Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park is located approximately 45 minutes South of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and is arguably the best local spot to explore and enjoy in the entire Los Angeles area. The park includes three different sea caves and if the tides are low, some cool tide pools full of sea urchins and sea anemones. If you’re lucky there’s also the possibility of spotting resident seals and migrating whales. The hiking here is moderate and includes some steep, loose dirt trails and rocky beach terrain. With dramatic bluff top views of blue/green water and kelp forests down below, you'll have numerous opportunities for fantastic photo ops and an adventure to remember. A brochure with additional information and a very useful map can be found HERE.
You can park at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park (fee), or on the street next the fire station just North of the park (free, but limited). To see the best views, walk along the road past the park and its dirt parking lot. Continue down the road, past the mansion that has a door that looks like the entrance to a castle and past the sharp downward dip in the road until you reach the sign for the Sacred Cove View Trail and a sign for the rules of the nature preserve that will be on your right. Head down this trail until you reach the water. Once at the water, head right to view some tide pools (depending on the tide) and the first cave. If the tide is low, cross over the tide pools and you'll see where the water enters the front of the cave (pictured below).
To see the other two caves, head back to where you first reached the water's edge and continue heading left. Once you reach the edge of the cove, you'll come across the second cave (1st photo in this trip guide). Here you can swim across the channel where you'll see the third sea cave. DO NOT attempt this if you are a poor swimmer or if the conditions are too rough. The timing must be right to swim across with the incoming waves. Also be sure to scope out where you will enter and where you exit the channel for any hazards, sharp rocks, sea urchins, etc. People have been seriously injured and/or died in this location because they were not prepared. Once you see the third sea cave (pictured above), you can swim across it and hike up the Archery Coastal Trail that you'll find on your left to start making your way back to your car. There is no sign for this trail, so please familiarize yourself with a map of the area which can be found HERE. Continue up the trail and stay to your left - if you hike to the archery range, you've taken a wrong turn. Before hiking back to the street and to your car, make sure to take a mini detour to the top edge of the bluff (the view in the photo at the very bottom of this page). To get there, when you reach the highest point of the Archery Coastal Trail, take a sharp left onto the Inspiration Point Trail. The trail goes straight through the bushes and to the edge of the bluff.
If you don't want to swim across the second cave to be able to see the third, you can hike up and over the bluff to the other side to get down to the third cave. You'll see the first trail you need to take, the Cliffside Trail, on your right on your way back and not far from the second cave. At the highest point of the Cliffside Trail, take the Inspiration Point Trail to see one of the best bluff top views of the entire park. To complete your trip to the third cave, head back along the Inspiration Point Trail and catch the Archery Coast Trail down the other side of the bluff. When you reach the water, head all the way to your right and you'll see the third cave.
Recommended pack list: swimsuit, towel, water shoes, waterproof camera, dry bag, sunblock, first aid kit.
If you have the time, you can also see some additional bluff top views other than the one described above. You can reach them by crossing over the locked gate along the roadside on your way to/from the Sacred Cove Trail. This trail is called the Portuguese Point Loop Trail. You'll be rewarded with some of the best views of the entire park and you may even see some seals swimming around in the clear blue/green water below. Great spot to take photos!
The sea anemones and urchins are safe to touch, but please keep your distance from the seals.
This park and the surrounding area is part of a nature preserve, so please follow all posted rules. Do not take anything from the area (shells, animals, etc.) and do not bring your dog unless you plan to keep it on a leash the entire time (required).