Laguna Creek

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Rating: A

Veteran visitors say Laguna Creek's solitude is perfect for those days when you want to work on the prefect tan without tan lines, read, relax, beachcomb, or even watch birds at its charming lagoon. The beach is located 9.8 miles north of Highway 1 between mileposts 25.96 and 26.01.

Legal status:

Privately owned but publicly used.

How to find it:

About 9.8 miles north of the junction of Highways 1 and 17 in Santa Cruz and 41.5 miles south of the Highway 1 and 92 junction in Half Moon Bay, look for either Laguna's dirt parking lot on the inland side of Highway 1 or the unmarked side road (Laguna Road) next to the lot. Park there and head for a road on the west side of the highway that faces the lot, where Laguna Road and Highway 1 join up. Just north of that road, follow a narrow path through the bushes, while keeping an eye out for poison oak. It will become a jeep path. Take it to the north end of the beach, where you may see some skinny-dippers. Or walk along the water's edge to the south end, which gets both suited and nude use.

The beach:

The half-mile beach widens to the south, but the north end is warmest, according to Bill, a regular visitor who likes Laguna's small, protected coves. Birds are usually seen in the lagoon include grebes, gulls, and song sparrows.

The crowd:

Even on warm days, fewer than 50 people, and sometimes just one or two. "It had nudists and non-nudists on both ends of the beach," says Bill. The beach has become something of a gay hangout, especially in the middle.

Problems:

Cold water; fog; erosion; occasional gawkers; wind; poison oak on trail; wind on south end.

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