No one knows the coast like a surfer. So when we wanted explore California’s 840 miles of breathtaking coastline, we had the perfect tour guide in Victor Chacon, Ricardo Beverly Hills’ resident photographer. Victor grew up in Southern California, catching waves with his friends and getting to know every surf break and beach town. “Surfing is such a big part of all those coastal communities,” he says “As soon as you go inland, it’s a completely different culture.”
Victor honed his creative eye by snapping photos during long hikes in California’s rugged landscape—an eye he brings to the stunning images you can see throughout our website. “Everything I learned from taking photos on my own for fun, I can apply to my job,” he says. “My hobby became my profession. I think that’s so cool.”
Read on for some of Victor’s favorite off-the-beaten-track spots for experiencing California’s rich coastal culture.
GET A NEW VIEW ON ART
Santa Cruz has a really good art scene. It reminds me of Austin or Portland, with a young, energetic vibe. The Westside neighborhood, right when you get into town on the Pacific Coast Highway, is a really cool area. They’ve redeveloped a bunch of old industrial buildings with new shops, galleries and restaurants. Surfing is everywhere in Santa Cruz and you can see it in murals all over the neighborhood. And everyone goes to the iconic boardwalk, but there’s a really great spot about a mile north, with the famous Surfing sculpture, where you have an almost 360 degree view.
FIND AN UNCROWDED BEACH
Pismo Beach is a small coastal town that’s kind of by itself along the 101 north of Santa Barbara. It has a very small town feeling, which is rare in California, especially on the coast. Most of the people on the beach are locals. I like it because it’s not touristy at all and the beach is not overly crowded—and it has a good surf break. There are a few places right around Pismo Beach where you can actually go camping on the sand. It’s a really relaxing place.
TRY A LOCAL DELICACY
Anybody who leaves California, whenever they go back, they go to In-N-Out. It’s kind of our thing. It’s a small burger chain and it’s only available on the West Coast. My go-to order is Animal Style, with pickles and grilled onions, an mustard fried into the patty. And I do ketchup—no sauce. It’s just fast food, but it’s only available there and it’s just so good. I love it.
MAKE AN ISLAND GETAWAY
Most people think of Catalina Island, but I find it can be crowded. The Channel Islands National Park is an overlooked area and you can camp there. The ferry launch point is in Ventura and you have to trek in with your gear on foot. It’s primitive camping. But there’s a lot of wildlife and you can view the entire coastline. That’s where you can get a deserted island experience.
HIT THE ROAD
Going from Dana Point down to Del Mar is a fantastic drive. Right around Oceanside, it’s so scenic because it’s undeveloped, open land that doesn’t have a lot of houses on it. It’s one of my favorites. If you’re going south, you have the lower desert on your left, and the road straddles the coastline. You’re just a few feet away. If you just want a good cruise, that’s your spot.
TAKE IN SURF CULTURE
All along the coast, from Crescent City down to San Diego, surfing is the main thing. In Southern California, Huntington Beach is the mecca. It’s built around surfing, and it’s really vibrant, with a main street and lots of restaurants. You get the Orange County vibe, and you’re a little bit removed from L.A. It’s what I think of as true Southern California.
EXPLORE AN UNDER-THE-RADAR TOWN
Seal Beach flies under the radar because it’s right next to Huntington Beach. They have their own pier and Sunset Beach is the little surf spot. You can have endless beach with nobody and that’s such a rarity. Right behind there is Huntington Harbor, which is kind of like Venice. They have all these homes built on the water and you can rent a kayak and ride through. One of the best places to have fish tacos is Taco Surf. It’s a small SoCal chain and the Sunset Beach location is right near the water, next to a home that looks like a water tower on stilts. It’s unbelievable