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Beach Communities
 No setting is more emblematic of the Southern California lifestyle than the string of lively beach communities extending from Malibu down to the upscale coastal enclaves of Orange County. Although the beaches themselves can be perfectly nice in good weather, a trip to the Southern California seaside can be as much an opportunity for cultural immersion as a chance to catch some rays or some waves. Check out the parade of eccentric characters and hot (or not-so-hot) bodies along the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Embrace the old-fashioned kitsch and carnival rides on the Santa Monica Pier. Watch hard-core beach volleyball players go mano a mano on Hermosa Beach, join the surfing fanatics at Huntington Beach, or bury your nose in a blackened mushroom tofu burger at Taco Loco in Laguna. Wherever you choose to go, try to get an early start on sunny weekends to avoid hassles with traffic and parking, and keep your best laid-back attitude on hand at all times.

Bike and skate shops near the beach in Santa Monica, Venice and other seaside communities can set you up with wheels for use on the miles of recreational paths stretching from Pacific Palisades to Redondo Beach, and in the Long Beach and Huntington Beach areas farther south (see www.labikepaths.com for trail information). For more of an uppr-body workout, try renting a sea kayak for a bit of offshore exploration (the sheltered basin at Marina del Rey is a great spot for beginners). If you'd like to try your hand at riding the waves, surfing lessons are available at various locations from Learn to Surf LA to Huntington Beach Surf Instruction, Corky Carroll's Surf SchoolMalibu Longboards and other local outfitters.

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