MARINA STATE BEACH
If you're ever wondering how to spend your next vacation, I recommend getting to know California's coast by driving from one end of it to the other.
I've been lucky enough to call southern California home for couple handful of years and now living abroad, what I find myself missing the most is the pacific coast and everything that comes with it. Sans traffic, the accessibility to take a swim with the waves almost any time of the year, the smell of salt, the slower lifestyle, and of course the cathartic action of just taking in the immensity of the expansive coast is equally homey and humbling.
While beaches anywhere between Dana Point to Torrey Pines, Carlsbad to Huntington Beach, and Malibu can be great, it's worth the five to seven hour drive up to northern California (or vice versa) to see how the slight shift in latitude makes a difference in atmosphere.
Drive past San Francisco and you'll be rewarded with the beautiful Redwoods.