The Mystery of Saint Malo Beach

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.

Come on!

Let’s have a look!

Saint Malo Beach Map

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.

Beginning Saint Malo Beach Panoramic

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!

Elite Retreat

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.

Saint Malo Beach France
Credit- All Free Photos

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.

Cassidy Street Stop Sign

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.

Let’s go!

  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.

Cassidy Street Beach entrance

Beginning stairs looking south

Cassidy Street Beach Stairwell Halfway Down northwest

Looking north Oceanside Pier

beginning of Saint Malo Beach

Walking toward Saint Malo 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.

Staircase up to Saint Malo Beach

Saint Malo Beach half-way down

Saint Malo Beach half-way down

Sandpipers Saint Malo Beach

Two birds in surf at Saint Malo 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!

Stairway up to house Saint Malo Beach

Saint Malo Beach Private Beach

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
Close to end Saint Malo Beach

 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?

South Oceanside Beach Saint Malo Beach

Saint Malo Beach Looking North

Saint Malo Beach Upper View

Can you imagine the waves crashing onto the rocks here and how wonderful that would sound!

Saint Malo Beach Private Beach Lifeguard Chair

Here is a look at the private beach which includes a lifeguard!

What a gorgeous spot to sunbathe!

Private Beach Saint Malo Beach
Saint Malo’s private beach.

The Backside of Buena Vista Lagoon

End of Saint Malo Beach

As we come toward the end of Saint Malo Beach, we come upon the backside of the Buena Vista Lagoon.

Backside 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.

Buena Vista Lagoon Overflow

Buena Vista Lagoon Weir

Corner house Saint Malo Beach Hottentot-fig

Buena Vista Lagoon

Can you imagine what the views must look like from inside of these houses?

Buena Vista Lagoon Saint Malo Beach

Dunes at Saint Malo Beach

Here we are at the city border-Oceanside is on the right and Carlsbad is on the left.

Saint Malo Beach ice plant

Let’s now walk toward the water again and soak in the views.

Ocean waves beach iceplant

Saint Malo Beach sand dune

Buena Vista Lagoon runoff

Corner house Saint Malo Beach

Looking north Saint Malo Beach

Well, here we have come to the end of the tour.

Saint Malo Beach looking North

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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Saint Malo Beach




I have always had a deep-seated passion for the Ocean Environment which ultimately led me to receive a degree in Marine Biology. Living in the San Diego area for over 30 years, I have extensively explored the 70 miles of San Diego’s coastline, and I am here to share! Please use my website to your advantage and have a look around at all the wonders that the beaches of San Diego can offer you!

14 Replies to “The Mystery of Saint Malo Beach”

  1. Great post, very informative. I lived in LA many years ago, and the San Diego area was a favorite of mine. I’ve always said if I could move back to California, I would go to the San Diego area.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Yvette! Yes, San Diego is spectacular! I grew up in Los Angeles and the beaches there definitely cannot compete with the San Diego Beaches, that is for sure.

  2. Terrific article, Colleen. I have never heard of this place before but the way you describe it, it sounds like it was the Long Island of the West Coast. Looks like a great spot for a vacation. Thank you for the info.

    1. What a great way of describing Saint Malo Beach! You see, I do not know much about “old money families” but that sound just about right! I am so glad that you enjoyed the information and thanks so much for commenting.

  3. I absolutely love San Diego. The weather is beautiful, the sun always seems to be shining and I’ve always had a nice stay in San Diego. Your pictures and videos are absolutely stunning.

    I thought you might find it interesting that there are a couple of homes for sale on St. Malo beach – I was checking them out on zillow!

    Thanks for the beach tour!

    1. Hi Heather! Yes, I was having fun checking out what the houses looked like from the inside too! Stunning and so peaceful and let us not forget expensive!Thank you for commenting. I hope you can come back and visit soon!

  4. I think it’s amazing how many hidden beautiful places there are. Learnt about another place in Mexico recently and I was intrigued. I love private beaches and this looks likes a perfect vacation spot. Hopefully I’ll be able to ‘Dora the Explorer’ my way there in the nearest future lol.

    1. A Dora Expedition is indeed something to have fun going on! I too love to learn about hidden jewels! Thank you so much for commenting.

  5. Colleen – I enjoyed this virtual tour immensely! I love the architecture of the homes, and my interest grew even more with Saint Malo’s code of silence. Thanks for sharing this natural treasure despite it being kept so selfishly by the elite owners. Your pictures truly made me feel I’ve been there myself! I’ll ask my friend from San Diego if she even knows about Saint Malo. Thank you so much!!

    1. Thank you, Gigi! I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed the virtual tour! I appreciate it so much because that is precisely what I am trying for-like you are there. I hope that one day you may visit this site as well but this time in person! Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  6. Wow, what amazing photos… And what a privilege to have been there to take them! It must’ve been quite nerve wrecking for you!

    The rich really do know how to live and to be able to keep it so private too! Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Hi Teresa! You know me so well! Yes, I was a little nervous when I climb the steps to get a closer look. It is so magical here at Saint Malo-I can only imagine what it would be like to wake up here every day with the sounds of the waves just outside your front door! I am so glad that you enjoyed the trip. Please check back regularly, as I will be updating with new adventures every week! Thank you for your comment.

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