California 14 MINS READ

30 Best Beaches in California

30 Best Beaches in California

California 14 MINS READ
Top view of Laguna Beach, in California.

California is blessed with a glittering 840-mile-long coastline, much of which is dotted with some of the most beautiful beaches in the USA.

While exploring this sun-kissed state, you’ll easily find seaside escapes of every shape and size— serene coves, picturesque surfing destinations, family-friendly stretches of sand, and idyllic beaches tucked away in pristine national parks.

No matter where you go in California, you’re never too far from a gorgeous stretch of shoreline. The only challenge is deciding where to begin.

Here’s a complete guide to the 30 top most beautiful California beaches worth visiting. Whether you’re seeking peaceful golden sands to lay down and decompress or a picturesque spot to enjoy watersports, you will find something in this guide. Have a look below!

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The 30 Most Beautiful Beaches in California

Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach

People surfing on Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach.

Huntington City Beach is one of the most coveted surfing spots in California. This 3.5-mile municipal beach is located in the seaside community of Huntington Beach, often called “Surf City.”

Set along the Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington City Beach is praised for its food surf at all stages of the tide and clean groundswells.

Aside from providing visitors with world-class surfing opportunities, the beach also features an array of 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.

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Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach

Crystal Cove, in Laguna Beach.

Crystal Cove State Park is an unspoiled location where visitors can experience nature at its finest. Considered one of Orange County’s largest remaining examples of open space and natural seashore, this state park encompasses no less than 3.2 miles of the Pacific coastline.

The park is located on the border with Newport Beach, and it’s home to an array of golden-sand 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 dazzling feature of Crystal Cove is a 1,000-acre underwater park. Located just off the shore of Crystal Cove Beach, the park is a wonderland for snorkelers and scuba divers, as it preserves one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world: the Kelp forest. Adventurers will find spectacular aquatic forests that can reach up to 100 feet!

Crystal Cove’s alluring beaches are beautifully framed by over 2,000 acres of wilderness. Some of the breathtaking natural features you’ll include while exploring the park include majestic bluffs, dramatic canyons, and developed woodlands.

South Mission Beach, San Diego

Sunset at South Mission Beach, in San Diego.

Mission Beach is one of the most vibrant beaches in San Diego. Situated in the namesake neighborhood, this wide stretch of sand spans nearly two miles of oceanfront and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. 

Surfing, biking, sunbathing, boogie boarding, swimming, and beach volleyball are fun-filled experiences visitors can enjoy in Mission Beach. There’s also a paved oceanfront pathway that runs north and south from the beach, and it’s perfect for biking, skating, running, and walking.

This vibrant beach is also surrounded by various restaurants and family-friendly destinations. A must-visit is Belmont Park, famous for its massive roller coaster that speeds up to 48 mph with sharp dips and turns.

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La Jolla Shores, San Diego

La Jolla in San Diego, California.

Those seeking to adventure themselves in the water can’t pass up the chance to visit San Diego’s La Jolla Shores Beach. Known for its reliable and predictable waves, this mile-long beach is the perfect spot for a thrilling surfing session. The beach’s crescent-shaped stretch of sand is also ideal for jogging and sunbathing.

You can take off from La Jolla Shores Beach to La Jolla Cove, a tiny coastal inlet known for its gentle waves. Then, head over to the eye-popping La Jolla tide pools, inhabited by many marine species like anemones, starfish, small crabs, hermit crabs, clams, and even small octopuses.

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West Beach, Santa Barbara

West Beach, Santa Barbara.

Are you visiting Santa Barbara with your kids? Then, West Beach is the place to go. Sandwiched between Stearn’s Wharf and the Harbor, this family-friendly beach is easily accessible and has many fun-filled amenities.

There’s a paved bike path with stunning ocean views, volleyball courts, walking trails, and a pier.

The beach is also prime for watching Santa Barbara’s New Year’s and 4th of July Fireworks shows.

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Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara

Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara, California.

Butterfly Beach is another bucket-list shoreline in Santa Barbara. A favorite among locals, this pristine beach is known for its serene waters, perfect for swimming and paddle boarding, and the soft sand, ideal for sunbathing.

When visiting Butterfly Beach, stick around for sunset, a gorgeous spectacle of orange and pink hues over the Pacific Ocean.

Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica

Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica, California.

Santa Monica State Beach (aka Santa Monica Beach) is undoubtedly one of the top Southern California beaches. This 3-mile-long stretch of sand follows the edge of the Pacific Coast Highway and allows visitors to indulge in many activities.

The beach has soft, sandy shores, ideal for sunbathing, jogging, and walking, as well as beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and playgrounds.

Santa Monica Beach also plays host to 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.

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Ocean Beach with views of the Golden Gate, San Francisco, California.

Ocean Beach is one of the best beaches in San Francisco. Nestled on the westernmost border of San Francisco, adjacent to Golden Gate Park, this famous beach offers the most jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.

The 3.5-mile stretch of white sand and a breezy esplanade is a great pot for scenic walks. At nighttime, visitors can enjoy cozy beach bonfires ( there are fire rings between stairwells 15 through 20), and when the wind is kicking, the place becomes a veritable mecca for windsurfing.

Swimming is dangerous at Ocean Beach due to cold water temperatures and strong rip currents.

Baker Beach, San Francisco

Baker Beach with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California.

Baker Beach is another worth-visiting San Francisco beach. It’s a section of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, encompassing over 82,000 acres of shoreline park and beachfront areas within the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The mile-long Baker Beach stretches beneath the rugged cliffs in the southwest corner of the Presidio and rewards visitors with privileged views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean, the Marin Headlands, and Lands End.

The north side of Baker Beach is “clothing optional,” meaning it’s also a nude beach.

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Half Moon Bay State Beach, San Mateo

Half Moon Bay, California.

The Half Moon Bay State Beach is a state park comprising four beaches: Francis Beach, Venice Beach, Dunes Beach, and Roosevelt Beach.

Perfect for those seeking to escape California’s jam-packed shores, these broad beaches offer golden sand (perfect for jogging, walking, or simply sunbathing) and spectacular views of aqua-blue waters.

Half Moon Bay’s beaches are also ideal for fishing, picnicking, and camping.

Want to enjoy taking in the spectacular landscapes of the area? Then, go hiking along the California Coastal Trail.

Zuma Beach, Malibu

Zuma Beach, in Malibu, California.

Zuma Beach is one of the largest and most popular beaches in Los Angeles County. Nestled in Malibu, this legendary beach has white sand, gin-clear waters, and big waves that are ideal for surfing.

In fact, Zuma Beach consistently ranks among the healthiest beaches for clean water conditions in Los Angeles County.

Amenities like Volleyball courts, picnic areas, and food stands can be found at various spots along the beach.

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El Matador State Beach, Malibu

El Matador State Beach, Malibu, California.

Located in the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador State Beach is a feast for sore eyes. Regarded as one of the best beaches in the USA, it has a secluded stretch of golden sand framed by dramatic coastal bluffs and faces the aquamarine 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.

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Main Beach, Laguna Beach

Main Beach, Laguna Beach, California.

Located just an hour from Los Angeles, Laguna Beach is a romantic coastal city in Orange County known for its coastal canyons and hidden coves. Right in the heart of Laguna, you’ll find Main Beach, best known for its white landmark lifeguard tower.

This beach is mostly sand bottom, and its shore break provides excellent conditions for body boarding and surfing (except during the summer months).

Main Beach also has a boardwalk, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, and a playground, making it a prime destination for outdoor activities.

You’ll easily access Laguna Beach’s top shopping areas, restaurants, and cafes from here.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California.

Pfeiffer Beac, in Big Sur, is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. This picturesque beach is famous for its purple sands (the result of manganese garnet deposits) and for being home to an Insta-worthy geological feature called the Keyhole Arch. Located just offshore, this rock formation is one of the most photographed spots in California.

Swimming is not recommended at Pfeiffer Beach, as the currents here can be dangerous. However, the beach’s gorgeous setting provides an ideal backdrop for a scenic stroll or an outdoor picnic.

Carmel Beach, Carmel by the Sea

Aerial view of Carmel by the Sea in California, US.

Carmel Beach is an atmospheric seaside getaway in Carmel-by-the-Sea, on California’s Monterey Peninsula. This dreamy beach lies at the foot of Ocean Avenue and features white sands and a gentle cove backed by majestic cypress trees.

There are peaks along this half-mile beach, creating the ideal conditions for surfing.

Visitors can make cozy fires at sunset, jog around the beach, or play with their dogs in the sand.

Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara

A dog walker on Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara, California.

One of the top things to do in Santa Barbara is visiting Arroyo Burro Beach. Located just ten minutes from the city center, this 70-acre reserve is home to a 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.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles

Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California.

Venice Beach is a bucket-list destination for anyone visiting California. Once the epicenter of Los Angeles’s hippie scene, this bohemian neighborhood buzzes with Insta-worthy brunch spots, wellness shops, healthy supermarkets, street performers, and yoga studios.

This vibrant California beach has almost 3 miles of coastline and 238 acres dotted with swinging palm trees. Its sand stretch is wide, flat, and ideal for sunbathing, jogging, and beach sports. Surfing is also a popular activity here.

You’ll also find a paved oceanfront walk where locals and tourists bike, jog, walk, and rollerblade.

Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach

Cars in Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach, California.

Want to take your beach experience to the next level? Then, head over to Oceano Dunes. Located three miles south of Pismo Beach, this recreational area preserves more than 5 miles of beach open for vehicle use and one of California’s most expansive coastal dunes.

The sun-kissed dunes here go on for miles, covering a vast geographical area, and can be explored through an array of adrenaline-filled activities. Don’t pass the chance to fly up and down the giant banks of sand in your own ATV or SunBuggy.

Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach

Victoria Beach, in Laguna Beach, at sunset.

Victoria Beach is one of Laguna’s best-kept secrets. Backed by 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, its best-known attraction is the medieval-looking “Pirate Tower”, which overlooks the ocean and is one of the most photographed spots in Laguna.

Main Beach, Santa Cruz

Main Beach, Santa Cruz, California.

Santa Cruz Main Beach is a fabulous location for families. Located in front of Santa Cruz’s famous boardwalk, this expansive beach boasts a large expanse of sand where the little ones can run, build sand castles, and play volleyball.

The Boardwalk features a thrilling amusement park filled with exciting rides (the Giant Dipper roller coaster is worth experiencing), mini golf, laser tag, restaurants, and stores.

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles

Manhattan Beach, in Los Angeles, California.

Consistently voted as one of the best beaches in Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach 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 flaunts a restored pier, a prime spot for watching the sunset, and a bike path winding along the oceanfront.

Wildcat Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

A camping tent on Wildcat Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California.

Whenever you feel like decompressing, escape to the wonderful unspoiled landscapes of Wildcat Beach. Gloriously located deep within the Phillip Burton Wilderness in the Point Reyes National Seashore, this 2.9-mile-long beach can be accessed through various nature trails.

The beach is beautifully shielded by steep bluffs and is often visited by wild creatures like gulls, seals, and sea lions. The ocean water may be freezing cold and rip currents, so swimming here is not advised.

Instead, opt for jogging, fishing, horseback riding, and sunbathing.

Stinson Beach, Marin County

Stinson Beach, Marin County, California.

A whole heap of fun activities is available at Marin County Stinson Beach. Located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Northern California, Stinson’s white sand designs are the perfect setting for volleyball, hiking, picnicking, and beach combing.

Water activities are also significant here. Visitors can swim, fish, surf (during the winter), and bodyboard.

North of Stinson, there’s a dog-friendly county beach called Upton Beach.

Tourmaline Beach, San Diego

Sunset at Tourmaline Beach, San Diego, California.

Tourmaline Beach offers world-class surfing in San Diego. The beach is located in the lively neighborhood of Pacific Beach (known for its vibrant nightlife scene) and boasts consistent and clean waves and groundswells.

If you don’t surf, no worries. You can still lounge in the sand and sunbathe while watching surfers, kiteboarders, and windsurfers against the horizon.

Point Dume State Beach, Malibu

Point Dume State Beach, Malibu, California.

Point Dune is a sight to behold. Located on the coast of Malibu, this dazzling beach offers awe-inspiring views of headlands, cliffs, and rocky coves.

Popular activities include swimming, surfing, scuba diving, and whale watching during wintertime.

The beach also has a boardwalk and viewing point that offers magnificent views of Santa Monica Bay.

Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles

Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, California.

Among Los Angeles’s great selection of beaches, Hermosa Beach is one that shines the most. 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 come here to play volleyball, jog along the beach’s pedestrian pathway, swim, and learn how to surf.

On this charming sandy beach, visitors are also happily surprised to find the 1,140-foot-long Hermosa Beach Pier, a wonderful place to watch the sunset.

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California.

Glass Beach is one of those places that leaves you in absolute awe. Located adjacent to MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, this beach is best known for having small pieces of colorful, smoothed glass strewn all over the sandy beach.

The area was a dumpsite for trash in the early to mid-1900s, and the broken bottles from the garbage cans of local residents have been transformed into little pebbles over the years.

This otherworldly beach also has small tide pools inhabited by various marine creatures like crabs and anemones.

East Beach, Santa Barbara

East Beach, Santa Barbara, California.

East Beach is another amazing family-friendly beach in California. Situated in the heart of Santa Barbara, at the far end of State Street, the beach has a spacious sandy coastline backed by a verdant park spiked with palm trees.

The waters are calm and perfect for swimming, and the beach is filled with picnic facilities, over a dozen volleyball courts, and a playground.

Paradise Cove Beach, Malibu

Paradise Cove Beach, Malibu, California.

A visit to Paradise Cove will definitely have a soothing effect on your soul. Tucked away in a cove surrounded by majestic craggy cliffs and tree-covered hills, this beach will captivate you with its gentle waters and soft sands.

Make yourself at home, and enjoy the sand, sun, and amenities like volleyball courts and a children’s playground.

Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego

Surfers climb down the mountain to surf in the ocean near Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA.

Located in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, the Torrey Pines State State Beach has all the features a nature worshipper could wish for. This ocean escape is beautifully framed by a series of 300-foot sandstone cliffs of white and golden stone.

Torrey Pines is a great beach for surfing, and during the winter months (most often in January), you’ll find consistent, clean waves here (rideable swell with light / offshore winds).

After an adrenaline-filled surfing session on the beach, explore the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This 2,000-acre 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.


What is the clearest beach in California?

La Jolla Cove, in San Diego, is known to have some of the clearest waters in California.

What is the prettiest beach near Los Angeles?

The best beaches near LA are:

  • El Matador State Beach, Malibu;
  • Zuma Beach, Malibu;
  • Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica;
  • Paradise Cove Beach, Malibu;
  • Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach;
  • Leo Carillo State Beach, Los Angeles County.

What’s the warmest beach in California?

Descanso Beach, on Catalina Island, is famous for having the warmest water temperatures in California.

What beach in California has purple sand?

Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur is famous for having purple-hued sand.

Is California warmer than Florida?

Florida is hotter and more humid when compared to California.

Why is California’s ocean so cold?

The ocean water in California is cold because of the currents that bring cold water from Alaska southward along the coast.

Do people swim at the beaches in California?

Yes, several beaches in California are suitable for swimming.

What Is The Best Time To Visit California?

Boasting consistently lovely weather, California is a year-round destination. For indulging in milder yet luminous and pleasant weather, September and October are ideal months to visit California.

What are the most beautiful beaches in California?

The 30 best California beaches 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.

What are the top-rated stays in California?

When it comes to top-rated stays in California, there’s a wide range of exceptional options to choose from. Here are some highly-rated stays in various parts of the state:

Browse. Book. Stay.

CuddlyNest provides all accommodations to all travelers at the best price. Find unlimited travel inspiration on our blog and social media channels:
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