15 Best Beaches in Southern California

California is known for some of the most stunning beaches in the world! If you’re looking for the best beaches in Southern California, you have so many to choose from. However, we’ve narrowed down the top 15 Southern California beaches for you to choose your perfect beach destination!

15 best southern California beaches

Southern California boasts sandy beaches along the Pacific coast and excellent vacation destinations. Pair your beach adventure with water sports, camping, biking, and more.

Let’s take a look at some incredible seaside spots to get you on your way!

1. El Matador State Beach, Malibu

El Matador State Beach offers one of the most beautiful seascapes in Malibu.
El Matador State Beach offers one of the most beautiful seascapes in Malibu. (Credit: Ivanova Ksenia/Shutterstock)

Although it’s conveniently located off Pacific Coast Highway, beachgoers love the secluded beach feel El Matador State Beach offers. With that said, it can get more crowded during the summer. Enjoy incredible ocean views from steep and rugged cliffs, which are accessible only by a steep trail leading to the shore.

Cliffs, rock formations, and sea caves resemble a setting from the tv show Game of Thrones. After a day of swimming and relaxing at El Matador Beach, stick around for one of the best sunset sceneries around.

While there isn’t a whole lot of restaurants or accommodations right by El Matador Beach, there are plenty if you drive about 10 minutes to Malibu city.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Go for a hike
  • Join the photographers and take gorgeous photos
  • Visit Sunset Point Nature Preserve
  • Take surfing lessons with Malibu Makos

2. La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego County

La Jolla Shores Beach is the perfect vacation destination where you can enjoy wildlife sightseeing, water adventures, and other activities.
La Jolla Shores Beach is the perfect vacation destination where you can enjoy wildlife sightseeing, water adventures, and other activities. (Credit: achinthamb/Shutterstock)

La Jolla Shores Beach is one of the top beaches in Southern California for beachgoers looking for a fun vacation. Whether you’re looking for luxury or a laid-back trip, you’ll love La Jolla. This California coast town is filled with fun, and the beach is a 1-mile stretch where you can find a lifeguard on duty all year long.

Visitors enjoy swimming, relaxing, and playing beach sports. Other exciting beach activities include kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing. If you’re interested in seeing sea life, La Jolla is one of the places to do it! You can go snorkeling and catch sightings of sea lions, seals, fish, and more.

There’s plenty to do around the beach, too. You can find tons of shopping and dining experiences around La Jolla Shores Beach. La Jolla is also known for its art galleries. If you’re interested in making a vacation out of it, there are plenty of accommodations in the area.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

3. Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica

Santa Monica Beach is filled with activities and one of the best beaches in the area for families.
Santa Monica Beach is filled with activities and one of the best beaches in the area for families. (Credit: Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock)

Just an 8-mile drive from the Los Angeles International Airport, Santa Monica State Beach is filled with exciting beach activities. It’s one of the few Southern California beaches that offers large expanses of sandy beaches.

At the beach, visitors enjoy surfing, rollerblading, and skateboarding. The sunset is also amazing! The Santa Monica Pier is a great place to go fishing. It also features an amusement park, concession stands, and beautiful scenery.

With over 3.5 miles of beach, you can find plenty to do nearby. There are many popular shops, restaurants, and hotels along the coast. 

The Annenberg Community Beach House is a public attraction located at the far north end of the state beach. With a vast parking lot that runs along the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s very easy to access. This beach facility has spectacular views, a playground, a splash pad, fitness gyms, and other activities. Families especially love this spot!

Nearby Activities and Attractions

4. Zuma Beach, Malibu

Zuma Beach is a hikers dream with lots of trails nearby.
Zuma Beach is a hikers dream with lots of trails nearby. (Credit: vivooo/Shutterstock)

If you’ve ever seen Baywatch, Zuma Beach may look familiar to you. This almost two-mile-long beach boasts over 105 acres of beach fun. While beachgoers find that Zuma’s water is colder than other nearby beaches, the white sands and activities make it a popular spot!

Zuma beach is a convenient location with tons of parking spaces and plenty of amenities, including restaurants, restrooms, beach wheelchairs, and volleyball nets. 

At Zuma Beach, you can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. It’s also a great place to go whale-watching during winter migration.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

5. Venice Beach

Venice Beach is an iconic bustling city and beach destination that's always filled with people enjoying exciting activities.
Venice Beach is an iconic bustling city and beach destination that’s always filled with people enjoying exciting activities. (Credit: Joakim Lloyd Raboff/Shutterstock)

Venice is one of the most lively California coastal towns and one of the busiest beaches. If you’re looking for an entertaining time, you’ll love Venice Beach and the surrounding areas. You can find the Venice Beach Boardwalk, parks, and 3 miles of coastline. In fact, the boardwalk is the 2nd most visited destination in Southern California, with around 10 million visitors each year.

At Venice Beach, you can enjoy street performers and vendors. The Venice Recreation Center has numerous activities, including basketball, handball tournaments, paddle tennis, gym, bodybuilding, and other events. 

Additionally, Venice Beach features a bike path, playgrounds, a fishing pier, and a world-renowned skate plaza. Its facilities, such as the skate plaza, pier, and sports courts, are open to the general public every day. You may even spot film productions happening at the beach. 

While Venice Beach is full of activities, the sandy stretch is also a great place to sunbathe and rest. You can also take a swim and enjoy water activities in the ocean. If you’re interested in fishing, there’s also a fishing pier at Venice Beach.

If you’re looking to spend your next beach vacation here, there are tons of accommodations around the Venice Beach area.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Spend time on the beach and boardwalk
  • Hit the volleyball courts or other sports courts
  • Hang out at the rec center and skatepark
  • Go shopping
  • Check out the Mosaic Tile House, a quirky art gallery
  • Dine at seaside restaurants

6. Newport Beach

Whether you’re looking for a fun or relaxing day trip or beach vacation, the charming Newport Beach is the place to go.
Whether you’re looking for a fun or relaxing day trip or beach vacation, the charming Newport Beach is the place to go. (Credit: Anthony Ricci/Shutterstock)

Newport Beach is one of the most charming coastal cities in Southern California and offers over 8 miles of sandy beaches. Whether you’re looking for a fun or relaxing day trip or beach vacation, Newport Beach is the place to go.

At the beach, you can enjoy swimming, fishing, surfing, and other water adventures. Newport Beach is also home to the largest recreational pier on the west coast. Enjoy incredible views, dining, and shopping on the pier.

And, if you’re looking to catch jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets, Newport Beach has you covered!

Around the area, you can explore unique neighborhoods each with its own personality. Visitors enjoy shopping, dining, and wine tasting.

If you’re interested in spending a few days in Newport Beach, there are plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in the area.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Seek peace on an island – Fashion and Balboa Island are close by
  • Enjoy donuts at Newport’s staple, Seaside Donuts Bakery
  • Hang out on the Newport Beach Pier where you can fish, dine, and shop
  • Rent a bike and explore the area

7. Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach is one of the best beaches in Southern California for a casual, relaxing beach experience.
Hermosa Beach is one of the best beaches in Southern California for a casual, relaxing beach experience. (Credit: Denis Um/Shutterstock)

Hermosa Beach is one of the most popular LA beaches and beach towns for those looking to relax. If you’re looking for SoCal beaches, this is it! It’s a part of a trio of a few of the best beaches in Southern California, along with Manhattan and Redondo Beach.

Hermosa Beach has the smallest population of the three, and it’s the most laid-back. Around town, you’re more likely to see surfers and skateboarders than you are spas. It’s the perfect spot to lounge around in your swimsuit and flip-flops.

Enjoy two miles of oceanfront and almost 100 acres of beach at Hermosa. Visitors enjoy swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and playing beach volleyball.

If you’re looking to enjoy an especially fun time, visit on Labor Day weekend for the annual Fiesta Hermosa – the largest event for arts and crafts in Southern California. Over 300 artists come together with locals and tourists to show off their masterpieces. There’s also live music, a petting zoo, and lots of rides.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Hang out on the Hermosa Beach Pier
  • Go standup paddleboarding
  • Labor Day weekend – Fiesta Hermosa
  • Visit The Lighthouse Cafe, a jazz club with live music and good food
  • Have a beer at Hermosa Brewing Company

8. Laguna Beach

If you’re looking for beach adventures, coves, and art galleries, head to one of the most beautiful coastal cities in Orange County – Laguna Beach.
If you’re looking for beach adventures, coves, and art galleries, head to one of the most beautiful coastal cities in Orange County – Laguna Beach. (Credit: Debbie Eckert/Shutterstock)

Not only is Laguna Beach one of the best Southern California beaches, but it’s also one of the most beautiful California coastal towns. Only 40 miles from LA, Laguna Beach is the perfect seaside vacation destination. Enjoy beach adventures, art galleries, and incredible views. 

While there are several great beaches in the area, the main beach is a favorite. Surfers flock to Laguna Beach where there are excellent surf breaks. It’s also a great place for a swim or relaxing on or playing in the sand.

If you’re looking for adventures, there are beach equipment rentals around the area. Enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, and more.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

9. Santa Catalina Island

Hop on a ferry and head over to the beautiful Santa Catalina Island.
Hop on a ferry and head over to the beautiful Santa Catalina Island. (Credit: Christian Tjernagel/Shutterstock)

Santa Catalina Island is a paradise off the Southern California coastline. This picture-perfect island is 22 miles away from the busy mainland. It’s accessible by ferry, a 1-hour ride, or by helicopter for a quicker trip.

You’re immediately welcomed by locals when you arrive on the island, where adventures await you. South Catalina Island boasts white sands and pristine beaches. You can enjoy tons of water activities on the beach, including paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, and jet skiing.

There is also a lot to enjoy away from the beach. Go golfing, ziplining, hiking, and more. If you’re looking to spend the night, there are accommodations on the island, including hotels and campsites.

While many families visit Santa Catalina Island during the summer and on weekends, it’s one of the best beaches in Southern California for peace and quiet during the less busy times.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

10. Manhattan State Beach

Manhattan State Beach is one of the best surf and volley beaches in Southern California.
Manhattan State Beach is one of the best surf and volley beaches in Southern California. (Credit: Andy Konieczny/Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for the perfect Southern California beach for surfing and volleyball, Manhattan State Beach is the place to go! Just north of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach spans over 2 miles. You can find about 50 volleyball courts and awesome waves.

Enjoy playing volleyball, surfing, and swimming. The most popular surfing spot at Manhattan State Beach is on the far north end in an area known as El Porto. If you’re interested in surf lessons, you can find that at El Porto.

For fishing opportunities and picturesque scenery, check out the Manhattan Beach Pier. The pier also offers the perfect photo-op with a roundhouse featuring a red roof and turquoise railing.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

11. Coronado Beach, Coronado Island

There's something for everyone at Coronado Beach, even the furry family members.
There’s something for everyone at Coronado Beach, even the furry family members. (Credit: Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for amazing beaches near San Diego, check out Coronado Beach. Located across the bridge from downtown San Diego, Coronado features a long sandy beach ready for visitors to enjoy their beach day.

Beachgoers enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and surfing at Coronado Beach. The flat sands also offer a great space to seacomb and skimboard. 

If you’re visiting with your pet, check out the less crowded Coronado Beach & Dog Park, north of the main beach, where furry beachgoers are welcome.

Coronado Beach is the perfect place to hop on a bike and explore. You can find shopping, ice cream shops, and delicious restaurants. There are bike rentals in the area, too.

If you’re looking to spend the night, there are plenty of accommodations in Coronado, including the famous Hotel del Coronado.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Relax and swim at the beach
  • Give yourself a bike tour
  • Look out for sand sculptures created by The Sandcastle Man
  • Visit the parks (so many to choose from!)
  • Look for the resurfaced sunken ship, just off the western coast of the beach
  • Try seafood at the dog-friendly, waterfront Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill
  • Explore downtown San Diego

12. Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach earned its nickname as Surf City because of its long stretch of beautiful beaches and excellent surfing spots.
Huntington Beach earned its nickname as Surf City because of its long stretch of beautiful beaches and excellent surfing spots. (Credit: lunamarina/Shutterstock)

Just 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles is Huntington Beach is one of the best vacation spots in California, especially if you’re a surfer or really any kind of beach bum! There’s also plenty to do in the city, from world-class dining to ample outdoor activities.

Huntington Beach is also referred to as the ‘Surf City’ because of the magnificent waves.  It’s famous for its 9.5-mile long sandy beach and mild climate, ideal for water adventures of all kinds.

The Huntington Beach Pier is almost 2,000 feet long, one of the longest on the West Coast. It juts out into the Pacific Ocean and offers unmatched views. You can also enjoy fishing, dining, and shopping.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

13. Two Harbors, Catalina Island

If you’re looking for an island getaway that offers opportunities for outdoor adventures and relaxing, Two Harbors is perfect for you.
If you’re looking for an island getaway that offers opportunities for outdoor adventures and relaxing, Two Harbors is perfect for you. (Credit: kesterhu/Shutterstock)

Two Harbors is located just north of Catalina Island, also on an island about 22 miles off the Southern California coast. It’s accessible by ferry or helicopter.

Two Harbors is laid back and offers a lot of beach activities and outdoor adventures.

At Harbors Beach, you can go scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, or paddleboarding. The soft sands and giant palm tree are great for relaxing seaside.

For adventures away from the water, there are plenty of hiking trails with magnificent views of the harbor. The trails circumnavigate the whole island.

For a true journey, go backpacking for a few days and experience the Trans-Catalina trail from Two Harbors to Avalon.

There are plenty of accommodations nearby, including hotels, cabins, and campgrounds.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Rent recreation equipment from Dive & Recreation Center
  • Relax on the beach
  • Look out for bison wandering around
  • Go on a hike with Catalina Island Conservancy

14. 1000 Steps Beach, Orange County

Head down about 200 steps to arrive at the incredible 1000 Steps Beach.
Head down about 200 steps to arrive at the incredible 1000 Steps Beach. (Credit: SunflowerMomma/Shutterstock)

While there are steps to take before arriving at 1000 Steps Beach (or Thousand Steps Beach), there are only about 200 steps in all reality. And each one is well worth taking because they lead you to the gorgeous sandy beach with magnificent views.

Because of the extra effort to get there, 1000 Steps Beach is one of the least crowded beaches in Southern California. It’s the perfect spot for those looking for some peace and quiet.

Once you arrive, you’ll be ready to relax and take in the views. The beach also features many beautiful caves, which can be accessed only during low tides for safety purposes. One of these caves brings you to the secluded Totuava Beach featuring incredible tide pools.

1000 Steps Beach is a great place to swim and surf, too. For more adventure, go scuba diving or snorkeling. Lifeguards are on duty, and there are plenty of restrooms nearby.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Enjoy water activities like swimming, surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling
  • Explore caves and tide pools
  • Go hiking at Laguna Beach Cliff Hike

15. San Onofre State Beach

One of the most beautiful Southern California beaches is the San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente, an hour’s drive north of San Diego.
One of the most beautiful Southern California beaches is the San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente, an hour’s drive north of San Diego. (Credit: WJ Media Design/Shutterstock)

San Onofre State Beach is one of the busiest South California beaches, attracting around 2.5 million visitors annually. The beach boasts several miles of beautiful sandy beaches with fantastic sandstone cliffs and magnificent 360-degree views.

The state park is a popular spot for surfers. It features incredible bluffs and a campground, too. You’ll even find van campers parked right on the beach, enjoying the beautiful views.

You can also go fishing, biking, and kayaking at the beach. You can even do some birdwatching.

For a great sunset, stick around San Onofre State Beach for the early evening. There are plenty of amenities, including restrooms, showers, fire pits, picnic tables.

Nearby Activities and Attractions

  • Enjoy water activities, including fishing, surfing, and swimming
  • Go camping
  • Hit the trails around the beach
  • Keep an eye out for whales, dolphins, and sea lions

Enjoy the Best Southern California Beaches

Southern CA beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world! Whether you’re looking to relax, enjoy water sports, or some of both – there’s something for everyone at the best beaches in SoCal.

Southern California is the perfect spot for a day trip to the ocean or a beach vacation. We hope you’ve found your perfect beach spot!

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