When you think of California, you think of the beach life – beautiful golden sands, waves crashing, relaxed surfers, and yoga by the shore. That’s a big reason why people love the state.
Here, going from the south to the north, we’ve got 12 of the absolute best California beaches.
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1. Capitola Beach
Located at the northern tip of Monterey Bay, Capitola Beach is one of California’s finest beaches, known for its charming and colorful seaside atmosphere. What makes Capitola Beach stand out is its cozy and smaller size compared to other California beaches. When you visit, be sure to stop by one of the local shops and rent a boogie board for some exciting fun in the water.
2. Pfeiffer Beach ,Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur is renowned for its stunning sandy shores and impressive rock formations. One of its most unique features is the purple-colored sand, created by rainwater flowing from the cliffs nearby. It’s truly one of the top beaches in California, offering breathtaking sights with towering rock formations and crashing waves, making it a photographer’s paradise.
However, it’s essential to note that this beach is not suitable for swimming. Instead, it’s a place for exploring the rugged terrain, soaking in the scenery, or feeling like you’re lost in the wilderness. To return to Highway 1, you’ll need to embark on a long two-mile hike.
3. Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach, with its fantastic 8.5-mile stretch, proudly boasts of being the place where surfing culture began. It’s situated southeast of Los Angeles, starting at Beach Boulevard and running for two miles until you reach the Santa Ana River Channel. Besides its great surfing, one of the best things about this beach is the fire rings that let us cook our own BBQ right on the beach – a real treat for hungry visitors.
4. Carmel Beach
Carmel Shore Beach seems to stretch endlessly, making it one of California’s top beaches for those who appreciate a rugged and untouched natural coastline. Carmel Beach is really great with its white sand and blue water. To have an amazing time, go to the fire pits in the evening and watch the sunset over the ocean by a big fire. If you’re looking to explore more of the area, you can visit Monastery Beach, also known as San Jose Creek Beach, which is equally beautiful.
5. Santa Cruz Main Beach
Santa Cruz Main Beach is a popular spot for families. They have separate spots for swimmers and surfers, and there are always beach volleyball games going on.
There’s a picturesque wooden pier that extends into Monterey Bay, but what really adds to the atmosphere is the Boardwalk behind the beach. It’s like the classic beachfront amusement park, complete with old-fashioned wooden roller coasters.
6. Black Sands Beach
The Lost Coast, located about 230 miles north of San Francisco, is famous for its hiking rather than its beaches. However, when you emerge from the ancient forest filled with redwoods and wildlife like elk, bears, deer, and coyotes, you’ll be greeted by the breathtaking Pacific shoreline.
Black Sands Beach stands out with its unique volcanic sands, and the backdrop of towering mountain ranges makes it an exceptionally remarkable place to visit.
7. Venice Beach
What makes Venice Beach different from other California beaches is that it’s not just about the water; it’s about all the things you can see, do, and eat along the coast. Be sure to set aside some time for a leisurely walk or bike ride around the area.
8. Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach is just 20 miles north of San Francisco and a short 2.5 miles from the charming and secluded Bolinas Bay.
When you visit, be sure to go for a swim in the ocean because it’s known as one of California’s top beaches for swimming. If you prefer hiking, you can explore the California hiking trails that start at the beach and lead you to Mount Tamalpais State Park.
9. McWay Beach
McWay Beach is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in California, truly awe-inpiring! While McWay Beach can get quite crowded, with some planning, you can enjoy it with only a few others around. One of the best strategies is to go early in the morning if you prefer a quieter experience.
10. La Jolla Beach
La Jolla Beach is a charming little crescent-shaped beach nestled among towering sandstone cliffs on the California coast. While the cove itself is small, its picturesque beauty makes it one of California’s finest if you’re a fan of dramatic coastal scenery.
And here’s a hidden gem: beneath the surface, this beach offers excellent opportunities for scuba diving and snorkeling, as long as the conditions are right.
11. Newport Beach
Crystal Cove State Park, nestled in Newport Beach in The OC, boasts a 3.2-mile beach surrounded by cliffs and 2,400 acres of pristine wilderness with scenic walking trails, showcasing the natural beauty of southern California.
This place is renowned for its sandy coves and tide pools, but it also houses the 1,000-acre Underwater Park, a paradise for divers. It includes a kelp forest, the remains of a World War Two Corsair fighter plane, historic anchors, and a wide variety of marine life for you to explore.
12. East Beach, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara’s East Beach, right by State Street, has a long and lovely stretch of sand that’s a classic California experience. Here, you’ll find lots of things that make California special.
People ride bikes on a pretty path behind palm trees and golden sand. Others play beach volleyball with lots of energy. Artists come here to paint the beautiful mountains and ocean views. It’s like a piece of the best of California, all in one spot.