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The Best Beaches to Play Volleyball in Southern California
Health & Fitness

The Best Beaches to Play Volleyball in Southern California

Morgan Martin

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6 min read

June 17, 2021

Southern California is known as the beach volleyball capital of the world, and not just because of the warm sand and endless summers. The California coast is studded with volleyball courts and people of all ages and skill levels come to play. Public courts are available to everyone; here in the Golden State beach volleyball is more of a lifestyle than a sport—everyone is welcome. 

Playing volleyball on the coast has so much to offer: warm sun on your shoulders, cool breeze ruffling your hair, sweat on your brow, friendly competition, and sparkling oceans. With that in mind, here are the best beaches to play volleyball in Southern California. This list was compiled with consideration of court availability, equipment quality, parking ease, and community enthusiasm. For those trying volleyball for the first time, don’t forget sunglasses, sunscreen, and a water bottle for a positive experience.

On a hot, summer Saturday, is there anything better than heading to the beach with your friends to play volleyball?

Best Beach for Volleyball in San Diego: South Mission Beach

Starting the list closest to the Mexican border, South Mission Beach is a destination with something for everyone. There’s a basketball court, park area with grills, and lifeguard station for camps. The ocean here is calm thanks to surrounding jetties, but while it may be perfect frolicking water be sure to stingray shuffle. For those on the beach looking for quiet sunshine, there’s plenty of open sand to lounge and relax on without fear of stray projectiles from sport. South Mission is perfectly situated for all-day fun in the sun. Plus, the South Mission parking lot is free, but fills up quickly on beautiful summer days. 

This San Diego beach boasts over a dozen volleyball nets, and each has permanent lines and local rules included. Soft sand and warm sun pairs well with the hum of excitement. Locals love to use this gorgeous beach as often as they can, and busy weekends often cause a volleyball overflow to the northern courts. Passion and comradery are cornerstones to the community. Don’t forget your water bottle and play your heart out

Food options nearest to this beach are limited—Sara’s Mexican Food makes a mean burrito though. More food options can be found by driving north closer to the boardwalk. Nearby, there’s a permanent amusement park, Belmont Park, where fried treats and roller coasters can be enjoyed. Some rides give the thrill only a wooden track can provide while other attractions take your breath away with huge drops. The thrill of amusement parks doesn’t stop here, because when splashing around San Diego you’re in perfect proximity to the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park (one of the best zoos in the U.S.), Legoland, and Midway Museum. 

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Best Beach for Volleyball in Orange County: Huntington Beach Pier

Surf City USA has always been iconic, but Huntington has maintained the laid-back surfer aesthetic throughout the years. The waves are rad at this Orange County beach, but the volleyball scene is even better. Over a dozen courts on either side of the pier host a wide range of talent; everyone from Olympians to beginners enjoy the nets and camaraderie the pier has to offer. A wide range of volleyball lovers play every week and create a party-like afternoon, the young and old through all levels of skill all next to one another. The pier is a wonderful spot to play, and if you aren't careful you’ll spend the whole day on the sand.

Sure the sand is dusty, but where else will you play volleyball while giant bubbles float overhead? Or live bands set up shop next to the lemonade stand? Or a lone clarinet player serenading from the pier? Downtown Huntington also features a glorious assortment of fast food and restaurants. There aren't any stand-out local eateries (save Jan’s Health Bar, of course), but everything is tasty.

If beach volleyball isn't your favorite sport, are you even from California? All jokes aside, beach volleyball is the way to go.

SoCal Honorable Mention: Doheny State Beach

This SoCal paradise features half a dozen easily adjustable volleyball nets with permanent lines. Doheny (or Doh-ho to locals) is perfect for beginners to try their hand at volleyball. Gentle waves and a spacious parking lot makes this SoCal beach Dana Point’s best little staycation spot. Somehow this palm-tree-shrouded bike-path-criss-crossed beach gives the comforting feeling of an unbothered beach.

It's a fact that the gorgeous volleyball players play at Manhattan Beach. So, grab your friends and go!

Best Pier for L.A. Beach Volleyball: Manhattan Beach Pier

Los Angeles features a plethora of lively beaches but this pier tops them all. Not only is the area full of volleyball courts, nets included, but tasty food can be found on every corner. Restaurants, take-out, and sweet treats are high quality, and can be enjoyed on the expansive stretch of sand.

Manhattan Beach—aka one of the best places to live in Southern California—is spacious and there are no shortages of courts. The pier itself features rows of nets, and courts have been built to suit the needs of locals down the coast. So, finding an open volleyball court is as easy as looking north and south. The sand here is deep, meaning diving will have a soft landing, but running around will be a challenge.

This Los Angeles pier is embedded with beach volleyball history. Home to the legendary Manhattan Beach Open, the names of champions are cemented on the pier walkway. By forever immortalizing the legends who won America’s greatest beach volleyball tournament, Manhattan pays homage to the sport that shaped so much of its culture. This beach is also home to the illustrious and wild Manhattan 6-Man, in which the bars of Manhattan Beach Boulevard fuel a massive six vs six tournament. That’s the Manhattan motto: play hard, party hard.

It's got beach, volleyball, and party vibes. Head to Santa Monica for endless weekend fun in the sun.

SoCal Beach Volleyball Honorable Mention: Santa Monica Pier

This pier wasn’t selected because of the infuriating parking. No free parking can be found and navigating the bustling streets adds unnecessary stress to your beach day. This pier is more boisterous than Manhattan, almost bordering on hectic. 

All said and done, what fun. There are plentiful courts on the north side of the pier and a handful of courts south side next to the famous Muscle Beach exercise park. The pier is literally and figuratively a carnival and people here tend to dress the part. Santa Monica is a blast and is easily one of the best beaches in Southern California from the boardwalk to the ocean.

The sand and sunshine are waiting for you and your volleyball crew to arrive. So c'mon, let the good times roll!

Best Beach for Volleyball in Santa Barbara County: East Beach

This is an excellent lounging beach, the soft sand and large trees provide a calm ambiance perfect for napping. The waves here are usually quite calm and there’s a steady stream of people running or walking dogs. East Beach—one of the best beaches in Santa Barbara—neighbors the wharf, where restaurants and nightlife can be found, but stays just far enough away to avoid noisy traffic or loud tourists. Even the parking situation is welcoming. There are tons of free spots next to the courts for your convenience.

Should you decide to play volleyball too, there are over a dozen courts to choose from. Nets are up permanently and there’s often someone playing already. The abundance of volleyball courts has fostered a tight knit community as well as educational programs. Kick your feet up and enjoy the cool breeze and ocean waves.

Pack your ball 'cause it's time to hit the court! Listen to the sound of the rolling waves as you take the win!

Top Central Coast Volleyball Beach: San Luis Obispo Pismo Pier

This region certainly isn’t known for volleyball (better known for the best Central Coast getaways), but Pismo Pier is nothing if not adaptive. This mellow beach town has committed to the Southern California beach volleyball aesthetic: surfers don wetsuits year-round for meager waves, adorable shops lure in tourists even on gloomy days, and volleyball players enjoy public courts despite strong wind. The downtown area is busy with nightlife and unique eateries—perfect for a romantic stroll.

The courts themselves are located on the north side of the pier. The sand here is fine and a bit dark, so warm days tend to make the sand very hot (bring socks just in case). This beach is known for its windy and secluded vibe. Tucked in the corner of the beach, these dozen courts have half the nets up permanently and a few have permanent lines. While the wind may be a challenge for beginners, it usually only blows late in the day. This quiet beach is an ideal location for shy people to learn a new skill.

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