The 25+ Best California Beaches

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Lapped by the deep blue Pacific Ocean, California boasts over 3,000 miles of coastline including 20,000 rocks and islands, 30 lighthouses and 11 major ports. Known as the Golden Coast, there are a huge variety of beaches, from the famous golden sands and surf around Santa Monica to the rocky rugged coastline defining Northern California. This beautiful coastline is stunning and in many places is overlooked by multi-million dollar properties.

In the subtropical south, the beaches are all about lifestyle. Lined with boardwalks and trails, the golden sand is a hub for watersports, bonfires, fishing and surfing. Heading north from San Diego, the coast is lined with iconic beaches - including Long Beach, Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Malibu.

California's Central Coast has a cooler Mediterranean climate with yet more beautiful beaches around Santa Barbara. Pismo Beach with its surfer vibe and Morro Bay with its monolithic rock (the remnant of one of the 7 long-forgotten volcanoes along this coastline) add to the character and individuality of each place. Finally Big Sur and Monterey beaches give way to San Francisco harbour before the more craggy coastline and wave-lashed rocks further north.

  • 1. La Jolla Cove // Southern California

    La Jolla Cove
    John Uhrig
    Great for:
    • Family
    • Snorkeling
    • Swimming

    Tucked away at the foot of the sandstone cliffs north of San Diego, La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in SoCal, so it's fair to say it's exceptionally beautiful. The Spanish phrase "La Jolla" means "jewel" and this cove is a gem.

    Facing north it has an exceptionally clear deep blue waters with visibility up to 30 feet in depth making it popular for swimming, snorkelling… read more »

  • 2. Stinson Beach // Northern California

    Stinson Beach
    Mark Gunn
    Great for:
    • Swimming
    • Surfing
    • Kitesurfing

    Situated within California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Stinson Beach lies approximately 30 kilometres northwest of San Francisco along Highway 1, making it a popular day trip for residents of the city.

    This long stretch of sand offers a relatively shallow entry into the waters of the Pacific, which can be a little on the cold side. However, as one of the region's cleanest beaches it offers a range of… read more »

  • 3. Laguna Beach // Southern California

    Laguna Beach
    © Joe Belanger
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    Located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach is the archetypal Southern Californian beach town. This is one of the most fashionable seaside towns in Orange County and as such has attracted the wealthy and famous for many years. Laguna Beach has a long established reputation as a cultural hotspot and is home to any number of art festivals, most notably the Pageant of the Masters. 

    But it is… read more »

  • 4. Venice Beach // Southern California

    Venice Beach
    Great for:
    • Family
    • Fishing
    • Swimming
    • Surfing

    When thinking of Los Angeles it is hard not to picture the city's iconic Venice Beach. Whilst many beaches are exactly that, and nothing else, Venice Beach is much more than that; a beach, cultural institution, vibrant community and international tourist destination to name a few. What goes on along the beach front is as important to Venice beach's character as the sand,ocean and palms trees that physically define it.

    read more »
  • 5. Baker Beach // Northern California

    Baker Beach
    UltraView Admin

    Situated between San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge to the north, Baker Beach is a flat, wide expanse of golden sand approximately 800 metres in length.

    In the city's Presidio area, its natural vistas are improved by views of the entirety of the Golden Gate Bridge on all but the foggiest of days. Within Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it also boasts a coastal trail that leads up onto… read more »

  • 6. Santa Monica State Beach // Southern California

    Santa Monica State Beach
    Great for:
    • Family
    • Fishing
    • Swimming
    • Surfing

    Just west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica State Beach stretches for an astonishing 8 miles of soft sand. Cleaned and raked on a daily basis, it will host the beach volleyball competition of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

    The archetypal West Coast beach town, Santa Monica State Beach has a pier with an amusement park that contains a carousel dating from 1922 and is listed as a National Historic… read more »

  • 7. Moonstone Beach // Northern California

    Moonstone Beach
    © Jar965

    Located in Cambria, San Luis Obispo County, central California, Moonstone Beach is made up of a dark sand the colour of brown sugar. Located within Hearst San Simeon State Park, it has also no facilities.

    However, Moonstone Beach does boast a number of attractions that make it well worth a visit. A mile-long boardwalk runs from Moonstone Beach Park at Santa Rosa Creek to Leffingwell Landing. You can find parking at… read more »

  • 8. Pope Beach // Lake Tahoe

    Pope Beach
    Ken Lund
    Great for:
    • Swimming

    Immediately to the west of the Tahoe Keys residential development of South Lake Tahoe, Pope Beach is an attractive area of lakeshore lined with mature trees. Its narrow ribbon of golden sand is still wide enough to ensure there's plenty of space for everyone who visits.

    Mountain vistas provide a pleasant backdrop to time on Pope Beach, which can be spent swimming, boating or cycling. Roughly a kilometre in length, the… read more »

  • 9. Bonny Doon Beach // Central California

    Bonny Doon Beach
    Nick Amoscato

    Pretty Bonny Doon Beach is a gorgeous sandy cove backed by high cliffs and flower-covered slopes creating a natural amphitheatre.

    Situated just off the Cabrillo Highway near Bonny Doon Road in Santa Cruz, it is part of Coast Dairies State Park with free parking but no facilities. The paved parking lot is open 8am to sunset but it quickly fills up. Beach access involves walking across the railroad tracks… read more »

  • 10. Mussel Shoals Beach // Southern California

    Mussel Shoals Beach
    Harold Litwiler
    Great for:
    • Fishing
    • Surfing

    Situated in the north of Ventura County, just off Highway 101 is Mussel Shoals Beach. A pleasant stretch of golden sand backed by a clutch of low rise beachfront properties, the beach here has a fairly laid back vibe.

    Probably the most recognizable feature of Mussel Shoals Beach is the long pier stretching out from mid beach. The pier leads out to a small island adorned with a number of palm trees.… read more »

  • 11. Torrance County Beach // Southern California

    Torrance County Beach
    Great for:
    • Fishing
    • Swimming
    • Surfing

    Nestled between Redondo Beach and Malaga Cove, you may hear the locals refer to this stretch as RAT Beach - as in, Right After Torrance or Redondo & Torrance. 

    The soft white sands here sit at the bottom of a picturesque cliff, so snapping some Insta-worthy photos is a breeze.

    When it comes to amenities, you'll find loads of parking spaces close by, lifeguards on daily duty, and restrooms and showers right… read more »

  • 12. Pfeiffer Beach // Central California

    Pfeiffer Beach
    Robert Brett

    Pfeiffer Beach is in the Big Sur area of California. Roughly a mile long, it is located down a twisting and unmarked two-mile paved road that is unsuitable for RVs and trailers as it has only five points at which vehicles are able to pass one another in opposite directions.

    However, this beach more than makes up for the slight difficulty in getting there in sheer beauty. Its main attraction is… read more »

  • 13. Bowling Ball Beach // Northern California

    Bowling Ball Beach
    Brocken Inaglory
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    The intriguing name of this California beach comes from the rounded boulders up to a metre in diameter which sit on its cliff-lined sands. Part of Schooner Gulch State Beach, Bowling Ball Beach lies a short distance south of Point Arena along Highway One. To reach it from the highway, you need to take the right-hand trail.

    The unusual geological phenomenon responsible for the near-spherical rocks is known as "concretion" and… read more »

  • 14. Carmel Beach // Central California

    Carmel Beach
    © Blake Carroll
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    Located in the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, in central California's Monterey County, Carmel Beach is formed of a stunning arc of pale sand that runs for close to a mile in length. Edged by vegetation to one side and clear Pacific waters to the other, it looks almost tropical in appearance.

    Despite slightly chilly water temperatures, which top out at around 61°F/16°C, Carmel Beach is a popular surfing spot. It is also… read more »

  • 15. Shark Fin Cove // Northern California

    Shark Fin Cove

    Located just a few miles up Highway 1 from Santa Cruz, Shark Fin Cove is a different world. It isn't hard to see where the beach gets its name from; viewed from the right angle the hulking rock that guards the bay's entrance cuts the same profile of a huge shark's fin. The sandy beach is also known as Shark Tooth Cove, for the same reason.

    But there's more to Shark… read more »