A Guide to Accessible Beaches in California

A Guide to Accessible Beaches in California

By California.com
August 04, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe. 

The California coastline is heaven on earth. You can listen to the melodic music of the waves as they gently crash against the shore, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, and look up at the bright blue skies. Whether you are seeking an undiscovered beach scene or a bustling boardwalk by the waterfront, the Golden State’s best beaches worth visiting satisfy any interest. Many of the most beautiful beaches are wheelchair accessible, too, so everyone can experience the nation’s greatest coastline. Complete with beach wheelchairs, handicap beach access, and easy-to-navigate oceanside pathways, these are the top accessible beaches in California.

California’s Best Accessible Beaches

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Silver Strand Beach

Explore all that the one-mile stretch of Silver Strand Beach has to offer. Sit back, relax, and bask in the sun.

Location: 2525 Ocean Drive, Oxnard

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Free on-site parking

Amenities: Lifeguard, restrooms, showers, walking path, volleyball courts, and accessible features

Dogs allowed: Dogs are allowed on-leash before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

A one-mile stretch of sand, Silver Strand Beach is definitely a top choice in Ventura County. Nestled between Channel Islands Harbor and Port of Hueneme, this beach is ideal for sunbathers, activity-seekers, and families. Silver Strand is also a great place to sit back, unpack your picnic, and observe the boats floating by.

On the northern end of the beach, you’ll find the wheelchair-accessible ramp, guiding visitors to a terrace overlooking the harbor (it's a great vista point, so linger here to watch the surfers break the crashing waves ). Just three miles away, the Oxnard Beach Park is another accessible destination that’s home to beautiful beach views, verdant expanses, free barbecue areas, and paved paths.

Thanks to its central location, there are plenty of restaurants (try out Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine or The Waterside Restaurant) and attractions at the nearby Channel Islands Harbor. While you’re there, pick up fresh fruits from the Channel Islands Certified Farmer’s Market. Then, cool off at the wheelchair-accessible Channel Islands Maritime Museum or enjoy a play at the Elite Theater Company, which produces the highest-quality theater in Ventura County.

Santa Monica State Beach

Spend some time at the beautiful Santa Monica State Beach before enjoying the ocean vistas from above on the iconic pier.

Location: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

Hours: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

Parking: There is accessible parking in several nearby lots and on the street.

Amenities: Beach wheelchair, restroom, picnic tables, and showers

Dogs allowed: Dogs are not allowed on the beach but are permitted on the pier on-leash.

A Santa Monica getaway is calling your name. Santa Monica State Beach attracts locals, tourists, surfers, and street performers alike—and for good reason. This pretty beach, the Ocean Front Walk, and the Santa Monica Pier are easily accessible and motorized wheelchairs are available for rent.

When you are done enjoying the beach, head to the 1,600-foot Santa Monica Pier and stop by Heal the Bay Aquarium at the end of the pier to study more than 100 species of marine animals and plants. Observe the microscopic maritime life and make sure to check out the Red Octopus, Rocky Reef, and Kelp Forest exhibitions. 

The Santa Monica Ocean Front Walk is also worth checking out; this paved walkway runs parallel to the ocean, extending from the pier. Lined with grass and towering palm trees, the path provides excellent Pacific Ocean vistas on one side and spectacular city views on the other.

For fine dining and shopping, make your way to the Third Street Promenade. You can browse the stores and satisfy your hunger at 1212 Santa Monica or Dialogue.

Seal Beach And Municipal Pier

Orange County's Seal Beach is full of character and is home to one of the Golden State's longest wooden piers.

Location: Ocean Avenue and Main Street, Seal Beach

Hours: 4:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

Parking: Parking lots are available around the beach.

Amenities: Lifeguards, restrooms, basketball courts, picnic tables, and showers

Dogs allowed: No

Situated south of the San Gabriel River, the mile-long Seal Beach is a popular Orange County destination. At the start of Seal Beach’s Main Street, you’ll find the Community Safety Building, where you can rent wheelchairs needed to navigate the beachside. The foot of Main Street leads you directly to the wide, sandy beach. Before you leave the oceanfront, head over to the Seal Beach Municipal Pier—spanning 1,865 feet, it is the second-longest wooden pier in California—to enjoy the view and feel the saltwater lightly spray your skin.  

Coronado Tidelands Park

Take a ferry ride to the magnificent Coronado Island to enjoy a day of fun under the sun at Coronado Tidelands Park.

Location: Bayshore Bikeway (Silver Strand Bikeway), Coronado

Hours: 6 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

Parking: Parking is available in the on-site lot.

Amenities: Restrooms and picnic tables

Dogs allowed: Yes, on-leash

Located along the shores of Coronado, Tidelands Park is well-equipped with paved paths, picnic tables, public art, and a sandy beach. It’s an adventure to get here; take a short ferry trip (check the Coronado Ferry schedule) from San Diego to Coronado (which is home to one of the best beaches in San Diego). Along your journey, be on the lookout for sea otters, brown pelicans, and sea lions. 

When you are done exploring Tidelands Park, enjoy a scenic, one-mile journey to Centennial Park. With vibrant rose gardens and looming palm trees, this grassy expanse lies in the middle of two sandy beaches. The views of the downtown San Diego skyline are hard to beat here, making it a photographer’s delight—especially when the city is bathed in sunset light or the twinkling building lights are reflecting onto the bay. 

When you need a break from the sun, head to the Coronado Ferry Landing, a palm tree–lined outdoor mall filled with touristic shops and some of the best waterfront restaurants, including Peohe’s.

Seacliff State Beach

Welcome to the paradisaical land of Santa Cruz County's Seacliff State Beach, where you can admire the crashing waves and soft sands.

Location: State Park Drive, Aptos

Hours: 8 a.m.–6 p.m.

Parking: Park in the lot by the beach.

Amenities: Campground, fishing pier, restrooms, showers, lifeguards, picnic tables, and barbecues

Dogs allowed: Yes, on-leash

Extending about a mile along the Monterey Bay, Seacliff State Beach offers seaside escapes for all. Once you head down the steep ramp, the soft sands await you. You can also fish, enjoy a picnic, and explore the visitor center, which displays the area’s historical ecology. The 500-foot-long pier connects to the shore, too, so make your way over there to enjoy a lovely meal with a view at Persephone—be on the lookout for sea lions and other marine wildlife in the waters below. The pier also provides spectacular vistas of the SS Palo Alto (also known as “The Cement Boat.”) Built during World War I, this boat was rockin’ in style until the Great Depression hit in the early 1930s. Bring your binoculars along to get an up-close glimpse of the birds that love to perch on the boat. 

Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach is a little slice of heaven in Pacific Grove. With a boardwalk and fantastic views, this beach is a definite must-see.

Location: Sunset Drive, Pacific Grove

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: There is free parking available in the state beach lot.

Amenities: No restrooms, no showers, and no picnic tables

Dogs allowed: Yes, on-leash

Asilomar State Beach, located in Pacific Grove, is a mile-long ribbon of white sand, with a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fantastic views of the waves. Beach wheelchairs are available, too, so you can get closer to the azure waters. 

Pay a visit to the nearby Asilomar Conference Grounds to see the gorgeous, 107-acre ecologically diverse beachfront. This celebrated “Refuge by the Sea” also offers cozy cottages and historic lodges, so consider staying here for a serene weekend getaway. If you’re in the mood to feast on sustainable, local, award-winning seafood, head to Passionfish and end your day on a high note

Pismo State Beach

Complete with campgrounds and trails, Pismo State Beach is the perfect place for a relaxing and reinvigorating day.

Location: 555 Pier Avenue, Oceano

Hours: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

Parking: Parking is available next to the beach.

Amenities: Lifeguard, restrooms, showers, and picnic tables

Dogs allowed: Yes, on-leash

Heaven can be found along the seven miles of Pismo State Beach. This Central Coast destination stretches south from Pismo Beach to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, passing through the towns of Grover Beach and Oceano. The promenade features a great vehicle-free pathway to enjoy views of the shoreline.

Beach campgrounds—such as the Ocean Campground and North Beach Campground—and trails are also accessible for exploration. The Ocean Campground is home to the Pismo Beach Nature Center, where you can see animal specimens, learn the history of Chumash culture, and admire native plants. There is also a wheelchair-accessible trail located nearby, which is great for bird watching. (If you arrive between late October and February, observe one of California’s largest monarch butterfly colonies in the eucalyptus grove just off of Highway 1, near the North Beach Campground.)

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