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It’s time to rock that beach bod, so don your favorite swimsuit and pack your shades, mineral sunscreen, and beach towel. The sand is waiting and the waves are rolling, so put on your flip flops and head straight to one (or all) of the best beaches in Los Angeles.
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This quintessential SoCal beach is 1.8 miles of pure beauty, featuring golden sands and brilliant blue waters made for surfing, swimming, windsurfing, and fishing. With 105 acres of land and eight parking lots, Zuma Beach is also easily accessible and worth the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Don’t worry about the amenities; this Malibu destination has it all—showers, bathrooms, volleyball nets, beach wheelchairs, and a bus stop.
You can even find fabulous restaurants right along the shoreline. Check out Neptune’s Net (located off of the PCH) for scrumptious fresh seafood, or head to the Trancas Country Market (also located off of the PCH), where you’ll find several restaurants and a local market selling organic, gourmet products.
Malibu Lagoon State Beach is the place for surfers and swimmers. After all, it’s home to the famous Malibu Surfrider Beach—one of the best surfing spots in L.A. Situated between the Malibu Lagoon and the Malibu Pier, this surfer’s haven has a super long right-hand break that’s perfect for riding waves.
You can also spend the day swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, playing volleyball, lounging on the pristine shore, and admiring the views at Malibu Lagoon State Beach. (Make sure you stay for the fabulous golden hour.) Picnic tables and a nature area for bird watching are found here, too.
If you want to catch your evening meal, the adjacent Malibu Pier offers a prime spot for saltwater fishing. But if you’re a bit of a history buff, take a guided tour of the nearby Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum. Built with Spanish and Moorish influences, this National Historic Site and California State Historic Landmark is decorated with extensive colorful tilework, which has been well-maintained and unchanged from its original glory.
Huntington Beach, aka “Surf City USA,” is the ideal place to surf to your heart’s content. Not into surfing? Don’t worry, Huntington State Beach has got you covered. Between the kayaking, Duffy boats, stand-up paddleboarding, and luxurious private yacht tours, there’s an activity to suit your mood. It’s definitely one of the chillest beaches in SoCal, and there are plenty of parking and hotel options. Simply decide where you want to set up, and the rest is easy—just make sure to pack up some marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, because building bonfires is highly encouraged here. You can also enjoy a romantic stroll on the famed Huntington Beach Pier. Measuring 1,850 feet in length, this pier is among the longest on the West Coast.
If you need a change of pace, keep boredom at bay by beach hopping your way through Huntington’s four other premier beaches: Huntington City Beach, Huntington Dog Beach, Bolsa Chica State Beach, and Sunset Beach. Or, head to downtown Huntington Beach to do a bit of shopping and grab a bite to eat at any of the delicious eateries along the waterfront. And if you like to skate, make sure to go to the Vans Off the Wall Skatepark—one of the top skate parks in California—to keep the good times rollin’ while you’re in town.
This bohemian, soulful destination is perfect for those who love to people watch, skate, and eat at trendy hot spots. While strolling the Venice Beach Boardwalk, admire the colorful murals and talented street performers. Need to get a workout in? Walk over to Muscle Beach and get your sweat on. For the surfers, the Venice Breakwater is a prominent local surf spot and a wonderful place for beginners to take lessons (check out Go Surf LA).
Like Huntington Beach, Venice has an awesome skate park, so if that’s what you’re into, you should definitely stop by. Thankfully, there are three public parking lots and several private lots by both the popular beach and boardwalk, but come early to get your spot!
This gorgeous beach in Malibu is an idyllic place to bring your dates (especially if you’re trying to impress a Libra). Sea caves with a crystal clear view of sea lion colonies, bird flocks, and seaweed-covered stones complete the stunning beach scene. Especially at sunrise or sunset, you’ll see photographers capturing this exquisite locale. Due to limited parking (only 20 spots, available from 8:00 am to sunset), it’s difficult for this beach to be overcrowded, but you might want to have a backup plan in case you can’t nab a spot. Once you’ve parked, take the trail down to the beach where paradise awaits you.
Ever wonder where the historic Route 66 ends? That’s right, at the iconic Santa Monica Pier, which is perched along the soft sands of Santa Monica State Beach. This is where the fun begins in Santa Monica. Whether you want to play arcade games and try a trapeze class or go swimming and surfing on the beach, this place has it all. You can even rent a bike (or bring your own) and ride along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail.
Don’t worry about packing a snack, either, because just a bit inland, a wonderful dining experience awaits you at Third Street Promenade. For our beach town shoppers, the stores in this district are phenomenal, too, so if you need a break from the sun, the Promenade is the way to go. There’s parking by the pier and inland by the Promenade, so you can easily leave the car behind and explore.
This dazzling public Malibu beach has been the film location for many Hollywood movies, and when you arrive, you’ll see why. Paradise Cove is a spectacular place where you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the wide, sandy beach or take a dip in the ocean. Plus, if you’re here for under four hours and eat at the Paradise Cove Cafe, then parking is either inexpensive or free, depending on the day. All-day parking can be a bit pricey, but beautiful views, a private pier, and clean facilities definitely make it all worthwhile.
Do yourself a favor and add this beach in Malibu to your bucket list. Super secluded and practically private, Carbon Beach makes you feel like a superstar, especially when you consider you’re in the company of billionaires (hence the nickname). Many tech CEOs, entertainment moguls, and celebrities own gorgeous houses overlooking the beach here, so soak it all up as you spend the afternoon digging your toes into the soft, warm sand and splashing in the calm water.
Definitely one of the more elegant beaches, Manhattan Beach offers plenty of ideal photo ops and selfie spots. A great place to snap a pic is at the Manhattan Beach Pier. Palm trees and bright, turquoise steel railings line the pier, leading you to the red-roofed Roundhouse Aquarium (officially known as the Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium) at the end of the pier. With the ocean in the background, it’s definitely picture-perfect, so you better do it for the ’gram.
Once you’re done snapping pics, check out the aquarium before leaving the pier to lounge on the pristine, sandy beach and play a game of volleyball. While you’re in town, also check out the chic boutiques and designer retailers, world-class ocean view dining, and farmers market.
Which beach will you visit first? Let us know in the comments below.
Ani is the content manager for California.com. She savors her time discovering California's hidden gems and writing about the hottest spots in town. She's got an unquenchable thirst for adventur…
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