If you want a beach that takes your breath away - both literally and figuratively - then head to Thousand Steps Beach in Laguna Beach.  This long, sandy beach famous for its challenging staircase is also perfect for surfing, body surfing, skimboarding, volleyball and of course catching some rays

The long, step beach access staircase that takes you down to Thousand Steps Beach is not quite 1000 steps - it's just under 230, or about 12 flights.  Nonetheless, there are plenty to get your heart rate going while you breathe in that fresh ocean air.  Be careful!  The steps are very steep and you may just get distracted by the quick glimpses of the beautiful ocean vista visible through the thick canopy of trees and vines that cover the stairs.  Once at the bottom, the view opens up to reveal the ocean straight ahead, framed by stunning beach houses and shear cliffs above

Thousand Steps Beach is rumored to have excellent diving, snorkeling and scuba opportunities in the reefs that flank both sides of the beach.  Explore local marine life in the tidepools that are present throughout the beach.  See some spectacular waves crashing against the rocks when the surf is up

At the south end of the beach you'll find a cave with large entrances at both ends.  The view through the cave is spectacular, especially at sunset when the beautiful colors of the sky enhance the magnificent vista


At the bottom of the beach access staircase is a bathroom, shower and a counter top with a sink and water.  There are no telephones on the beach or at the top entrance to the beach, so plan accordingly


Parking at Thousand Steps Beach is scarce.  When parking on the east side of the highway, it is advised to use the light at the hospital to cross the road, as it can be very dangerous (and illegal) to cross anywhere else.  Parking is also available on the north side of the highway and along the residential streets on that side.  It is best to arrive early in the morning to secure the best parking


One of the best features of the beach is that is it a little off the beaten path - but that can also make it tricky to find.  From Broadway head east on Coast Highway.  The public entrance to the beach is located directly across from the 9th Street and South Coast Highway (Pacific Coast Highway - PCH) intersection.  The staircase is located just two blocks south of the South Coast Medical Center.  A sign directs you to the staircase

For a truly memorable day at the beach, treat yourself to the splendor at Thousand Steps Beach in Laguna Beach.  It is definitely worth the climb back up to your car at the end of the day