Whether you prefer the famous beaches of Santa Monica and Santa Cruz, surrounded by all sorts of amenities such as luxury hotels and restaurants, or you are a fan of secluded places away from the crowds, California is the right place. Here you will be captivated by the incredible view of the Pacific, the beautiful lush vegetation, the sunsets over the ocean, and the hot sun. For lovers of water sports, there are ideal conditions for swimming, diving, snorkeling, and much more.
And yet some California beaches are distinguished and have become a favorite place of tourists. Here is a list of the best 25 of them.
- 1. Zuma Beach, Malibu
- 2. Pacific Beach, San Diego
- 3. East Beach, Santa Barbara
- 4. Main Beach, Santa Cruz
- 5. La Jolla Shores, La Jolla
- 6. Stinson Beach, Marin County
- 7. Carmel Beach, Carmel by-the-Sea
- 8. Butterfly Beach, Montecito
- 9. Pismo State Beach
- 10. Avila Beach
- 11. Capitola Beach, Capitola
- 12. Coronado Central Beach, San Diego
- 13. Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica
- 14. Main Beach, Laguna Beach
- 15. Navarro River State Beach, Mendocino
- 16. Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach
- 17. Sand Dollar Beach, Big Sur
- 18. Trinidad State Beach, Humboldt County
- 19. Jug Handle Beach, Mendocino
- 20. Mandalay Beach, Oxnard
- 21. The Great Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore
- 22. Centerville Beach County Park, Ferndale
- 23. Torrey Pines State Beach
- 24. Moonlight Beach, Encinitas
- 25. San Onofre State Beach
1. Zuma Beach, Malibu
Malibu is located in Southern California and has become one of the most beloved beach destinations. The beach is extensive, with a length of about 2 miles and a total area of over 100 acres.
Another favorite place in Malibu is Paradise Cove – a small beach located in a bay where the sea is calm and this makes it ideal for family vacations. At a nearby café, you can have a snack with an ocean view.
One of the best accommodations around is the Malibu Beach Inn. In the four-star hotel, you will have a luxury apartment and views of the ocean and the mountain strip. The complex has its own spa, restaurant, and yoga classes.
|📬 Address||30000 Pacific Coast Highway Malibu, CA 90265|
|Parking||Parking Lot & Street Parking
6am – 10pm
Accessible via Bus 534 at stop Pacific Coast Highway/Morning View
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2. Pacific Beach, San Diego
Typical of Southern California, where this spacious beach is located, the water is a pleasant temperature for swimming. You will probably meet a lot of surfers, but the waves are not very big. Windsurfing and kiteboarding are often practiced here.
Pacific Beach has all the necessary amenities such as cafeterias, dining areas, showers, restaurants, and lifeguards. The Surfer Beach Hotel is one of the preferred accommodations, featuring many rooms with ocean views.
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3. East Beach, Santa Barbara
The coast of Santa Barbara is often called “The American Riviera” because of its incredible views and the Spanish colonial style of the surrounding buildings. The weather here is warm, the water is great for swimming and water sports, and the shore is dotted with fine sand.
East Beach is also a great place for families with children, as it has separate playgrounds, the opportunity to rent a beach umbrella or lodge, kayak. The beach has lifeguards and all necessary amenities.
4. Main Beach, Santa Cruz
The beach is located in Northern California and is famous for its spacious sandy area. In your free time, you can walk on a wooden boardwalk, where you will find many shops and cafeterias. Here is the oldest amusement park in California.
It is quite possible to see dolphins, otters and sea lions during your stay here. Beach and sea sports such as volleyball and surfing are often practiced. Stay at the Comfort Inn Beach / Boardwalk Area/ just meters away from the ocean. The hotel is not new, but has been renovated and offers great accommodations at reasonable prices.
5. La Jolla Shores, La Jolla
La Jolla has turned into one of the places for the rich and famous in the area (similar to Beverley Hills). As a result, here you can find a number of first-class restaurants and boutiques of some of the famous brands.
Located in Southern California, the beach is known for its calm waters, making it ideal for a family vacation. Not far away there is even a fenced place, which is great for children to play.
In the immediate vicinity, you will find four-star accommodations. The beach is the perfect way to spend a romantic evening with a loved one, and if you enjoy diving and exploring the marine species, visit the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve.
6. Stinson Beach, Marin County
Stinson Beach in Northern California is just 20 miles from San Francisco’s endless life. With a centuries-old history in tourism, this place has a special atmosphere because of the small shops that offer local produce and cozy cafes. You will definitely feel like a local during your vacation here.
The beach is located in a bay, which is a prerequisite for the calm sea ideal for children to play. The sand is fine and clean, and the beach has everything you need for the perfect family vacation – showers, lifeguards, picnic areas, and relaxation.
Stinson Beach is part of a protected natural area called the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
7. Carmel Beach, Carmel by-the-Sea
The whole setting around Carmel Beach is somewhat reminiscent of an old English atmosphere – small cottages, boutique shops and restaurants, and the typical foggy weather as it is in England.
The beach itself is characterized by crystal clear water, fine sand, and cypress trees along the entire beach. It is also a famous place for romantic vacations because of the beautiful view along the coast. It is important to note that the place is not suitable for swimming, firstly because of the cold water and secondly because the waves are often large and dangerous for beginner swimmers.
8. Butterfly Beach, Montecito
Butterfly Beach is located in the Montecito area, where many celebrities stay. This beautiful beach in Southern California is ideal for recreation and water sports such as snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, and the sunsets will certainly not be forgotten.
If you want extra amenities, you can visit the luxurious Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, which is built in a typical colonial style and is ideal for a honeymoon or a romantic getaway. If you want to diversify, you can also visit the nearby sights of Santa Barbara.
9. Pismo State Beach
You can find Pismo Beach in downtown California. The beach is famous for its dunes and is an ideal place for beach volleyball. The waves are a favorite place for surfers.
The beautiful flora and fauna around is an ideal place for nature lovers who want to watch the local bird species, walk among the greenery or just relax on the golden sand. The beach has lifeguards who take care of tourists, as well as many places for picnics and walks. You will certainly meet a fisherman, as fishing is a major sport and hobby of the locals.
10. Avila Beach
Avila Beach definitely impresses with its natural features. The view, which seems to be part of a painting by a famous artist, impresses with the beautiful vast beach and the background of green hills. The climate here is mild and a pleasant breeze is often felt. It is possible to see seals, otters, and dolphins while diving or cruising the ocean.
If you are a fan of sunbathing, this is the right place for you. The beach is spacious enough to accommodate everyone. If you want a little variety you can visit the nearby Central Coast Aquarium. To avoid crowds and noise, stay at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa and its mineral springs.
11. Capitola Beach, Capitola
In addition to the amazing natural views, in Capitola Beach, you will also enjoy the beautiful village near the beach. Small and well-kept colorful houses will remind you of the French Riviera. There is a wide selection of cafés and restaurants nearby, as well as local small shops.
The beach is small in size, but with calm waters, ideal for swimmers and beginner surfers. Often the favorite sports are beach volleyball, surfing, and diving. Fishing is also revered and there is a separate fishing pier.
12. Coronado Central Beach, San Diego
This beach is perhaps best known as the set of the movie Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. But today it attracts tourists with its fine white sand and inspiring views. Like the other beaches we mentioned in Southern California, the temperature here is suitable for swimming, sunbathing, relaxing, and surfing. Here it is advisable to stay in the historic Hotel del Coronado, which takes you back to the Victorian era.
13. Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica
The beaches of Santa Monica are as impressive as the city itself. You will find a lot of entertainment, restaurants, and shops. The beaches of Santa Monica are about 3.5 miles long and are ideal for walking
The waves here are calm, but the water is rarely suitable for swimming due to the low temperatures. One of the most luxurious and pleasant accommodations is the boutique hotel Huntley Santa Monica Beach, which is just steps from the beach.
14. Main Beach, Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is located a few miles from Los Angeles and is famous among wealthy and famous people. It is no coincidence that it is considered the local Orange County. The beach is wide. In its northern part, you can find a rich variety of luxury hotels and some houses near the ocean.
There are sports facilities for every type of beach sport along the entire length of the beach. Apart from being an ideal place for active and sporty people, the beach also has enough space to relax. The Ranch at Laguna Beach is one of the newly opened luxury hotels in the area. Probably most of its visitors lack views of the ocean (because the hotel does not have such a view), but on the other hand here you can choose from an endless list of additional activities.
Mendocino is a wonderful place for nature lovers with its 10 state parks and a number of other protected areas. Known as one of the places with the cleanest air in the area, the place is only 3 hours’ drive from San Francisco.
Navarro Beach itself is part of Navarro River Redwoods State Park. The park is suitable for a leisurely walk or picnic, and the nearby river – for many sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. The beach is not crowded and is ideal for a family or romantic vacations, as well as for a relaxing holiday.
16. Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach is one of the oldest beach resorts in the area. Today here you will see mainly sportspeople. On the beach pier, you will meet many fishermen and people who have decided to just walk and admire the view. There are many shops and restaurants with sea views nearby.
If you keep the highest class accommodation Kempton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort will provide you not only a beautiful view but also many additional amenities such as beach towels, lounge chairs, a fitness center, and its own restaurant with a view.
17. Sand Dollar Beach, Big Sur
This beach is located at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountains in central California, which promises an unforgettable view. The sandy strip is about 90 miles long. Lovers of long walks can relax on the beach and then head through the staircases to one of the nearby hills surrounded by greenery.
The beach can be reached by highway and even the journey itself is exciting – on one side you see the hilly terrain and on the other the endless waters of the Pacific. The place is a favorite of both surfers and those who come just to relax. The beach is part of the Los Padres National Forest and is equipped with everything you need – from showers and restrooms to picnic areas and paid parking.
18. Trinidad State Beach, Humboldt County
Trinidad State Beach is smaller in size but is particularly impressive. Here in one place, you can find a sandy beach and shady trees under which you can find the necessary relaxation. The beach is nestled in a hilly area, which promises calm sea and little wind (uncharacteristic of most beaches in Northern California).
As expected, all beach and sea sports are honored here – kayaking, beach volleyball, surfing, fishing, etc. As the traffic is quite far from the beach, the situation is constantly calm and there is no unnecessary noise from passing cars. However, all amenities have been created for the arriving tourists – parking, places for rest, showers and restrooms, barbecue, first-class restaurants, and accommodation places.
19. Jug Handle Beach, Mendocino
We have already mentioned Mendocino Coast as one of the most picturesque places for your vacation, surrounded by beautiful forests. Jug Handle Beach is a great example of a more secluded beach, located in a quiet place in a bay a few kilometers from the city of Mendocino.
In addition to walking on the beach here you can take one of the picturesque hiking trails in the pine forest, where the air is clean and you will certainly feel close to nature. Not far from the beach you will find blackberry bushes and low green grass. Look at the ocean and take some pictures, because from this place the view is really amazing.
From the beach, you can join the 2.5-mile long Ecological Staircase hiking trail. It passes through redwood pygmy forests which are millions of years old.
20. Mandalay Beach, Oxnard
Oxnard is a seaside town 65 miles from Los Angeles with 5 miles of sandy and crystal clear beaches.
Mandalay State Beach occupies the northern part of this beach. The beach is part of California State Parks and is home to western snowy plover birds that nest here at certain times of the year. At this time part of the beach is fenced to ensure the peace of the birds.
If you want to diversify your beach vacation, there is a large selection of handicraft jewelry boutiques, cafeterias, an ice cream shop, and restaurants nearby. Luxury accommodation in a three-star hotel can be found at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Mandalay Beach Resort, which has direct access to the beach and beautiful ocean views.
21. The Great Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore
You’ve probably heard of Great Beach but under the name Point Reyes Beach. It is located just an hour’s drive from San Francisco in Northern California. The place is suitable for tourists who want to escape from the city noise and crowds – here you will not find large restaurants, many shops, and huge hotels. The water is not very suitable for swimming because it is cold and the waves are often big.
This beach destination is more suitable for long walks and relaxing vacations with ocean views. If you still want to stay nearby Olema House is your place. The lodge is set in a large spacious garden, has 22 rooms, and offers a local kitchen.
22. Centerville Beach County Park, Ferndale
The beach is located near Oregon (Northern California) and is surrounded by local farms. Here you will feel in one with nature because the landscape is not built up and is surrounded by hilly terrain. It is possible to see representatives of the beautiful native species of birds or whales. Centerville Beach is ideal for a beach fire or picnic overlooking the ocean.
Animals, including dogs and horses, are allowed on the beach, so you can feel the amazing experience of horseback riding on the beach. As in most northern parts of California, the water here is cold and unsuitable for swimming.
Just a 15-minute drive away is the historic Victorian-style town of Ferndale, where you will find many restaurants and hotels and return to the feeling of an urban environment.
23. Torrey Pines State Beach
Torrey Pines State Beach is best known for its luxury resorts and golf courses. The area is rocky and has many hikes routes. The cliffs and the long beach create an amazing landscape. A beach is also an ideal place for surfers. It is located north of San Diego and is not very crowded, which will provide you with the opportunity for rest and relaxation.
24. Moonlight Beach, Encinitas
This beach is not very famous among tourists and is visited more often by locals. Located in San Diego, Moonlight Beach is ideal for families with children. The water becomes deep very smoothly and this makes it a very safe place for the youngest and beginner swimmers. Behind the beach you will find grassy areas with separate playgrounds. On the beach itself you can play volleyball, build sandcastles or just look at the endless ocean.
There are designated places for swimming and surfing along the beach, but more surfers prefer to move a little south to D Street, where they find the perfect waves.
25. San Onofre State Beach
San Onofre State Beach is about an hour drive from San Diego, but the trip here is worth it just because of the view itself.
The beach area is divided into 2 parts the San Onofre Surf Beach and the San Onofre Bluffs. The bluffs are a particularly impressive sight, but access to them is paid.
To get from the rocky hills to the beach there are 6 different hiking trails, which are quite steep, but the view is definitely worth it.
The list of beautiful beaches in California is very long and offers opportunities for every type of tourist. Whether you prefer secluded and quiet places, sea and beach sports, luxury hotels and restaurants, or the green hills, California beaches are just for you.