Having grown up in south Orange County, I have been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of quality time on the beaches in the area. And I can tell you without hesitation, that 1000 Steps Beach is one of the nicest beaches Orange County has to offer, and has always been one of my favorite spots to relax.
Perhaps part of the beach's charm is that it isn't all that easy to access. Parking is free, but it is a little bit of a pain. You will most likely have to parallel park on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway. Once you do park and find the entry gate, then you must conquer the steps, which aren't nearly as bad as the name implies. The intersection you are looking for is 9th Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway (a.k.a. Highway 1).
Here are the GPS coordinates to the entry gate down to the beach: N 33.49830º W 117.74026º
If you'd like to try something a little more active than just lying on the beach all day, there is no shortage of activities I'd recommend doing down here.
Snorkeling would have to be number one on my list of recommended activities. 1000 steps offers some of the most consistently good visibility in all of Orange County, and the numerous reefs just off the beach are filled with California's unique brand of plant and animal life.
You just can't beat the bodysurfing here. Almost year round there will be something fun to bodysurf into.
You will have to check the tide tables, and if it is low tide when you are here, there will certainly be some tide pools to find by walking out onto any of the exposed, rocky outcroppings.
If the tide is low enough, if you walk to the north end of the beach, and around (or up and over, depending on the tide) the rocks you'll discover another stretch of sand that is usually much less crowded, and just as beautiful as the main stretch.
The cave at the south end of the beach is rather intriguing. Check it out if the tide is low enough. I don't recommend heading back into the cave and looking for the hidden pools. There is just too much cool stuff to be doing at this beach to be looking for over-hyped, man-made tide pools.
The extreme south part of 1000 Steps Beach is known in the surfing world as 10th Street. There are usually some very good skimboarders in this area, and checking them out is always interesting. Years ago, 10th street was known as a very good wave for bodyboarding during high tide, yet it seems to have lost some of its consistency.
A LITTLE PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY
I thought it may be of interest to include a few of my older photographs of the beach. The following images were all taken in May of 2007.
Please do comment on the above info if you enjoyed it, or have something to add. Let me know where you are from, and if you enjoyed the 1000 step experience!