If you’re looking for a fantastic seaside trip with incredible weather, California beaches are some of the best in the world! Stretching nearly 900 miles along the Pacific Ocean, California boasts lively beach towns, secluded coastlines, and just about everything in between.
Are you looking to swim, surf, stroll, or relax on the sand while taking in incredible views? Our guide to the 27 best beaches in California has it all!
1. Santa Monica State Beach, Los Angeles County
Santa Monica State Beach is a top swimming beach in California, offering three and a half miles of beautiful sand. The surrounding area of Los Angeles County is home to an abundance of restaurants, hotels, bars, and live entertainment.
This beach town was initially developed by John P. Jones in 1875. He was a U.S. senator who built a home overlooking the ocean, then moved from Nevada to Santa Monica. His house was later renovated to become a hotel. Tourism has grown in Santa Monica ever since!
Today, Santa Monica is a popular destination for cycling, surfing, and sports. The city’s temperature averages around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and the 70s during the cooler months – ideal for a beach vacation!
Santa Monica Beach is considered one of the best surfing beaches in California, with equipment rental shops and lessons available. The water is also great for swimming although it’s a little chilly sometimes.
The Santa Monica Pier, a large double-jointed pier, is a popular spot with so much to do. There’s a small amusement park, concession stands, and places to fish. Don’t forget to bring your camera for the incredible ocean views, too!
2. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
Glass Beach is located in the serene town of Fort Bragg. The beach is located within MacKerricher State Park, a unique favorite southern California beach. There’s endless nature to explore in the area!
The Glass Beach area was initially used to discard local garbage and debris. More recently, the beach has been developed into a treasure for guests to explore. While the beach is protected and collecting glass beads and gems isn’t allowed, feel free to capture the gorgeous colors with your camera.
Due to dense rocks in the water, Glass Beach isn’t an ideal place to take a swim. Visitors enjoy beachcombing, checking out tide pools, and taking in the views. To explore more, head over to Mackerricher State Park where you can find beaches, a freshwater lake, dunes, hiking trails, and more.
If you’re looking to spend the night, there are several famous local hotels including The Ocean View Lodge and Beach House Inn. The state park also offers camping.
3. Coronado Beach, San Diego
If you’re looking for a great dog-friendly beach with beautiful white sand in San Diego, Coronado Beach is the perfect spot! You may have seen this beach in the 1958 film “Hotel del Coronado” with Marilyn Monroe. It offers views of a nearby sunken ship near the shore during low tide and plenty of activities at the beach and nearby.
All kinds of beach lovers appreciate visiting Coronado, including families. The flat, wide sandy beach is perfect for skimboarding and strolling. There are also great opportunities for swimming and surfing.
Other amenities around the beach include ample parking, pet-friendly spaces, and a wide selection of restaurants and beach bars. There’s also a boardwalk to explore, too!
There are several great hotels nearby including the iconic Hotel del Coronado and the gorgeous Gloriette Bay Inn.
4. Paradise Cove, Malibu
Paradise Cove was initially home to the Chumash Indian tribe and has since become a hidden gem beach destination. You may have seen this beach on Baywatch or X-Men. Today, it is a hot spot for celebrities and beachgoers seeking tranquility.
Enjoy relaxing, swimming, and surfing at Paradise Cove. This secluded beach is located in front of a private beach cafe where you can enjoy good food and delicious cocktails by the ocean.
In the area, you can also find luxury hotels, fantastic scenery, and great restaurants. If you’re looking for accommodation near the beach, check out the unique Hotel Mauritius. Hampton Inn and Suites Agoura Hills are also great options!
5. Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles County
Hermosa Beach is a 2-mile long beach with over 90 acres of public beach area. Its major attraction is the Hermosa Beach Pier which was built over one hundred years ago and stretches just over 1,300 feet long.
Hermosa is one of the best beaches in California for surfing and swimming. You can also enjoy playing tennis and beach volleyball. Head over to the pier for views of both Santa Monica Bay and Los Angeles. You can also fish off the pier and find many restaurants to grab a bite to eat.
The beach was initially a part of a Spanish land grant in 1874 and has since grown into a popular tourist spot. There are plenty of accommodations in the area. For places to stay near the ocean, check out Grandview Inn and the Hotel Hermosa.
6. Imperial Beach, San Diego County
Imperial Beach is located in a small, diverse beach town in San Diego County. It sits next to the Mexican border and stretches to the Tijuana River. You can even see Mexico from the beach pier!
Imperial Beach is an awesome place to spend the day. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful places in the San Diego area. The beach features fire pits, picnic tables, restrooms, and barbecue grills. It’s also a popular spot for birdwatching, horseback riding, and hiking.
Around the area, you can find shops, restaurants, and parks. There are also several hotels if you’re looking to stay the night.
7. Mission Beach, San Diego
Mission Beach is one of the most popular and best beaches in San Diego. There’s something for everyone on and near the beach making for the ideal vacation spot!
Enjoy beach volleyball, strolling, and sunbathing on the wide stretch of sand at Mission Beach. Visitors also enjoy watersports including surfing, kiteboarding, and boogie boarding. Lifeguards are also on duty. The beach area grows a bit wider towards the south, where you’ll find boats and shipwrecks.
This beach is located near Belmont Park and close to West Mission Bay Drive and Mission Boulevard. It’s the ideal place to enjoy cycling, hiking, inline skating, and horseback riding. The beach area grows a bit wider towards the south, where you’ll find boats and shipwrecks.
The oldest fixture on the beach is the Beach House Grill, which was initially built in 1925. There are several amenities including restrooms and areas for fishing. Public parking lots are found around the beach area.
8. Newport Beach
Newport Beach is a coastal city and one of the best beaches in California for many reasons! Visitors and locals love the large, boat-filled harbor and variety of activities.
The area includes 8 beaches which are all a part of Newport Beach city. Head to the main beach area around Newport Beach Pier for a memorable day by the ocean. Enjoy whale watching, boating, fishing, and surfing. It’s also a great place to swim.
If you’re looking to spend the night, check out two popular hotels – Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel and Lido House.
9. Stinson Beach, Marin County
Stinson Beach is a top summer destination for beachgoers. The area was initially bought and developed in 1866 by Nathan H. Stinson, where dairy farming was common in the surrounding hills. Stinson Beach is now considered one of the best hidden beaches in California with a lot to offer.
The flat, white sand at Stinson Beach is ideal for walking and sunbathing. Visitors enjoy kayaking, gliding, swimming, and surfing. There are also a couple of volleyball courts to hit, too!
Away from the beach, there are other activities to enjoy. Go hiking, birdwatching, or have a picnic. The Bolinas Lagoon Preserve and the Point Reyes Lighthouse are also popular spots to explore and provide great views of the surrounding area. For other popular attractions, head over to nearby San Francisco.
10. Pismo State Beach, Oceano
Located on the Pacific coast, Pismo State Beach is about 17 miles long and boasts incredible weather all year long. This state beach was settled over 9,000 years ago by the Chumash Indians, who named the beach Pismu, which means tar. It’s now the perfect place for solitude and is said to be one of the best beaches in California for nature enthusiasts.
Pismo Beach features excellent swimming, fishing, and birdwatching. If you’re looking for a unique beach experience, you can also camp out for the night. There are several conveniences like public restrooms, fire pits, and picnic tables.
Looking for adventure? Pismo Beach is a popular spot for off-road driving and hiking!
11. Hendry’s Beach, Santa Barbara County
Hendry’s Beach or Arroyo Burro Beach Park is located in the beautiful Western Santa Barbara area. It’s just 10 minutes from the lively downtown area. It’s one of the best beach towns in California for a vacation due to the variety of activities.
At the beach, enjoy bodyboarding, sunbathing, and beachcombing. You can also get active on the volleyball courts or explore a nature trail. If you want to bring your pet, there’s an off-leash area on the East side of the park. While spending the day at the beach, you can find conveniences like local restaurants, restrooms, showers, and a dog wash.
Around the beach area, you can find live entertainment and local bars. Elings Park is also a nearby spot that features paragliding and scenic cliffs close to the coastline.
12. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, Monterey County
Pfeiffer Beach is located in the Los Padres National Forest close to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Not only is the entire area incredibly stunning, but the beach is amazing. The beach is known for its purple sand, picturesque views, and large rock formations.
Swimming isn’t recommended at Pfeiffer Beach due to potentially dangerous currents. But, most visitors prefer taking photos, enjoying the views, and building purple sandcastles. You can also bring your leashed pet with you. Don’t forget to check out Keyhole Arch, too!
While Pfeiffer Beach is day-use only, make sure to stay for an amazing sunset. Nearby you can find lots of parks for camping and other activities.
13. Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County
Are you looking for a quiet beach ideal for walking and relaxing? Point Reyes National Seashore, also known as The Great Beach, isn’t a booming spot filled with activities. But, it is one of the most serene spots by the Pacific Ocean.
Take a break from the city and rest at The Great Beach. You can even bring your pet along, too! Be sure to look out for views of migrating gray whales at the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse.
Nearby, you can find spots to fish, camp, and hike. It’s also a very short drive to San Francisco.
14. Drake’s Beach, Marin County
While the water temperatures are chilly, hovering around 50 degrees, many people enjoy Drake’s Beach for water sports. It’s a great public beach with gorgeous views of the sandstone cliffs and lots of attractions in the area.
This beach park is located at the serene Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s an ideal place for families, offering picnic tables, pristine water safe for swimming, a visitor center, and a bookstore. Many visitors enjoy beachcombing at Drake’s Beach, but keep in mind that it’s a protected beach so shells and rocks must stay on the sands.
While you’re at Drake’s Beach, keep an eye out for seagulls, seals, and sea lions! The sandstone cliffs are also a neat attraction at Drake’s Beach.
15. Centerville Beach County Park, Humboldt County
Centerville Beach County Park is home to a 9-mile long sandy beach. The park features a historical landmark to commemorate the 38 people who lost their lives on the SS Northerner ship in 1860. There is also endless nature to enjoy at the park.
The beach features opportunities for sunbathing, surf fishing, swimming, and strolling the sands. You can also go horseback riding! Keep an eye out for large pieces of driftwood and sandstone cliffs. If you want to bring your dog alone, there’s an off-leash area to play in or you can walk your pup leashed. on the beach
16. Bodega Dunes, Sonoma County
Bodega Dunes is located within Sonoma Coast State Park and is one of the best California beaches for a vacation. The beach is vast and feels remote while the park offers tons of activities and amenities.
At the beach, enjoy swimming and watching wildlife. There are also large driftwood structures to check out.
The park is the only state park located near the Russian River. You can find long sandy beaches beneath rugged headlands and a craggy coastline with natural arches. If you want to stay for a while and explore, there’s also camping at the park. There’s also a well-known resort that features a golf course, Bodega Bay Lodge.
17. Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach town that was established over a hundred years ago and is located in Monterey County. The area features a rich history that includes Spanish, Indigenous, and Mexican heritage. Its culture and beautiful beach are what make it the special place that it is!
Carmel Beach is the ideal spot for surfing, walking, and picnics. It features pristine white sand, fantastic scenery, and great water adventure opportunities. Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards on duty. You can also find parking, hiking trails, restrooms, and a dog-friendly park.
A couple of popular accommodations in the area include the Carmel Garden Inn and the Normandy Inn. Travelers and locals enjoy exploring restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
18. Del Monte Beach, Monterey
Delmonte Beach is tucked away from the hustle for a secluded feel. It’s a stretch of sand that features boardwalk pathways through sand dunes. It’s home to wildlife and offers a relaxing beach experience.
On the beach, you can enjoy sunbathing, surfing, swimming, and picnics. There are several amenities including restrooms, picnic tables, and benches. To change things up, head to other nearby scenic beaches like Houghton M. Roberts Beach and Window on the Bay Beach.
Leashed dogs are permitted on Delmonte Beach with a leash and there’s free parking.
19. Long Beach City Beach, Long Beach
Long Beach City Beach, called Junipero Beach by locals, is considered the main beach in the area. It’s a popular spot that’s surrounded by shops, restaurants, and attractions.
The city was initially named Wilmore City in the 1880s, but since it grew significantly, the population voted to change it to Long Beach. It’s a lucrative place to live and the beaches attract tourists year-round.
The beach is popular for cycling, walking, skating, kiteboarding, and swimming. There’s a lifeguard on duty, as well as restrooms, showers, and a grass park.
20. Emma Wood State Beach, Ventura County
Emma Wood State Beach is nestled on the west side of the Santa Barbara Channel. The park offers ample areas to explore including an amazing beach!
The beach is a great place to swim, surf, and fish. The Ventura River attracts a variety of wildlife including great blue herons and songbirds. The park is a popular place for camping, hiking, and day use. Visitors enjoy exploring historic railroad tracks and structures built in 1942 that commemorate the attack on Ellwood Oil in Santa Barbara.
Looking for RV beach parking in California? Self-contained vehicle camp spots are available right near the beach at Emma Wood North Beach.
21. Davenport Pier Beach
You’ll find Davenport Pier Beach located just north of Santa Cruz and a short drive from the Pacific Coast Highway in the small town of Davenport. You’ll enjoy the spectacular scenery from the road as you venture towards the beach, which is accessed by a sea cliff.
It’s the ideal place to bring your camera and snap photos of graffiti art, an old, abandoned pier, and a jaw-dropping panorama of the entire area. It’s no surprise that Davenport is one of the best beaches in California for photographers.
Although this beach area is quiet and feels quite secluded, there’s a lot to do in nearby Santa Cruz. It’s also only an hour to San Jose.
22. Half Moon Bay Beach, Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay Beach is located in a small city on the northern California coast. Originally called Spanishtown in 1874, the city changed its name based on the crescent shape of the beach’s harbor. It’s now known as one of the most scenic California towns.
Half Moon Bay Beach is a popular destination for tourists. It’s a prime place to enjoy a wide range of water sports and visit local attractions. The town offers many other beaches that provide plenty of activities, including surfing, swimming, boating, and fishing.
It’s a great place for a beach getaway and you can find a variety of beachside accommodations including luxury spots like Seal Cove Inn and Nantucket Whale Inn.
23. Carlsbad State Beach, San Diego County
Carlsbad State Beach is located on the San Diego coast and is the perfect spot for every kind of beachgoer. The town of Carlsbad is a great place to visit, especially if you’re a foodie or a golfer.
Carlsbad State Beach features dolphin sightings, photography opportunities, and access to a nearby campground. It’s a popular place for surfing, fishing, swimming, and enjoying a picnic. The wide sandy beach is also great for relaxing or playing beach volleyball.
The Camp Store that’s located by the beach is a nice touch for grabbing beach and camping necessities. The area also hosts events, educational programs, and exhibits.
24. Venice Beach, Los Angeles
Many of us have heard of Venice Beach and for good reason! The area is buzzing with things to do. From shopping and dining to live events and entertainment, there’s never a dull moment in Venice Beach.
The beach is located at the Ocean Front Walk and Windward Avenue in Los Angeles. It’s the perfect spot for people-watching, exercise, and surfing. Additionally, it offers a wide range of sports, including basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball, and skateboarding.
There’s plenty to do at the beachfront area, too. Have a bite to eat, go shopping, and water live performers. Children enjoy the playground and the grassy park is a great spot to hang out. Get active at the Muscle Beach outdoor gym or hang out at the skate park. You can find plenty of restrooms in the area, too.
Explore all that Venice Beach has to offer with plenty of accommodations in the area.
25. Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach
Just south of Los Angeles is Huntington Beach home to several of the best beaches in California including Huntington City Beach. This beach is also called “Surf City.” It features the International Surfing Museum and receives many professional surfers and sports enthusiasts during the summer.
Not only is the beach a haven for surfers, but there’s also an iconic 1,850-foot long beach pier. Take in the ocean views, grab a bite to eat, enjoy some ice cream, and watch the surfers. You can also play beach volleyball and have bonfires on the sand.
The area also offers an off-leash dog park and a surf-themed hotel and resort, The Kimpton Shorebreak Resort is the most popular accommodation in the area.
26. Rancho Palos Verdes Beach, Los Angeles County
Rancho Palos Verdes Beach features views of Catalina Island, rocky beach areas, and winding paths. It’s located in an affluent residential area, near San Diego.
Visitors flock to this spot for peace and quiet. It’s a great place to do some hiking, sunbathing, and swimming. You can also find several tide pools along the beach. For a special adventure, take a boat over to the nearby Santa Catalina Island.
Other attractions to check out in the area include the Point Vicente Lighthouse and the Trump National Golf Course. If you’re looking to spend the night by the beach, check out one of the best hotels in the area, the Terranea Resort.
27. La Jolla Cove, San Diego
La Jolla Cove is a small, scenic cove located near San Diego. The beach is part of a protected underwater park with an ecological reserve featuring an abundance of wildlife. There are also tons of beach activities to enjoy.
Enjoy swimming and views of cliffs and sea animals at La Jolla Cove. Visitors enjoy seeing sea bass, baitfish, opaleye, barracuda, and more. If you’re looking to get adventurous, shops along the beach rent out gear for snorkeling, paddleboards, surfboards, and more. Near the northern part of the beach, you can also discover great hiking trails and caves.
La Jolla is a beautiful vacation spot for families, romantic getaways, or a trip with friends. If you’re not familiar with the area and want to learn more, you can book a tour to explore La Jolla via bike or kayak. Near the beach, you can also find many cafes, restaurants, shops, and hotels.
Want to know more before your California beach trip? Let’s check out some common questions!
What is the nicest beach in California?
If we consider beaches that look like they came from a movie (and that actually did!), Coronado Beach is the nicest beach in California. It’s a wide sandy beach surrounded by beautiful homes and natural beauty. With that said, many beaches in California are incredible including all of the ones we’ve included on this list.
Are there any white beaches in California?
Definitely! Carmel Beach features a unique sugary white sand that’s been named the prettiest white sand beach many times. Coronado Beach also features beautiful white sand.
Are California Beaches swimmable?
Many California beaches are swimmable. With that said, some waters have cool temperatures so you may not want to swim. Others aren’t safe due to dangerous currents. Here are some of the best swimmable beaches in California that also have lifeguards on duty (usually during peak season):
- Santa Monica State Beach
- Coronado Beach
- Paradise Cove
- Hermosa Beach
- Mission Beach
- Newport Beach
- Stinson Beach
- Pismo State Beach
- Hendry’s Beach
- Long Beach City Beach
- Emma Wood State Beach
- Half Moon Bay Beach
- Carlsbad State Beach
- Venice Beach
- Huntington City Beach
- La Jolla Cove
California beaches are seriously some of the best! Hang out on white-sand beaches, play beach sports, and enjoy water activities. California is a top spot for exploring nature in incredible weather.
Whether you’re looking to relax or get adventurous, California’s coast has it all! It’s a paradise for solo travelers, families, surfers, and everyone in between.
We hope our guide to the best California beaches has you excited to plan your next seaside adventure!