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11 Rocky Beaches In California That'll Blow Your Mind

11 Rocky Beaches In California That'll Blow Your Mind

Drive out to one of the many beautiful rocky beaches and experience the sight of these cragged, rock-strewn beauties in person.


5 min read

February 08, 2024

Sometimes, sandy beaches just don’t hit the spot. When you want to go somewhere to escape the crowds, sticky sands, and the fear of a volleyball hitting your head at any given moment, rocky beaches are where it’s at. The magic of wild waves hitting the rugged edges of California’s coast is undeniable, and everyone deserves to experience it at least once in their lifetime.

For your next trip to the Golden State, drive out to one of the many beautiful rocky beaches and experience the sight of these cragged, rock-strewn beauties in person. Use our list for further inspo on which rocky beaches in California to add to your itinerary, and you’ll be raving about them yourself soon after.

Rocky Beaches in the Golden State To Visit Now

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from whence we came.

1. Black Sands Beach, Whitehorn

Despite being called Black Sands Beach, the ground portion of this extremely scenic beach isn’t made entirely of sand, but rather of coarse pebbles in varying shades of gray. Located at the end of the 20-mile-long Lost Coast Trail, this rocky beach looks like it’s straight out of a fantasy novel. Beware if you’re planning on remote camping or backpacking here overnight—parts of this rocky beach get blocked at high tide. 

2. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

During the 1900s, residents of Fort Bragg started discarding their waste in this former water dump, transforming it into a wasteland filled with water bottles. But fear not, mother nature had other plans for this unique California beach. Stepping in with pounding waves, nature eroded the discarded glass shards, slowly but surely breaking them down, smoothing them, and turning them into colorful pieces of art. Today, this rocky beach attracts thousands of visitors who come to see its colorful pebbles scattered about.

We could stand here and watch the sea crash beneath us for hours and it would feel like only minutes had passed.

3. Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena

This rocky beach in California is as uniquely picturesque as it sounds. Nestled along the Mendocino Coast, this cool beach is dotted with large rocks naturally sculpted into almost perfect spheres that resemble bowling balls. If you’re still looking for the “best rocky beaches near me”, make sure to add Bowling Ball Beach to your Mendocino vacation itinerary.

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4. Arched Rock Beach, Bodega Bay

Arched Rock Beach is named after its most prominent geological feature: the large rock with a hole in it that’s visible from the north as you’re cruising through Bodega Bay. With several spaces for walking, exploring, and beautiful vista points throughout the area, this rocky beach is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in the Bay Area for views and natural beauty. Keep in mind that swimming isn’t advised at this beach due to strong rip currents and unpredictable conditions, so admire this rocky beach on land when you visit.

Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part.

5. Bodega Head Beach, Bodega Bay

Bodega Head Beach is another awesome spot along the rugged coastline, with a network of awesome hiking trails that loop around the headlands. Besides amazingly scenic hiking trails, this rocky beach is also an incredible place to go whale watching in California — don’t leave your binoculars behind.

6. Point Pinos Beaches, Pacific Grove

Point Pinos’ uniquely rocky terrain attracts wildlife and admirers throughout the year. Tidepooling at low tide is a popular activity at this rocky beach in California, U.S.A., but there are plenty of other things to see and do here as well. An 18-hole, scenic golf course by the name of Pacific Grove Golf Links is a landmark all golf-lovers would enjoy, and the Historic Point Pinos Lighthouse nearby this rocky beach is definitely worth a visit as well.

7. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach is a can’t-miss stop along the Pacific Coast Highway and an unbelievably scenic one-day drive to embark on. This rocky beach in Big Sur is definitely off the beaten path, but nonetheless is worth the drive. Its rocky cliffs, purple-hued sands, and many hiking trails make it a prime romantic spot to go to with your significant other.

The focal point of the shore is the massive and eye-catching rock in the crashing surf.  Frequently professionally photographed, the rock known as Keyhole Arch is strikingly beautiful, especially at sunset. Stop wondering “what are the best California beaches near me?”, just grab your camera and go.

8. Point Fermin Beach, Los Angeles

Point Fermin is a rocky beach located below Point Fermin Park’s steep bluffs in the San Pedro District of Los Angeles. The rocky nature of this beautiful beach in California makes it perfect for beachcombing and tidepooling in SoCal. Make sure to look out for crabs, mussels, anemones, and other little sea creatures while you’re skipping over the rocks at this Los Angeles rocky beach.

At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.

9. El Matador Beach, Malibu

El Matador Beach is the furthest thing from being secluded, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. One of the three beaches located within Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador’s beauty is enhanced by its unique and craggy geological features. While stunning pictures of this rocky beach at sunset are plenty online, seeing the popular El Matador Beach in person is a whole other experience you shouldn’t miss out on. Some people even drive south to Malibu for the sole purpose of visiting this beach.

Dance with the waves, move with the sea. Let the rhythm of the water set your soul free. Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, breathe in the air.

10. Bluff Cove, Palos Verdes Estates

In a city neighboring Rancho Palos Verdes is one of the best beaches in California, and it goes by the name of Bluff Cove. With the appropriate footwear, you’ll love exploring the rock-strewn shores of this beautiful beach. Local surfers frequent this spot often and have given it the nickname “Palos Verdes Cove.” Brave scuba divers and snorkelers also love exploring this shoreline, so if you’re up for an adventure, you’ll love Bluff Cove.

11. Sacred Cove Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes

You can only access this secluded rocky beach in Rancho Palos Verdes after a scenic coastal hike. If you're on the lookout for a sunbathing beach, Sacred Cove Beach might not hit the mark. But if you're after natural beauty, you've come to the right place. The stunning tide pools and bluffs at this rocky beach in California will satisfy all the nature lovers out to explore.

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