Travel Swellness: 5 ways to catch the winter wave in SoCal

May 31, 2017


Surfing and skiing are the two most equally exhilarating and zen sports I’ve ever done. So when I was invited on a trip to California to “catch the winter wave” and do both, I was more excited than when I’m front row for the Backstreet Boys. OK, wait, I get pretty excited for my ’90s boy bands…but I was pretty darn stoked about this trip! Maybe one degree less excited than when they’re belting out “I want it that way…” and I make meaningful eye contact with Nick (because that actually happened!). Happy sigh…

But wait, we’re talking about Cali, here, not boy bands! Here’s the cool thing about Cali and going there in the winter: if you travel to California anywhere from about November up until June or so, you can score yourself both surf and snow. I had no idea! I’d only learned in the last year or so about Lake  Tahoe, which is where you can ski, and was quickly infatuated with going there because everything I’d seen and heard about it sounded incredible. Being out in nature, and especially mountains really is the most calming thing for me (even more so than being by the ocean).

Let me start with the first half of our trip, though: the sun and sand part. We flew to LAX  stayed in Century City, and while we didn’t spend much time at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Century City other than our first dinner and sleeping at the hotel, I did have time to walk down the street to the under-renovation Westfield Century City, where I checked out Free People and grabbed a bite. (I’ll post soon about the top spots we ate at on this trip.)

So what to do if you’re catching the winter wave in SoCal?


Hike in Temescal Canyon Park

While I have done a few hikes with Bikes and Hikes LA in the past year or so, I had never hiked the Pacific Palisades with them, and I would say I prefer it over the one that takes you to the Griffith Observatory; it is possible I feel that way because I’ve been to the Observatory many times, but on this hike you feel more as tho then you’ve escaped the city. The hike we did in Temescal Canyon Park was extremely easy and we had perfect weather: sunny but just warm enough so that once you started walking, you could strip down to a light t-shirt.

Walk in Venice Beach and Abbot Kinney

If you’re not so into nature, you might be more interested in the walking tour of Venice with Bikes and Hikes LA, but you can of course also just stroll on your own if you’re not into a formal tour.


We had some time constraints but we checked out Muscle Beach, the Frank Gehry-designed Norton House on the boardwalk, skate park, saw lots of street art and got a peek at the Venice Canals. I’d been to the area before but it’s always find to check out this iconic neighbourhood. We didn’t have time this day to explore Abbot Kinney, but it’s got the most adorable shops, and it’s just nice to stroll, grab a bite and people watch and shop. One of my fave places to go in LA.

Cruise Marina del Rey
Our winter wave tour also got us into the water where we donned sailor captains hats and cruised Marina del Rey with Hornblower Cruises.
Cruising with Hornblower is a nice and serene way to catch the sunset. Well, I suppose less solemn if you’re hitting up the bar, haha, but we were all pretty well behaved when it came to drinking on the boat. I hadn’t dressed properly for the very windy day so I enjoyed the cruise mostly from inside. Definitely pack a few layering pieces if you’re catching the winter wave in SoCal! That day was exceptionally windy — all of the locals were talking about how crazy the weather was.
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If you’re lucky you’ll spot some sea lions; we saw a few summing themselves on the boats docked next to ours.
Bike in Santa Monica
Even though it’s a simple thing to do, I think biking in Santa Monica is just a really freeing and happy way to spend a couple of hours. It doesn’t have the adrenaline rush of surfing, but it was a favourite of all of ours. The sun overhead and blue skies peppered with the towering palm trees. We had bikes from Perry’s (they have several locations along the beach), and while I know I tend to think food from places along a boardwalk might be tourist trap-like and have terrible food, having had two lunches there, I can vouch for their food being solid, and not what you might find in a Toronto waterfront place (it’s not a generic hot dog, or heavy pizza). Think tacos and fresh bowls.
Oh, while biking in Santa Monica and Venice, we stumbled onto LA Bubble Ball and we all basically screeched to a halt and had an impromptu bubble ball session! It’s the first time I’ve done it and I was surprised how out of breath I got running around in that thing. It can be a bit claustrophobic, and when I fell down in it, I had the hardest time getting up (partly because I was laughing so hard). I definitely need more bubble ball in my life!
Surf in Santa Monica
I’ll be the first person to admit that I hate cold water. While I’m not someone who is always cold, I am definitely someone who need water to be warm, as in very warm. What many people call “refreshing” I would call freezing. So I was more than a bit nervous about surfing in Santa Monica in March. And as soon as my toes touched the water and I walked into the ocean and I lost feeling in my toes (which never came back the entire surf lesson) all I could think was how I wasn’t sure I could go through with this.
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I’d say the wetsuit kept me warm (and it mostly did) but my hands and feet were cold the entire time. So much so that after each attempt to catch a wave, I contemplated calling it a day and just watching from the beach.
It was a pretty frustrating surf day for me. I never got up on the board (at most, I got halfway once or twice), and the waves were quite strong so I was exhausted because each time I went to head back into the water to my Learn to Surf LA surf instructor, I’d take a step or two and a wave would spit me back practically onto the beach. I was cold and tired, and yet I didn’t quit the surf lesson. Because when you’re in a place as beautiful as Santa Monica and you have one of the few opportunities you get to surf, you do it. And even just getting half-up on the board was promising enough for me to keep trying.
With my sand and surf checked off of this epic catch-the-winter-wave trip to California, it was time to pack up in SoCal and head north. Next stop: a day trip to Big Bear!
Oh, I also wrote about catching the winter wave for Travel & Style. You can check out my article here!
Now are you looking to book a trip to California or another destination? Here’s how you can save some money:

Inspired to go travel soon, whether it’s to visit California (if you do, consider booking the Loews Santa Monica, which is beautiful and has a fantastic terrace for enjoying the sunset) or anywhere in the world? Well, here’s a little gift for you: book through using this exclusive link (it’s my exclusive refer-a-friend link), and you’ll get a $40 discount from your reservation. That money you save could go towards a great meal, or tickets to a show, or whatever you choose to do on your adventures!

And as always. I’d love to hear about your travels! I’m always looking for wanderlust inspiration!

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 (Photo credit for Hornblower Cruise and latter two surf photos: Max Whittaker/Visit California)



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4 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Yuki  |  July 24, 2017 at 12:35 PM

    Fun ideas! I’d like to take the Hornblower cruise that comes with a resident sea lion, lol.

  • 2. Sharon  |  July 24, 2017 at 5:49 PM

    I’d love to try surfing there! Looks awesome! And the sea lion…so cute! Thanks for all the ideas for my next vacation!

  • 3. healthandswellness  |  August 21, 2017 at 10:02 PM

    Isn’t Cali the best? Dying to go back already!

  • 4. healthandswellness  |  August 21, 2017 at 10:03 PM

    I love that there are sea lions, like, just hanging out. And one was so close to us when we kayaked in La Jolla!

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