Finding the best beaches in California is not that hard as this Golden Bear State is full of a variety of well-developed beaches featuring amusement and refreshment options as well as serenity and tranquility.
California, heaven for beachgoers, is known for its amazing beaches and beautiful landscapes spread over the 800 miles of shoreline stretching from its windswept northern coast to Mexico in the south.
Searching for your next outdoor recreational spot? How about the untamed beaches of Big Sur or the sun-kissed beaches of Southern California? Is your dream a beach break near the city or island getaway like Catalina?
California beaches offer from very little to very big for every tourist, either a kid or an enthusiast surfer.
You won’t miss out on your favorite beach activities from scuba diving, sea kayaking, snorkeling, wakeboarding, bodyboarding, surfing to beach volleyball, basketball, running, hiking, and, of course, sunbathing. 🥳
Have a plethora of enjoyment at Golden Sandy Beach spots with your family and friends.
We have a list of the 18 never-miss-out best California beaches for you.
List of 18 Best Beaches in California [year]
- Zuma Beach
- Pacific Beach
- East Beach
- Main Beach
- La Jolla Shores
- Fort Bragg Glass Beach
- Stinson Beach
- Carmel Beach
- Butterfly Beach
- Pismo State Beach
- Avila Beach
- Capitola Beach
- Coronado Central Beach
- Santa Monica State Beach
- Laguna Beach
- Huntington Beach
- Sand Dollar Beach
- Trinidad State Beach
1. Zuma Beach: Best Beach in Southern California
📍 Location: Los Angeles County, Malibu California
Known for its two miles expansive stretch of powdery-fine sand covering over 100 acres, Zuma Beach is equally among family, couples, and surfers. Zuma beach, perfect for sun-seeking travelers, holds several large yearly surfing competitions to make it a real source of amusement.
This beach, located just next to the westward beach and Point Dume, features the year-round on-duty guards and every hundred yards life stand guard due to the strong rip current..
The popular activities among tourists are kite surfing, fishing, diving, and sand games like beach volleyball. You may also find public restrooms and a four-star hotel (20 mins drive away from Zuma beach). I love to shower at this watery spot where waves are calm.
Important: This one of the famous beaches in California is ideal for families and children for its lively social environment; however, the costly parking lot fees hinder many visitors from visiting. 😉
There have been a lot of movies and TV shows filmed here, so you will not be unfamiliar with the area, even if you have never been.
2. Pacific Beach: Best Beach in North California for Swimming
📍 Location: North of Downtown San Diego
Pacific beach is famous for its soothing weather and warm water for a good swimming day out.
This San Diego Beach (located right after the Mission beach) is famous for its wide and long sandy shoreline spread over the 5 miles. The beach holds enough surfing conditions to operate the surf training; however, not for everyone as some enjoy the big mighty waves.
Sports, outdoor activities, and watching the sunset are all popular activities on the beach and the Ocean Front Walk, which runs along the shoreline. Enjoy kiteboarding, surfing, and windsurfing all day long!
💡 Important: Don’t forget to pay a visit to “Woody’s Right,” a popular snack stand and breakfast spot in front of the hotel.
This one of the best beaches in northern California offers lifeguards, public restrooms, showers, and some casual sit-down restaurants, taco shops, and cafés. The paid parking area is not spacious enough so if it is “house-full” you have to find the street parking on your own.
3. East Beach: Best for Families
📍Location: Santa Barbara, Southern California
East Beach is the most beautiful and glamorous watery spot in California for a reason. Find the amazing balmy weather, waving mounted palm trees, wide and long stretches of sandy shoreline, magical landscapes, and traditional Spanish colonial-style architecture for an adventurous family day out here.
You can enjoy the sensational hand-in-hand walk, relishing the cool breeze and mesmerizing scenery with your partner. Perfectly folded behind the Santa Ynez Mountains and trimmed by the lined tall palm trees, East beach calmly sweeps along the pacific coastline.
👉 NOTE: Rent Sun umbrellas, cabanas, long chairs, and rent kayaks to enjoy your stay on the sand.
This is one of the best beaches in California for families since it offers public restrooms, a playground, and lifeguards on duty to make it ideal for family and friends vacations. You may find many other amenities such as beach-facing restaurants and cafes to picture-perfect day at the shoreline.
4. Main Beach: Best Broadwalk Beach in CA
📍 Location: Santa Cruz, Northern California
The Main Beach faces a mile-long wooden boardwalk, which is lined with shops, outdoor games, and an ancient amusement park for the perfect seaside vacation. Perfectly known for its spacious shoreline of powdery-soft golden sand and amazing gentle surf, this beach is an excellent place for a summertime day-out experience.
What if you get the chance to watch mammals moving offshore? Main Beach is popular to see the otters, dolphins, whales, and sea lions; a fun and exciting watch indeed.
The visitors are welcome to enjoy numerous activities, including sunbathing, bodyboarding, surfing, and beach volleyball competitions on one of the best beaches in California.
👉 NOTE: Fewer tourism businesses operate on the boardwalk and at the amusement park (in November through February).
There is a Comfort Inn beach hotel only a few minutes walk from the beach and a broad sidewalk providing tourist services.
You can find lifeguard stands every hundred feet and public restrooms to rest and enjoy the beach. The hotel has comfortable and renovated rooms, but it is a bit pricey.
5. La Jolla Shores: Best for Romantic Seaside Date
📍 Location: La Jolla, about 15 Miles North of San Diego
La Jolla is a small city famous for its attractive boutiques and popular gourmet restaurants. While going 15 miles north of San Diego, a high-end community welcomes you with its breathtaking views and beauty. Here you find the La Jolla shores; A dreamy Southern California beach destination with extremely gentle waves.
La Jolla shores is a picture-perfect and well-protected trip destination for kids and families. There is even a play area for kids in the Children’s Pool, which is naturally shallow, separated by an old seawall.
Up for a romantic seaside date? La Jolla shores is an ideal location to romanticize the couple’s vacation.
At the beach, visitors have access to the public restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. The lifeguards are on duty year-round during daylight hours.
Enjoy your night’s stay facing the beach at the four-star Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa that is worth your every penny spent here. Estancia La Jolla Hotel resided on 10 acres of landscaped gardens, presents traditional Spanish architecture.
💡 TIP: Don’t miss visiting the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve. The beach is directly afterward a protected aquatic park, which is popular among divers and snorkelers.
There’s no way you’ll miss one moment during your stay at one of the best beaches in CA because the hotel has restaurants, a café, a spa, and an outdoor saltwater pool.
6. Sea Glass California Beach
📍 Location: Fort Bragg, California
The Glass Beach, a perfect example of how “Mother Nature blesses even the garbage to become good.” This unique beach is full of squares and round pieces of sea glass, but how?
Fort Bragg residents have thrown bottles, cars, and appliances into the sea for over a century. As a result of these pieces of glass debris, colorful jewels were formed on three beaches near MacKerricher State Park, now called Glass Beach.
- The location is not the easiest to reach. It’s an adventure, but worth it.
California’s unique beach is filled with vibrant colors because some of the shards are over a century old and create stunning combinations of white, green, and soda-bottle brown.
The tourists spent most of their time looking for the vibrant glass jewels on the beach that they began to disappear on the sand. The management had to take strict action and ban the taking of the glass jewels outside of the beach. Take as many photographs as you want, but remember that removing glass jewels is illegal.
7. Stinson Beach
📍 Location: Marine County, Northern California Coastline
Stinson Beach, a small town 20 miles north of San Francisco, is a crown jewel on the Northern California coastline. An expansive stretch of powdery-soft white sand lies hidden away in the bucolic setting of Stinson Beach.
👉 Its locally-owned shops, homey restaurants, and cafes make it a popular resort destination.
Being a protected part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the Stinson beach offers wonderful hiking trails, including the beautiful Dipsea Trail that passes the coastal hillsides, valleys, and redwood forests. It starts at Stinson Beach and goes all the way to Mill Valley.
The area is ideal for sunbathing or playing. In contrast to other beaches in California, the waves on this one are gentle because it is sheltered in a bay.
Visitors are welcome to enjoy the plenty of facilities:
- Public restrooms
- Snack bars
- Picnic areas
- Spacious parking areas
Furthermore, this one of the best beaches in California provides on-duty lifeguards from July through the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the outstanding recreational opportunities with your loved ones.
8. Carmel Beach
📍 Location: Pacific Coast, California
Carmel by-the-Sea is known for its sublime sandy beach, which is the centric reason for its existence.
To me, this charming seaside community, Carmel Beach, is not less than a dreamy yet gladdened spot with its fairy tale ambiance, quaint boutiques, secret lanes, and storybook cottages. I love the town’s foggy and misty weather since it always gives off an appealing vibe.
The wide range of glittering white sand, deep blue seawater, and swaying Monterey cypress trees are enough add-up beauty to captivate the tourist. Well, that is something that makes Carmel Beach picture-perfect shores on the Northern California Coastline.
This beach does not have lifeguards, so being careful with water becomes much important. With around 50 degrees temperature, Camel is still not the place to enjoy swimming because of some dangerous ocean conditions such as rogue waves and rip currents.
Furthermore, this one of the best California beaches offers a free parking lot on ocean Avenue and some public restrooms to make your stay here comfier.
So, if you are looking for a romantic walk or stroll along the shoreline, Camel beach is something for every one of you.
9. Butterfly Beach
📍 Location: Montecito, Southern California
Just five kilometers before the gorgeous city of Santa Barbara, Butterfly beach is the location to catch up on some dreamy moments.
If you want to spend some exotic days out of city life at the posh seaside community, the butterfly is the beach for you. Spend some recreational time in the neighboring area of many celebrities’ homes located in Montecito.
I often enjoy sunbathing and relaxing on the sand while watching the scenic beauty all around. This one of the best southern California beaches also offers opportunities for funfilled activities such as surfing, swimming, kayaking, kiting, and playing on the sand.
👉 The beautiful view of sunset at butterfly beach is not worth missing.
A romantic getaway awaits you at the Four Seasons Resort at the Biltmore Santa Barbara, starring incredible Spanish Colonial-style bungalows and villas. A deluxe spa, two gourmet restaurants, and a poolside café are available there.
10. Pismo State Beach
📍 Location: Central Coast of California
Looking forward to fun-loving vacation vibes this summer? Pismo State Beach is your good-to-go option. This, one of the best beaches in California, serves plenty of visitors with many hotels, casual restaurants, cafés, and surf shops options.
Containing the three-mile-long stretch of coastline in Central California, Pismo state beach comprises multiple beach areas containing the dunes as well.
- The tourists are allowed to freely use this spacious area for fun, relaxation, and recreational activities.
- Spend your time doing whatever you like, such as sunbathing, sailing, bird-watching, or building sandcastles.
The long pier of the beach contains lined picnic tables facing the breathtaking views. You can also experience fishing at the long pier.
Pismo state beach is equally popular among beach volleyball players and surfers, maintaining a lively ambiance throughout the visit. While the high season is in full swing, lifeguards are on duty.
👉 Enjoy the public facilities such as the boardwalk, public restrooms, and campgrounds and relish the beautiful memories altogether.
11. Avila Beach
📍 Location: San Luis Obispo County, California
Avila Beach’s scenic beauty sometimes resembles a hand-drawn portrait. Avila beach is located in a protected bay on the central California coast, offering a warmer climate. The hills block the winds, creating a mild climate with sunshine and ocean breezes.
The mounted-lined hills in the background and palm-fringed waterfront adds up the beauty of the beach ten times higher. Furthermore, the wide sandy shoreline of Avila beach offers enough space for sunbathers to stretch out on the soft sand.
- The tourists are welcomed to enjoy the restaurant terraces and outdoor cafes located alongside the small Broadwalk in the pleasant downtown area.
- It’s always a pleasant view watching the seals, otters, and dolphins playing on Avila one of the best beaches in California.
👉 Avila beach, known for its extremely gentle waves, provides the ideal environment for novice surfers. Have any other fun activities fishing, sailing, paddleboarding, bodyboarding, and kayaking.
The beautifully designed beach is not less than an attraction for its visitors, offering them public restrooms, picnic space, and a fun playground.
Don’t forget to pay a visit to Central Coast Aquarium, just a few steps away from the beach.
Being on Avila Beach and missing on historic Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa? Make it at least once there to experience natural mineral hot springs and spa services.
12. Capitola Beach
📍Location: Capitola, outside Santa Cruz, Northern California
When compiling the list of famous beaches in California, I couldn’t resist adding this smaller yet extremely beautiful Capitola beach to the list.
The mesmerizing scene of waterfront village, vibrant colorful-lined houses, lush green Mediterranean landscapes, and evocative fishing shelters on the Italian or French Riviera are all the reasons to make it here.
The tourists can enjoy exploring the cafes, restaurants, and shops in the downtown area, just a few steps away from the beach. Furthermore, the beach features an Esplanade park containing benches to sit and admire the picture-framed beauty as the beach offers breathtaking scenery.
Fun-packed activities including sunbath, kiting, building sandcastles, beach volleyball, and surfing are enough to make your day memorable. Capitola beach features sheltered, gentle waves making it perfect for enthusiast surfers.
👉 On this wharf, fishing is the most popular activity, and people can rent fishing bait, boats, and fishing gear to engage in adventurous activities.
During the high season, the lifeguards are on duty, and visitors are provided with public restrooms and outdoor showers to make the best out of their visit.
The idea of staying in a beach cabin and having a bonfire on the sand at night will not be less than a dreamy experience.
13. Coronado Central Beach: Best Beach for Kids
📍 Location: San Diego Bay, California
Calling Coronado Central Beach just a true beauty in San Diego will not justify its mesmerizing outlook as the beach is more beautiful than one can see.
Coronado is the most popular spot for filming multiple movies and beachside shows.
- Coronado has white powdery sand rich in mica that is more reflective and sparkling than any other beach, and a charming main street that makes it an ideal photography location.
- A long stretch of sand beach contains mild water, ideal for swimming, boogie boarding, and adventure surfing. Here, season-based lifeguards remain on duty.
You can experience the public restrooms and showers to make a perfect day out on the beach.
As one of the finest beaches in California, this beach is home to a legendary resort, occupying the site of a Victorian-era landmark and serving as the only beach destination for over a century.
👉 A tourist can stay in the historic Hotel del Coronado (featured in movies as well) for an exotic experience.
The beach is the top destination for surfers due to its extremely gentle ocean waves. Try your turn!
14. Santa Monica State Beach
📍 Location: West of Downtown Los Angeles
Santa Monica beach is the best spot for vacations with family and friends. It contains a wharf, boardwalks, and enchanting restaurants and shops. Have a sun-filled vacation here!
Santa Monica city is just 3.5 miles away from the beach, facing a bike path starting from San Monica to the next shoreline; Venice Beach.
This place offers the best adventures activities and locations, including the historic wooden pier, an amusement park featuring an aquarium, an old-fashioned carousel, roller-coaster rides.
The waves at Santa Monica Beach are gentle and calm; however, the water is cold, not suitable for swimming. The visitors can easily access the public bathrooms and showers, as well as the many lifeguards, are available there. Enjoy visiting the plenty of snacks stands along the beach for some refreshments.
👉 Up to stay in a room to experience the exotic serving? Huntley Santa Monica Beach, an apartment building located a few blocks away from the beach, is a luxurious boutique hotel with elegant, spacious, and modern rooms.
The hotel offers a rooftop restaurant to let you enjoy the catchy view from the higher floor. Don’t miss catching some breathtaking moments there.
15. Laguna Beach
📍 Location: Orange County, Southern California
Just about an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles, a heavenly beauty of Main Beach is located. The shore contains a few miles of wide, gently sloping beach on one side and beachfront homes and a few hotels on the other side.
The lighter tan-colored sand and border of rocky sections around some of the beach parts make up the unique beauty and calmly control the power of high tide waves.
The tourists have plenty of choices to enjoy on this one of the best beaches in California as it features volleyball courts and a molding long beach-facing bike path.
Make your best time staying at “The Ranch” a newly opened luxury resort, and enjoy the natural beauty and some moments at the resort’s own golf course.
The beach contains the old bathing pavilion refitted as the casual beach cafe offering a number of savories.
16. Huntington Beach
📍 Location: Orange County, Southern California
Looking for something accommodating both surfing and beach life charm? Huntington Beach has something for every one of you. The city offers two-miles wide and well-preserved sandy beaches.
Known for owning one of southern California’s first beach resorts, the popularity of Huntington city beach has reached over the globe.
Enjoy plenty of options available on the beachside, including walking, fishing, and watching the scenic beauty. Take your hands on the wide range of relishing food from the restaurants available on this one of the best beaches in California.
You will find a four-star exotic resort, “Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort,” right across the street from the beach.
The resort is famous for its carefree surfer vibes and stylish yet comfy settings. Get served by a number of facilities such as lounge chairs, beach towels, sun-sitting umbrellas, and a fitness center.
Don’t miss experiencing the terrace view of the beach from a high-end “surf-shack” style restaurant located there.
17. Sand Dollar Beach: Best Beach in Central California
📍 Location: South of Limekiln State Park, Big Sur
As the name shows, the sand dollar ocean is worth a dollar watching every bit of it. Santa Lucia Mountains towering above the Pacific ocean outline the awestruck beauty and is the property of Los Padres National Forest.
Sand dollar beach is equally popular among surfers and those who just want to sand-lay, appreciate beauty, and relax. Enjoy plenty of activities, including saltwater fishing and picnicking here at one of the best beaches in California.
The 90-mile long coastal stretch is a mesmerizing beauty on earth with beautiful landscapes and ocean views. Further, the eye-catching mountain slope into coastal bluffs makes an adventurous drive, and the glittering scene of azure-blue water captivates you forever.
Just take a short hike to reach Sand Dollar Beach, where sumptuous landscapes, magnificent ocean bluffs, and a gorgeous staircase down to sandy trees leave you awestruck for a moment.
Tourists are welcome to enjoy the facility of public restrooms, a paid parking lot, and picnic tables.
The secluded-feel lovers will find this place not less than a heaven for them.
18. Trinidad State Beach
👉 Location: Humboldt County, North California
If you need to find another name for picture-perfect beauty, that is definitely Trinidad State Beach, located an hour’s drive to the south of Oregon. A perfect place for the secluded beach lovers!
Trinidad is a quaint coastal community situated on bluffs and a hilltop facing the bay. Verdant hillsides are lining the beach and a long stretch of spruce trees and sand shores.
College Cove Beach’s sheltered environment makes it a great place for catching a tan and enjoying the warm California weather. At this end of Trinidad Beach, a gorgeous landscape looks like ocean bluffs and bays on the Italian Riviera.
The ideal location of the beach, far from the highway traffic noise, makes it the perfect location for secluded lovers. Tranquil environment, mild weather, the deep sound of nature, and gentle waves all catch up a relaxing trip for you here.
Beach visitors can enjoy various recreational facilities, including hiking trails, parking, public restrooms, a picnic area, a fishing pier, and a bayside restaurant.
The tourists can take little time out of strolling and play outdoor beach games. At Trinidad, one of the best beaches in California, you can kayak, fish, kite, bike, picnic, and camp.
In order to get the most out of my beach experience, I always love to own a fat tire bike which I can use to drive on sand and loose surfaces.
You would love to watch dolphins, sea otters, seagulls, and many other sea creatures setting in the most beautiful place on the earth.
A top-rated hotel at the beach is an exotic place to stay. Experience the breathtaking views of the bay and ocean at the Trinidad Bay Bed & Breakfast Hotel.
Are California Beaches Open?
The coastline of the state has over 1,500 beaches. The majority of California beaches have reopened now. However, due to COVID-19, this can fluctuate on immediate notices. So, make sure to contact the local administrators of the respective beach before starting your journey.
What is the Moat Cleanest Beach in California?
One of the cleanest beaches in America is Laguna Beach, a seaside artistic village and resort destination in Orange County, California.
Where are the Nude Beaches located in California?
Found about 25 miles north of San Diego, Boneyard Beach is somewhat a secluded beach snuggled beneath a cliff. Pirate’s Cove Beach, Located in San Luis Obispo County, provides a fairly protected beach environment. Further, Santa Barbara County’s clothing-optional beach is situated in Gaviota State Park.
Do you have to Wear a Mask at California Beaches?
It is essential to wear masks in the restrooms only. No matter if you have been vaccinated or not. However, wearing a mask outside on the beach is not necessary.
What beach in California has clear water?
There are 14 miles between San Diego and La Jolla Cove Beach. With visibility of up to 30 feet, the beach’s clear blue waters offer snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities at the base of sandstone cliffs.
What to Bring to the Beach?
Depending on your personal needs, you should bring sand toys, beach towels, beach umbrellas, flip-flops, beach chairs, sunglasses, sunscreen, reusable water bottles, lunch & snacks, extra wearable, and a first-aid box.
The golden state beaches are blessed with immense natural scenery, vibrant cities, rich culture, and spell bounding views. Spread over the incredible coastline California is the home of amazing beaches in the continent.
Here is something for everyone to relish!
Who won’t love to treat their eyes with such picturesque beauty? These laidback best beaches in California offer all the perks to surfers to visitors to be everyone’s next vacation destination.
It’s time to discover some of the best California beaches. Here we go!