A Hidden Paradise: Thousand Steps Beach

In the hustle and bustle throughout the day and the work week, we all long for that weekend getaway. Be it a quick trip out of town, a day at the beach, or a hike in the brisk mountain air, we all have our favorite places to escape and recharge. Some of us have more than one. Because what’s worse than your favorite spot being packed with the same people you’re trying to escape from in the first place? It’s times like these that make those hole in the wall diners, secluded beaches, and long scenic drives out in the middle of nowhere so perfect! 

While there are many ways to describe Thousand Steps Beach, out of the way, secluded, hidden, it’s really none of those. It’s nestled nicely within the many beaches near Laguna Beach, California, and it’s relatively easy to get too as well. The beach does have many secrets, many cool and interesting secrets. Before we go any further, I do have to warn you that parts of the beach are on β€œprivate property”, and even though the  California Coastal Commission says otherwise, I’d tread lightly in this area seeing as there have been rumors of people being ticketed for being in this area. If the cops don’t get you, the lifeguards may chase you down and tell you you’re not allowed in the private cove if you head in that direction.   

As I mentioned earlier, getting to the main beach is relatively easy, access to the beach is by a staircase near Pacific Coast Highway and 9th street. The only real hard part is finding parking along the street. Then you get to where the beach got its name, Thousand Steps Beach. The steps! There may only be 250 something steps in total, but it feels like 1000, especially when you go back up them! So technically it’s not 1000 steps, but it is a catchier name than 250 Steps Beach haha!  

Once you’ve made it to the bottoms of the steps, you can see what all that effort was for. The California coastline! It’s beauty is unmatched! The blue waves crashing on the sand, the tide pools filled with an abundance of sea life, there is a reason why people spend millions of dollars just to live close to it. It’s absolutely gorgeous no matter which direction you look! You have two options once you’ve made it to the bottom. Walk north along the beach and hop over the small rock ledge to the tidepool area. Note this rock ledge may not be passable at high tide. The tidepool area consists of two narrow benches and a boulder field. The two benches have large populations of mussels, barnacles, limpets, snails and smaller populations of sea starts. This area has several smaller pools that contain sea anemones, urchins and even a few fish that quickly dart out of site when you approach. The larger of the two benches is a bit uneven in places and requires extra care to traverse to the outer edges. This outer area is the best place to see starfish and other animals that inhabit the lower tidal zones.


The real adventure starts when you head south along the beach! Start walking south along the beach, you will come to a sea cave opening. You can stop and explore the sea cave, as it is pretty cool by itself, but our adventure continues on the other side of the cave! And what awaits on the other side is truly worth the trip through the cave! It’s best to go at low tide, to avoid getting wet. At high tide the water can get up to your upper legs, so be prepared to get wet, or check the tide before you go! You can check the tide here.


Once you’ve exited the cave, you will come across some tide pools, and you’ll begin to notice more private houses situated along the cliff side, with staircases for private access down to the beach. You can find some interesting sea creatures in the tide pools as well as the occasional starfish.    Continuing south, you will start to scramble over rocks that lead us to even more interesting and exciting things! As if wandering through a sea cave wasn’t enough! You’ll continue walking and scrambling across the coastline until you reach the edge of a small cliff.   You’re almost there! 

In order to make it the final distance, you have to climb down the cliff and jump into the water in order to get to shore below. By the time you are low enough and out of easy rocks to climb, the water is only about knee high and you can easily walk to inland, once you’ve jumped.          

You’ve finally reached the Pools of Thousand Steps Beach! The pools which are filled with salt water from the high tide ocean water, look right over the ocean in the tidal zone. They were built in 1929 by Hollywood movie director Edward Griffith, who lived in the community above the cove. When they were built, they misjudged the tides, so the ocean would come crashing in, filling the pools with sand and salt water. They were later forgotten and abandoned, making them perfect spots to explore and for our enjoyment! The first pool was a giant rectangle and actually looks like its out of reach of the waves. The second pool was on the edge of a cliff almost. Since the waves are particularly big(the rocky beach below), they crash against the rocks and create a huge spray over the end of the pool. It’s incredible!     

 You can also swim in the small bay between the cliff and the pools, you will rarely see anyone else stop to do this so you practically got a private beach for a whole afternoon. The water is the perfect temperature and the waves are just big enough to carry you away for a moment. Make sure you watch the tide, as a high tide will make it more difficult for you to make your way back. Have fun with those stairs πŸ˜‰


Here are some tips to keep in mind when visiting Thousand Steps Beach:

1. Just a reminder that a portion of this is considered private property. The property owners can revoke the rights to trespass at anytime. And while the life guards may try to deter you from the cove, you should be fine if you stick to the beach. Don’t climb and stairs to people’s houses, etc. 

2. Parts of the trek to the pools are very rocky, I highly recommend water shoes/aqua sox, sandals, or anything that will protect your feet. 

3. While it’s pretty easy and relatively safe to go at low tide, it can be dangerous at times, especially with the crashing waves. So please be careful and remember that Joeography isn’t liable for anything that happens while exploring the area. 

4. Go at low tide! It makes the trek 100 times easier and safer. You also tend to stay drier, longer. That being said, make sure you water proof your belongings or leave them in the car.  

5. Above all, have fun, be safe, and pack back what you bring with you! The only way we can keep these beautiful beaches beautiful is to make sure we remove the trash we bring. If you need directions, you can find a map below. 

Have you been to Thousand Steps Beach? Is it on your bucketlist? Any questions or concerns? Tell more in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow Joeography on Instagram!


Center map

64 thoughts on “A Hidden Paradise: Thousand Steps Beach

  1. Your photos are stunning!! The first one looks like moving sand dunes, and the second last one looks like fire. Thanks for the tips too, wouldn’t want to be chased by angry owners!

  2. This looks like such a cool spot! I’d love to explore it. By the way, that little blue starfish is the cutest sea creature I have ever seen! Besides otters of course.

  3. It’s funny that people often say something’s beautiful and when you look at the pics, you don’t really see it. This is not one of those occasions! The beach is stunning – your pictures are fantastic – and it sounds like such a find (as long as you don’t arrested going there!)

  4. Beautiful pictures, Joe! I was surprised to learn they actually built pools so close to the ocean like that. Of course they would fill with sea water! It does look like a fun (and adventurous) place to explore.

    1. It’s a fun little adventure! I’m not sure they thought out the placement of the pools 100%, but they had to have been even more incredible when they were first built!

  5. I love the California coastline. Such a beautiful place. Such an Interesting experience visiting this place and the tidal pools.

    Those multi-million dollar houses are way too close to the cliffs..

    Those last few pictures are stunning. Great stuff.

  6. I love the beach in all its forms, private to busy. This place looks amazing and I love the photos of the sea life you got. And how interesting about the pools. Certainly a fun spot to explore!

  7. Amazing photos Joe – this sounds like our kind of adventure! I’ll admit we were a little put off visiting much of the coastline here when we visited last because of the signs about private property. Didn’t want to get our car towed or ticketed for trespassing. So we’ll stick pretty strictly to your instructions the next time we make the trip πŸ™‚

  8. Some lovely shots Joe, especially that parting sunset one!

    Beautiful it may be, but one thing travel has taught me is that there are so many of these gems all over the world! πŸ˜‰

  9. Love your photos, Joe! What a large variety of starfish! They make the beach seem more tropical than California. Would love to visit and explore more of California’s beaches.

  10. Love the Pacific coastline and can only imagine exploring this area. Your pictures are magnificent and tips very helpful. It sounds like it is worth the trek and experience. Great info.

  11. I can see why it’s called Thousand Steps–the stairs do look pretty exhausting! Looks like you definitely found a hidden paradise though! The marine life you found in the tide pools looks so gorgeous and colorful, and the pools are so cool! I always love when nature takes over and leaves its mark on places like this. Great find–I would love to check it out sometime!

  12. Wow, your pictures are amazing! Can I ask you what type of camera you use? Was hoping to see some beaches like this last time I was in LA but unfortunately didn’t find any hidden gems and only saw the crowded touristy beaches. Will have to put this on my list for my next visit.

  13. Wow, I’d never heard of the steps or the abandoned pool! They look pretty cool, especially with the waves crashing against them. I’m glad you mentioned bringing water shoes, because I was thinking some of those rocks could be a little treacherous!

  14. Stunning photography! It’s been a dream of mine to visit the beautiful California coast one day. I love all the colorful sea creatures, the only place I’ve seen star fish that colorful is at an aquarium. Interesting history about the pools too. Thanks for the detailed directions, adding this to my must-do list for whenever I can make it to CA!

  15. I’ve never heard of 1000 steps beach, but I just visited San Diego for the first time and the California coast line is stunning! I really need to get back out there and explore a little more. I think a Pacific Coast Highway road trip is in order.

  16. What a fabulous adventure. It reads a bit like an action novel, where the hero is searching for the secret location. Best of all, you found it. What a cool place. And I love your photos.

  17. I hope that by sharing this great post you don’t indirectly invite a bunch people to your fave hiding spot. Lol. Love the pictures. The sea life is stunning and full of colours. The blue star fish is my favourite too. Cheers.

  18. It’s pretty crazy that those pools are just out there like that. What a cool place. I mean, it sounds like the trek to get there is pretty daunting, but it’s maybe worth it to see something to cool

    1. The best thing about the pools is I came upon them by accident a few years ago. I was clambering around on the rocks, looking for sea life, and I saw them. Now they’ve become one of my favorite places to unwind!

  19. Wow!! This place is absolutely incredible!! I love California and all the hidden beaches and magical little spots you can find exploring. Thank you so much for sharing this hidden gem. I will be sure to keep it in mind for our next visit to CA!

  20. Awesome! I keep hearing about this place but I’ve never been. My parents just moved a couple miles away so I guess I’ll have to change that soon.

  21. Beautiful photos as usual, Joe! Surprisingly, I have never heard of this part of Pacific Coast Highway! Way too many places to explore there, I can’t wait to plan a road trip! The artificial pool merging with the ocean seems like the most ideal place to enjoy the sunset with a beer on hand. Thanks for sharing this! Looking forward to seeing and reading more of your travels!

  22. Wow … i guess you can say that is an infinity pool gone wrong! I wonder if it would have been the first infinity pool in the world??? Looks like an amazing place to explore! Next time i am in So Cal i will try and check this place out!

  23. Absolutely stunning photos. I love finding a good secluded beach – it’s harder to find in the UK but i’m on a mission!
    Next time i’m closeby the pacific coast i’ll have to look out for this amazing beach!

  24. Hi Joe,

    First time I hear about the Thousand Steps beach! I adore your photos, especially the ones with the starfish! Thank you for the tips as well. I will make sure that I won’t wear sandals, the rocks might hurt my feet.


  25. Your photography is seriously impressive! You sell the destination so well πŸ™‚

    We’re heading to the States next year and another little gem to add to our growing planning spreadsheet.

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