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Recommendations for beaches south of LA?

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Hi all Fodorites,

My husband and 1½ year old daughter will join me for a conference in SB around the 1st of March 2013, and then we will have a family holiday for 1-2 weeks afterwards.

In addition to visiting some favorite places from when we lived in SB some years ago, we would also like to stay 1 week or more (renting an apartment or similar) in one place.
Since we've never been south of LA, we would like to explore this section of CA - but where should we base ourselves?? I hope you can recommend specific areas we should look into.

I would like to be within walking distance of the coast (I realise the timing is not right for extensive beach life) so we can have morning coffee on the beach while the little one is digging in the sand, and some nearby nice (not fancy) dining options would also be great.

best regards from Stockholm!

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