Whether you prefer the rocky monoliths found in the north or the expansive of warm sands of the south, the best California beaches all have a certain personality to them. You can explore, relax, and participate in a number of fun beachside activities. Grab your flip-flops and be prepared to enjoy a perfect stretch of sand with the beaches that are offered in this exclusive list.
- Pfeiffer Beach
It may not offer the same amenities of other more developed beaches, but the way the waves crash into the cliffs at this beach makes everyone want to stop and enjoy it. That’s what makes it the top-rated beach on our list. You’ll have numerous photography opportunities with the adjacent state park, waterfalls to find, and purple sands that make Big Sur the place to be in California. Not every beach here is accessible, but the ones that are feel just perfect.
- Santa Monica
What can you say about Santa Monica Beach? It’s big and it’s wide. Come here during the weekend and it will be packed with locals and tourists. Make sure you stop by the pier to enjoy the rides and games that are available. Pick up a sweet treat to enjoy as you stroll along the beach. As an added benefit, you can fish from the pier all year long without needing to pick up a license to do so. The waters stay warm well into the autumn months as well, letting you have a great day at the beach nearly all year long.
The red roofs make a dramatic visual interplay with the crystal blue waves at this beach. Grab a ferry or drive across the bridge to Coronado Island and you’ll have plenty of space on this sparkling white sand beach. Some even call a day at this beach a lot like spending time in the land of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum. It’s interesting to note that when Baum was writing his famous book about Dorothy, he was actually living on the island. Bring your umbrella, claim a beach chair, and your experience will be beyond compare.
- Hermosa Beach
Many of the beaches that you’ll find near urban centers inevitably have some level of uncleanliness about them. Not this beach. The sand is warm and there is a noticeable absence of the kitschy tourist items that may other similar beaches offer. Another advantage is the multiple use trail for biking and hiking that lets you take in an outstanding California view. Rent equipment, bring your own beach chair, and stare off into the distance at one of the best sunsets you’ve ever seen.
- Huntington Beach
This beach is often considered to be the surfing capital of California. Professional competitions mingle with amateurs looking for some fun on a warm afternoon. Bring your own board or rent one. Tourism is a big deal at this beach as well, so every world-class amenity you can imagine is available somewhere. Find the hidden gems for a great deal, watch the fun from the safety of the pier, or just stretch out on the warm golden sands. If you want options, this is the best California beach for you.
This is a great beach for those who love seeing dramatic strawberry sunsets. There can be a lot of driftwood debris on this beach, yet the sunlight on the waves puts on a dramatic show all year long. Beachcombers will love this beach for the various moonstones that wash up, hence the name of the beach, but skimboards and paddleboards are great options here too. The winds can be high, but the exploration opportunities are enormous, and that’s what makes it one of the best California beaches today.
- Crystal Cove
Although there are 3 miles of beach to enjoy here and tide pools to explore, it’s the other things you’ll find at this beach that make it one of the best in the state. Swimming and surfing are popular, but so are hiking and horseback riding in the 2,400 acres of woodland that run right up to the beach. Many of the trails are modern and developed, allowing bikes and strollers as well. Divers will love the underwater park that is located at this beach as well.
- East Beach
Located just minutes by foot from downtown Santa Monica, this is the beach to enjoy if you want an early morning stroll and a hot coffee. Bring your yoga mat or a beach towel for some early morning exercise. As the day warms up, the crowds begin to build thanks to the prime waters for swimming, snorkeling, and some kayaking. Grab some snacks at Stern’s Wharf and enjoy the view – which includes homes that sell for an average price of over $2 million in the area.
If we were going to do a list of the “sexiest beaches in the US,” then this option might be ranked #1. As it is, the two miles of clean sand offered here are well worth a visit. Play some beach volleyball, take a walk on the pier, or put on your roller skates for some fun along the massive pedestrian way. The waves are gentle enough for a swim, but sunbathing tends to be the top activity enjoyed here on a warm day. Well-toned or not, you’ll have fun taking in the vistas that offer you some natural eye candy.
At first glance, the views from this beach remind you a bit of Europe with the multicolored cottages. White picket fences combine with white waves of crashing surf for a memorable experience. There isn’t as much wind at this beach as you’ll find at some others on this list, which gives it an advantage for some. A sandcastle building contest is held here every September, but every day is a good day to practice your skills. If you’re visiting the Bay Area, you’ll want to visit this beach when you’ve got a free afternoon.
The best California beaches all offer something that is a little different so you can relax in your own way. Visit one or visit them all and you’ll get a taste of why this state is one of the top vacation destinations in the US every year.