Taking the title for my girl's favorite californian beach is historic crystal cove, just up the coast from laguna beach and one of the bays that make up a state park. There's a beautiful golden sand beach and tucked into the dunes a collection of wooden cottages in varying states of repair. Back during the depression they were built by a group of locals keen to escape the awfulness of the times and live simply by the sea. They became a favorite area for artists to work before many fell into disrepair. The Californian State Park authority purchased them all a few years ago and is busy restoring them, rebuilding, painting them. It's possible to rent them to stay in now as well although word has it it's difficult to get a reservation.
It's a spot you could easily drive right past on PCH 1 but there's such a cute feel to the place it's worth stopping and taking the time to visit.