Southern California is known for its luminous weather and spectacular beaches along the Pacific coastline.
While exploring this dramatic region, you’ll easily find seaside escapes of every shape and size to suit beachgoers of all types. Huntington City Beach is one of California’s top places for surfing, while Crystal Cove State Park, a sprawling state park in Orange County, is a must for nature lovers.
If you’re looking for one of the clearest waters in Los Angeles County, head to El Matador, a secluded beach in Malibu.
In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of the top 16 most beautiful beaches in Southern California. Whether you’re looking to unwind on peaceful golden sands or enjoy water sports, this guide has got you covered. So, let’s dive in and explore the best beaches in Southern California!
The 16 Best Beaches in Southern California
Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach
Huntington City Beach is one of the most sought-after surfing destinations in California. This 3.5-mile municipal beach is located in the coastal city of Huntington Beach, also known as “Surf City.”
Set along the Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington State Beach is praised for its food surf at all stages of the tide and clean groundswells.
Aside from spoiling visitors with world-class surfing opportunities, this Southern California beach also features family-friendly amenities. You’ll find several volleyball courts, bonfire pits, and a paved bike trail here.
The crown jewel of the beach is the legendary Huntington Beach Pier, which spans 1,850 feet long and offers showstopping views of the Pacific Ocean.
Recommended Read: The Ultimate California Travel Guide
Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach
Crystal Cove State Park is an idyllic destination where outdoor enthusiasts can experience nature at its finest. Considered one of Orange County’s largest remaining examples of open space and natural seashore, this sprawling state park encompasses 3.2 miles of the Pacific Ocean coastline.
The park lies on the border with Newport Beach, and it’s home to an array of sandy beaches suitable for every mood and moment. Moro Beach is a prime place for bodyboarding, paddle boarding, fishing, and kayaking, while Reef Point is a top-notch spot for scuba diving. Ensure you also visit Little Treasure Cove, known for its scenic tide pools.
Another amazing feature of Crystal Cove is a 1,000-acre underwater park. Located just off the shore of Crystal Cove Beach, the park is a mecca for snorkelers and scuba divers, as it conserves one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world: the Kelp forest. These spectacular aquatic forests can reach up to 100 feet!
Crystal Cove’s beautiful beaches are surrounded by over 2,000 acres of wilderness. Some dazzling natural features you’ll find while exploring the park include majestic bluffs, dramatic canyons, and developed woodlands.
South Mission Beach, San Diego
Visiting Mission Beach is one of the top things in San Diego. Situated in the namesake neighborhood, this wide stretch of sand spans nearly two miles of oceanfront and rewards visitors with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.
Surfing, biking, sunbathing, boogie boarding, swimming, and beach volleyball are some of the top experiences visitors can enjoy in Mission Beach.
The beach also has a paved oceanfront pathway that runs north and south from the beach, and it’s perfect for biking, skating, running, and walking.
Mission Beach is surrounded by an array of restaurants and family-friendly destinations. A must-visit here is Belmont Park, an amusement park well-known for its massive roller coaster that speeds up to 48 mph with sharp dips and turns and gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.
La Jolla Shores, San Diego
Adventure seekers will love visiting San Diego’s La Jolla Shores Beach. Part of La Jolla Underwater Park Known, this beach is known for its reliable and predictable waves and is the perfect spot for a heart-racing surfing session. It also features a crescent-shaped stretch of sand ideal for jogging and sunbathing.
From La Jolla Shores Beach, head over to La Jolla Cove, a tiny coastal inlet known for its gentle waves. Then, head to the eye-popping La Jolla tide pools, populated by many marine species like anemones, starfish, small crabs, hermit crabs, clams, and even small octopuses.
Recommended Read: The 6 Best Hotels in San Diego, California
Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica
Santa Monica State Beach is a gem in Southern California. This 3-mile-long stretch of soft sand follows the edge of the Pacific Coast Highway and provides visitors with various activities and experiences.
Located just a 20-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica Beach welcomes visitors and locals with its sandy shores perfect for sunbathing, jogging, and walking, as well as beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and playgrounds.
The beach also hosts the Original Muscle Beach, a special area that flaunts gymnastics equipment, such as parallel bars, rings, swings, and ropes available for kids and adults.
Around the beach, you’ll find some of the top attractions in Santa Monica, including the Santa Monica Pier, the Pacific Park, and the Heal The Bay Aquarium.
Coronado Beach, San Diego
Coronado Island is just a short drive or ferry ride from downtown San Diego, in the middle of San Diego Bay.
This luscious island is a bucket-list place for those seeking to enjoy some of the best San Diego beaches, including the 1.75 miles long Coronado Beach. Behind this idyllic stretch of sand, you’ll find the Hotel del Coronado, California’s most iconic resort.
After lounging in Coronado Beach’s soft white sand, head over to the lush Centennial Park, where you’ll be spoiled with stunning views of the San Diego skyline.
El Matador Beach, Malibu
Gloriously nestled in the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador State Beach is a sight. Named one of the best beaches in the USA, El Matador has a secluded stretch of golden sand surrounded by dramatic coastal bluffs and faces the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean. By the way, this beach has one of the clearest waters in Los Angeles county.
Massive rocks, caves, hidden coves, and several migrating birds all design a peaceful and rustic atmosphere in El Matador Beach.
There’s also a parking lot on the bluff with picnic tables with views of the Pacific Ocean.
Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego
Located in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, the Torrey Pines State State Beach is a wonderland for nature lovers. This ocean escape is beautifully framed by a series of 300-foot white and golden stone sandstone cliffs and provides stellar surfing conditions.
During the winter months (often in January), you’ll find consistent, clean waves here (rideable swell with light / offshore winds).
Here, be sure to explore the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This 2,000 acres coastal park in La Jolla encompasses maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine, miles of unspoiled beaches, unique geological formations, and a lagoon vital to migrating seabirds.
Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles
Hermosa Beach is one of Los Angele’s top seaside escapes. With almost 2 miles of ocean frontage and 94 acres of public beach, Hermosa is the perfect place to enjoy the luminous California sun.
Visitors also come here to play volleyball, jog along the beach’s pedestrian pathway, swim, and learn how to surf.
While spending the day on this charming sandy beach, stop by the 1,140-foot-long Hermosa Beach Pier, which is a prime place to watch the sunset over Los Angeles.
Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles
Manhattan Beach is another gem in Southern California. Consistently voted as one of the best beaches in Los Angeles, this is a quieter alternative to Venice and Santa Monica. Aside from being an excellent place for water sports like surfing and paddle boarding, it has a soft 2-mile-long stretch of sand, which is particularly famous among beach volleyball players.
The beach also has a restored pier, an excellent place for watching the sunset, and a bike path winding along the oceanfront.
Zuma Beach, Malibu
Zuma Beach is one of the largest and most famous beaches in Los Angeles County. Located in Malibu, this family-friendly beach has soft sand, transparent waters, and big waves that are ideal for surfing.
Also, Zuma Beach consistently ranks among the healthiest beaches for clean water conditions in Los Angeles County.
Facilities such as volleyball courts, picnic areas, and food stands can be found at several spots along the beach.
Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara
Visiting Arroyo Burro Beach is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara. Situated just ten minutes from the city center, this 70-acre reserve encompasses a beautiful beach surrounded by towering bluffs and scenic trails offering breathtaking ocean views.
Popular activities include picnicking, bodyboarding, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, and swimming.
East Beach, Santa Barbara
Situated in the heart of Santa Barbara, at the far end of State Street, East Beach has a spacious sandy coastline backed by a lush park with palm trees.
The waters are gentle and excellent for swimming, and the beach hosts amenities like picnic areas, a dozen volleyball courts, and a playground.
Recommended Read: Best Hotels in Santa Barbara, California
Descanso Beach, Catalina Island
Luxury-loving travelers seeking an indulgent experience must-visit Descanso Beach. This little slice of paradise is located on Catalina Island, an idyllic rocky island off Southern California’s coast in the Gulf of Santa Catalina.
Located within walking distance from Avalon, on Catalina Island, Descanso is a private beach, so expect to pay a small entrance fee to get inside. Once you’re on the beach, you’ll see a vibrant bar and restaurant and padded lounge chairs where you can lie down and sunbathe while having a freshly made cocktail.
Descanso Beach also has sugar-white sand and pristine waters to snorkel, swim, and paddleboard.
Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach
Victoria Beach is one of Laguna’s most enchanting places. Framed by dramatic coastal bluffs, this large cove beach also dazzles visitors with an array of unique features, such as a pool on the sand, hidden sea caves, and tide pools.
However, the beach’s best-known attraction is the medieval-looking “Pirate Tower”, which overlooks the ocean and is one of the most photographed spots in Laguna Beach.
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
Venice Beach is one of California’s most legendary places. Once the core of Los Angeles’s lively hippie scene, this bohemian neighborhood buzzes with Insta-worthy brunch spots, wellness shops, healthy supermarkets, street performers, and yoga studios.
This postcard-worthy beach has almost 3 miles of coastline and 238 acres filled with swinging palm trees. Its sand stretch is wide, flat, and ideal for sunbathing, jogging, and beach sports. Surfing is also a popular activity on Venice Beach.
There’s also a paved oceanfront walk where locals and tourists bike, jog, walk, and rollerblade.
What is the prettiest beach in Southern California?
The most beautiful Southern California beaches are:
- Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach
- Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach
- South Mission Beach, San Diego
- La Jolla Shores, San Diego
- Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica
- Coronado Beach, San Diego
- El Matador Beach, Malibu
- Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego
- Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles
- Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles
- Zuma Beach, Malibu
- Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara
- East Beach, Santa Barbara
- Descanso Beach, Catalina Island
- Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach
- Venice Beach, Los Angeles
What’s the cleanest beach in Southern California?
El Matador, in Malibu, is known for having one of the clearest waters in California.
What is the prettiest beach in California?
The most beautiful beaches in California are:
- Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach;
- Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach;
- South Mission Beach, San Diego;
- La Jolla Shores, San Diego;
- West Beach, Santa Barbara;
- Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara;
- Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica;
- Ocean Beach, San Francisco;
- Baker Beach, San Francisco;
- Half Moon Bay State Beach, San Mateo;
- Zuma Beach, Malibu;
- El Matador State Beach, Malibu;
- Main Beach, Laguna Beach;
- Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur;
- Carmel Beach, Carmel by the Sea;
- Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara;
- Venice Beach, Los Angeles;
- Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach;
- Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach;
- Main Beach, Santa Cruz;
- Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles;
- Wildcat Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore;
- Stinson Beach, Marin County;
- Tourmaline Beach, San Diego;
- Point Dume State Beach, Malibu;
- Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles;
- Glass Beach, Fort Bragg;
- East Beach, Santa Barbara;
- Paradise Cove Beach, Malibu;
- Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego.
Browse. Book. Stay.
CuddlyNest provides all accommodations to all travelers at the best price. Find unlimited travel inspiration on our blogs and our social media channels Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest
You may also like:
North America Travel Guide
Most Romantic Weekend Getaways in the United States
Long Weekend Getaways in the United States
Best Family Vacations In The United States
Best National Parks In The United States
Best Cabin Rentals in the United States
Best Dog-Friendly Vacations In The United States
The Best Time To Visit San Diego, California
The 8 Best Day Trips From San Francisco, California
The Top 9 Affordable Romantic Getaways in California
The 9 Most Romantic Getaways In Southern California
The Ultimate Guide To Downtown Los Angeles, California
The 5 Best Restaurants In Los Angeles, California