Ask an LA native to take a dip off the beach in Santa Monica and expect a wrinkled frown. Yet, despite the local sentiment, the Santa Monica coastline offers some of the most pollution-free water in any major metropolitan area in the U.S. (at least when it’s not raining).
To make sure you avoid the shortcomings of Los Angeles swimming, here are a few tips to keep you in the cleanest currents.
5 Tips to healthy swimming
1. Don’t swim within 100 yards of flowing storm drains.
Storm drains deliver unhealthy levels of bacteria to the bay after rain. It’s not enough to just avoid the drains, instead avoid the risk completely by not swimming within 3 days of rain. Most drain pipes are covered over with sand during the summer months, offering a green light for safe summer swimming.
2. Don’t swim near creeks or rivers.
In Malibu surfers have been battling the state for years to clean up the bacteria running out of Malibu creek. The same goes for the Topanga creek, Zuma creek (north of Malibu), and Ballona Creek (affecting Playa Del Rey). Until they succeed, avoid all stream run-off.
3. Don’t swim in areas with no lifeguard on duty.
Though some unpatrolled beaches in Malibu and beyond are safe, many unpatrolled beaches in the LA city area are unsafe for swimming due to submerged rocks, pipelines, and other obstacles.
4. Steer clear of harbors.
Although local ordinances require large boats to empty human waste outside a 20 mile coastal limit, lazy live-aboard boaters often break this rule in both Redondo and Marina Del Rey harbors.
5. Watch the rain forecast.
Surfers, sea kayakers and other year-round watersport enthusiasts should attempt to keep their heads above water as much as possible during rainy winter months. Even one less dunk makes a difference.
Bonus Tip: Do earplugs make a difference?
According to lifeguards and doctors, the most common ailment associated with expose to bacteria-heavy water is ear infections. Earplugs keep water, and bacteria out of your ears where it belongs – buy a pair if breaking any of the above rules.
Grade the beach – how does your beach stand up?
Heal the bay has posted an on-line “Beach Report Card” for the Southern California coast from Santa Barbara County to Orange County. Visit http://www.healthebay.org/baymap/ to see how your beach fares. Beaches are graded on a standard A to F basis, based on biological pollution in water samples collected each week (tests exclude trash and toxins found at local beaches). For more information on the analysis methodology visit http://www.healthebay.org/beachreportmethod.asp.
Links to Fight the Pollution
*www.smbaykeeper.org is a community based, non-profit membership organization dedicated to restoring the quality of S.M. Bay, San Pedro Bay and adjacent coastal waters. Visit Baykeepers and learn what you can do.
*www.healthebay.org is a non-profit environmental group dedicated to making the Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters safe.
In Spanish, “El Salvador” means “the savior;” in tourist English it means “tourist danger” and that’s exactly why you want to go and why you want to avoid thinking like a tourist.
Instead, think like a traveler, pack a compass and liftoff from the banal into a world of Mayan-soaked culture, rainforest-laced hikes and cabana-friendly coastline.
If countries waxed and waned like moons, El Salvador would be reaching a two-decade full moon. In 20 years, war ended, the Pope visited, a democracy and currency stabilized, a UNESCO World Heritage Site was named, the 2002 Central American & Caribbean Sports Games were hosted and El Salvador beat Mexico in the World Cup qualifiers. Viva El Salvador!
And all of this without a tourism ministry, infrastructure or e-brochure! Feeling anxious? Don’t. The raw state of this democracy is exactly what makes the appeal so rich. Ten years from now, tourists will flock to another bland Costa Rica. But now, the flavors, sights and experiences in El Salvador are pure and vibrant. Taste the nectar.
El Salvador is the smallest but most densely populated country in Central America. A tropical climate prevails, but most of the interior is covered by volcanic mountains and a fertile central plateau. Located between Guatemala and Honduras, it boasts 200 miles of striking Pacific coastline.
Surfers have been coming for years. Breaks dot the western coastline facing the Southern swell which wraps around lush point breaks in dreamy sets. Most stay in small villages like Sunzal and El Tunco which host bungalows overlooking the serenity for less than $20 a night.
Adventure lovers seek out rain forest treks beneath lush canopy, alive with fragrant smells and vivid colors. Volcanic mountain areas offer inspiring vistas and geology. Culture is close at hand (including fertile coffee plantations) with notable architectural and Mayan ruins.
As for cities, the capitol city of San Salvador isn’t the most appealing – it’s stricken with poverty and gridlock. Nearby Santa Ana is more attractive, surrounded by coffee plantations and sugarcane fields—travel to the Mayan ruin of Tazumal, erstwhile setting of human sacrifice! A couple hours north, La Palma offers cool weather and beautiful views.
Reputation for crime and violence deters most from El Salvador, but travelers who explore this country are enthralled by the beauty and soothed by the warm and intelligent people. Be one of them.
When to go: El Salvador’s rainy season is between May and November and its dry season is between December and April. Even in rainy season, sunny days are the norm.
Getting around: El Salvador is tiny, but not so easy to get around. The public bus system is inexpensive, but crowded – not ideal for luxury travelers. Renting a car is a popular choice (especially travelers with surf boards), or hiring a driver with a minivan.
Money: Prices in El Salvador are extremely low—no more than $3 USD for your average meal. The US dollar is used as legal tender, which makes things quite easy.
Safety: Most travelers leave without incident, however street crime is a problem in El Salvador. Resist wearing your best jewelry and walk in a group at night in cities to avoid incident.