The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
It’s time to cross off major items off your West Coast road trip itinerary, and here are our top nine to get you started.
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.
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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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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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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