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Best Beaches In California


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Courtney Moncada



California is renowned for its beautiful coastline and stunning beaches that attract tourists from all over the world. Stretching over 800 miles along the Pacific Ocean, California is home to some of the most picturesque and diverse beaches you can find. From sandy shores perfect for sunbathing to rugged cliffs and hidden coves, California’s beaches offer something for everyone.


Whether you’re a local looking for a weekend getaway or a tourist planning a dream vacation, California has a beach that will cater to your preferences. From north to south, the Golden State is dotted with stunning coastal destinations that showcase the natural beauty and vibrant culture of the region.


With so many choices available, it can be challenging to decide which beaches to visit. To help you plan your beach adventure, we’ve curated a list of the best beaches in California. Each of these beaches offers a unique experience and boasts incredible scenery that will leave you in awe.


From the iconic Santa Monica Beach and the quirky charm of Venice Beach to the secluded paradise of Zuma Beach and the scenic beauty of Coronado Beach, you’ll find a diverse range of options to suit every taste. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back atmosphere, thrilling water sports, or simply a place to relax and soak up the sun, there’s a beach in California that will exceed your expectations.


In this article, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of the top 10 beaches in California. We’ll explore their distinctive features, activities, and amenities, so you can choose the perfect spot for your next beach getaway. So grab your sunscreen, pack your beach towel, and get ready to discover the best beaches California has to offer!


Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach, located in the iconic city of Santa Monica, is one of the most popular and vibrant beaches in California. With its wide sandy shores, beautiful palm trees, and lively atmosphere, Santa Monica Beach offers a quintessential Southern California beach experience.


The beach is best known for its historic Santa Monica Pier, which extends into the ocean and is home to a variety of attractions, including a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and an arcade. You can take a leisurely stroll along the pier, admire the panoramic views of the coastline, or enjoy some delicious food at one of the many restaurants and eateries.

One of the highlights of Santa Monica Beach is the bustling boardwalk known as the Venice Beach Boardwalk. This vibrant stretch is lined with street performers, artists, and vendors selling everything from handcrafted jewelry to unique artwork. You can rent a bike or skates and cruise along the bike path that runs parallel to the beach, taking in the energetic atmosphere as you go.

For those looking to get active, Santa Monica Beach offers a range of recreational activities. You can take a surf lesson, rent a stand-up paddleboard, or simply enjoy a game of beach volleyball. The beach also has a designated area for beachgoers who want to explore the underwater world through snorkeling or scuba diving.


If you’re in the mood for some shopping, the Third Street Promenade, located just a few blocks from the beach, offers a wide selection of shops, boutiques, and entertainment options. Here, you can find everything from high-end fashion to unique souvenirs.


Santa Monica Beach is also known for its stunning sunsets. As the evening approaches, locals and tourists alike gather on the beach to witness the vibrant hues painting the sky. It’s a magical sight that captures the essence of California’s natural beauty.


With its combination of beachside activities, lively atmosphere, and breathtaking views, Santa Monica Beach is a must-visit destination for beach lovers and tourists alike. Whether you’re looking for entertainment, relaxation, or adventure, this beach has it all.


Venice Beach

Located adjacent to Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach is a unique and eclectic coastal stretch that is famous for its bohemian atmosphere and vibrant street life. Known as the “Coney Island of the Pacific,” Venice Beach offers a one-of-a-kind seaside experience that attracts visitors from all walks of life.


One of the main attractions of Venice Beach is the Venice Beach Boardwalk, a lively and colorful promenade filled with artists, street performers, and vendors selling all sorts of interesting items. As you stroll along the boardwalk, you’ll encounter musicians playing live music, artisans showcasing their crafts, and fortune tellers offering their services.


Venice Beach also boasts a graffiti-covered skate park, known as the Venice Skate Park, which attracts skaters from across the globe. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or simply want to watch some impressive tricks, the skate park provides an energetic and visually captivating scene.


Beachgoers at Venice Beach can bask in the sun and enjoy the sandy shores, or take a dip in the refreshing ocean. The beach is equipped with lifeguard stations, making it a safe spot for swimmers and surfers. If you’re interested in learning to ride the waves, there are several surf schools and rental shops available along the beach.


Another unique feature of Venice Beach is the Venice Canals, which were constructed in the early 1900s to mimic the famous canals of Venice, Italy. The residential area surrounding the canals is a picturesque and peaceful retreat, offering a break from the hustle and bustle of the beach. Take a leisurely stroll along the canals and admire the beautiful houses and charming footbridges.


When it comes to dining options, Venice Beach has plenty to offer. From trendy cafes and juice bars to seafood restaurants and international cuisines, you’ll find a wide range of culinary delights to satisfy your appetite. Enjoy a meal with an ocean view or grab a quick bite from one of the food vendors along the boardwalk.


Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the quirky culture, try your hand at skateboarding, or simply relax on the beach, Venice Beach is the place to be. This vibrant and artistic beach destination is a must-visit for those seeking a unique coastal experience in California.


Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach, located in Malibu, is a hidden gem nestled along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway. Known for its pristine sandy shores and crystal-clear waters, Zuma Beach offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the city.


Stretching for more than a mile, Zuma Beach provides plenty of space for sunbathing, picnicking, and beach activities. The beach is known for its clean and well-maintained facilities, including ample parking, restrooms, and picnic areas equipped with barbecues. Families and groups can enjoy a day of fun in the sun while taking advantage of these amenities.


Beachgoers can also indulge in water activities at Zuma Beach. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or a beginner wanting to catch your first wave, the beach offers excellent surf conditions for all levels. You can also rent paddleboards or kayaks to explore the ocean or simply take a refreshing swim in the calm and clear waters.


For those looking to explore beyond the beach, Zuma Beach is situated near the beautiful Zuma Canyon, which offers hiking trails with stunning views of the coastline and surrounding mountains. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just enjoy a leisurely stroll, the trails at Zuma Canyon provide a tranquil escape into nature.


Zuma Beach is also a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Dolphins are often seen swimming in the distance, and during the winter months, visitors may spot migrating whales as they make their way along the coast. Birdwatchers will appreciate the variety of seabirds that frequent the area, including pelicans and seagulls.


After a day of beach activities, you can enjoy a picnic and watch the sunset at one of the beach’s many picnic areas. The panoramic views of the ocean and the sound of crashing waves create a serene ambiance that is perfect for unwinding and connecting with nature.


If you’re in the mood for a meal or a snack, Zuma Beach has several beachside cafes and restaurants where you can indulge in delicious fare while enjoying the ocean views. From casual beachfront dining to upscale seafood restaurants, there’s something to please every palate.


Whether you’re seeking a peaceful day by the sea, exciting water adventures, or a scenic hike, Zuma Beach is a coastal haven that offers a tranquil escape from the city. Its natural beauty and a wide array of recreational activities make it a must-visit destination for beach enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


Coronado Beach

Located just across the bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado Beach is a pristine stretch of coastline known for its stunning natural beauty and luxurious atmosphere. With its idyllic white sand, sparkling blue waters, and charming beachfront community, Coronado Beach offers a truly unforgettable beach experience.


Coronado Beach is situated on the island of Coronado, accessible via the iconic Coronado Bridge or a short ferry ride. As soon as you set foot on the beach, you’ll be in awe of its expansive shoreline and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.


The highlight of Coronado Beach is the historic Hotel del Coronado, a grand Victorian-style hotel that has been an iconic landmark since 1888. The hotel’s beautiful architecture and stunning beachfront setting make it a popular destination for tourists and a backdrop for weddings and events. You can take a leisurely stroll along the beach or enjoy a meal and drinks at one of the hotel’s restaurants and bars.


Coronado Beach is known for its gentle waves and calm waters, making it an ideal destination for swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking. You can rent equipment from several vendors along the beach and explore the tranquil ocean at your leisure. Lifeguards are also present to ensure the safety of beachgoers.


If you’re a nature lover, Coronado Beach boasts a diverse range of marine life. Keep an eye out for dolphins frolicking in the waves or seabirds gracefully gliding above the water. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a seal or sea lion lounging on the rocks.


Coronado Beach is also the perfect spot to take a leisurely bike ride or enjoy a jog along the shoreline. The flat terrain and scenic views make it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking to stay active while basking in the serenity of the beach.


In addition to the beach itself, the town of Coronado offers an array of charming shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Explore the streets lined with palm trees, browse unique coastal-themed shops, and indulge in delectable cuisine at the local eateries. Don’t forget to leave some time to explore the historic charm of downtown Coronado, featuring beautiful architecture and picturesque gardens.


Whether you’re looking to relax on the pristine shores, engage in water activities, or immerse yourself in the rich history of the area, Coronado Beach offers an enchanting coastal experience that will leave you with lasting memories.


Laguna Beach

Nestled along the rugged coastline of Orange County, Laguna Beach is a picturesque seaside town that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, artistic charm, and a laid-back beach culture. With its pristine beaches, stunning cliffs, and vibrant art scene, Laguna Beach has become a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike.


Laguna Beach is known for its beautiful coves and white sandy beaches that are tucked away between towering cliffs. One of the most famous beaches in Laguna Beach is Main Beach, located in the heart of the town. It offers a wide sandy expanse, volleyball courts, and a boardwalk that allows visitors to take in the breathtaking views.


For those seeking a more secluded experience, Shaw’s Cove and Thousand Steps Beach are hidden gems that feature pristine waters, tide pools, and stunning rock formations. These beaches are ideal for snorkeling, exploring marine life, or simply finding a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.


Laguna Beach is also renowned for its vibrant art scene. The town is dotted with art galleries, studios, and outdoor art installations that showcase the creative talents of local artists. You can explore the numerous galleries along the Pacific Coast Highway or visit the renowned Laguna Art Museum, which features a diverse collection of contemporary and historical artworks.


To immerse yourself in nature, Laguna Beach offers miles of scenic hiking trails that wind through canyons, stunning coastal cliffs, and lush hillsides. Popular hiking spots include the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Top of the World, and Crystal Cove State Park, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and spot native wildlife.


Laguna Beach is also a culinary haven, offering a diverse range of dining options. From trendy beachfront cafes to upscale restaurants, you’ll find a variety of cuisines to satisfy your taste buds. Many establishments emphasize fresh, locally sourced ingredients, ensuring a memorable dining experience.


With its stunning natural beauty, thriving art scene, and diverse recreational activities, Laguna Beach offers a unique coastal experience that is hard to match. Whether you’re seeking a day of relaxation on the beach, an adventure in the outdoors, or an exploration of the local art and culture, Laguna Beach has it all.


La Jolla Cove

Nestled along the picturesque coastline of San Diego, La Jolla Cove is a breathtakingly beautiful beach known for its crystal-clear waters, rugged cliffs, and vibrant marine life. This small but stunning cove offers a serene and captivating beach experience that is unparalleled.


One of the main attractions of La Jolla Cove is its incredible underwater scenery. The cove is part of a protected marine reserve, making it a haven for marine life. Snorkelers and scuba divers will be delighted by the abundance of colorful fish, sea turtles, and even the opportunity to swim alongside harmless leopard sharks during certain times of the year.


The cove is also a popular spot to observe seals and sea lions that often gather on the rocks. Visitors can watch these playful creatures bask in the sun or swim in the waves, providing an up-close and personal encounter with California’s coastal wildlife.


Beachgoers can take in the breathtaking views from the cliffs that surround the cove, or simply relax on the sandy shores and soak up the sun. The beach itself is relatively small compared to other beaches in the area, but its intimate size and scenic surroundings make it a serene and peaceful spot to unwind.


La Jolla Cove also offers opportunities for outdoor adventures. Visitors can explore the scenic trails that wind along the cliffs and provide stunning panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Surfing and paddleboarding are also popular activities for those looking to embrace the ocean swells.


The cove is located near the upscale village of La Jolla, which offers a charming mix of boutique shops, art galleries, and upscale restaurants. After a day at the beach, you can indulge in some retail therapy or savor a delicious meal at one of the waterfront eateries that offer stunning ocean views.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply seeking a tranquil beach experience, La Jolla Cove has something to offer. Its natural beauty, vibrant marine life, and proximity to charming shops and restaurants make it a must-visit destination for those seeking the true essence of Southern California’s coastal charm.


Pfeiffer Beach

Nestled along the rugged Big Sur coastline of California, Pfeiffer Beach is a hidden gem that offers a secluded and awe-inspiring beach experience. Known for its stunning purple sand, picturesque rock formations, and dramatic sunsets, Pfeiffer Beach is a unique and enchanting destination that will leave you mesmerized.


One of the standout features of Pfeiffer Beach is its distinctive purple sand, which is caused by the presence of manganese garnet minerals. This rare phenomenon creates a magical and ethereal atmosphere, making the beach a favorite spot for photographers and nature lovers alike.


The beach is framed by massive offshore rock formations known as Keyhole Rock and Cathedral Rock. These iconic landmarks provide a stunning backdrop and add to the dramatic beauty of the beach. At low tide, you can even pass through the keyhole in Keyhole Rock and explore the caves tucked away beneath the cliffs.


Pfeiffer Beach is also known for its breathtaking sunsets. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky is painted with vibrant hues of orange, pink, and purple, creating a mesmerizing display of natural beauty. Watching the sunset from Pfeiffer Beach is a truly magical experience that should not be missed.


While swimming is not recommended due to the strong currents and unpredictable waves, Pfeiffer Beach offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere. You can take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, explore the tide pools for marine life, or simply relax and enjoy the sound of crashing waves.


It’s important to note that Pfeiffer Beach is not easily accessible. The entrance is marked by a narrow, unmarked road, and there is a small parking fee. However, the effort is well worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with a hidden paradise that feels like a world of its own.


If you’re planning a visit to Pfeiffer Beach, it’s a good idea to pack your own supplies, as there are no facilities or amenities available on-site. Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen, as well as any beach chairs or blankets for added comfort.


Pfeiffer Beach is a place of unparalleled natural beauty and tranquility. Its unique purple sand, majestic rock formations, and breathtaking sunsets make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a hidden beach paradise off the beaten path.


Carmel Beach

Situated along the stunning Monterey Peninsula, Carmel Beach is a pristine and picturesque coastal destination that exudes charm and natural beauty. With its white sandy shores, turquoise waters, and breathtaking views, Carmel Beach offers a serene and idyllic beach experience.


Carmel Beach is known for its dog-friendly atmosphere, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors to bring their furry companions. Dogs are allowed off-leash, so you’ll often see them playing and frolicking in the waves, creating a joyful and lively ambiance.


One of the highlights of Carmel Beach is its stunning views of the rugged coastline and the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links. The picturesque scenery provides a postcard-worthy backdrop as you relax on the sand or take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline.


Beachgoers can take advantage of the calm and clear waters by swimming, boogie boarding, or kayaking. The beach is relatively sheltered and does not experience strong currents, making it a safe spot for water activities. Lifeguards are also present during peak hours to ensure the safety of all visitors.


Carmel Beach is also renowned for its gorgeous sunsets. As the sun slowly descends into the horizon, the sky illuminates with vibrant hues of orange and pink, creating a breathtaking spectacle. It’s the perfect time to sit back, relax, and witness the natural beauty unfold before your eyes.


After enjoying the beach, take a stroll through the charming and quaint town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Known for its fairy-tale cottages, art galleries, and upscale boutiques, the town offers a unique and delightful experience. You can explore the streets lined with boutique shops, dine at award-winning restaurants, or simply indulge in some people-watching.


If you have a love for the arts, be sure to visit the renowned Carmel Beach City Forest and the historic Carmel Mission. These are just a few of the cultural attractions that add to the rich tapestry of Carmel’s artistic heritage.


With its dog-friendly atmosphere, stunning views, and charming town, Carmel Beach offers a delightful and relaxing escape. Whether you’re seeking a day of fun in the sun, a romantic evening by the water, or a leisurely exploration of a picturesque town, Carmel Beach has it all to offer.


Pismo Beach

Situated along the scenic Central Coast of California, Pismo Beach is a charming seaside town known for its expansive sandy beaches, stunning ocean views, and a relaxed coastal atmosphere. With its natural beauty, variety of outdoor activities, and vibrant beach town culture, Pismo Beach is a beloved destination for both locals and visitors.


Pismo Beach offers miles of pristine coastline, making it a paradise for beach lovers. The clean and sandy shores provide an ideal setting for sunbathing, picnicking, and beach games. Whether you’re looking to relax under the sun or engage in beach activities, Pismo Beach has something for everyone.


One of the main attractions of Pismo Beach is the Pismo Pier. Stretching out into the Pacific Ocean, the pier offers stunning views of the coastline and serves as a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts. Take a leisurely stroll along the pier, breathe in the fresh ocean air, and soak in the panoramic views.


For those seeking adventure, Pismo Beach offers a variety of water activities. You can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore the surrounding waters, or try your hand at surfing in the gentle waves. If you’re a thrill-seeker, there are options for parasailing and jet skiing as well.


Pismo Beach is also known for its abundant wildlife. The coastal dunes just south of the beach are home to several species of birds, making it a popular spot for birdwatching. Additionally, during the winter months, Pismo Beach becomes a hub for monarch butterflies, as they migrate and cluster in the nearby eucalyptus groves.


After a day of beach activities and exploring, head to Pismo Beach’s downtown area. The quaint and lively downtown offers a mix of charming shops, galleries, and delicious dining options. Visit the local seafood restaurants and indulge in fresh, locally caught seafood, or browse the boutiques for unique souvenirs and coastal-themed gifts.


Pismo Beach is also known for hosting various events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Pismo Beach Classic Car Show and the annual Clam Festival. These events provide opportunities to immerse yourself in the vibrant beach town culture and connect with the local community.


With its stunning beaches, variety of outdoor activities, and vibrant beach town atmosphere, Pismo Beach is a must-visit destination for those seeking a quintessential California beach experience. Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, or a taste of the local culture, Pismo Beach has it all.


Huntington Beach

Located in Orange County, Huntington Beach, also known as “Surf City USA,” is a vibrant coastal city that attracts surfers, beach enthusiasts, and tourists from around the world. With its wide sandy beaches, consistent waves, and lively beach culture, Huntington Beach offers an exhilarating and quintessential California beach experience.


Huntington Beach is famous for its world-class surf breaks and is considered the birthplace of modern surfing. The consistent waves attract surfers of all levels, from beginners looking to catch their first wave to professional surfers honing their skills. You can rent a surfboard or take a surf lesson from one of the many surf schools that line the beach.


The city is also home to the International Surfing Museum, where visitors can learn about the history and culture of surfing, view vintage surfboards, and explore various exhibits that celebrate the sport’s rich heritage.


Huntington Beach is more than just a surfers’ paradise; it also offers a wide range of activities for beachgoers of all interests. You can take a leisurely bike ride along the beachfront bike path, play beach volleyball in one of the many dedicated courts, or simply relax on the expansive sandy shores while soaking up the California sun.


For those looking to explore the local marine life, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is nearby, offering opportunities for birdwatching, nature walks, and glimpses of diverse wildlife. You might spot herons, egrets, or even endangered species like the California least tern in their natural habitat.


Huntington Beach also boasts a vibrant beach town atmosphere. Main Street is lined with surf shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bars, where you can indulge in delicious seafood, shop for beachwear, or enjoy a refreshing drink while overlooking the ocean. The city is also known for hosting various events and festivals, such as the annual US Open of Surfing, which attracts top surfers and beach lovers from around the globe.


If you’re looking for entertainment beyond the beach, you can visit Pacific City, a stunning outdoor shopping and dining destination located right on the Pacific Coast Highway. With a variety of high-end shops, trendy restaurants, and a rooftop deck with panoramic ocean views, Pacific City offers a unique and elevated beachside experience.


Huntington Beach truly epitomizes the vibrant and fun-loving beach culture of California. Whether you’re riding the waves, exploring the nearby nature reserves, or enjoying the beach town ambiance, Huntington Beach has everything you need to immerse yourself in the exhilarating coastal lifestyle.



California is undeniably a beach lover’s paradise, with its stunning coastline offering a diverse range of beach experiences. From the iconic Santa Monica Beach and the colorful Venice Beach to the tranquil shores of Pfeiffer Beach and the vibrant surf culture of Huntington Beach, there is a beach in California to suit every preference and taste.


Each of these beaches mentioned in this article offers unique features and attractions that make them stand out. Whether you’re seeking thrilling water sports, picturesque sunsets, vibrant beach town atmospheres, or opportunities to immerse yourself in nature, California’s beaches provide endless possibilities for relaxation and adventure.


Whether you’re a local looking for a quick getaway or a tourist planning an epic beach vacation, California’s coastline beckons. So pack your sunscreen, grab your beach towel, and head to one of these incredible beaches. Embrace the laid-back California lifestyle, soak up the sun, and create unforgettable memories on the beautiful shores of the Golden State.


From the lively beach culture of Southern California to the rugged beauty of the Central Coast and the charming beach towns of Northern California, the beaches of California offer a true slice of paradise. So, whether you’re catching a wave in Huntington Beach, exploring tide pools in Laguna Beach, or enjoying a picnic on Pismo Beach, you’re sure to fall in love with the stunning scenery and serene ambiance that California’s beaches have to offer.


Whatever your beach preferences may be, California’s coastal gems are waiting to be explored. So, embark on your own coastal adventure and discover the magic that awaits you along the shores of the Golden State.