Best Beaches in California 2023
California, with its vast coastline along the Pacific Ocean, is renowned for its stunning beaches. From the rugged cliffs of Big Sur to the golden sands of Southern California, the state offers a diverse range of beach destinations that attract millions of visitors each year. Here is the list of the top 10 best beaches in California as of 2023:
Laguna Beach, CA
Sycamore Canyon Road
Big Sur, CA
Crystal Cove State Park
8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA
Carmel, CA 93923
Natural Bridges State Beach
Santa Cruz, CA
San Diego, CA
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes , CA
Hermosa Beach, CA
California’s 10 Best Beaches
The beaches of California embody the spirit of the Golden State, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and coastal charm. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or simply a place to soak up the sun, California’s beaches have it all. F
rom the vibrant beaches of Southern California to the rugged coastline of Big Sur and the hidden gems of Northern California, each beach destination offers its own unique appeal. So, pack your sunscreen, grab your surfboard, and prepare to experience the beauty and allure of California’s breathtaking beaches.
Whether you’re seeking a sun-soaked getaway, thrilling surf, or simply a serene retreat by the ocean, California’s beaches have something for everyone. Let’s explore the highlights, activities, and natural beauty that make the beaches of California truly exceptional.
1. Malibu Beach (Malibu, CA)
Malibu Beach, located in Malibu, California, is renowned for its celebrity residents and its picturesque 21-mile stretch of coastline. It is a popular destination for travelers seeking a sun-filled beach experience. There are several reasons why we recommend this beach.
One of the highlights of visiting Malibu Beach is the opportunity to experience sea animal interactions. The coastal waters are home to a diverse range of marine life, and visitors can often spot dolphins, seals, and other fascinating creatures. This can be an educational and exciting experience, especially for kids who have an interest in marine biology.
Malibu Beach is also a family-friendly destination. It offers a variety of amenities and activities that cater to children, ensuring they have a great time. From building sandcastles to playing beach games, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to enjoy themselves in a safe and beautiful environment.
However, it is important to note that parking can be difficult at Malibu Beach. Due to its popularity, finding a parking spot near the beach can be challenging, especially during peak times. It is advisable to arrive early or consider alternative transportation options to avoid any inconvenience.
Despite the parking challenge, we highly recommend visiting Malibu Beach because it boasts some of the best beach spots in California. Whether you are seeking thrilling water sports or a peaceful retreat, Malibu has something to offer for everyone. Point Dume State Beach, Puerco Beach, and Zuma Beach are among the must-visit spots that guarantee a memorable ocean getaway.
For optimal weather conditions, we suggest planning your visit to Malibu during the fall or spring seasons. During these times, there is minimal chance of heavy rainfall, and you can enjoy clear skies and pleasant temperatures. If you are interested in surfing, September to November is the ideal period, as the waves are typically more favorable during this time.
2. Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, CA)
Laguna Beach, located in Orange County, California, is a charming coastal city known for its beautiful beaches, scenic landscapes, and vibrant arts community.
Laguna Beach is famous for its pristine beaches with clear turquoise waters and picturesque cliffs. Some popular beaches in the area include Main Beach, Crescent Bay Beach, and Thousand Steps Beach. These beaches offer breathtaking views, excellent swimming conditions, and opportunities for various water activities such as surfing, snorkeling, and paddleboarding.
Laguna Beach has a rich artistic heritage and is home to numerous art galleries, studios, and festivals. The city hosts the annual Sawdust Art Festival, Festival of Arts, and Art-A-Fair, where visitors can appreciate and purchase unique artwork, sculptures, and crafts. The artistic ambiance of Laguna Beach adds a distinctive charm to the area.
The city is surrounded by natural beauty, including hills and canyons with scenic hiking trails. Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Crystal Cove State Park offer a range of trails for all fitness levels, allowing visitors to explore the breathtaking coastal landscapes, encounter local wildlife, and enjoy panoramic ocean views.
Laguna Beach is renowned for its diverse culinary scene and vibrant shopping districts. The city offers a wide array of restaurants, cafes, and bistros that cater to various tastes, from casual beachfront dining to upscale gourmet experiences. The downtown area, particularly along Forest Avenue, is filled with boutique shops, art galleries, and unique stores, offering a delightful shopping experience.
Similar to many beachside destinations, parking can be a challenge in Laguna Beach, especially during peak tourist seasons. The limited availability of parking spaces can result in crowded parking lots and streets. It is advisable to arrive early or consider utilizing public transportation or ride-sharing services to alleviate parking difficulties.
Given its popularity, some of the more well-known beaches in Laguna Beach can become crowded, particularly on weekends and during the summer months. If you prefer a more secluded beach experience, exploring some of the lesser-known beaches or visiting during weekdays might be a better option.
Despite these challenges, Laguna Beach is highly recommended for its stunning beaches, artistic atmosphere, scenic hiking trails, and excellent dining and shopping options. The city offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural experiences, making it a sought-after destination for travelers seeking a coastal getaway.
3. Pfeiffer Beach (Sycamore Canyon Road, Big Sur, CA)
Pfeiffer Beach, located along Sycamore Canyon Road in Big Sur, California, is a hidden gem known for its breathtaking beauty and unique features.
Pfeiffer Beach is renowned for its stunning natural scenery. The beach is characterized by its iconic Keyhole Rock, a massive rock formation with a distinctive arch-shaped opening that frames the ocean and provides a picturesque backdrop for photographs. The rugged coastline, golden sands, and crystal-clear waters create a truly mesmerizing setting.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Pfeiffer Beach is its purple sand. The sand is naturally colored due to manganese garnet particles that wash ashore from nearby hillsides. This phenomenon makes Pfeiffer Beach unique and visually striking, offering visitors a one-of-a-kind beach experience.
Unlike some of the more crowded beaches in California, Pfeiffer Beach offers a sense of privacy and seclusion. Its location, tucked away in Big Sur, contributes to its peaceful atmosphere and provides an opportunity for visitors to enjoy a tranquil beach experience away from the crowds.
Pfeiffer Beach is a favorite spot for photographers due to its distinctive features and scenic beauty. The combination of the Keyhole Rock, purple sand, and dramatic coastal views creates an ideal backdrop for capturing memorable photographs. Whether you are a professional photographer or simply enjoy taking snapshots, Pfeiffer Beach offers ample opportunities for stunning shots.
Pfeiffer Beach is a more remote and rustic beach compared to some other coastal areas. It lacks certain amenities such as restrooms, lifeguards, and food concessions. Visitors are advised to come prepared with their own supplies, including water, snacks, and beach essentials.
Accessing Pfeiffer Beach can be a bit challenging. The beach is located at the end of Sycamore Canyon Road, which is a narrow and winding road. Additionally, there is a small fee for parking, and the parking lot may fill up quickly during peak times. It is recommended to arrive early to secure a parking spot and navigate the road with caution.
4. Coronado Beach (Coronado, CA)
Coronado Beach, located near San Diego, is a stunning stretch of shoreline that spans 1.5 miles and captivates visitors with its shimmering golden sands. Here are the reasons why we highly recommend this beach:
Coronado Beach offers a variety of calm and serene beach areas of different sizes, making it perfect for both relaxation and exploration. Whether you prefer a quiet spot to unwind or want to take a leisurely stroll along the shore, you can find the ideal setting to suit your preferences.
For those who are seeking a similar coastal scenery to popular destinations like Laguna Beach and Malibu, Coronado Beach provides an excellent alternative. It boasts the same picturesque beauty, with its wide expanse of sandy coastline and sparkling waters.
This beach is particularly well-suited for families and is considered one of the best family-friendly beaches in California. The waters at Coronado Beach are calm, with gentle surf, making it safe and enjoyable for children to play in. Parents can have peace of mind knowing that their kids can splash around and have fun in a secure environment.
Coronado Beach is renowned for its legendary sunset vistas and sparkling sands. The beach’s west-facing location allows visitors to witness breathtaking sunsets that paint the sky with vibrant hues, creating a truly magical experience. The sands themselves have a shimmering quality that adds to the beach’s allure.
5. Crystal Cove State Park (8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA)
Crystal Cove State Park, which has been open since 1979, is a vast 3,936-acre state park that boasts 3 miles of superb beaches.
Crystal Cove State Park provides a wonderful nature escape, with its diverse range of beaches and tide pools. The park’s beaches offer visitors a chance to relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the beauty of the coastline. The tide pools are teeming with fascinating marine life, allowing for up-close and personal encounters with sea creatures and a unique exploration experience.
In addition to the stunning beaches, Crystal Cove State Park offers over 17 miles of nature trails that are perfect for hiking. These trails wind through various terrains, including canyons, coastal hillsides, and along the beach. Hiking in the park provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, enjoy breathtaking views, and observe the park’s diverse flora and fauna.
When visiting Crystal Cove State Park, be sure to make a stop at Pelican Point and Moro Beach. These areas are known for their pristine beauty and are considered the park’s finest beaches. Pelican Point offers a wide sandy beach, while Moro Beach features fascinating rock formations and tide pools. Both locations provide an exceptional beach experience within the park.
Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore tide pools, or embark on a hiking adventure, Crystal Cove State Park has something to offer for everyone. The combination of its superb beaches, nature trails, and abundant wildlife make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and beach lovers alike.
6. Carmel Beach (Carmel, CA)
Carmel Beach, located on the Central Coast of California, is a hidden gem that spans 1 mile in length, providing a fantastic setting for both play and relaxation. Carmel Beach is known for its stunning beauty, with its turquoise waters and white sand shoreline.
The picturesque combination of the clear, inviting waters and the soft, pristine sands make it one of the most beautiful beaches in California. The natural beauty of Carmel Beach creates a serene and tranquil atmosphere, perfect for unwinding and enjoying the coastal scenery.
In addition to the beach itself, Carmel town is nearby and offers a charming and quaint atmosphere. After immersing yourself in the beach’s beauty, you can take a stroll to Carmel town and explore its boutiques and local eateries. The town has a unique character and offers a delightful shopping and dining experience, allowing visitors to further enhance their beach getaway.
Carmel is particularly enchanting to visit at night. The town has a lovely and scenic ambiance after the sun sets. Staying until evening allows you to witness the exquisite sunset over Carmel Beach, which is a sight not to be missed. The colors of the sky and the ocean blend together, creating a breathtaking view that adds a touch of magic to your beach visit.
7. Natural Bridges State Beach (Santa Cruz, CA)
Natural Bridges State Beach, located in Santa Cruz, is a captivating 65-acre state park that is sure to delight nature enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts alike. Natural Bridges State Beach is a must-see destination in California, thanks to its irresistible natural beauty.
The beach is known for its awe-inspiring geological formations, including a prominent natural bridge that spans across the water. These unique features make the beach a paradise for photographers, as it offers countless opportunities to capture stunning images of the dramatic coastline and rock formations.
The beach’s intimate ambiance adds to its appeal. It is a peaceful and serene place where visitors can enjoy the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore, take leisurely walks along the sandy beach, or simply sit back and relax while taking in the beauty of the surroundings. The tranquility of Natural Bridges State Beach makes it an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
One of the notable attractions of Natural Bridges State Beach is the monarch butterfly preserve. This preserve provides a sanctuary for monarch butterflies during their annual migration. Visitors have the unique opportunity to witness these beautiful butterflies in their natural habitat, adding a touch of wonder and fascination to the beach experience.
Make sure not to miss the chance to see the notable arch rock at Natural Bridges State Beach. This picture-perfect geological feature adds to the beach’s charm and is a popular spot for photographs. For an even more captivating experience, visit the beach during sunset when the colors of the sky and the arch rock create a breathtakingly scenic backdrop.
8. La Jolla (San Diego, CA)
La Jolla, a scenic seaside neighborhood in San Diego, stretches along 7 miles of the Pacific Ocean coastline.
La Jolla is undoubtedly one of the most enticing neighborhoods in San Diego, offering a stunning coastline and abundant opportunities for adventure. The beaches in La Jolla are known for their natural beauty and picturesque surroundings, making them a must-visit for beach enthusiasts.
La Jolla Shores is the primary beach in the area and stands out as one of the best beaches for swimming in California. The beach boasts warm, spotless, and calm waters, creating an ideal environment for swimming and enjoying water activities. Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or a beginner, La Jolla Shores provides a safe and enjoyable beach experience.
To spice up your beach escape in La Jolla, venture beyond the sandy shores and explore the nearby trails at the Torrey Pines Gliderport or Torrey Pines State Park. The Torrey Pines Gliderport offers thrilling opportunities for paragliding and hang gliding, allowing you to soar above the coastline and witness breathtaking views from above.
Torrey Pines State Park, on the other hand, offers scenic hiking trails that wind through coastal cliffs and provide panoramic vistas of the ocean and surrounding landscapes. These activities add an extra element of adventure to your beach getaway and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the area.
9. Point Reyes National Seashore (Point Reyes , CA)
Point Reyes National Seashore is a stunning coastal park located in Marin County, California. Here’s why we highly recommend visiting this natural treasure:
Point Reyes National Seashore is known for its breathtaking beauty and diverse ecosystems. The park spans over 71,000 acres and offers a unique blend of rugged coastline, sandy beaches, rolling hills, and forested areas. The dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches make it a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The seashore is home to a rich variety of wildlife, including tule elk, harbor seals, whales, and numerous bird species. Birdwatchers flock to the park to observe migratory birds and resident species in their natural habitats. The diverse habitats within the seashore provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography.
The park features more than 150 miles of hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore its natural wonders on foot. From leisurely coastal walks to challenging backcountry treks, there is a trail for every level of hiker. The scenic trails offer panoramic views of the coastline, forests, and grasslands, providing a truly immersive experience in nature.
Point Reyes National Seashore is also a haven for water activities. Visitors can enjoy swimming, tide pooling, kayaking, and even surfing in designated areas. The park’s rugged coastline and powerful waves attract surfers from around the world, seeking the thrill of catching a wave in this pristine environment.
10. Hermosa Beach (Hermosa Beach, CA)
Hermosa Beach, located in Los Angeles County, is a Californian treasure that boasts over 90 acres of public beaches.
Hermosa Beach is a versatile destination that caters to beachgoers of all kinds. Whether you’re a surfer, someone looking to relax and lounge on the sand, or a sightseer eager to explore, Hermosa Beach has something to offer. The beach provides the perfect setting for various activities, ensuring that visitors can find their beach bliss in this vibrant city.
One of the standout features of Hermosa Beach is the abundance of amenities available. The beaches are well-equipped with showers, restrooms, and volleyball courts, making it convenient and comfortable for visitors. These amenities enhance the overall beach experience, allowing you to fully enjoy your time in the sun and sand.
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the city’s beach boardwalk, known as the Strand, and the iconic Hermosa Beach Pier. The Strand offers a scenic pathway along the beachfront, perfect for walking, biking, or rollerblading while enjoying the stunning ocean views.
The Hermosa Beach Pier, stretching 1,140 feet, is not only a picturesque landmark but also a hub of activity. Alongside its stellar sunset views, the pier area is vibrant and lively, offering a variety of facilities, including shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.
Popular Beaches of California
Aside from the mentioned beaches, California is home to several other popular beach destinations that are worth exploring. Here are a few more notable beaches in the state:
Venice Beach (Los Angeles): Known for its vibrant boardwalk, street performers, and eclectic atmosphere, Venice Beach offers a lively and unique beach experience. Visitors can enjoy skateboarding, bike riding, people-watching, and exploring the shops and cafes along the boardwalk.
Manhattan Beach (Los Angeles): Situated in the upscale neighborhood of Manhattan Beach, this beach is known for its wide sandy shores, volleyball courts, and charming coastal town. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing, beach volleyball, and strolling along the scenic Strand.
Santa Barbara East Beach: Located in the picturesque city of Santa Barbara, East Beach is a local favorite. With palm-lined promenades, beachside restaurants, and a wide sandy beach, it’s perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying various water sports.
Moonstone Beach (Cambria): Nestled along the stunning Central Coast, Moonstone Beach is known for its unique moonstone pebbles that wash ashore. Visitors can enjoy long walks along the boardwalk, explore tide pools, and soak in the breathtaking coastal views.
Stinson Beach (Marin County): Located just north of San Francisco, Stinson Beach offers a peaceful escape from the city. Surrounded by scenic hills and golden sands, it’s an ideal spot for picnicking, beachcombing, and even swimming, although the water can be chilly.
Newport Beach (Orange County): This coastal city boasts several beaches, including the popular Newport Beach and Balboa Beach. Visitors can enjoy a range of water activities, rent bikes or surreys, and explore the charming Balboa Island with its shops and eateries.
El Matador State Beach (Malibu): Known for its rugged cliffs, hidden coves, and stunning rock formations, El Matador State Beach is a picturesque gem along the Malibu coastline. It’s a favorite spot for photographers, couples, and those seeking a more secluded beach experience.
These are just a few examples of the many incredible beaches that California has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a lively atmosphere, scenic beauty, or a tranquil retreat, California’s diverse coastline has a beach destination that will suit your preferences.
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