The Ultimate Guide To California Beaches
California is home to more than four hundred beaches!
Hugging the Pacific Ocean, California’s beautiful coastline measures around 800 miles and is home to more than 400 beaches!
Several miles of beautiful beaches and the perfect year-round weather make California a paradise for beach lovers and surfers! Whether you’re looking for a beach for sunbathing, surfing, playing beach volleyball, see some spectacular sunsets, grab a waterfront meal, enjoy rides by the ocean or simply stroll, California has a beach for you.
No trip to California is complete without seeing the dramatic Pacific Coastline and visiting a few gorgeous California beaches! The best way to visit all the beaches in California is by driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, starting from San Francisco going all the way to San Diego.
However, if you don’t have time to drive the entire Pacific Coast Highway, I still strongly recommend visiting at least a couple of beaches in California based on your interest.
With so many choices, it becomes quite challenging to decide which beaches to visit in California.
Here is my ultimate guide to California Beaches, featuring the most popular beaches in California, along with a map to help you pick the best beaches to visit on your trip to California!
Best Beaches in California
California Beaches Map
It was quite difficult to pick the best beaches in California, as every beach is gorgeous and unique. However, I have narrowed down the list and highlighted California’s best beaches on the map above.
I have listed my top picks for the best beaches in California, sequentially starting at San Francisco going all the way to San Diego.
Best Beaches in California
- Baker Beach
- Half Moon Bay State Beach
- Natural Bridges State Beach
- Carmel Beach
- Pfeiffer Beach
- Pismo State Beach
- East & West Beach in Santa Barbara
- Malibu Beaches
- Santa Monica State Beach
- Venice Beach
- Long Beach City Beach
- Corona Del Mar State Beach in Newport Beach
- Crystal Cove State Beach
- Main Beach in Laguna Beach
- Catalina Island Beaches
- La Jolla Cove
- Coronado Beach
These California beaches, located along the Pacific Coast Highway, are undoubtedly gorgeous and offer a unique experience and view of the Pacific Coast.
Baker Beach, San Francisco, offers stunning up-close views of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Located in San Francisco, Baker Beach and the nearby Marshall’s Beach offer unmatched up-close views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the shore. Here’re the GPS Coordinates – Baker Beach Lat: 37.79355, Long: -122.48362, Marshall’s Beach Lat: 37.80166, Long: -122.47988.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide To San Francisco
Half Moon Bay State Beach
Half Moon Bay, named after the beautiful crescent-shaped seafront!
Half Moon Bay State Beach, located in the beautiful coastal city of Half Moon Bay, about forty miles from San Jose, California, is a gorgeous beach in a beautiful setting! Half Moon Bay State Beach has a campground and is an excellent place to camp, hike, sunbathe, and fishing. Half Moon Bay State Beach Visitor Center Address: 95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.
When visiting Half Moon Bay State Beach, you could also visit several other attractions in San Jose, including the Winchester Mystery House, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, The Tech Interactive, and more.
Read More: Things to do in San Jose, California
Natural Bridges State Beach
Natural Bridges State Beach, home to the iconic bridge-shaped rock formation on the Pacific Coast!
Natural Bridges State Beach, located in Santa Cruz, along the Pacific Coast Highway, offers stunning views of the sea arch rising from the Pacific Ocean and is home to the Monarch Groove and several tide pools. Natural Bridges State Beach Address: 2531 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
Santa Cruz, a beautiful coastal city, is also home to several other attractions, and it’s a good idea to spend some time in Sant Cruz when visiting Natural Bridges State Beach.
Read More: Things to do in Santa Cruz, California
Carmel Beach, known for its white sand and cypress trees!
Carmel Beach, located in the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County, California, is popularly known for its fine white sand and majestic cypress trees.
Carmel Beach is a great place to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and also very popular among surfers. It also has a hiking trail, the Scenic Bluff Path, that runs parallel to the beach and is a great place to photograph the Ocean with the cypress trees. Carmel Beach Address: GPS Lat: 36.5503, Long: -121.9291.
Pfeiffer Beach is known for its purple sand, sea caves, and iconic Keyhole Arch!
Pfeiffer Beach, in Big Sur, is hands-down one of the most unique beaches in California. The amazing purple sand, the sea caves, and the iconic Keyhole Arch rising from the sea bed is a one-of-a-kind experience! However, Pfeiffer Beach is located off the beaten path without proper signs on the road, so I highly recommend using the GPS address to get to Pfeiffer Beach. Pfeiffer Beach GPS Address: Lat: 36.2383, Long: -121.8123.
Big Sur is the most scenic stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway! There are several other awe-inspiring coastal views and vista points in Big Sur, and I highly recommend visiting them when visiting Pfeiffer Beach.
Must-see places near Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur
- Garrapata State Park
- Bixby Creek Bridge
- Point Sur State Historic Park
- Pfeiffer Beach
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
- McWay Falls
- Limekiln State Park
The vista points are listed in sequential order starting from Carmel, and I have marked and saved these points on Google Maps, which you can use on your phone’s app or a web browser – Big Sur Google Map.
Pismo State Beach
Pismo State Beach is known for its coastal sand dunes and Monarch Butterfly Grove and is the only drivable beach in California!
Located in the city of Pismo Beach, Pismo State Beach is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, fishing, hiking, and camping. There are hiking trails around the dunes, and come November, Pismo State Beach’s Monarch Butterfly Grove comes live with several Monarch Butterflies. Pismo State Beach Address: 555 Pier Ave, Oceano, CA 93445.
Just south of Pismo State Beach is the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA), where you can drive your vehicle on the beach. You can drive your own vehicle, rent an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), or take a dune tour at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area.
Santa Barbara Beaches
Santa Barbara, a lively coastal city with gorgeous beaches and a bustling downtown!
Santa Barbara is another beautiful coastal town in California, with several golden sandy beaches, including East Beach and West Beach, located on either side of the Stearns Wharf and Leadbetter Beach and Butterfly Beach are among other famous beaches in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara also has a lively pier and a vibrant downtown lined with boutique shops and restaurants. It’s a good idea to visit a few other Santa Barbara attractions when visiting the Santa Barbara beaches.
Must-see places in Santa Barbara
Stearns Wharf: Located in downtown Santa Barbara, Stearns Wharf is a deep-water pier lined with several shops and restaurants, also home to the Sea Center and the starting point of several day cruises. Stearns Wharf Adress: 217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.
Mission Santa Barbara: The iconic landmark of Santa Barbara, the Mission Santa Barbara, is an old Spanish Mission known for its beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture and the many gardens. Mission Santa Barbara Address: 2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.
Santa Barbara Downtown: Santa Barbara has a lively pedestrian-friendly downtown, with several boutique shops, restaurants, and Paseo Nuevo, an elegant Spanish-style outdoor shopping mall. Santa Barbara Downtown Address: 651 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.
Santa Barbara Zoo: The Santa Barbara Zoo, located atop a hill overlooking the Pacific Coast, is a very popular spot for families with kids. The zoo is small but has an impressive collection of animals and lush gardens. Santa Barbara Zoo Address: 500 Ninos Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93103.
Malibu is a coastal city in California and popularly known for its beaches and celebrity mansions!
Malibu’s 23 miles long shoreline is home to several beaches, including Zuma, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, which is also known as Surfrider, and El Matador Beach. The Malibu Beaches are popular for sunbathing, surfing, birding, hiking trails, and several volleyball courts. Malibu Pier Address: 23000 CA-1, Malibu, CA 90265.
Several stars and celebrities own beautiful mansions in Malibu, and if you’re interested, there are guided star home tours available in Malibu.
Santa Monica State Beach
Santa Monica State Beach, known for its iconic Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier!
Santa Monica State Beach, in Santa Monica, is home to the Santa Monica Pier and is popularly known for its carnival rides, including the iconic Ferris wheel.
Undoubtedly, Santa Monica State Beach is a gorgeous beach, but the main attraction is the fun-filled pier offering several carnival rides and restaurants. Santa Monica Beach Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
Venice Beach, popularly known for its lively boardwalk!
Venice Beach is a beautiful city beach, with a vibrant boardwalk lined up with several shops, restaurants, and street performers. Here you will also find a Skatepark, very popular amongst skateboarders, and Muscle Beach, a popular place for bodybuilders to workout by the beach. Venice Beach Address: 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291.
Long Beach City Beach
Long Beach is a lovely beach town with several beaches and home to the Aquarium of the Pacific and The Queen Mary!
Long Beach is a vibrant beach town located 25 miles from Los Angeles and is home to some stunning beaches, including Long Beach City Beach, Junipero Beach, Mothers Beach, and Bayshore Beach.
However, there is a lot more to see in Long Beach beside the beaches, and you may very well need a couple of days to explore all of Long Beach.
The other popular attractions in Long Beach include the Aquarium of the Pacific, The Queen Mary, and the charming Naples neighborhood. Long Beach also servers as a gateway to the Catalina Islands, with ferries departing from the Long Beach Catalina Island Ferry Terminal.
Corona Del Mar State Beach
Newport Beach is home to beautiful beaches, coves, and a shopping destination on the Pacific Coast Highway!
Corona Del Mar State Beach, located in the city of Newport Beach, is a family beach popular for sunbathing, surfing, diving and is equipped with several volleyball courts. Corona Del Mar State Beach Address: 3001 Ocean Blvd, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625.
Other Attractions in Newport Beach
Newport Pier: Located on the Balboa Peninsula, the Newport Pier offers excellent views and a great place to watch the sunset over the Pacific. Newport Pier Address: 70 Newport Pier, Newport Beach, CA 92663.
Fashion Island: Overlooking the ocean, Fashion Island is a premier shopping district in Newport beach with several luxury brands, boutique shops, restaurants, and a movie theater. Fashion Island Address: 401 Newport Center Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
Balboa Fun Zone: Located in the Balboa Peninsula, in Newport Beach, the Balboa Peninsula is a popular family destination with several appealing attractions, including the iconic waterfront Ferris wheel, many gaming arcades, a boardwalk, and several shops and restaurants. Balboa Fun Zone Address: 600 E Bay Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92661.
Crystal Cove State Beach
Crystal Cove State Beach, spanning Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, is home to sublime nature!
The Crystal Cove State Park, a state beach, is home to wooded canyons, cliffs, hiking trails, and tide pools and is breathtakingly beautiful and a must-see beach in California. Crystal Cove State Park Address: 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.
Main Beach is a gorgeous sandy beach located in the heart of Laguna Beach!
Main Beach is a stunning beach in Laguna Beach, but its main attraction is the Main Beach Park. Main Beach Park is an oceanfront park with a boardwalk, manicured gardens, basketball and volleyball courts, and several restaurants and shops. Main Beach Park Address: Broadway St & Pacific Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.
Other Places to See in Laguna Beach
Heisler Park: Heisler Park is a beautiful oceanfront park with stunning coastal views, paved pedestrian paths, benches, and gardens. Heisler Park Address: 375 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.
Laguna Beach Downtown: Starting at Main Beach Park and stretching all the way to Legion Street, Laguna Beach Downtown is home to several restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
Catalina Island Beaches
Catalina Island is home to some of the most gorgeous and pristine beaches in the US!
More commonly known as Catalina Island, Santa Catalina Island is an island off the shore of southern California, located just 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles. The Island is small in size, but it’s beautiful! It’s about 20 miles long and approximately 48,000 acres (about 76-square miles) in area.
Public beaches include South Beach, Middle Beach located either side of the Green Pleasure Pier, Step Beach located near the Via Casino Arch, Pebbly Beach located past the ferry terminal. Private Beach: Descanso Beach, though a private beach, is accessible to the public for a minimal fee, offers dining, chaise lounges, and cabana rentals.
There are several other attractions in Catalina Island besides beaches, including museums, wildlife, golf, spas, land & boat tours, make it a must-see in California.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide To Catalina Island
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove, a breathtakingly beautiful beach and cove surrounded by Cliffs!
La Jolla Cove is a small gorgeous beach snuggled between sandstone cliffs in La Jolla and is one of the most visited and photographed beaches in California.
You can see the sea caves located along the bluff by taking a guided kayak tour or visit the Cave Store, which has a human-made tunnel that goes inside the Sunny Jim Cave. La Jolla Cove Address: 1100 Coast Blvd. (at Girard Ave), La Jolla, CA 92037.
Coronado Beach, where the sand literally glitters!
With the backdrop Hotel del Coronado, a historic beachfront hotel in Coronado, San Diego, Coronado Beach is a must-see in San Diego!
The sand in Coronado Beach literally glitters due to the mineral mica found in the sand. It’s an excellent place for a romantic getaway or a fun-filled family beach holiday. Coronado Beach Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118.
There are several other attractions in San Diego, and I highly recommend visiting a few of them when visiting Coronado Beach.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide To San Diego
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