Best Beach - 2008
Often mistaken for the phonetic spelling (doom), which perhaps accounts for the fortunately sparse population of beachgoers, the beach at Point Dume is a reliably pristine shore, one of the few beaches in Southern California where human footprints dissolve, parking is free and pods of porpoises trace the perimeters like graceful bodyguards. Dume is a surfer's sanctuary, a secluded escape to the tropics without leaving the state.
Getting to Point Dume takes effort: You have to want to get away, to be ready to abandon the city and all the flat, crowded beaches of your youth, leaving cell phone reception and public bathrooms behind, bringing only a towel, perhaps a pair of sunglasses, a book, maybe lunch and a bottle of wine. Zip past the crowds along Westward Beach and head up a windy road to the crest of a cliff, laden with beach-style mansions, thoughtful succulent gardens, curtains of bougainvillea draped over wooden gates. Drive past the entrance of the beach, which is really just the beginning of a steepish descent down the cliff. (You'll probably have to park a few blocks away on one of the residential streets that isn't dotted with No Parking signs.) The most treacherous part of your Point Dume day will be the steep staircase that leads down to the beach, but those patient enough to make the trek are rewarded with the loveliness that is Pointe Dume: a pristine beach with sweeping views of the Pacific often broken by local surfers and the odd California gray whale.
Nature gives and Nature takes away: Your stay at Point Dume is determined by the tide. Once the waves start coming in, it's time to pack up, pick your way through the bouquets of sea-smooth jasper and quartz, and walk back up the dozens of splintery steps, as you reenter the world where waves collide with humanity.—Erica Zora Wrightson