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Sand, sun, waves, and you: your guide to the West's 10 most spectacular secret beaches. Just don't tell anyone you heard it here.

FACT: The number of bodies on a given patch of sand is directly proportional to the proximity and size of the closest parking lot. That means that if you don't mind scrambling for parking or hiking a bit, you just might find yourself alone on a beautiful empty beach.

1 HANA, MAUI

Hamoa Beach

Hala trees and swaying palms fringe a half-moon of salt-and-pepper sand, backed by black lava cliffs. In summer, the crashing waves calm down to make the water welcoming for beginning bodysurfers. The three-hour drive from the touristed southern shore keeps crowds at bay. WHERE IT IS About a mile past"downtown" Hana on the S. Hana Hwy., turn left onto Haneo'o Rd. *

-LISA TROTTIER

2 OREGON

Indian Beach

At the end of a twisty road that winds through dense Sitka spruce forests in Ecola State Park, Indian Beach looks open and welcoming. The smooth, sandy, horseshoe-shaped beach is tucked into a cove and sheltered from wind, making it a perfect place for surfing or just staring at sea stacks. WHERE IT IS At the end of the paved road in Ecola State Park. $3 per vehicle; oregonstateparks.org *

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-LUCY BURNINGHAM

3 WASHINGTON

Salt Creek Recreation Area

Sculpins, seastars, and oceanography students all frequent the tidepools at Tongue Point, but Salt Creek's charms don't end there. Climb a sea stack, fly a kite on the beach, photograph passing ships, or overnight at a blufftop campsite. WHERE IT IS From Port Angeles, take U.S. 101 west 5 miles; turn right on State 112 and go 7 miles; turn right on Camp Hayden Rd. and go 31/2 miles to Salt Creek Recreation Area. Campsites from $18; clallam.net or 360/928-3441.**

-JIM MCCAUSLAND

4

ORANGE COUNTY, CA

Robert E. Badham Marine Conservation Area

Better known as Little Corona, the petite, shy sister of hefty, popular Corona del Mar State Beach can be accessed only by those willing to look for street parking and then hike down (and back up) a lifeguard access road to a cove. WHERE IT IS Poppy Ave. at Ocean Blvd., Newport Beach; 949/644-3038. *

-DAVID LANSING

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5 SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, CA

Point Buchon

Decades of hikers at Montana de Oro State Park have reached a fence at the park's southern end and gazed longingly at the unspoiled California coast just beyond it. Now a 3-mile loop trail has opened on this Pacific Gas and Electric Company property, with access to secluded Coon Creek Beach. WHERE IT IS In Montana de Oro State Park, follow Pecho Rd. to its southern end. parks.ca.gov or 805/772-7434. ***

-MATTHEW JAFFE

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6 TETON COUNTY, WY

Leigh Lake

For a strangely tropical setting beneath the Tetons, canoe or kayak north up String Lake until a short portage brings you through the forest to Leigh Lake. On Leigh, bypass the first island you come to and head north about a half-mile, to where a peninsula on the western shore juts out to form a tiny beach. (There's a campground nearby too.) WHERE IT IS From the Grand Teton National Park entrance at Moose, take Teton Park Rd. 10 miles north, turn left at N. Jenny Lake Rd. for about a half-mile, then follow signs to the String Lake trailhead. $25 per vehicle; nps.gov/grte or 307/739-3300. Campsites from $19;gtlc.com or 800/628-9988. ***

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-AMANDA GERSH

7 KONA COAST, BIG ISLAND

Mahai'ula Beach

An oasis of brilliant sand set amid miles and miles of ebony lava fields, the beach appears to have been dropped in the middle of nowhere. Its westward orientation delivers some of the best sunsets on the Big Island, and its out-of-sight location 1 1/2 miles off the main highway keeps away the tourists. WHERE IT IS Look for a sign reading KEAHA KAI STATE PARK about 2 1/2 miles north of Kona International Airport, off State 19, marking the entrance to the unpaved beach access road. Closed Wed;

hawaiistateparks.org * *

-ALEX SALKEVER

8 SAN MATEO COUNTY, CA

Bean Hollow State Beach

Hidden off State 1 along the San Mateo County coast, Bean Hollow is famous for sandy beaches and tidepools with orange-lavender seastars and purple shore crabs. It's also a favorite spot for beachgoers--after big storms, it has been known to turn up glass floats that come all the way from Japan. For more discoveries, follow the self-guided nature trial. WHERE IT IS 17 1/2 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 2 1/4 miles south of Pescadero on State 1. parks.ca.gov or 650/879-2170. *

-MATT VILLANO

9 SOOKE, B.C.

Sandcut Beach

A creek spills onto the beach in a misty water-fall, tidal pools carved in sandstone teem with life, and the pebbles are as smooth as eggs. Get an unexpected reflexology foot massage as you walk on stones warmed by the sun. WHERE IT IS 30 miles northwest of Victoria, B.C., on Pacific Marine Route/Hwy. 14. A half-mile past the POINT NO POINT RESORT sign, a tiny sign points to the 10-minute rainforest trail that leads to Sandcut. Sooke- Visitor Information Centre, 250/642-6357. ***

-BEVERLEY SINCLAIR

10 MENDOCINO, CA

Bowling Ball Beach

Don't let the CLOSED trail sign deter you from visiting the southern Mendocino Coast's most unusual beach. Just beyond an incredible temporary driftwood fort built by some beachgoer and a few hundred yards to the north, extreme low tide reveals dozens of large, round sandstone boulders. Very few people scramble down the ladder to the beach to check out this unusual natural phenomenon, and that's just the way we like it. WHERE IT IS On State 1, 3 miles south of Point Arena, just north of the Schooner Creek Bridge at milepost 11.3 (take the northern trail from the turnout).

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parks.ca.gov or 707/937-5804. ***

-ABIGAIL PETERSON

*** TOP SECRET ** LOCAL LOVE IT * STILL A GREAT FIND
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Date:Jul 1, 2008
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