The California coastline is world-famous for many reasons: endless sand beaches, surfers, and year-round sun are a few. An unfamiliar wanderer may make the mistake of thinking they are all the same, but each beach is distinct. Surfing, art, amusement parks, street performers, and nature-preserves can all be found at Southern California beaches. Of course, no matter which you choose, you can always build a sandcastle and dive into the water.

Popular among the APU crowd is Huntington Beach. Nicknamed "Surf City," Huntington Beach has everything you would expect from a SoCal beach. With more than eight miles of sand, famous waves, fire pits, a pier, bike paths, and shopping, this beach is attractive to surfers and marshmallow roasters. Driving directions from APU.

Laguna Beach has a calm, artistic character. Galleries line the winding roads along the beach and the city is host of several summer art festivals: Art-A-Fair, Sawdust Art Festival, Festival of Arts, and Pageant of the Masters. Many bring paint and a canvas to the tide pools at Crescent Bay for a peacefully reflective day. Driving directions from APU

Santa Monica Pier is highlighted with activity, particularly on weekends. At the pier's end is Pacific Park featuring amusement rides, including a roller coaster, ferris wheel, and merry-go-round. Third Street Promenade, a short walk from the beach, is an outdoor mall, with surprisingly talented street performers, dining, and shopping. Driving directions from APU.

Rated as one of the nation's funkiest towns, Venice Beach features similar attributes as other beaches – they're just more bizarre! Venice is host to a wild artists' scene, known for daring street performers, vendors, and Roller Bladers. Away from the beach, a tranquil setting exists. Canals, modeled after Italian waterways, wind through wealthy neighborhoods. Access canals from Venice Boulevard or Washington Boulevard near Dell Avenue. Driving directions from APU and Driving (or walking) directions from Santa Monica.

For those interested in being active rather than entertained in a beach atmosphere, Santa Catalina Island is the place. The 65,000-acre island, 22 miles off California's coast, packs a lot of activity beyond its shores. Bicycling, fishing, glass bottom boat tours, golf, hiking, kayaking, parasailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling are easily accessible on the island. Equipment is cumbersome for ferry-travel, but can be rented. Hotels and campsites are available. Driving directions to San Pedro ferry from APU and ferry information.