Sublime and under the radar, Santa Maria Beach is a south-facing sanctuary with a secret: After biking to it, a short stroll south also leads to one of the best intertidal zones in Point Reyes. To reach Santa Maria Beach, pedal 3 miles (one way) along the wide, bike-friendly Coast Trail. After rolling the first 2 miles through forest, emerge alongside Limantour Beach and wind atop shoreline bluffs toward dramatic dunes in the distance. Lock up your bike at Coast Camp, or walk it down a short spur to Santa Maria Beach. Long, sublime, and slim on crowds, Maria is a stand-alone beauty well worth the visit on its own.
But at low tide you can also walk 1 mile south beneath fluted mustard-covered cliffs to reach Sculptured Beach. Thousands of mussels cling to dramatic rock formations and hollowed-out arches while anemones, barnacles, sea stars, and sponges lurk in shallow pools below. Another secret? Continue south around another outcrop to elusive Secret Beach, known for its grottos, tunnels, sea stacks, and secret amphitheater. Accessible at very low tides (zero to negative) only.
HIKING TIP: Hikers can access Santa Maria Beach via a shorter approach (2 miles) on the Laguna and Fire Lane trails. No bicycles on these trails. To bypass the beach walk, Sculptured Beach is also accessible via a spur trail and staircase about 1 mile south of Coast Camp.
Bike-friendly Coast Trail starts at Coast trailhead, across the street from the Point Reyes Hostel. Visit the Point Reyes National Seashore website for a map and directions. The hiking-only Laguna Trail and trailhead is just past the hostel. Free parking. No dogs. CAUTION: Sculptured Beach and Secret Beach are only accessible at low tide. It’s very possible to become stranded or endangered by heavy surf! Do not attempt without full understanding of the tide tables.