Thousand Steps Beach: Best People Watching | Laguna Beach

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 LinkedIn 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×

By Carisa Carlton

Gym-goers in short-shorts vie for attention with women in skimpy bikinis at the best people-watching beach along the Pacific Ocean, famous for skim boarding, parties and Bohemian beach homes.

Thousand Steps BeachTo get to Thousand Steps Beach, one descends some 265 stairs – not one-thousand stairs as the name implies – under the shadow of overgrown fuchsia bougainvillea.  What appears at the end of the steep staircase is evidence of a fascinating sedimentary process, unusual homes built on the sand, arches at both the north and south points, stunning views, and of course warm golden sand and clear waters.

Thousand Steps Beach Sedimentary Rocks

THousand Steps BeachThe sedimentary process evolved with layers of rocks, water, and sand settling and forming the cliff-side. Evidence of an earthquake or a major tectonic incident shows a slanted layer pattern.  Some of the rocks are well-rounded indicating they were probably tumbled in the surf.  Some of the rocks are angular and likely embedded themselves in a landslide. Some rocks are loosely bound together with sand, and they are fairly dangerous because they can fall at any time.  The alternating layers of minerals and red sand is beautifully perplexing, reminding the viewer Earth is 4.5 billion years old.  You can find the sedimentary rocks at the far northern tip of the beach.

Homes on the Sand

Thousand Steps Beac hWhen early settlers homesteaded Laguna Beach, they often built homes on the sand without a vision for future tsunamis and high tidal waves. Most of those homes were long ago washed away, but on Thousand Steps Beach, many of the homes are still standing, grandfathered in, and exempt from forced sale or demolishment.  The homes are inevitably Bohemian in style:  Simple structures constructed of wood with little in the way of modern ammenities.  The property lines are protected by a simple plaited rope, and a weathered, hand-penned “Private Property” sign.

Thousand Steps Beach Arches

Thousand Steps BeachAt the north end of the beach, accessible only at low tide, a small cave marks the entrance to Secret Cove.  The cave’s rocky floor makes navigation a venture for the brave even at low tide.  Most people don’t find this cave because they do not walk far enough, and because the cave is not visible from the beach’s center.  You must walk around a cliff before you spot it.  The north end of Thousand Steps is rumored to be a gay beach (as is West Street Beach), but I have never spotted the slightest hint of a homosexually dominated beach at Thousand Steps (although I did see a heterosexual couple having open air sex at the north end of the beach in September 2013).


Thousand Steps Cave

The south point cave evokes memories of an Indiana Jones adventure filled with secret jewels and hidden treasures.  At high tide, lifeguards place signs warning of danger and they won’t allow you to risk killing yourself on their watch.  You can either walk through the cave at low tide, or swim around the point to a small, unnamed point where the waves are quite rough.  Keep swimming south and you will find yourself on Laguna Beach’s best kept secret, Paradise Bay, where controversy over two swimming pools built in the early 1900s creates controversy between residents of Three Arch Bay and those who  believe they are within their right to swim in them. I swam in both pools – definitely worth the trouble of getting there.


Skim Boarding Thousand Steps Beach

The waves at the south end of Thousand Steps Beach come in at a 90 degree angle, creating a dangerous and exhilarating shore break. This is one of the more difficult wave patterns to swim on the Laguna Coast.  The waves breaking on the rocks form a mid-size A-frame peak with a long barrel.  If you time it right, you’ll have the skim boarding ride of your life. Swimming at the south end point of Thousand Steps Beach is not recommended.  Entering the water to swim here requires intense study of oncoming waves.  I once took a tumble in the surf and lost my mask, snorkel, and fins entering the water at this point.  The below video highlights some good rides and tough tumbles.



 People Watching 

thousand steps beachBecause of the difficult access (no parking, except on South Coast Highway) and stairs that mimic a hardcore Stairmaster workout, Thousand Steps Beach attracts the young and fit, especially during summer months. Bikini clad young women and volleyball buff young men play squash ball, explore the arches, lounge in the sun, and otherwise add more beauty to an already decadent beach.  If you can high-tail it back up those stairs, you’d be crazy not to spend a day at Thousand Steps Beach.


Have something a little more frisky in mind?  Read about the best beaches for sex.

Related posts:

Author: Carisa Carlton

Carisa Carlton is the Editor in Chief of Laguna Beach Gazette. Learn more about Carlton at .

Share This Post On


  1. Secrets to Secret Cove | Laguna Beach - Laguna Beach Gazette | Laguna Beach Gazette - […] sea.  Once I was on the top of the boulders, I could see Secret Cove and the arch that …
  2. Best Places to Visit in California | TRAVEL ADVENTURE BUZZ - […] Steps Beach is one place everyone loves, no matter what age, this place is amazing.Thousand Steps Beach as you can guess, is …
  3. Hot to Watch: Dan Delaney - Laguna Beach Gazette | Laguna Beach Gazette - […] getting up every morning and doing what he loves to do: playing the piano (and hiking up and down …
  4. Paradise in Paradise Bay | Laguna Beach | Laguna Beach Gazette - […] first time I visited Paradise Bay, I swam south from Thousand Steps Beach with mask, snorkel, and fins early …
  5. Dolphins Don't Smoke - Laguna Beach Gazette | Laguna Beach Gazette - […] Then another man tossed his cigarette butt overboard while we were anchored west of Thousand Steps Beach. Then another. …
  6. Thousand Steps Beach Real Estate | Laguna Beach | Pinpoint Properties Blog - […] skimboarding, volleyball, and snorkeling. Little effort is required to find numerous caves and two arches. Restrooms and shower are …
  7. Best Beaches for Sex | Laguna Beach - Laguna Beach Gazette | Laguna Beach Gazette - [...] But, wait … romance is not the only thing you should know about Laguna’s beaches.  See the best people …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 LinkedIn 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×