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The Best Beaches in California

The Best Beaches in California

Whether you’re seeking company or solitude, pounding surf or shallow waters, these are the best beaches in California to hit next.


6 min read

July 06, 2021

All the things that make a beach great depend on the traveler. Some prefer secluded shorelines and calm waters; others value ample activities and party-focused locales. But, there are certain beaches in the Golden State that are objectively amazing and cater to everyone. Whether you’re seeking company or solitude, pounding surf or shallow waters, these are the best beaches in California to hit next.

The Best Beaches in Northern California

Ocean Beach

Location: Sloat Boulevard and Great Highway, San Francisco

Not to be confused with the beach of the same name in San Diego, Ocean Beach in San Francisco spans the entire Sunset District from Cliff House to Sloat Boulevard. Enjoy a chill day by the beach and spend your afternoon walking, swimming, and sunbathing. Or, step it up and go kiteboarding and windsurfing. Either way, make sure to stick around for sunset and head to the north end to watch the last bits of light dim. 

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Black Sands Beach

Location: Conzelman Road, Sausalito

We’re about to introduce you to a place not many know about; the underrated Black Sands Beach in Sausalito. Hands down one of the best beaches in California, this south-facing dark sandy shore in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the perfect Bay Area beach to escape to for a getaway. Dare we say it’s one of the most romantic beaches in the state?

Montara State Beach is one of the cleanest beaches in the Golden State and is known for surfing and fishing.

Montara State Beach

Location: Second Street and Cabrillo Highway, Montara

The beautiful Montara State Beach is located along the San Mateo County Coast. Not only is this one-mile stretch of cliff-surrounded sands an incredibly photogenic spot, but it also offers so many activities to add to your beach day itinerary. Hike, surf, swim, and go tidepooling to enjoy your day the good old-fashioned way. However, if you want to add a little thrill to your trip, Montara is one of the best beaches in Northern California for kiteboarding.

Natural Bridges State Beach is well known as a hotspot to see monarch butterfly migrations and also features a natural bridge across the beach.

Natural Bridges State Beach 

Location: 2531 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

You’ve definitely seen pictures of Natural Bridges State Beach before, considering it’s one of the most photographed places in the Golden State. Named after the natural arch in the rock located in the shore break, this Santa Cruz beach is laden with amenities and activities. You’re bound to have a good time here, whether you’re visiting with friends or family. 

Capitola Beach

Location: San Jose Avenue and Esplanade, Capitola

Drive 45 minutes from Silicon Valley to the north end of Monterey Bay and you’ll arrive at the picturesque Capitola Beach. Plan your visit towards the end of summer, and join the hundreds of Californians who come to this beach for the annual Capitola Art and Wine Festival. As one of the best beaches in California, Capitola is also fun after sunset with plenty of shops and restaurants to explore near the coast.

Want to spend the afternoon on a white sandy beach? Carmel City Beach is a popular spot for surfing, playing volleyball, and walking your dog.

Carmel City Beach

Location: Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road, Carmel

The Central Coast town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is blessed to have one of the best beaches in California—Carmel City Beach. The white sands of this beloved shore often get crowded with people on the weekends, so if you prefer a little seclusion, consider going to the nearby Carmel Meadows Beach. Otherwise, you'll love swimming, sunbathing, and playing volleyball at this scenic beach in Carmel.

The Best Beaches in Southern California

Located at 30000 Pacific Coast Highway, Zuma Beach is one of the largest and most popular in Los Angeles County.

Zuma Beach

Location: Pacific Coast Highway and Busch Drive, Malibu

This famous beach has made a number of appearances, thanks to the paparazzi—it’s a favorite among SoCal celebrities. Almost two miles of pure beauty with golden sands and brilliant blue waters, Zuma Beach is loved by surfers, swimmers, and windsurfers alike. If you’re getting a little hungry, The Sunset Restaurant has a pretty satisfying wagyu beef burger.

Venice City Beach

Location: Windward Avenue and Ocean Front Walk, Los Angeles

One of the most recognizable beaches in California is none other than Venice. Stretching from the Venice Pier to Santa Monica, this sunny stretch welcomes hundreds of skaters, rollerbladers, surfers, quirky performers, and bodybuilders every day. You’ll find every amenity imaginable here, so take advantage of the plethora of activities and spend an awesome day by the ocean.

At Manhattan Beach, you’ll find beach volleyball at courts that seem to go on for miles and bodysurfing near the pier.

Manhattan Beach

Location: Manhattan Beach Boulevard and The Strand, Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is the perfect destination for a day trip in Los Angeles. Here, you’ll find luxury hotels, great restaurants, almost 100 volleyball courts, a beautiful pier, and picturesque views. And oh, how could we forget The Strand! This famous boardwalk in Manhattan Beach is one you should absolutely check out.

Hermosa City Beach

Location: Hermosa Avenue and Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach

You’re always surrounded by true Southern California surf culture at Hermosa Beach. This top L.A. surf spot hosts parades, fairs, and even a full-fledged annual surf festival which makes it a hotspot for water sports enthusiasts. Next time you want to ride the waves, you know where to go.

Treasure Island Beach is impeccably clean, despite the fact that its name may evoke images of loud-mouth pirates and hard-to-find riches.

Treasure Island Beach

Location: Coast Highway and Wesley Drive, Laguna Beach

The popular Laguna Beach is set against a beautiful backdrop of rugged hills and stunning waters, and it’s home to one of the best beaches in Orange County—Treasure Island Beach. With secret coves, soft sands, and plenty of can’t miss coastal resorts near the shore, a staycation at one of the best beaches in California is a must. Have you packed your things yet?

La Jolla Cove Beach is a very popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving, with many open water swimming events held here year-round.

La Jolla Cove Beach

Location: 1160 Coast Boulevard, La Jolla

La Jolla Cove Beach is perhaps the most scenic of all when it comes to beaches in San Diego. Plan a getaway here and enjoy a day full of swimming, kayaking, diving, and snorkeling. The waters of La Jolla Cove Beach are home to all sorts of beautiful marine life, from orange garibaldi to sea lions.

Pacific Beach

Location: Mission Boulevard and Grand Avenue, San Diego

The beautiful Pacific Beach in California is adjacent to Mission Beach—and guess what, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. With a fishing pier and paved bike path, there’s no doubt that Pacific Beach is one of the best beaches in California. If that hasn’t convinced you yet, there are awesome surfing, bodyboarding, and swimming amenities here.

Mission Beach

Location: Mission Boulevard and Ventura Place, San Diego

Mission Beach is considered one of San Diego’s best beaches for good reason. Not only can you swim and surf here, but you’re also welcome to bike, skate, jog, and hit the nearby arcade. While the beach itself is a fun place to be, you should definitely check out the adjacent Belmont Park as well when you’re there.

Imperial Beach City Beach

Location: Seacoast Drive and Evergreen Avenue, Imperial Beach

Just five miles north of the Mexico border, Imperial Beach City Beach is where all the fun in the sun is. Swim in the blue waters, cast a line at the Imperial Beach Pier, and catch swells before heading over to the nearby Tijuana River Valley Regional Park. And don’t forget to play basketball while the children run wild in the kids’ play area.

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