Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast
Do you love walking, getting outdoors and exploring nature? There's no better place to do so than in California. Known for its perfect climate and beautiful geography, being outdoors in California is a way of life.
California is also known for beaches and some of the most beautiful coastline in the country.
The best way to get to know the California coast is by walking, and there's no better guide to help than Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast. Written by Tom Courtney, it is packed with tips, information, and inspiration.
How would you like to find yourself alone on a secluded and exquisite beach in California watching the sunrise sparkle on the Pacific Ocean, with only the local wildlife and sea creatures for company?
Sounds like a fantasy, doesn’t it? After all, California is one of the most populated states in the US, and visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the beaches. But with a bit of effort and author Tom Courtney’s book, Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast, it could happen.
This book was a bit of a revelation to me as it never occurred to me to plan a trip around hiking from one hotel or inn to another. Walking is the ultimate form of slow travel, the perfect way to truly explore and discover new locations. Upon reading the book, I discovered Walkabout California is a huge community of people dedicated to hiking the California coast and recording the journey; Tom Courtney founded that community.
What I liked about this book is that even if you don't want to do the hikes, it's a wealth of information about the California coast: Places to stay, eat, parks, attractions, and beaches. There are insider tips on the best places to splurge on a room, or where to find the best fish tacos. I also loved his detailed packing list - who doesn't need help there?
Courtney includes historical and cultural information about each area, that adds to the enjoyment not only of reading the book, but in visiting.
Each chapter begins with a brief description of what you will see while hiking that particular stretch of the coast, how many days it will take to do so, and how many miles you will hike each day. The chapters are further divided into day-by-day accounts of what you will see and where you will end the day, along with so many other details: history, geography, quotes, and of course, where to stay.
Point La Jolla.
Even native Californians will find something to take away in this book; a little known cafe, an azure blue cove on a hidden beach, or the best place to see the sunset...alone. Enjoy exploring the southern California coast at “two miles an hour.”
Introduction (Don't skip this part. It's loaded with useful information!)
1. Exploring the Malibu Coast
2. Santa Monica to Santa Catalina
3. Santa Catalina to Newport Beach
4. Newport Beach to San Clemente
5. San Clemente to Oceanside
6. Oceanside to La Jolla
7. La Jolla to Mexico
Tom Courtney is the author of Walkabout Northern California and a retired teacher at University of California Berkley. He devotes his time to hiking, writing, speaking, and generally enjoying life with his wife Heidi. They reside in Oakland, California.
Avalon Bay, Santa Catalina.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Tom and ask about his book, the walkabout community, hiking, close calls, and more. Here's what he had to say...
How did your Walkabout movement get started?
Like so many Americans, I took my first inn-to-inn hike in Europe. It was in the Cotswolds, in south-central England. What a great joy it was to hike the English countryside, stopping each evening at an inn, sharing a pint and some fish and chips with the locals at the village pub.
Hiking from inn-to-inn was almost unheard of in the U.S., but in 2006 I was hiking in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. I reached a ridge and looking north, thirty five miles along the Pacific coastline, I could see all the way to Point Reyes National Seashore. It was all green space, state and national parkland.
I wondered, could I hike all the way to Point Reyes? Could I stay in inns along the way? That night, I pulled out my maps and started making reservations.
That first walkabout took four days and covered 38 miles, hiking a spectacular coastline, through redwood forests, and along the grassy flank of Mt. Tamalpais with my wife, Heidi. We stopped each night at an interesting seaside village, staying in charming inns and B&Bs for a comfortable bed, a good meal, and a glass of wine.
Before that hike was over, I was thinking of other places we could hike from inn-to-inn through the wilds of California. That led to Walkabout Northern California: Hiking Inn to Inn, published in 2011 by Wilderness Press. The response was amazing, and the Walkabout movement was launched.
Have you always been interested in hiking? Are you a native Californian?
I grew up in Minnesota where we camped and canoed on rivers and lakes. Not much hiking. I moved to California after college and fell in love with the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Pacific. I have been hiking them ever since.
Volleyball at Hermosa Beach.
What do you enjoy most about hiking?
I love connecting with nature at two miles an hour. A good hike can slow us down and nourish our spirit. This is compounded on a multiday hike. It is the antidote to our modern multitasking lifestyles. You are single tasking on a hike from inn-to-inn. You only need to enjoy the hike and arrive at your next inn.
Crystal Cove cabin.
Have you ever had a close call with the Pacific Ocean on one of your hikes?
There were a few times when I was daydreaming, and my boots got soaked by a surprise wave. But the Pacific is wild, and hiking it can be dangerous. A rogue wave can knock you down and drag you out to sea. I always try to keep one eye on the waves.
It is important to get a tide schedule before you set out. The book identifies spots that will be challenging at high tide, and suggestions of when to set out so you reach those spots when the tide is low.
Matador State Beach.
Have you ever not made it to your destination (Inn) and found yourself without a place to stay?
No, I always make reservations. The book provides information about inns at the end of each day's hike.
Most of the hiking days in Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast are in the 5-12 mile range. It is nice to arrive at your inn by mid-afternoon and to enjoy some lounging time on the beach or the delights of an interesting seaside town.
Many people are hiking right now. It is winter, but the Southern California Coast is warm and sunny. Days are short, but they can sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, hike at a modest pace, stop for lunch and a swim, and still arrive at their inn in time for happy hour.
There is one 24 mile hiking day along the 200 miles of coast covered in the book. That should take 10-12 hours. Most folks don't choose that section for their inn-to-inn hiking vacation.
Hotel del Coronado.
What advice would you give a beginner?
Travel light. There are lists in the book of what to bring on your inn-to-inn hike. Your daypack should weigh only 12-15 pounds. Resist the temptation to fill it.
Do you or did you train a lot before you started these hikes?
I try to hit the gym once or twice a week, and to take one or two hikes of 4-10 miles a week.
Thanks for your questions. Our website, WalkaboutCalifornia.com is a great place for information about hiking from inn-to-inn in California and around the world. It is also a good place for people to ask questions and to share their own experiences.
Penny Sadler is Editor at Large at Wandering Educators. She writes in depth reviews and articles about her travel experiences while indulging her passion for photography and prosecco.
All photos courtesy and copyright Tom Courtney.
Note: We received a review copy of this book from the publisher - thank you!