The United States has two coasts full of gorgeous beaches, but it’s hard to rival those found in California. Whether you’re looking to swim, surf, sunbath, play volleyball, birdwatch, shop, or all of the above, California has everything you need to enjoy the perfect beach day.
With it’s 1,264 mile coastline, it can be difficult to know where to start, but here is a list of my favorites.
1. El Matador State Beach, Malibu
Around the world, Malibu is known for its luxurious hotels and real estate, its high-end shopping, and its beautiful landscapes. It’s beaches also don’t disappoint. Perhaps one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, El Matador State Beach features rugged cliffs cut apart by steep dirt trails that lead to the shore. Explore the hidden sea caves and stay until the late afternoon to view one of the most mesmerizing sunsets in the world.
2. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
Big Sur has been featured in songs by The Beach Boys, Bobby Darrin, Alanis Morisette, The Thrills, and more. Jack Kerouac wrote a novel titled by it. Big Sur epitomizes what real California beach living means for many of it’s residents, but somehow it has remained somewhat under the radar to visitors. Maybe that’s what gives Big Sur’s its charm: when you visit, you rarely feel suffocated by tourists. It’s a beach anyone can feel an home at.
3. Thousand Steps Beach, Laguna Beach
Thousand Steps Beach is best known for its “private” aqua tide pools and sea cave exploring. It gets its name from the staircase that leads down (and back up!) to the beach. You can regularly catch talented groups of surfers catching waves further out to sea.
4. Santa Monica Beach & Pier, Santa Monica
When people picture Los Angeles life, the Santa Monica Pier is an iconic piece of imagery associated with it. This highly-popular destination see’s millions of tourists every year. For boardwalk-style fun, pearly white sand, and palm trees as far as the eyes can see, this is the beach you want. The pier is famous for it’s roller coaster, especially when it lights up at night.
5. Coronado Beach, Coronado, San Diego
Coronado Beach and the famous Hotel del Coronado has some of the softest sand you’ll ever touch. The water is perfect for surfers and swimmers alike. Crowned by hotels Victorian architecture, it’s understandable why it has been named both a National and California Historic Landmark. If you’re coming to San Diego, a stop by “The Del” is a must.
6. Santa Cruz Beach & Boardwalk, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz’s historic boardwalk was established in 1865, and today is still one of the most well-known seaside amusement parks in California. Enjoy rollercoasters, haunted houses, and carnival games as you sample funnel cake, candy apples, or even clam chowder if you visit during the annual Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-off. There are usually plenty of survers lining the oceans horizon and plenty of beachgoers simply enjoying the sun.
7. Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel by-the-Sea
Point Lobos is one of the most beautiful hiking destinations in the state. You’ll be blown away at the vivid colors that decorate every leaf, branch, and trail that you walk through. Small coves line the coast line, and you’ll be able to spot tons of hidden wildlife as you move through the area. The water can be cold and isn’t the best for swimming, but the sites truly cannot be rivaled.
8. Baker Beach, San Francisco
If you wanted an iconic glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, it doesn’t get much more picturesque than Baker Beach. There’s also a lovely trail along the cliffs connecting to the beach, perfect for a sunset stroll.
9. Limantour Beach, Point Reyes Station
The tiny town of Point Reyes Station only holds a population of less than 900 and lies within the greater Point Reyes National Seashore made up of a dozen gorgeous beaches. Limantour beach is where you’ll want to go for the best hiking trails and wildlife. Along the beach you’ll regularly find 100’s of species of birds, seals, ducks, and even whales along the shoreline. Because of it’s beauty and wildlife, it’s also an important nature preserve, so it’s protected by the U.S. National Park Service.
10. Venice Beach, Venice, Los Angeles
You can’t have a list about California beaches without including Venice Beach. The world-famous promenade is lined with bohemian shops, tattoo parlors, and arts and crafts make by local artists. All walks of life come together for food, sun, beach activities, and even some body building at Muscle Beach. This is a great location for people watching, as you’ll see street entertainers with all kinds of unique talents parading for tourists every day of the week.