30 Best Beaches in California

downtown avila beach

California’s Pacific coast stretches for 840 mi (1,350 km) between Oregon and Mexico.

Dotted with hundreds of outstanding sandy beaches and blessed with a superb Mediterranean climate, it has become one of the most popular destinations on the planet.

Well known from numerous Hollywood movies and TV series, California’s beaches are easily recognizable for their distinctive appearance.

They are usually a mixture of soft golden sand, captivating silver or dark blue ocean waters, long well-shaped waves and tall palm trees along the coast.

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Of course, some of them are quite different but the common feature is that they are all wonderful.

Thanks to the mild weather and numerous sunny days, you can enjoy their natural beauty during a very long period of the year, and in the southernmost parts – even in winter.

1. Point Dume State Beach (Los Angeles)

point dume state beach
Point Dume State Beach by Melissa Emmons/Flickr

Point Dume State Beach is located along the coast of the famous community of Malibu, in northwestern Los Angeles.

The beach deserves your attention for a number of reasons, including its exceptional golden sands, clear ocean waters and superb climate.

Let’s not miss the fact that unlike other beaches in Los Angeles, here you can easily find some privacy, even in the height of summer.

2. La Jolla (San Diego)

la jolla beach
La Jolla Beach by Michael Foley/Flickr

Located 12 miles (19.3 km) north of downtown San Diego, La Jolla Beach is considered one of the top beaches in North America.

The prestigious coastal community is an attractive tourist center because of its warm weather and 7 miles (11 km) of golden sands as well as for its great shopping and accommodation options.

The main advantage of the area is that apart from its outstanding beach, it offers plenty of things to do and places to visit.

3. Newport Beach (Los Angeles)

newport beach
Newport Beach by Brian Auer/Flickr

A number of Hollywood celebrities live in Newport Beach, which is among the most prestigious communities in Southern California.

It is very well-known for its fantastic stretch of golden sands and numerous sports facilities along the coast.

It is a favorite spot for surfing and is quite popular for its warm climate and sunny weather.

Newport Beach is one of the very best places to spend the day on the beach along the West Coast.

A number of favourite TV series such as “The OC” and “The Real Housewives of Orange County” were filmed here.

4. Pacific Beach (San Diego)

pacific beach
Pacific Beach by Christina Winter/Pixabay

A favorite spot of holidaymakers and surfers, Pacific Beach is one of San Diego’s most popular beaches.

You will find it on the shore of one of the most prestigious and attractive areas of the same name, locked between the more quiet but equally beautiful Mission Beach to the south and La Jolla to the north.

Pacific Beach is wide and long, covered with the finest golden sand. One of the landmarks is the pier, which reveals a superb panorama of the entire coastal area.

5. Coronado Beach (San Diego)

coronado beach
Coronado Beach by Tracy Hunter/Flickr

Coronado Beach is an iconic place surrounded by numerous historical sites.

Like most of the beaches in Southern California, it is covered with fine golden sand.

As it is very flat, the stretch of sand is a great choice for lovers of long walks. It is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long.

Among the most interesting landmarks in the area is the Coronado Hotel, which is one of the oldest operating hotels in the world.

6. Carlsbad Beach (Carlsbad Village)

carlsbad beach
Carlsbad Beach by Lisa Larsen/Pixabay

Carlsbad Beach is located between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Due to its irresistible golden sands, clean environment and warmer climate, it is considered one of the best beaches along the West Coast.

It is relatively small, nestled under the picturesque coastal cliffs of the prestigious community. This is a good choice if you want to surf and swim.

7. Mission Beach (San Diego)

mission beach
Mission Beach by Barbara L. Slavin/Flickr

Mission Beach is located on the coast of Southern California, right next to the popular and much busier Pacific Beach in San Diego.

It is known for its wide stretch of fine golden sands and sunny promenade which attracts joggers, cyclists and walkers.

Mission Beach is one of the very best places to swim along the West Coast. This is because it offers much more pleasant water temperatures of over 68°F (more than 20°C) during the summer months and early fall (July, August, September and October).

8. Treasure Island Beach (Laguna Beach)

treasure island beach
Treasure Island Beach by Christi Nielsen/Flickr

Treasure Island Beach is one of Laguna Beach’s biggest tourist attractions.

It is famous for its clean golden sands and topaz-blue clear waters.

The stretch of soft sand is one of the most prestigious with beachgoers in California, as it is really well maintained.

Countless Hollywood productions have been filmed here, and one of the first of them was “Treasure Island” from 1934.

9. Will Rogers State Beach (Los Angeles)

will rogers state beach
Will Rogers State Beach by Milan A./Pixabay

Will Rogers State Beach is a superb stretch of fine golden sand in northwest Los Angeles.

With its clear dark blue sea waters, it is among the attractions of the Pacific Palisades (one of the most prestigious coastal communities along the Pacific coast of Los Angeles).

The area is home to numerous celebrities, but it also attracts many tourists.

You probably have seen Will Rogers State Beach in dozens of Hollywood movies and TV commercials, including “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986).

10. Santa Monica Beach (Los Angeles)

santa monica beach
Santa Monica Beach by Mike McBey/Flickr

Santa Monica Beach is situated in the north-western part of Los Angeles.

It is known from dozens of Hollywood movies and TV series, including “Bean”, “Beverly Hills Cop” (part 3) and the legendary “Baywatch”.

It is quite popular for its superb golden sands and clear sea waters, and this is where the emblematic American route 66 ends.

Being among the most attractive tourist spots in the United States, this place is a magnet for travelers from all over the world.

11. Venice Beach (Los Angeles)

venice beach
Venice Beach by Alexia Schu/Pixabay

The area of Venice Beach is considered by many the most crowded and lively part of Los Angeles.

The enormous stretch of gentle white sand is an attractive place for people from all over the world.

Known from the popular TV series “Baywatch“, the beach is easily recognizable for its graffiti-covered walls, which are one of the symbols of LA.

Venice Beach offers a wide variety of sports facilities and attracts cyclists, joggers, walkers, skateboarders and many others.

12. Huntington Beach (Los Angeles)

huntington beach
Huntington Beach by imke.sta/Flickr

Huntington Beach is located in southern Los Angeles, within Orange County.

This beautiful stretch of soft golden sand is an attractive place for beachgoers and lovers of active lifestyles.

In the central part of the beach you will find a pier, which reveals a beautiful panorama a few miles north and south.

It is approximately 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long and is considered one of the 10 best places to surf on the West Coast.

13. Leo Carrillo State Beach (Malibu)

leo carrillo state beach
Leo Carrillo State Beach by Megan Rosenbloom/Flickr

Leo Carrillo State Beach is a wonderful place that attracts the attention of many tourists every year because of its natural beauty.

It offers 1.5 miles (more than 2.4 km) of superb sands in the vicinity of Malibu.

It attracts lovers of sun and water sports. The beach is a popular place for a wide variety of outdoor activities, including windsurfing and surfing.

It attracts visitors also for its coastal caves.

Leo Carrillo State Beach has been used as a background of a number of Hollywood movies, including “The Karate Kid” (1984).

14. Glass Beach (Fort Bragg)

glass beach
Glass Beach by David Cohen/Flickr

Glass Beach is undoubtedly one of the most interesting beaches in the United States.

You’ll find it on the shores of Fort Bragg, in Northern California.

Although the water here is quite cold even in the heat of summer, the beach attracts many visitors.

It is covered with the so-called sea glass. These are small pieces and large grains of glass, which over time have been polished to a shine by the sea water.

15. Manhattan Beach (Los Angeles)

manhattan beach
Manhattan Beach by Fredrik Lundhag/Flickr

Manhattan Beach is an extremely popular stretch of golden sand with a length of just over 2 miles (about 3.2 km) in southwestern Los Angeles.

It is known for being one of the best places to practice beach sports and other outdoor activities on the West Coast.

The promenade attracts cyclists, walkers, skaters and joggers, and the beach itself – surfers and beach volleyball fans.

Actually, this is the right place to mention that Manhattan Beach is considered the birthplace of beach volleyball!

16. Rincon Beach Park (Carpinteria)

rincon beach park
Rincon Beach Park by snapper/Flickr

Rincon Beach Park is a beautiful beach located 6 miles southeast of Carpinteria, not far from Santa Barbara.

Due to its well-shaped long waves, it is often mentioned as one of the best surfing spots in the world.

If you are not into surfing and just want to spend a quiet and lazy day on the shore, Rincon Beach Park will not disappoint you.

With the exception of a very small residential community right next to the north of the beach, it is relatively secluded, wild and remote. That’s why it often remains empty and deserted, even in the height of summer.

17. West Beach (Santa Barbara)

west beach
West Beach by lwtt93/Flickr

Santa Barbara is famous for its beautiful coastline, and that’s why many people choose the city for their vacation.

West Beach is considered one of the best in the area, although the others are wonderful too.

Due to the good weather, the beach attracts lovers of outdoor activities (especially surfing and beach volleyball) throughout the year, while in summer it is a favorite spot with beachgoers and swimmers.

18. Downtown Avila Beach (Avila Beach)

downtown avila beach
Downtown Avila Beach by Florent Lamoureux/Flickr

If you are looking for a less crowded beach in California, Downtown Avila Beach is a very good choice.

It is situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, approximately 200 miles (almost 322 km) by road north of downtown Los Angeles.

Because of its soft golden sands, Avila Beach attracts beachgoers from across the country.

Although the tourists are people from all ages, you will see mostly families with kids.

The piers are one of the tourist attractions here, and one of them is opened to the public. It is more than 1640 ft long (500 m) and reveals an amazing panorama of the coast.

19. Stinson Beach (Stinson Beach)

stinson beach
Stinson Beach by Adam Derewecki/Pixabay

Stinson Beach is a natural barrier between Bolinas Bay and Bolinas Lagoon.

The isthmus is considered one of the most scenic places along the coast of California.

Located 23 miles (37 km) north of San Francisco, it is known for its cold ocean waters whose temperatures vary between 50 and 59°F (between 10 and 15°C) throughout the year.

Thick fogs are quite common here, and very few people dare to take a dip in the freezing water without appropriate protective watersuit.

At the same time, the beauty of this place is simply unique. It is a great choice for a relaxing walk along the coast and taking pictures.

Because of its spring-like temperatures in July and August, it is a great opportunity to escape the unbearable summer heat waves which affect other parts of the U.S.

20. Pescadero State Beach (Pescadero)

pescadero state beach
Pescadero State Beach by Nick Amoscato/Flickr

Pescadero State Beach is a superb stretch of fine sand, known for some of the biggest tide pools along the West Coast.

It is situated 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of the small village of Pescadero and 47 (almost 75.6 km ) miles south of San Francisco.

Here you can enjoy one of the most preserved coastal landscapes, but you should be careful and follow all the restrictions in the protected area.

21. Pfeiffer Beach (Big Sur)

You will find Pfeiffer Beach on the coast of Big Sur, approximately 34 miles (54.7 km) south of Monterey Bay.

It consists of three wonderful golden sandy beaches, which are separated from each other through not very high coastal rocks (one of the rocks is the famous Keyhole Arch).

This place is a magnet for beachgoers and lovers of outdoor activities because of its outstanding natural beauty.

22. Carmel Beach (Carmel-by-the-Sea)

carmel beach
Carmel Beach by Scott Rocher/Flickr

Carmel Beach is located only a few minutes drive to the south of Monterey Bay along the coast of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

It has the reputation of being the most popular and attractive with beachgoers in Northern California.

Often referred to as Northern California’s Riviera, it offers approximately 1.2 miles (1.9 km) of superb white sands and some of the most beautiful sunsets along the West Coast.

Here you can enjoy a number of activities, including sunbathing, swimming and beach volleyball.

23. Capitola City Beach (Capitola)

capitola city beach
Capitola City Beach by Ali Eminov/Flickr

With its smooth emerald waters, Capitola City Beach is one of the most popular with beachgoers in the area of Monterey Bay.

Except for its colourful houses on the coast, it is known for its golden sands and warmer sea waters in comparison with other beaches in Northern California.

Capitola City Beach is not a good choice for surfing but on the other side, it offers very good opportunities for lovers of swimming.

24. Natural Bridges State Park (Santa Cruz)

natural bridges state park
Natural Bridges State Park by David Merrett/Flickr

Natural Bridges State Park is located on the western outskirts of Santa Cruz, on the north coast of Monterey Bay.

It is easily recognizable because of its arch shaped cliffs right off the beach.

The area is attractive with locals and day trippers as it offers an enormous variety of marine creatures and birds to observe.

The best time to enjoy this vast diversity is at low tide. This is a wonderful place for picnicking, walking or just chilling on the beach.

25. Enderts Beach (Crescent City)

enderts beach
Enderts Beach by Diana Robinson/Flickr

Enderts Beach is a superb pristine stretch of sand, situated south of Crescent City, less than 20 miles (about 32 km) south of the Oregon border.

The beach is known for its tide pools and beautiful surroundings, including dense coast redwoods to the south.

And while the water in the ocean is a little too cold for swimming even in summer, the beach has a reputation as one of the best preserved in the state.

26. Rio del Mar State Beach (Rio del Mar)

rio del mar state beach
Rio del Mar State Beach by MarsRover/Public domain

Rio del Mar State Beach is a great place to spend an unforgettable weekend on the beach in the vicinity of Santa Cruz and Capitola.

It is an attractive place for surfing and picnics on the beach, especially since the sand is so soft and the summer season – long.

It is also known for the remains of the ship SS Palo Alto, which has been here since 1919.

27. East Beach (Santa Barbara)

east beach
East Beach by Jim Van Cura/Flickr

Santa Barbara is one of the most prestigious and preferred places to live or spend your vacation on the West Coast.

Located 67 miles (108 km) northwest of Malibu, it is famous for its fantastic beaches.

They are huge, very well preserved and covered with the finest golden sand.

One of the most famous is East Beach, which is not only a great place for sunbathing and swimming but also for long walks and picnics.

28. McWay Beach (Big Sur)

mcway beach
McWay Beach by Dawn Ellner/Flickr

McWay Beach looks like a lost tropical paradise.

Be sure to visit it if you travel in the area of Big Sur. It is located in the small McWay Cove, south of Monterey Bay.

The place is very idyllic, and it remains quiet and deserted even in the height of summer.

At the same time, it is situated very close to the main road so it is easily accessible.

In the southern corner of the beach is McWay Falls, which contributes to its tropical appearance.

29. Zuma Beach (Malibu)

zuma beach
Zuma Beach by David Mark/Pixabay

Fans of the American TV series “Baywatch” probably still remember one of the LA county’s most popular beaches.

Zuma Beach is located on the west coast of Malibu and is one of the best not only in California but also in the United States.

It offers superb golden sand, clear sea waters and beautiful views. In summer, it is a magnet for holidaymakers and surfers from all parts of the U.S.

30. El Matador Beach (Malibu)

el matador beach
El Matador Beach by Alex Mladenovic/Flickr

El Matador State Beach is located in the vicinity of the prestigious beach community of Malibu, north-west of Los Angeles.

The beach is well known from the romantic drama “The Notebook” (2004).

The place is preferred because of the gentle sands and preserved environment.

It also has a convenient parking lot nearby.

Due to the picturesque rock formations, it is very popular with photographers from all over the country.

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