25 Best Beaches in California

Source: Flickr / Dirk DBQ | CC BY 2.0

California has many cities and tourist spots to be known, but its beaches are really incredible and considered the main tourist attractions there. The beaches of California attract people from all over the world. The highlights include sunbathe on golden sand beaches, swimming in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and admiring the beautiful coastline with all the cliffs and forests.

And among these tourists are surf lovers, who find good waves to tame in this region of the west coast of the United States. In fact, surfing is one of the symbols of the state and of the lifestyle they live there.

Interactive Map of 25 Best Beaches in California

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. Venice Beach

Venice Beach
Source: Unsplash / Joe Cooke

The extensive and clear-sand Venice Beach is that beach that every tourist on a trip through California cannot miss. Located in Los Angeles, this is the favorite destination for sports enthusiasts. Venice is also known for its exotic audiences. There, you will see all kinds of artists, crazy people, and tourists mixed up.

You will also find plenty of people exercising in every possible way. Activities such as surfing and skateboarding, for example, are more than frequent in this region. In fact, Venice Skate Park is one of the most disputed spots in the area. This is where professionals and amateurs share a space that seems to refer to the images that we see of California in the 1980s.

2. Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach
Source: Unsplash / Bart Zimny

Pfeiffer Beach is a Big Sur beach that has been voted the most beautiful beach in the US. To make Pfeiffer Beach look perfect, nature was generous with the place. The beach is wonderful and exotic, with golden sand, crystal clear water, rocky walls that embrace it and that spills from them a beautiful waterfall that flows into the sea.

Also, there is a gigantic rock, The Rock, in the middle of the ocean that at sunset presents visitors with an unparalleled landscape. The dramatic interplay of cliffs and waves crashing along Highway 1 to Big Sur makes everyone want to stop.

3. Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach
Source: Unsplash / Joshua Sukoff

Located in San Diego, Ocean Beach is home to one of the longest piers in California which is popular amongst fishers. In fact, Ocean Beach Pier is one of the few places in the city where fishing is allowed without a specific license. Along the pier, you will also spot plenty of wildlife including seagulls, pelicans, and sea lions.

This is a hippie beach, and you will probably find barefoot and Rastafarian people. Not to mention shops with Jamaica-themed T-shirts and marijuana or tie-dye prints. Oh, and if you are traveling with your dog, be sure to check out Dog Beach, a part of Ocean Beach where the presence of pets without a collar is not only allowed but encouraged.

4. Malibu Surfrider Beach

Malibu Surfrider Beach
Source: Flickr / Martin | CC BY-ND 2.0

Occupying 32 miles of the west coast of the US, Malibu is a city that has been the scene of films and TV series and is home to several Hollywood stars. But in this immensity, the highlight goes to Surfrider Beach, the first World Surfing Reserve created by Save the Waves Coalition. With almost perfect waves, this is not a beach for beginners.

The beach is divided into three sections: the first point is the easiest and most popular with beginners. Surfrider is also known for the famous Malibu pier and for taking off Malibu Café.

5. Santa Monica State Beach

Santa Monica State Beach
Source: Unsplash / Yaroslav Muzychenko

One of California’s most famous beaches, Santa Monica has a long strip of sand and is always full of tourists and Los Angeles residents looking for the coast. At the Pier, where Route 66 ends, there is an amusement park with a carousel and a roller coaster. The beach is approximately 4 miles long, and it is possible to walk through it on the sand.

Santa Monica has been and still is the scene of several series and movies so do not be surprised if you are there and run into some celebrity or famous people. In terms of structure, it is complete with several restaurants, cafes, kiosks, and shops.

6. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Source: Unsplash / Patrick Adcock

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a scenic coastal area featuring a variety of sea animals and wildlife, hiking, diving, and a whaling museum. In the reserve itself, there are communities of rare plants, archaeological sites threatened with extinction, unique geological formations, and immensely rich fauna and flora.

Point Lobos receives many painters and photographers wanting to register the spectacles of nature. The reserve is also loved by divers as there is an area offshore that is considered one of the richest underwater habitats in California. Imagine that there is a seaweed forest 70 feet deep. The highlights include visiting a sequence of beautiful beaches: Sand Hill Cove, The Slot, Weston Beach, and Hidden Beach.

7. Swami’s Beach

Swamis Beach
Source: Flickr / Chad McDonald | CC BY-ND 2.0

Encinitas has already been chosen by National Geographic as one of the top 20 surfing cities in the world, and Swami is proof that the city deserves a place on the list. Recommended for intermediate-level practitioners, the beach offers beautiful views of the ocean and equally pleasant gardens.

There, you can find smooth and regular waves of varying sizes throughout the year. The extensive lawn in front of the beach provides a good view of the waves. The beach itself is secluded and features a few good tide pools.

8. Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo State Beach
Source: Flickr / Connar L’Ecuyer | Public Domain

Consisting of an impressive 1.5-mile-long stretch of sand, Leo Carrillo Beach is a stunning place to visit if you like to windsurf and explore natural pools. Perched near the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), it is a wonderful place to see the giant plane trees that line the coast. During the day there are walks on the trails, and various beach activities, such as diving and surfing.

Overall, Leo Carrillo State Park is an incredible choice for families, for those traveling by motorhome, or for those who enjoy the traditional camping with tents. The park combines some beaches with an area of forest full of trails and possibilities. Overall, the beach is beautiful and a great place for swimming, photographing or watching small animals in the pools formed during low tide.

9. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore
Source: Unsplash / Sammie Chaffin

Point Reyes National Seashore was created to preserve and protect natural ecosystems and cultural resources along the west coast of the US. Located just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, Point Reyes is a sanctuary for countless plant and animal species. The park has more than 150 miles of trails, 4 camping sites, several historic structures, 3 visitor centers, and numerous beaches. There are also many antelopes and many sea animals that pass through the region such as whales, seals, and sea lions.

Visitors can drive to Drakes Beach, Limantour Beach, and Great Beach, which are beaches that have parking. The rest of the park’s coastline can only be accessed by trail or boat.

10. Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach
Source: Unsplash / Patrick Fore

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a huge and very well-structured park in the city of San Diego. Comprising more than 2 thousand hectares in size, the site is home to incredible animal and plant diversity, as well as the sandy Torrey Pines State Beach backed by cliffs and a pine-wooded nature reserve. Located between San Diego and La Jolla, Torrey received the title of a national natural landmark in 1977, being today one of the most unmissable reserves in California.

Among the main things that you will be able to see in the place are birds of different types and species, very attractive landscapes, animals, such as foxes and lynx, and rich flora. 

11. Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park
Source: Flickr / Fotos_PDX | CC BY 2.0

Think of a fantastic setting in natural terms and, which still has an excellent infrastructure to receive tourists, this is the Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. The park has a 3.2-mile beach with sandy coves and tide pools, plus 2,400 acres of land for hiking and biking. 

There, expect to find an excellent infrastructure with parking lots, restaurants, walking paths, houses, chalets, and much more. The beach is usually frequented by surfers and bathers. But when the water temperature is too low to swim, the beach becomes a great place for walking and horseback riding.

12. Huntington State Beach

Huntington State Beach
Source: Flickr / Jonathan Cook-Fisher | CC BY 2.0

Located in the city of the same name, which is entitled as the city of surfing, the fantastic Huntington Beach is located in Orange County attracting tourists in search of the most famous waves in California. The climate is warm and stable all year round, making it possible to have pleasant afternoons in all seasons.

There, you will find hotels close to the sea, great shops, and restaurants to enjoy the best coastal climate in California. Not to mention a museum dedicated to surfing, the International Surfing Museum. The beach itself is always busy with many people cycling, playing volleyball, and walking. At the end of the day, it is common to see groups gathered around a campfire.

13. Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach
Source: Flickr / Paul Sableman | CC BY 2.0

Another beach located in San Diego and which is classified as one of the most stunning in the state is Coronado Beach. Located more precisely on Coronado Island, close to the famous Hotel del Coronado, the beach has an extensive strip of white sand. Coronado is perfect for those who want to relax and have more peaceful moments on their trip.

Another suggestion for sunny days is to go to the other side of the island of Coronado, facing the city. So, take your time and sit on the balcony of the Peohe’s Restaurant, which has a nice view.

14. Silver Strand State Beach

Silver Strand State Beach
Source: Flickr / Virginia Hill | CC BY-ND 2.0

Secluded and gorgeous, Silver Strand State Beach is a sandy space with ocean and bay shorelines offering fishing, swimming, and picnicking, plus RV camping. Located between Coronado Beach and Imperial Beach, Silver Strand is long and quiet. In fact, you can choose to visit the beach on the Pacific Ocean side or the San Diego Bay side. Or both!

Long walks of over 3 miles are possible and there is a state park campground right off the highway. It can get a bit windy at times, but it is usually very pleasant and great for seashell picking, especially during low tide.

15. Santa Cruz Beach

Santa Cruz Beach
Source: Unsplash / Nicholas Ismael Martinez

The special detail about Santa Cruz Beach is that surfing was introduced to the US right there, in 1885. According to legend, three Hawaiian princes were on vacation there when they asked a local locksmith to manufacture surfboards out of redwood. Shortly thereafter, they were teaching the locals to practice surfing.

In Santa Cruz, there is also a museum, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which is located in an old lighthouse on West Cliff Drive. The city has a pleasant climate, redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and beautiful beaches, being very popular with tourists.

16. Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach
Source: Unsplash / Michael Pujals

A favorite amongst San Francisco locals, Stinson Beach is about 3 miles long and formed by white sand. The beach is considered very good for fishing, but not recommended for swimming, as there is a strong current and the waves are very powerful. The waters there are a little warmer than in the rest of the bay. And as the beach is one of the best and closest to the city, it can get crowded.

The Stinson Beach area has a great structure with restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and barbecue grills. A snack bar is open during the summer months at the base of the main lifeguard tower.

17. Monterey

Source: Unsplash / Robson Hatsukami Morgan

In addition to having a unique charm, Monterey is a stronghold of very important tourist spots and a beautiful beach. Among the suggestions of what to do on Monterey beach are cycling around the coast and going for a walk with a lovely view of the sea. Or even rent a kayak to live high adventures.

This beach is more deserted and does not have a lot of movement outside of the high season, so go there to enjoy the beautiful scenery. One of the most frequent activities on Monterey beach is diving, but it is worth remembering that you must be well prepared, as the water there is usually quite cold. A really cool tip is to take the road that goes from Monterey to Carmel, 17 Mile Drive route, to observe not only the sea but the incredible viewpoints that stretch along the entire way.

18. Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach
Source: Unsplash / Nick Ortego

The mile-long Carmel River State Beach offers bird-watching opportunities and a popular scuba diving entry point at Monastery Beach. This is a beautiful beach with a lovely 1.5-mile walking path that connects it to other small beaches. It has many rock formations jutting up all around, which adds to the uniqueness of this particular location.

Overall, this is a hidden gem south of Carmel and there are lots of sea life to observe during low tide. Also, the river and the beach are both great for kayaking.

19. Half Moon Bay State Beach

Half Moon Bay
Source: Unsplash / Farica Yang

Half Moon Bay State Beach offers paid parking, a paved trail, a horseback riding trail, and spots for fishing. The city itself is close to San Francisco and it is very clean and cute. However, the water does not have a very pleasant temperature. 

The beach has a wide strip of sand, which makes the place a great option for hiking and exercising. A tip is to have a picnic on the beach to enjoy nature. There are also places for barbecuing with a view of the sea, very close to the beach. Another famous beach in Half Moon Bay is Mavericks. And under perfect conditions, the waves on Mavericks Beach can reach 78 feet in height.

20. Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach
Source: Unsplash / Tim Mossholder

Located 80 miles from Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach breathes surf from head to toe. The city is young and super lively with strong surf vibes. While there, be sure to check out Pismo Beach Pier, the 1,200-foot oceanside pier offering space for fishing, walking, and viewing the sunset.

Pismo Beach is a family destination for surfing with its incredible waves being suitable for beginners. But make no mistake: at certain times of the year the waves grow, usually in October, and the beach hosts the World Surf League Qualifying Series. And super trendy place for surfers to have a Clam Chowder is the Splash Café. It is a tradition that makes the visit to the beach worth it.

21. San Elijo State Beach

San Elijo State Beach
Source: Flickr / Sergei Gussev | CC BY 2.0

San Elijo State Beach is located right in the heart of Cardiff, a quaint city with one of San Diego County’s most beautiful beaches. The 2-mile stretch of sand has large campgrounds and is popular for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and picnics.

The beach is mainly flat and as you walk out in the water, it stays flat for a couple of feet and then goes to a drop-off. There is lots of seaweed everywhere and you can see stingrays and leopard sharks swimming in and out of the lagoon.

22. Black’s Beach

Blacks Beach
Source: Flickr / Tristan Loper | CC BY-SA 2.0

Among the main beaches in San Diego, Black’s Beach is one of the most distant from the city center. It is a possible endpoint of the trail by Torrey Pines. Black’s Beach sits in front of a Submarine Canyon, that is, an immersed canyon that provides the most sinuous waves in San Diego. Because of it, the waves break with a lot of power and speed. It is the ideal beach for surfers who want to “get a tube”.

In addition to being one of the darlings of surfers, Black’s Beach’s great differential is that although it is not officially a nudist beach, it is widely used for this practice. So, if you like to practice naturism or are curious to see what it is like, you can go straight there. But if you want to be dressed, it is okay too.

23. The Wedge

The Wedge
Source: Unsplash / Danny Avila

The Wedge, in Orange County, is one of California’s best beaches to visit for those who love extreme sports. The beach is known for a deep wave, which moves fast and breaks on the coast. The waves reach more than 98 feet, being one of the favorite spots for big wave surfers. However, all this fame also means the beach has a very crowded lineup.

The view from the sand is incredible and, certainly, even the most courageous will give a small shake when observing the size of the waves. This is a place that will conquer tourists with a thirst for adventure, and also those who want to enjoy beautiful landscapes.

24. La Jolla Shores Beach

La Jolla Shores Beach
Source: Flickr / Vince Smith | CC BY 2.0

La Jolla Shores Beach is one of the four beaches in the La Jolla region. Located in the noblest spot in the neighborhood, La Jolla Shores is considered the best beach in the region. In fact, the La Jolla neighborhood is one of the most expensive in all of California, making it also one of the most exclusive and sought-after spots in the entire state.

The other three beaches in the area include Windansea, which is favorable for the practice of sports, making it the favorite of surfers and bodyboarders. La Jolla Cove has a small strip of sand and is famous as a diving spot. And Black Sand Beach, as the name says, has its sand in a beautiful black tone.

25. Glass Beach

Glass Beach
Source: Unsplash / Kimson Doan

Located in the city of Fort Bragg, the rocky Glass Beach features colorful, broken pieces of glass washed up on the shore. For years, the beach served as a dump! Yes, trash! Every kind of garbage was dumped on the spot.

Since 1967, several cleaning programs have been carried out over the years to try to correct the damage caused to nature. Over the next few decades, what was biodegradable in landfills simply disappeared and all metal and other items were finally removed and sold as scrap or used in art. The waves constantly hitting the beach, broke all the glass and ceramics, making these materials become small, smooth, colorful pieces. Many of them started to be used in pieces of art and jewelry that are sold in stores in the city.