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The Top 10 Beaches in California

//The Top 10 Beaches in California

California is known all over the world for its incredible beaches. With balmy weather, soft sands and that sparkling blue ocean, the beaches of California really are iconic. Plus, with 800 miles of coastline, you’re never too far away from the shore.

Can’t decide which beaches are most worth visiting?

Here are the top ten beaches in California that you should definitely try to check out:

Leo Carrillo State Park

LEO CARRILLO STATE PARK, MALIBU, CALIFORNIA - JULY 22, 2015 - Surfers, swimmers and sunbathers enjoying a summer day in southern California.

David M. Schrader /

Malibu is famous for its idyllic beaches, and the Leo Carrillo State Park offers up 1.5 miles of this.

While the beaches here are great for relaxing, they do tend to primarily attract adventure-seekers.


Because there is so much to explore here! From caves and tidal pools to rock arches and hiking trails, the beaches at this state park will definitely keep you busy.

Wondering how many beaches the park actually has?

There are four main beaches to visit, and these are:

  • North Beach – a wide stretch of sand with a paved parking lot. Parts of this beach are dog-friendly
  • South Beach – separated from North Beach by tunnels, rock arches and tidal pools, South Beach is quite narrow but has a beautiful round cove
  • Staircase Beach – this narrow beach is always fun to explore, although your access will be limited at high tide
  • County Line Beach – a small, sandy cove that is always quite peaceful 

North Beach and South Beach are usually the most popular, with lifeguards on hand for those who want to try out some water sports.

Huntington State Beach

Huntington Beach

With its nickname being Surf City USA, it goes without saying that the city of Huntington Beach offers up some fantastic opportunities for water sports. Its nickname comes from the regular hurricanes and storms that the area experiences, meaning that there is a solid surf available throughout the year.

There are several beaches around the city to choose from, but Huntington State Beach tends to be where most people are drawn to.


Well, for starters, it features a beautifully wide stretch of sand, with this running on for about two miles. You will also find a 121 acre park nearby, ideal for when you need some time away from the sand.

There is plenty to do on this beach too, such as:

  • Surfing 
  • Fishing
  • Volleyball
  • Basketball
  • Bonfires

For those of you who appreciate native wildlife, make sure that you keep an eye out for the California Least Terns, which nest along the beach. Snowy Plovers, another threatened species, can also be found here.

Coronado Central Beach

CORONADO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 20, 2018: People stroll on the boardwalk on Coronado Central Beach, near the historic Hotel Del Coronado, a landmark in the San Diego area, built in 1888

Sherry V Smith /

Considered by many to be one of the best beaches in the entire country, Coronado Central Beach in San Diego is flat and wide, stretching out for 1.5 miles. Its expansive nature means that there is always a quiet and peaceful spot to be found on the beach, even on busy summer days. 

If you have ever seen photos of Coronado Central Beach before, you have probably noticed that the sand seems to really glimmer, and there’s a reason for this…

The sand on this beach contains a mineral known as mica, and this is what causes the beach to glitter and shine. If you take a look into the shallow water just before a wave breaks, you should just about be able to see these little gold flecks.

The architecture that serves as the beach’s backdrop also helps Coronado Central Beach to really stand out. Behind the beach, you will find the magnificent Hotel Del Coronado, flanked by large Victorian houses and mansions. The hotel is a great spot to grab a bite to eat too, with deck chairs and cabanettes available for rent, even if you aren’t a hotel guest.

Wondering what there is to do at Coronado Central Beach?

In addition to swimming and surfing, with lifeguards on duty to keep you safe, you could also have a go at:

  • Boogie boarding
  • Tide pooling
  • Hiking
  • Beachcombing
  • Volleyball
  • Biking 

Mission Beach

Located in San Diego, Mission Beach is situated on a sandbar that lies between Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

The beach extends out for just under two miles, with the busiest areas being those around the parking lot, as well as at Belmont Park, an amusement park that sits adjacent to the beach. Belmont Park is great for those looking for a quick thrill, with roller coasters, wave pools, arcades and more to keep you busy.

While Mission Beach can often get quite crowded, the stretch of sand here is quite wide, meaning that you should always be able to find your own little spot to relax in.

Feel like taking a stroll?

Give the Ocean Front Walk a try. It stretches from north to south, and is popular with walkers, bikers, runners and skaters.

Venice Beach

VENICE, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 18, 2013: big mural in the Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach, by the artist Rip Cronk who painted some of the most famous murals along the boardwalk and neighborhoods.

View Apart /

Bursting with activity and energy, Venice Beach is one of the main highlights of Los Angeles. 

The diversity here is incredible – just a short walk along the boardwalk will have you meeting everyone from street performers and bodybuilders to vendors and belly dancers. For those of you who enjoy people watching, this really is the best beach in California to do so.

Want to know more about the beach itself?

It is three miles long, and boasts 238 acres of sand to explore. The usual beach activities are popular here, from swimming and beach volleyball to surfing and fishing.

If you’re feeling hungry…

There is plenty to choose from along the boardwalk, whether you are looking for a fine dining restaurant or a beachy cafe.

Glass Beach

Have you ever heard of sea glass?

It’s glass that has been naturally created from garbage that has been dumped in the sea many years ago. This may not sound very pleasant, but the glass itself is beautiful, thanks to the way in which the waves roll it about to soften its harsh sides. It takes about 30 years for sea glass to be formed, and not all beaches are capable of producing it.

This is what makes Glass Beach, in the MacKerricher State Park, so special…

This area was used as a dumping ground from 1906 to 1967. As a result, the beach now consists of smooth and colorful sea glass.

This isn’t a beach for relaxing in the sand, but the unique nature of this beach still attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year.

Wondering if you can pick some glass to take home with you as a souvenir?

Technically, this is illegal, because the beach belongs to California State Parks. Many people do still collect the glass, but this also means that the amount of glass on the beach is starting to decline.

Even if you can’t take the glass home with you, do keep an eye out for any orange or red fragments you might find. These are considered to be the rarest colors of sea glass, with clear, brown and green being among the most common. 

La Jolla Cove

Although La Jolla Cove may be small, its incredible natural beauty makes this one of the most photographed beaches in California.

The cove is situated in the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, meaning that there is an abundance of marine life here. In order to preserve this, fishing is not allowed, and neither is removing any objects that you may find on the beach.

The water here is wonderfully clear – on a good day, you can expect your visibility to reach 30 feet!

Wondering what there is to do at La Jolla Cove?

Plenty, including:

  • Swimming
  • Snorkelling and scuba diving – you can access the underwater park from here
  • Watching the sea lions that gather on the bluffs
  • Watching the harbor seals by the Children’s Pool

If you plan on spending some time relaxing on the sand…

Keep in mind that due to its small size, as well as its immense popularity, La Jolla Cove can often get quite crowded. You may wish to plan your visit for off-peak times if you want to experience the tranquillity of the area.

Refugio State Beach

REFUGIO STATE BEACH, USA - APRIL 6, 2014: People visit Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, California. California State Park system manages 280 properties including state beaches

Tupungato /

Located in the Refugio State Park, about 20 miles from Santa Barbara, Refugio State Beach consists of a large south-facing stretch of sand in a beautiful cove.

The palm trees that line the cove give the beach a tropical vibe, making it so easy to spend the day relaxing under the swaying palms.

If you would prefer to be more active, this is a beach that is great for kayaking. The lifeguards on duty here offer kayak tours during the summer, giving you the opportunity to explore the area’s marine life.

Prefer to walk rather than kayak?

That’s no problem, since the beach is home to a three mile long paved trail that runs along the beach bluff. The trail connects Refugio State Beach with El Capitan State Beach, making it easy to explore both of these sandy stretches in one day. Once you get to El Capitan State Beach, there are even more inland hiking trails to choose from.

Gold Bluffs Beach

If you’re looking for a beach that’s more remote and isolated, then Gold Bluffs Beach will definitely not disappoint.

This beach can be found in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County, and boasts ten miles of golden sand for you to explore.

Unlike most of the other beaches on this list, Gold Bluffs Beach is usually quite quiet – don’t be surprised if you find that you are the only person around for miles!

If you enjoy hiking, this is a beach that you will really love…

There are several hiking trails to choose from here, such as the Miner’s Ridge Trail. This takes you inland through the park, showcasing the giant redwoods all around. Another popular trail is the Fern Canyon Trail, which takes you through a 50-foot high canyon, with its steep walls covered in ferns. This trail can often be quite wet, so make sure you bring waterproof clothing if it has recently rained!

Love Gold Bluffs Beach so much that you don’t want to leave?

There is a large campground here that sits in the dunes and offers up gorgeous views of the area around you. During the summer months, you can reserve a site, but, for the rest of the year, they are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis

Pebble Beach

You will find quite a few beaches named Pebble Beach in California, but the best one of the lot is located in Crescent City.

Many would call this beach a hidden gem, because not many people, other than Crescent City locals, seem to know about it.

The beach actually consists of a string of coves that are connected, with the width of the beach varying depending on your exact location. Since the beach has a gradual slope to it, it is extremely wide during low tide, but then quite narrow during high tide.

Wildlife lovers will appreciate the birds and sea lions that can be spotted from this beach. Pebble Beach is a part of the Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, meaning that you are likely to see quite a few different creatures here.

Wondering if you can go surfing here?

Pebble Beach isn’t really a good surfing beach. However, it is great for a swim in the shallow waters, and boogie boarding is another popular activity here that you could try out.

Have you ever been agate hunting?

This is something else that you can do at Pebble Beach. Agate hunting simply means rock hunting, with many people getting lucky and finding various gemstones on the sand here.

If you are going to be visiting California, checking out some of the state’s beaches is a must. Whether you go for the hustle and bustle of Venice Beach, or choose something more isolated and quiet, such as Gold Bluffs Beach, these ten iconic beaches should definitely be placed at the top of your bucket list.

2019-06-19T15:44:47+00:00July 1st, 2019|Travel|

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