entrance off of North Torrey Pines Road (HWY 101).
You will find the trailhead not that far south on the east side of the road. The trail winds around the western side of the Reserve, finally ending up in the industrial area of Sorrento Valley.
This trail is not a loop, so you must turn around and come back, so keep that in mind. If you go to the very end, the roundtrip would be about 4 miles.
Well, thank you so much for joining me on a tour of the Los Penasquitos Lagoon. As you can see, it is not enormous, but it sure has character.
Check back later as I plan on taking a hike on the Marsh Trail in the near future!
As I have previously stated, this lagoon has always held a special place in our hearts. I feel incredibly fortunate to have seen so many improvements and witness the transformation this lagoon over the last 30 years.
The new bridge has a lot to do with this, so thanks to the new bridge! Thank you for allowing more water into the lagoon and improving the circulation.
And a special thanks goes to the Los Penasquitos Lagoon Foundation for all the hard work and dedication they all put into preserving as well as researching this environment.
I hope that one day you may witness the Los Penasquitos Lagoon in person. There are so many beautiful places to discover in San Diego, especially the beaches of San Diego!
Please leave any comments or questions that you may have down below.
With wide sandy beaches alongside towering sandstone cliffs, coupled with bright blue shallow waters, Torrey Pines State Beach has always been one of my top three favorite beaches in San Diego.
Beginning in Del Mar just past the Los Penasquitos Lagoon and finally ending at Blacks Beach, there are 4.5 miles of coast to explore here, especially on a low tide.
Torrey Pines State Beach is the most popular State Beach in San Diego so needless to say, crowds here on the weekends are not uncommon.
This beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, walking, fishing-the possibilities are endless here!
Supermoon and Low Tides
To back up a bit, I would also like to mention that on this is the day the Supermoon/Bluemoon/Lunar eclipse took place (1/31/18).
Therefore my primary motivation in coming here was to photograph the tide pools and exposedbeach that comes along with a Spring low tide. For more information about what precisely a Supermoon is and why it creates extreme tides, please go here for an explanation.
Torrey Pines State Beach-Down the Beach Trail
It was a warm day for January measuring in at a pleasant 75 degrees. We were happily surprised by the cloudless skies!
Please do not get me wrong; I love the beach regardless of the weather. But there is something to be said when you can see for miles and miles out onto the ocean.
To put it another way, it is as if everything on the beach shimmers when the sun is bright. And do not forget you also get the best pictures, in my opinion, that is.
So now back to the adventure.
As stated above, my son and I were on a hike up above the beach at the Reserve. We just exited the “Beach Trail,” and this is what we experienced.
The stairway lets you down right onto Flat Rock Beach.
Wow, what an incredible reward after a long hike above at the Reserve. Now we are going to have a look around towards the south of the Flat Rock.
What is on the other side?
Do you see the passageway on the right of this photo? This path is an extremely narrow way to get around Flat Rock. And when I say small, I mean maybe just the width of your shoes, tight!
Going around the corner, we are now looking at the beginning of Black’s Beach, which goes on and ends about where the surf is breaking in the far distance.
Located directly below the world famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, Black’s Beach is San Diego’s renowned surfing spot as well as a nude beach.
There are several paths to reach this beach. One such path, the Ho Chi Minh Trail connects to this beach, but the descent is very steep, so a word of caution is needed.
There are two other trails which lead to this site, but I will go over those in a different post-one that concentrates just on this beach.
Please check back later as this trail is on my ‘to-do list.’ I have always wanted to experience the surf here, but have shied away due to it being a nude beach. Call me a prude, but I will eventually get there one day! With clothes on though.
Torrey Pines Gliderport
Situated south of the golf course is Torrey Pines Gliderport that has been here since the late 1920’s.
At this establishment, you will find access to everything related to foot-launched aviation, including hang gliding, paragliding, and powered paragliding pilots.
Quoting from the Torrey Pines Gliderport website-“We seek to promote all forms of flight and to make Southern California a destination for flight enthusiasts from around the world.”
Another great thing to mention is that Cliffhanger Cafe is on site and is opened from 9 am to 4 pm.
Enjoy the offerings of this full-service deli/cafe while looking out onto the Pacific ocean and enjoying the views right there on the cliffs. What a great place to look for whales and dolphins!
Fun Fact- On February 24, 1930, Charles Lindbergh had his first maiden flight along the cliffs of Torrey Pines. He soared all the way from Mt Soledad to Del Mar and ultimately establishing the first gliding distance record!
Let’s start to head back north now and have a closer look at Flat Rock.
Torrey Pines Indian Bath Tub Rock
Flat Rock is also referred to as the “Indian Bath Tub Rock” because there is a deep-seated pool in the center of it.
There are also several theories on how Flat Rock became separated from the bluff, but my favorite is that back in the late 1800’s,
Del Mar hotels offered picnic/horse and carriage rides to Scripps Beach in La Jolla, so they demolished the rock to make way for the road.
Seems credible, but this route could only be accessible on an extreme low tide, just like today.
For more information on the history of Flat Rock, please visit here.
Looking back from where we exited the Beach Trail from the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Do you notice Flat Rock is in the distance?
Torrey Pines State Beach Tidal Flats
Let us now take a walk up the beach and see what is usually underwater. I seriously had no idea that there were so many reefs this close to shore here at Torrey Pines State Beach.
But now it all makes sense why this beach is so famous for shore fishing.
You can quickly get a proper feel on just how high these sandstone bluffs are with someone sitting in front of them, can’t you?
We are getting closer to the entrance.
There must have been some significant current action happening for all of this seaweed to be washed up on to the shore.
We stopped in the South Parking Lot area restrooms and found this great display which depicts several examples of what is seen here on the beach.
On our way out I was happy to see these signs.
Especially after realizing that there are so many large rocks and reefs in the surf zone!
A nice friendly warning.
Stay away from the base of the cliffs!
We are making our way back to the North Parking lot and stop on the bridge to look down at the Los Penasquitos Lagoon inlet going out to sea.
Here is another view of the Los Penasquitos Lagoons inlet taken from the South Parking Lot.
Well, we have finished our adventure and boy are we hungry. So we take off to our favorite place to go to after visiting Torrey Pines State Beach.
Robertos-Very Mexican Food taco shop has been in this location since 1964 and a local favorite ever since. I highly recommend this establishment for its food, especially the fish burrito! Also, you can not beat the convenience of it being just across the street!
If you check out the link above, you can order online! How cool is that?
Thank you so much for joining us on our Supermoon/Lunar Eclipse day at one of my most favorite beaches in all of San Diego County.
I hope that I have piqued your interest and that one day you too will experience Torrey Pines State Reserve for yourself. Remember, no beach day is a sad day!
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a 2000 acre park located in the community of La Jolla in San Diego California off North Torrey Pines Rd. Nothing here has ever been altered or diverted at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve making it one of the wildest coastal stretches left in California.
I can not emphasize enough just how beautiful this Reserve is!
Come and join me for a tour!
What is a Reserve?
Everything here and surrounding the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a protected area. That includes the Penasquitos River Valley east of the highway, which is one of the last salt marsh estuaries in San Diego and the Underwater Ecological Reserve offshore.
A Reserve is not a ‘park,’ but an assigned area of importance and commonly is one that contains threatened plants, animal habitats or unique geological formations.
There are over 300 birds and native plant species that are threatened or endangered within the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The Torrey Pine, which is the namesake of the Reserve is a very rare endangered pine tree- the rarest pine tree in the United States, but more on that later.
The Motto Here is “Preserve the Reserve”
Because endangered and threatened species live here, there are stringent rules. For instance, no food or drink is allowed into the Reserve. Also, there are no trash cans within the park, so you are to take all trash with you.
The sandstone cliffs can be perilous, and there are also rattlesnakes, so children are to be with an adult at all times. You are also to stay on all trails as going off can damage the habitat. I think I covered most of everything, but please double check this sign below.
First, let’s get through with all the basics.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve General Information
All recreational vehicles that are longer than the standard parking lot space must park in the North Parking lot.
Hiking Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
There are over 8 miles of trails to hike here at this Reserve, ranging from easy to moderate. All have something special and unique to see.
Due to varying elevations at this park, there are several habitats found here. For example, freshwater and saltwater ecosystems, coastal strand, sage scrub, salt marsh, chaparral and finally conifer woodland are all present here at the Reserve.
Let’s Go Hiking!
Today, my son and I started our hike parking at the North Parking lot which is adjacent to the Los Penasquitos Lagoon. When the tides are changing, there are some great photo opportunities to be found here.
Here is the Los Penasquitos Lagoon inlet as it is rushing out at the start of the low tide. You get an excellent perspective here while standing on the bridge.
We are almost there!
Do you notice the grove of Torrey Pine trees on top of the hill?
Here is the road that takes you up to the trails. Word of caution, this is a steep hill that goes on for 3/4 a mile.
The Torrey Pine-Pinus torreyana
As stated above, the Torrey Pine is the rarest pine tree in the nation if not the world. This tree is found only growing on a thin piece of coastline in North County San Diego. You also may see them on one of the Channel Islands-Santa Rosa off the coast of Santa Barbara to the north.
This species is native to the coastal sage and chaparral ecoregion in California. Let’s have a look at all of the trees that we see walking up into the park.
An Interesting Torrey Pine Tree Fact
It is interesting enough to have a pine tree growing on the coastal bluff, not to mention a semi-arid coast.
If it wasn’t for the all-day low cloud cover seen in the spring and fall here in Southern California, these trees could not survive. These trees acquire just enough moisture to help with their survival.
Click here for more information on Torrey Pine tree.
Guy Fleming Nature Trail
Once near the top of the hill, the Guy Flemming trail is the first trail that you will come upon. Out of all of the paths to choose from at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, this one is the easiest.
Just in under .7miles, this trail loops back and has many Torrey Pines as well as many gorgeous spots to soak in the magnificent view.
Parry Grove Trail
Here we have another relatively short .5 mile loop trail. Devastated by the drought and an infestation of the Bark Beetle, this grove has been slowly making its way back to recovery.
There is also a native garden, The Whitaker Garden, at the beginning of the Trailhead. The entryway is very steep with over 100 stone steps.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Visitor Center
Located at the very top of the hill and adjacent to the restrooms and parking lot sits the Visitor Center.
Formerly called the Torrey Pines Lodge, this pueblo styled structure used to be a restaurant. Back in the day, many people would stop here from Los Angeles while on their way to San Diego.
Today this is the place where you can find large amounts of interesting facts about the natural history of this Reserve along examples of different plant and animal species that you may encounter while hiking. I genuinely encourage all to visit here!
Furthermore, the visitor center offers guided tours every weekend and holidays at 10 am and 2 pm. Each trip last for an hour and only ten people per group is allowed.
Fun Fact- Along with guided tours, the Visitor Center additionally offers a “Mindfulness in Nature” tour rain or shine on the first Sunday of every month at 8 am-9: 45 am.
Beginning with a guided tour to one of the lookout points you will later be able to go off by yourself for deep introspection allowing yourself to deepen your connection with the land. No reservations are needed.
Let’s now have a look inside!
Ellen Browning Scripps donated money to start this Reserve back in 1922. She was a very generous philanthropist that provided funding as well as her time for many famous institutions here in San Diego.
Such as the Scripps Insititute of Oceanography, the San Diego Zoo, as well as the Children’s Pool in La Jolla, just to name a few.
Let’s take a look at the back of the Visitor Center.
Southern Reserve Trails
Just a bit of a way from the Visitor Center is a few more trails with two of them taking you down to the beach.
Razor Point Trail
The Razor Point Trail as described in the park brochure is 1.4 miles through ravines and badlands. At the end of the trail, there are spectacular ocean views. Have a look for yourself!
The Beach Trail
Are you looking for a good workout? The Beach Trail is indeed for you! Clocking in at 3/4 of a mile it is relatively steep but what a view!
We also must not forget about the reward at the end!
Thank you so much for joining me on a tour of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve! How did you enjoy the views? How about all the information? Did I persuade you to come down here to San Diego? I sure hope so!
Please check back later as I will be writing about the rest of our adventures down below at the Torrey Pines State Beach!
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below.
Birch Aquarium is located on the Scripps UC San Diego campus overlooking the Scripps Pier and the Pacific Ocean. Partnered with the Scripps Institute Oceanography (SIO), the Birch Aquarium is a fabulous place to come and experience and to learn about all the natural wonders of the ocean and its creatures.
More than 460.000 people visit this aquarium annually. There is so much to do and learn here.
Free Parking for 3 hours-Handicap parking available in front of the Aquarium
College Students for assignment- 12
A Little History
The founders of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) felt it was essential to have an active aquarium opened to the public. They even included such a provision in their founding bylaws.
Their core belief was that the SIO had an obligation to the people to share all of its the scientific findings discovered by the institution.
Fun Fact-The first aquarium was initially situated down below, closer to the pier. The newest aquarium opened its doors up on the hill on Sept 16, 1992.
Birch Aquarium’s Mission
According to the official website, the mission of Birch Aquarium is always to provide ocean science education, to interpret Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s research as well as to advance ocean conservation.
Southern California Coastal Habitats
It is important to remember that many exhibits here are examples of different coastal habitats here in Southern California, such as rocky intertidal, sandy shore, and the kelp forest, to name a few.
For one thing, after going to Birch Aquarium, you will have a better understanding of what honestly is under the water or living around the tide pools the next time you on the coast San Diego.
You see, you can have fun and learn at the same time!
Other exhibits here also include the warmer water species that are found down in Mexico as well as, the colder water species of the northeastern Pacific.
Let’s now talk about a few of them.
My Favorite Birch Aquarium’s Exhibits
There are several unique exhibits to be seen here. For instance, I have always liked the sardine and mackerel tank at the entrance. Indeed, there is something to be said about how the fish keep swimming around in circles; it feels a bit hypnotic. I find it hard to look away.
I am also partial to the Giant Kelp Tank as I am familiar with all of these fish from back in the day when I was a Fisheries Technician. In fact, I came to this aquarium to sit and study this tank before I started the job. It was a way for me to review.
I have provided a list of other exhibits to look out for and will be adding just a little of exciting information so you will be ahead of the game when you visit. OK, let’s go.
The Birch Aquarium has been researching twelve different Seahorse species for more than 20 years.
Seahorses are fascinating fish!
For example, did you know that seahorses are monogamous and mate for life? How special is that? There is also one unique fact that I have always remembered since college…
Seahorses Are Like No Other on the Planet!
In particular, the seahorse is the only creature in the world where the male bears and looks after the young! It all begins with an eight-hour ‘dance’ where he swims around his mate changing colors and showing off all of his camouflage abilities. If the female likes his dance, she will then transfer her eggs to his pouch.
Having the males in charge of the young gives this species a significant advantage. For one thing, the female can start making eggs again right away, thus ensuring adequate reproduction. For more amazing facts on the seahorse, please go here.
Birch Aquarium has been raising coral in captivity for more than twenty years. The Coral Conservation program allows the aquarium to trade with other aquariums and zoo’s and therefore reducing the pressure off of the wild populations.
Raising coral is similar to propagating plants from cuttings. These fragments of coral can eventually grow into new colonies of young coral.
The Birch Aquarium has had both hard corals, and soft corals spawn in captivity. Breeding in the laboratory is a big deal!
Research is ongoing to better understand these spawning events and new ways of farming corals in the lab. Hopefully, this will protect wild colonies from exploitation in the future.
Seadragon Breeding Programs
While seahorses are a common sight off the coastal waters of North America, their cousins the Leafy Seadragon and Weedy Seadragon, are found only in southern Australia. Due to the pressure on the wild populations, the Birch Aquarium’s Seadragon Propagation Project began in 2012.
With a partnership with SIO, the aquarium has been studying seadragons in the wild as well as in their ‘state of the art’ breeding program. Here is an explanatory video about this fantastic creature.
Giant Kelp Tank
The Birch Aquarium has a 70,000 gallon, two-story Giant Kelp Forest tank. This exhibit represents one of the four protected habits of the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve, located south of La Jolla Shores Beach.
The Giant Kelp forest provides shelter for thousands of creatures. And did you know that Giant Kelp is found only on the west coast of North America?
Found in the relatively cold shallow water close to shore, the Giant Kelp can grow up to eighteen inches a day. It is also the most massive algae in the world, surprisingly reaching heights of over 100 feet.
The Giant Kelp Tank Webcam
Check out this live webcam at the aquarium! Maybe you will see scuba divers cleaning the tank or feeding the fish.
For example, I love going to this webcam because most likely little children are there watching the tank in awe and wonder. Seeing them keep an eye on the Giant Kelp tank always brings me such joy!
Please keep in mind that the lights are only on during the hours that the aquarium is open 9-5pm (PST). Have a look for yourself!
Fun Fact- If you happen to come upon a bright orange fish, that is California’s state fish the Garibaldi. The young Garibaldi are red and have blue spots that go away when they mature.
First off, why Elasmobeach?
Well, shark and rays are cartilaginous fish meaning that their skeletons are cartilage, not bone. The definition of an Elasmobranch is any cartilaginous fish with 5-7 ventral gill slits.
The ElasmoBeach Experience
ElasmoBeach is an outdoor tank that intimately showcases the underwater sandy shore habitat similar to that of the San Diego-Scripps Coastal Marine Conservation Area.
For example, here you will find many leopard sharks and rays just like what you would see in down below the bluff at La Jolla Shores Beach.
Experience ElasmoBeach for yourself and honestly see what is under the water the next time you are at the beach in San Diego.
Fun Fact- Each summer, thousands of leopard sharks make their way to south La Jolla Shores Beach to hang out in the shallow warm waters waiting to give birth. Did you know that the Birch Aquarium also offers Naturalist lead snorkeling trips., swimming amongst these sharks?
Preuss Tide Pool Plaza
Tide Pool Plaza located on the outdoor plaza, overlooks the Pacific Ocean and La Jolla Shores beach.
Here you will find an artificial version of a rocky intertidal pool, where the water ebbs and flows just like the natural tides.
Some inhabitants you will see include hermit crabs, sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea anemones and the California Spiny lobster.
Also, I would like to point out that volunteers are located all around the plaza and will happily answer any questions you may have.
Beach– smallest in Oceanside, wet sand at high tide
Buccaneer Beach was one of my favorite finds today! This beach has a nice sized FREE parking lot and the Buccaneer Cafe. What a fabulous place to eat breakfast or lunch. It is not your typical snack shack. I mean check out this menu! We are going to have to come back here and eat!
Primarily in summer, only swimming, body surfing, and boogie boarding are allowed in front of the lifeguard stand. Surfing is still permitted here, but just outside of the posted checkered flags.
Let’s walk a bit and check out what is under this bridge.
Loma Alta Creek runs off onto this beach into the Pacific Ocean.
Amenities– lifeguard, no restrooms, no showers, parking in a residential area
Beach-narrow stretches to St Malo Beach
Cassidy Street Beach is the most southern public beach in Oceanside and is also a favorite surfing beach.
The private, St Malo Beach a quarter mile south from here. Cassidy Street Beach is the access point that you must use if you are interested in checking out this area as there is no other public access south of this location.
Amenities– no restroom, parking lot in the residential area, wooden staircase
Beach– narrow during high tide, excellent beginning surfing beach
Grandview Beach is a beautiful little secret spot in Encinitas, CA.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Which beach are you most interested in visiting? I have a few!
First I would start the day by visiting the Buccaneer Cafe at Buccaneer Beach. Afterward, I would continue to Terramar Beach’s tide pools on a low tide and finally, end the day sitting on top of the South Ponto Bluffs looking out onto the water for pods of dolphins or migrating Gray Whales. Well, that is my perfect day, how about yours?
I hope that one day you can come and visit these beaches in person!
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions!
San Diego doesn’t just have the best beaches in the country; we also have some of the most significant coastal wetlands as well.
I have prepared a list of coastal nature centers that are along the San Diego coastline. I have also linked each site to its appropriate website.
Explore, have fun and learn at the same time!
San Diego Lagoons and Nature Centers
With over 70 miles of coast to discover in San Diego, there are also several coastal lagoons to visit as well. Be that you are in a mood for a hike or interested in the natural history of the area, you really can not go wrong!
I will be starting the list at the most northern location, Oceanside and will be making my way South, finally ending at the Mexican Border.