Best Place to Play With Hundreds of Sea Anemones (2009)

Crystal Cove State Park

From the looming presence of hideous Newport Coast housing developments dripping with the worst of nouveau-riche decadence ("Mediterranean-style" homes, Italian street names, fooling no one), you wouldn't know that Crystal Cove and its magical tidal pools exist. But park your car, walk away from the faux-Tuscan monstrosities, and you'll soon be somewhere far, far away. The steep cliffs that enclose Crystal Cove are partially responsible for its magic: Once down on the shore, which stretches placidly for a few miles, you'll begin to feel like you're traipsing along California's Central Coast—quaint, slightly deserted and peaceful. Here, you (and if you have kids, you must bring them) can explore tidepool after tidepool for sea anemones (from huge, gentle, spongy ones to tiny, inch-long surprises), crabs, starfish and baby fish for hours uninterrupted. The state park includes Treasure Cove to the north, Moro Cove to the south and 2,400 acres of mercifully undeveloped woodland behind Crystal Cove.


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