California has many hidden beaches along its shores. Some are so well hidden from public view that visitors must enter the beach through a rock arch or tunnel. Below is a list of these unique beaches. Most are not accessible at high tides so consult tide tables before heading out to them. This also means that if you get in at low tide you could be trapped in the beach at high tide!
Hole In The Wall Beach, Santa Cruz
Hole In The Wall Beach is probably the best-known of all these beaches. It’s located north of Santa Cruz about two miles from the town of Davenport. At low tides you can walk through a large opening in a huge rock wall at the south end of Panther Beach. This is a large sandy beach backed by high sandstone cliffs. Due to the seclusion of the area, this beach has been considered clothing-optional. These beaches are now part of the future Coast Dairies State Park so this could change.
Totuava Beach, Laguna Beach
Totuava is unique in that both ends of the beach can be entered through a rock arch. The northern entrance from Table Rock Beach is rarely safe as it requires a very low tide. The southern entrance, however, is only cut off at higher tides. That entrance is through a rock arch at the north end of 1000 Steps Beach. The ceiling of this opening is low so you must get down and crawl though it. Depending on the tides, it can be possible to walk or climb over the rocks at the point and bypass the tunnel entirely. Totuava is “hidden” in a densely populated area in Laguna Beach.
Secret Beach of Point Reyes, Marin County
This is by far the most remote of the tunnel beaches. It could be the most rewarding in what you get for the effort to get here. After passing through the rock “doorway” into Secret Beach there is a tunnel that leads into a natural round amphitheater that is surrounded 360 degrees by high walls. Getting to Secret Beach requires a long drive out to Point Reyes National Seashore then a two mile hike and a two mile walk on Sculptured Beach. All this has to be timed so that you arrive at the entrance at a very low tide. While you are at Point Reyes there are many other excellent beaches to see.
Hidden Beach of Fort Bragg, Mendocino County
Hidden Beach is much easier to get to, but still won’t be accessible at high tides. A tunnel through a huge rock wall is the only access to this sandy beach. To find the entrance to the tunnel, walk on the beach to the north end of Seaside Beach in Fort Bragg. After passing through the tunnel walk toward the water and the beach finally opens up. The real challenge to visiting this Hidden Beach is the limited parking at the Seaside Beach access.
Partington Cove, Big Sur
This little-known area within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has a long tunnel that provides access to a rocky point that looks into Partington Cove and leads to excellent ocean views. The entire tunnel is lined with a wooded structure to prevent rocks from falling. The tunnel was once used for loading Tanbark onto ships in the cove. Ruins of the loading structure can be found on the point. Below the tunnel entrance is a small rocky beach where the waves crash ashore. When driving the Big Sur Coast this short hike is one of many that should not be missed.
Little River Blowhole, Mendocino County
The “Blowhole” of Little River is a rare find on the Pacific Coast. At the bottom of this unique geologic depression is a sandy bottom. A tunnel from this “beach” leads out through the rock toward the ocean. At very low tides it is possible to walk deep into the tunnel where the ocean water forces it’s way in. When the tide is high, water will roll right into the bottom of the hole. Getting to the bottom of the blowhole is challenging. It requires a steep descent, but a fixed rope is usually in place to help if you lose your footing on the way down. Don’t attempt this if you aren’t physically and technically able. The Blowhole is located behind the Little River Cemetery about three miles from the town of Mendocino.
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