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Best Beaches In California

Last update: 2023-12-08

California is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States. With over 800 miles of coastline, the Golden State offers a diverse array of beach experiences, from the windswept shores of Northern California to the sunny sands of Southern California. Here are some of the best beaches in California that you must visit on your next trip to the West Coast.

Central Coast

The Central Coast region is home to pristine beaches that offer a mix of remote, rugged landscapes alongside tourist-friendly amenities.

Pismo Beach

Located in San Luis Obispo County, Pismo Beach is one of the most popular beaches in California. The wide, sandy shores provide plenty of room to spread out and relax. Pismo Beach Pier is perfect for fishing or taking in the sunset views. Nearby, visitors can explore sea caves, go surfing, whale watching, or ride ATVs on the Oceano Dunes. The historic downtown area features cute shops and delicious seafood restaurants.

Spectacular sunset over the sea. Pismo Beach, California

Carmel Beach

Nestled along the rugged Big Sur coastline, Carmel Beach is postcard perfect. The wide, white sand beach leads to striking ocean vistas. It's especially lovely at sunset when the sky illuminates in pink and orange hues. Carmel Beach is an off-leash dog friendly beach, so you'll often see happy pups playing in the sand and surf. The nearby town of Carmel-by-the-Sea exudes seaside charm.

Northern California

Rugged and wild, Northern California's beaches showcase the untamed beauty of the California coast.

Baker Beach

Located in San Francisco, Baker Beach offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The mile-long beach has reddish-hued sand and steep cliffs. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Marin Headlands across the bay. Baker Beach is also an iconic spot to watch the sunset with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Keep in mind, the northern section of Baker Beach is clothing optional.

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach in Fort Bragg has an usual past. This beach was once a dumping ground, littered with household items and refuse. Over time, the pounding waves broke down the glass and pottery into smooth, colorful pebbles that now cover the beach. The result is a naturally formed "glass beach" that sparkles in the sunshine. Collecting glass is prohibited, but you can admire the multi-colored polished glass pieces that remain.

Southern California

Offering sun, surf, and sand, the beaches of Southern California are world famous.

Santa Monica Beach

The iconic Santa Monica Beach offers a quintessential SoCal beach experience. Spanning 3 miles along Santa Monica Bay, the wide beach has soft golden sand perfect for sunbathing or playing volleyball. After you've had your fill of the surf and sun, head to the Santa Monica Pier where you'll find restaurants, shops, carnival games and amusement park rides. Nearby Third Street Promenade is a top spot for dining, entertainment and shopping.

Santa Monica Pier

La Jolla Shores

Located in the affluent neighborhood of La Jolla near San Diego, La Jolla Shores is a family-friendly beach that also draws surfers and snorkelers. The soft sand forms gentle slopes into the sea, creating calm waves perfect for beginning surfers. At low tide, several rocky outcroppings emerge, exposing abundant tide pools brimming with sea life. On shore, you'll find restrooms, showers and picnic areas at Kellogg Park. Kayak rentals are available nearby for coastal exploring.

Best Beaches in California FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the best beaches in California:

What is the best beach in Northern California?

  • Some of the best beaches in Northern California include Baker Beach in San Francisco and Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. Baker Beach offers spectacular Golden Gate Bridge views while Glass Beach shimmers with polished sea glass pieces.

What Southern California beaches are good for families?

  • Top family-friendly beaches in Southern California include Santa Monica Beach, La Jolla Shores, and Coronado Beach. These beaches have amenities like restrooms, lifeguards, restaurants, mild waves, and wide sandy shores perfect for families.

Where are the best surf spots in California?

  • Some of the top surf beaches in California include Swami's Beach in Encinitas, Rincon Beach in Santa Barbara, and Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. These spots are known for their excellent surf breaks ranging from beginner waves to expert only big waves.

What is the warmest beach in California?

  • The beaches along the Southern California coastline are generally the warmest beaches in California. During summer, average ocean temperatures hover in the 60s and 70s. Some especially warm beach areas include parts of Orange County, San Diego, LA County, and Ventura County.

What beaches allow dogs?

  • Many California beaches allow leashed dogs, including Carmel Beach, Huntington Dog Beach, Coronado's Dog Beach, and Fort Funston Beach. Always check area rules before bringing pets to the beach. Some beaches have restrictions on times and locations dogs are allowed.


With towering redwood forests along the coast in the north and palm tree-dotted white sand beaches in the south, the diversity of California's breathtaking shoreline has something for everyone. From remote, secluded coves to lively beach towns, the best beaches in California offer natural beauty and limitless opportunity for adventure and relaxation by the sea. No matter which region you choose to explore, the beaches of the Golden State guarantee serene vistas and lasting memories.

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