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The Most Beautiful Beaches in California

The Most Beautiful Beaches in California

Whether you’re seeking solitude, impressive surf spots, or epic sunsets, you can find it all at the prettiest beaches in California.


6 min read

December 18, 2020

Whether you’re seeking solitude or lively shores; shallow waters or impressive surf spots; decked-out boardwalks or wild coastlines—the Golden State has it all. If you ask anyone to describe California, the word "beach" is bound to be included. The Golden State’s 800-plus miles of coastline are to thank for the presence of some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. 

The prettiest beaches in California

Itching to hit the beach? Get ready to grab the mineral sunscreen, fill the ice chest with healthy snacks and refreshing kombucha, and head to some of the most swoon-worthy beach towns in the state. No matter where you go, a day of adventure awaits you. From the north to the south, here are the most beautiful beaches in California.

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The Most Beautiful Beaches in Northern California

Northern California's glorious Rodeo Beach will leave you speechless. It's time to make your way to these sandy shores.

Rodeo Beach

Location: Marin County

Tucked between Rodeo Cove and Rodeo Lagoon, on the west side of the Marin Headlands, this pet-friendly beach is one of the most picturesque locations in Northern California. The stunning beach is covered in red and green pebbles and is merely two miles away from the Golden Gate Bridge, providing exhilarating views. Rodeo Beach is a popular spot for picnicking, kite flying, and bird watching. Go with a pair of binoculars and stop at Bird Rock to spot the many types of birds that are roosting.

Can't figure out how to spend your Saturday? Head to the lovely Montara State Beach for a day in paradise.

Montara State Beach

Location: San Mateo County

The next time you set out on Highway 1, head eight miles north of Half Moon Bay and you’ll come across one of the most beautiful beaches in Northern California: Montara State Beach. This one-mile-long swath of sand is a photogenic spot due to the sultry sandstone cliffs towering above it and is considered one of the cleanest beaches in the state. NorCal locals frequent the shores of Montara State Beach to hike, surf, and swim.

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Stroll the lovely coastline at Gualala Point Regional Park instead.

Gualala Point Regional Park

Location: Sonoma County

Gualala Point Regional Park’s beach isn’t only one of the most beautiful beaches in California, but also one of the most unique beaches as well. The beach borders the Gualala River and Mendocino County—there’s a spot at this park where the river meets the sea. Plan a trip here and stay overnight for a shoreside camping experience that’ll allow you to enjoy the beach, river, and forest all in one. There’s a small campground near the river that’ll make your weekend of whale watching, hiking, and bird watching unforgettable. 

The sight of McWay Falls cascading into the glimmering waters of the Pacific Ocean is simply breathtaking.

Mcway Beach

Location: Monterey County

The Big Sur region is home to some of the most spectacular coastline in all of California (if not the world). With majestic mountains and forests on one side and the glimmering ocean waters on the other, what’s not to love about this Central Coast gem? Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the 80-foot McWay Falls is an astounding sight you simply can’t miss. Even though the falls can only be appreciated from afar, there are plenty of easily accessible trails that’ll give you amazing viewpoints.

Visit Davenport Beach to marvel at the unique rock formation and relax under the California sun with your toes in the sand.

Davenport Beach

Location: Santa Cruz County

Davenport Beach is across the highway from the small town of Davenport and is breathtakingly beautiful. This beach is easily accessible and is a perfect addition to a weekend road trip agenda. For an exhilarating adventure, explore the tunnel at the north end of the beach, meander through the deep rock arches, and admire the high cliff walls. The sunsets at Davenport Beach are favorites of nature photographers, so you know it is one of the best places to watch the sunset in California.

The most beautiful beaches in southern California

Is there any place more beautiful than Coronado Island? Soak up the sun and unwind by the sparkling waters.

Coronado Beach

Location: San Diego County

Coronado’s timeless charm, pristine sands, and convenient facilities make it one of the most popular beaches in SoCal. Swim along the almost two miles of coastline and play beach volleyball by the shore. Not sure whether to spend the day relaxing or being active in the water? Just do both—there’s enough time for sunbathing, surfing, paddleboarding, and boogie boarding. If you want to bring your dog along, you’re in luck. Coronado is one of San Diego’s best dog-friendly beaches. There's even a designated area for people who bring their pooches along.

Come to this divine spot to recharge and dip your toes in the blue ocean waters.

Treasure Island Beach

Location: Orange County

The artsy town of Laguna Beach is set against a backdrop of rugged hills and stunning waters, making it a coveted destination. It is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Orange County; Treasure Island Beach is hard to beat, though. This hidden gem in SoCal boasts secret coves, golden sands, and pristine waters that beckon to all who visit. (If you’re a Taurus, this is the best beach for you based on your zodiac sign.) Need another reason to visit? Laguna Beach has the most beachfront lodging options in all of California—some of which will definitely have you craving a staycation.

Head to Surf City USA with your special someone and admire the beautiful sunset views together.

Huntington Beach 

Location: Orange County

This beautiful beach in Orange County is a surfer’s paradise. Ten miles of shoreline and five picture-perfect beaches (including Huntington Dog Beach) make “Surf City USA” an ideal spot for swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, kite surfing, and more. Not a big fan of water sports? Watching the sunset, picnicking, and roasting s’mores around one of the many fire rings on the beach also amount to a special and relaxing experience.

Ah, the glorious beauty of Manhattan Beach. Is there any place else you'd rather be?

Manhattan Beach 

Location: Los Angeles County

Also known as “The Pearl of L.A.’s South Bay,” Manhattan Beach is the furthest thing from the hustle and bustle of the city. This beautiful beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing; it's also a great place to view the sunset. You’ll enjoy exploring one of the most beautiful beaches in Los Angeles on wheels—biking, rollerblading, or skateboarding on The Strand, which stretches all the way from the South Bay to Pacific Palisades.

When visiting the majestic Cayucos State Beach, make sure to stick around for golden hour.

Cayucos State Beach 

Location: San Luis Obispo County

Cayucos State Beach perfectly blends surf, sand, and sun—a classic California vibe. The pier at this beautiful California beach offers excellent views of the town. You can even spot Morro Rock in the distance. For people who’d like to try out fishing for the first time before getting a license, “Cass’ Wharf” on the pier is open for public fishing without a license, day or night. The beach is dog friendly, too (as long as you keep your dog on a leash). The best part? You’ll find plenty of casual dining spots and accommodation options shoreside.

Walk the shores of the William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach with your significant other for a lovely day spent in the great outdoors.

William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach 

Location: San Luis Obispo County

This beautiful beach in California is the ultimate addition to your Pacific Coast Highway road trip. The beach is a local’s favorite—it’s adjacent to the town of San Simeon, right across the highway from the majestic Hearst Castle. The long coastline offers picnic sites and grill stands, and the water is ideal for swimming and kayaking. You can let your dog roam freely to the right of San Simeon Pier, but if you’re planning on crossing over to the left, make sure you have Fido on a leash.

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