Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California

The most beautiful beaches in central California stretches for many miles between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.  The counties along this coast include Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Santa Cruz.  Central California beaches include  Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo County, Monterey County and Santa Cruz County.  Find your next Central California beach vacation here.

Ventura County

Ventura County, California has some of the best beaches.  The main beach towns in this county are Ventura, Port Hueneme, and Oxnard.  Situated in Southern California between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, Ventura is home to delicious food, top-notch surfing waves, and picturesque scenery. Locals and travelers alike enjoy visiting beaches in Ventura County to surf, sunbathe, stroll, swim, and relax.  Here are just a few of the great beaches in Ventura County. 

Mandalay State Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Mandalay State Beach

Mandalay State Beach is a family-friendly golden dune beach with spectacular views of the Channel Island National Park and Marine Sanctuary. Check in to the Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach and visit Oxnard Beach Park, a palm-tree-studded 60-acre wonderland of grassy rolling hills, beautiful dunes, winding bike paths, and a well-equipped playground. This gorgeous stretch of beach features free public barbecue areas, volleyball courts, skating, and jogging paths. To plan your Oxnard California Vacation, visit our Oxnard Travel Guide here.

Oxnard Beach & Park, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Oxnard Beach & Park

Oxnard Beach Park is a family friendly beach located in-between the Oxnard Shores neighborhood and the Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach. This gorgeous stretch of beach features rolling lawns, free public barbecue areas, volleyball courts, kids play area, skating and jogging paths. Oxnard Beach Park has a covered group picnic area. To plan your Oxnard California Vacation, visit our Oxnard Travel Guide here.

Silver Strand Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Silver Strand Beach

Silver Strand Beach is a local favorite in Oxnard. With only one entrance/exit to the Silver Strand neighborhood down Victoria Avenue, the mile-long beach is relatively isolated – bordered by Port Hueneme Naval Base to the south and the inlet to Channel Islands Harbor to the north. Since it’s a bit of a trek (7 miles) from Highway 101, the beach remains fairly uncrowded most of the year. To plan your Oxnard California Vacation, visit our Oxnard Travel Guide here.

San Buenaventura State Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
San Buenaventura State Beach

San Buenaventura State Beach takes up about two miles of the waterfront in Ventura. It stretches from Marina Park near the Ventura Harbor all the way north to the Ventura City Pier. It’s the perfect place for picnics, sunbathing, and beach walking. To plan your Ventura California Vacation, visit our Ventura Travel Guide here.

Port Hueneme Beach Park, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Port Hueneme Beach Park

Port Hueneme Beach Park is the main beach in the city of Port Hueneme which is completely surrounded by Oxnard, CA. The beach here is wide with many picnic areas and volleyball nets available. The long fishing pier at the beach is worth a walk even if not fishing. Another walking opportunity is the promenade trail that connects the pier to the Port Hueneme Lighthouse at the north end next to the port entrance. To plan your Port Hueneme California Vacation, visit our Port Hueneme Travel Guide Here.

Santa Barbara County

One of the simple pleasures of Santa Barbara is its proximity to the ocean. With miles of sun-drenched and sandy coastline, you’ll have trouble picking which of its pristine beaches to visit first. From surf-friendly waves to gentle ocean waters, a day spent at any of these Santa Barbara beaches makes even a perfect day that much better. Santa Barbara County includes: Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, Guadalupe, and Carpinteria. Here are just a few of the great beaches in Santa Barbara County. 

Arroyo Burro Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Arroyo Burro Beach

Visitors and dog-lovers jump for joy over Arroyo Burro Beach, better known to locals as Hendry’s Beach. Load up your pooch and head to this flat, dog-friendly spot for a game of fetch along the coastline. Hungry after a day of beach play? Make time to grab a seaside meal at Boathouse, a local and visitor favorite. Visit our Santa Barbara Travel Guide here.


Leadbetter Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Leadbetter Beach

Near the Santa Barbara Harbor and the breakwater, Leadbetter Beach is a popular location for long-board surfing, boogie boarding and SUP paddle boarding. Known for its rather mild shore break, this beach is perfect for anyone looking to take a leisurely dip in the ocean. Need a midday snack break? Head to Shoreline- Café for an order of fresh fish and chips or a beach burger to-go. Visit our Santa Barbara Travel Guide here.

Butterfly Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Butterfly Beach

Before hitting this crowd-favorite beach, go shopping along Coast Village Road or grab a craft cocktail at Coast & Olive or Honor Bar. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a famous celeb. Once your thirst has been quenched, sunbathe at Butterfly Beach while you catch up on your favorite novel. This long stretch of sand also makes for a serene beach stroll setting at any time of day. Visit our Santa Barbara Travel Guide here.

Haskell's Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Haskell’s Beach

Just below The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is a long, beautiful stretch of sand known as Haskell’s Beach—and you don’t have to be staying at the resort to access it. When you arrive, park in the designated beach parking lot and take the public access trail down to the beach for a day of fun in the sun along Goleta’s coastline. The waters along the Gaviota coast also make for great kayaking. Visit our Goleta Travel Guide here.

Goleta Beach Park, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Goleta Beach Park

Make the most of your beach time with a visit to this “Good Land” beach. Cast a line off the Goleta Pier, or kick-start your weekend with a good ol’ beach-side barbecue. Goleta Beach Park also boasts a paved trail system that is popular for both avid cyclists and casual riders. On weekends between Memorial and Labor Day, take to the sea and rent a kayak or SUP paddle boarding right on the sand from Paddle Sports Center. Visit our Goleta Travel Guide here.

San Luis Obispo County

When it comes to beaches along this stretch of the Central Coast, variety is the name of the game. There’s the fun-in-the sun spirit of balmy Avila Beach, flat sands at Pismo Beach—one of California’s best strips of coastline for long strolls at sunset—plus the pier some 1,600 feet along. There are the rocky coves at Piedras Blancas, home to thousands of enormous elephant seals, great for wildlife watching. And surfing is popular in several locations. Beach towns in San Luis Obispo County include: Avila Beach, Arroyo Grande, Cambria, Cayucos, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Oceano, Baywood/Los Osos, and San Simeon. Here are just a few of the great beaches in San Luis Obispo County:

San Simeon Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
San Simeon Beach

Located about 40 miles north of San Luis Obispo, San Simeon offers unique sandy beaches and wetlands near Hearst Castle. Don’t miss out on the elephant seals that congregate along the shoreline around Point Piedras Blancas!  Visit our San Simeon Travel Guide here.


Cayucos State Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Cayucos State Beach

Situated near the classic California beach town, Cayucos State Beach is ideal for any beach day, whether tanning and swimming or fishing and surfing. This expansive beach is located about 25 minutes north of San Luis Obispo. Visit our Cayucos Travel Guide Here.


Avila Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Avila Beach

A Central Coast favorite, the Avila Beach Farmers’ Market brings fresh food and family fun to our charming California beach town. Join us on the Avila Beach Promenade to celebrate the beginning of the weekend with live entertainment, fresh fruits and vegetables, and artisan products ― all with a stunning ocean view! Visit our Avila Beach Travel Guide here.


Oceano Dunes, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Oceano Dunes

Positioned along the Central Coast between Pismo Beach and Oceano, Oceano Dunes is a family-friendly beach with recreational vehicle access and beach camping, standing as the most extensive coastal dunes in California.  Visit our Oceano Travel Guide Here.



Pismo Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Pismo Beach

The coastal hills open up to reveal shimmering turquoise waters and long stretches of the San Luis Obispo County coastline, with glimpses of this classic beach town hugging the shore. Work your way toward the sands, through streets of beach cottages, surf shops, and clam chowder joints. Visit our Arroyo Grande Travel Guide here.

Monterey County

Are you seeking for the perfect location to unwind and immerse yourself with direct access to the scorching sun and soothing waves? Then, spend a day or a weekend at any of the best beaches in Monterey County. With over 99 miles of astonishing coastline, Monterey County provides plenty to keep you having fun; whether you want to dive below the waves or stay and get tanned by the touch of sunlight. Monterey County includes: Carmel, Monterey, Moss Landing, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Pebble Beach, Big Sur, and Sand City. Here are just a few of the great beaches in Monterey County:

Asilomar State Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Asilomar State Beach

This beach is a worthwhile beach getaway filled with all sorts of activities like water sports, and sunbathing. It is considered as a lot more remote among all the beaches in Monterey, which means, by just walking around within 30 minutes or by driving within 5 minutes along the trail of dunes, solitude and tranquility can be felt especially with the nearby sanctuaries of butterflies. Visit our Monterey Visitors Guide Here.

Carmel River State Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Carmel River State Beach

For those who are really into nature, Carmel River State Beach is the perfect place for you to relax and indulge with other natural living things. The majority of the people come here for the highlights of this place which is to see huge numbers of birds such as Terek sandpipers and Californian brown pelicans. Visit our Carmel Travel Guide Here.



Del Monte Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Del Monte Beach

Del Monte Beach is far different and can be considered as the best beach for swimming in Monterey for its relaxing and soothing waters. This captivating destination also offers a moment of peace to contemplate and have strolls along the dunes. The area features stunning sea cottages near the shore, and several seafood eateries which add flavor to the beach life vibes that you’ll definitely enjoy. Visit our Monterey Visitors Guide Here.

Lover's Point Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Lover’s Point Park

Here you’ll find sparkling white sand, cypress trees, and craggy rocks make it the perfect sightseeing spot. This beach also provides a great opportunity to experience SUP boarding and catching some rays while contemplating how the water touches the shore. From swimming to fishing, and to other water sports, you’ll find it all here. Visit our Monterey Visitors Guide Here.


McAbee Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
McAbee Beach

McAbee Beach might be the most appropriate and safest beach for kids knowing that it promotes relaxing salty picnics along the shore, creative murals with vivid color, and captivating historical plaques that your kids will surely find entertaining at their ages. Visit our Monterey Visitors Guide Here.


Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County offers 29 miles of scenic coastline and over 14 state parks and beaches. From the craggy cliffs of Davenport, the sandstone arch at Natural Bridges State Beach and the wide expanse of Sunset State Beach, Santa Cruz County offers plenty of options to catch some surf and sun.  The main beach connects the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Santa Cruz Wharf, and the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.  Santa Cruz County beach towns include: Aptos, Capitola, Watsonville, Davenport, and Santa Cruz. Here is a list of some of the best beaches in the Santa Cruz area:

Cowell Beach/Main Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Cowell Beach/Main Beach

Tourists and families tend to flock to this city-run beach in summer, and for good reason. Restaurants line the nearby Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, and the games and rides at the adjacent Boardwalk go nicely with an afternoon dip in the Bay. This is also prime territory for learning to surf, playing volleyball or just relaxing in the rays. Visit our Santa Cruz Travel Guide here.


New Brighton State Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
New Brighton State Beach

One of the most popular beaches in town, New Brighton anchors the northernmost end of a long stretch of beach that extends some 15 miles down the coast, forming a thin crescent limning the Monterey Bay. Visitors love the combination of seashore and forested bluffs, where Monterey Pines, cypress and eucalyptus shade picnic areas and campgrounds that are open year-round. Visit our Capitola Visitors Guide here.

Panther Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Panther Beach

This long stretch of beach is perfect for romantic walks, sea life viewing and all types of beach sports. Located about 10 miles up Highway 1, it’s accessible via a short hike across the railroad tracks and down a narrow trail. Once there, beachgoers are treated to stunning sandstone formations and a bit of privacy. Highway between mileposts 95 and 96. Visit our Davenport Travel Guide here.

Bonnie Doon Beach, California, Most Beautiful Beaches in Central California
Bonnie Doon Beach

This small and secluded clothing-optional beach is off the radar for most Santa Cruz visitors. Located along the base of a cliff about eight miles up Highway 1, it’s well protected from gusts of wind, and for that reason it is perfect for a naked lunch—or even just a regular lunch. The only downside is the slightly difficult walk down the cliff. Visit our Santa Cruz Travel Guide here.

Best Hotels on the Central California Coast


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    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      The water will be a little chilly between 55 and 60 degrees depending on where you are headed. I know it is about 68 here for us, and that to me is quite chilly. I am glad you found the information you needed for beach locations. You can still enjoy the beach, with maybe only a quick dip in the water 🙂 Thanks for reading about the best Central California Beaches.

  2. Pingback: essayforme

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great, I love California too! I thing the Central part of the state has a lot of the best beaches. I do have a post specifically for surfers here. Let me know if you have any questions.

  3. Tiffany

    Very informative post! I live in NW Oregon and have never had a chance to visit California beaches however I know that they have some very beautiful beaches and bodies of water! I must say I didnt realize there were nearly as many as there are! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Tiffany! You will have to take a drive down to California. The California beaches are definitely worth a visit! Thank you for reading about the Best Central California Beaches!

  4. Marcus

    Wow I lived in San Diego for 5 years but ended up spending too much time on the beaches down there. I had no idea that there were so many beautiful places in Central Coast. When you hear about it, it’s mostly about wine. Thanks for doing this. I have just included bookmarked your page as we’re planning on a road trip from Oregon to San Diego. I’ll let you know how that goes. Thanks Leahrae

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Marcus! Thanks for reading about the Best Central California Beaches. I know when most people think of California beaches, they think Southern California. Central California has amazing beaches! Thanks for taking the time to comment, and let me know how you road trip goes 🙂

  5. Andi

    I want to see all of the beaches, what a fab place to explore. I would do it in a campervan I think. There are loads more beaches than I would have imagined. Do you do a link to campervan hire? I would love love to see loads more pictures, it’s a dream destination.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I never thought about adding that. But driving up Highway 1 and visiting all these places would be wonderful. I am going to add this 🙂 Thank you Andi!

  6. Marcus

    This was some great information Leahrae. I’m living near Vancouver, British Columbia and I’ve always wanted to drive down the west coast. This just made me want to do that even more.

    It looks like you will just be hitting some incredible beaches a long the way. I knew before that there was a lot of nice beaches but not that they had this many.

    I will definitely come back to this article when I will plan my trip.

    Thanks a lot

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Please do Marcus ! Thanks for stopping in and reading 🙂

  7. Nicky

    hi there, I hope this does not come across as negative, but there is a lot of info on this page I’m wondering if there is a way to break it up with a search function? And in a couple of questions down in the comments that ask about camping and Rv’ing: and that makes me wonder if you could find an affiliate program for those and add that info to you posts? Don’t get me wrong I like all the info I’m just making suggestions.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Nicky, ….yes I know a LOT of info. I’m am trying to find a way to jump to a particular beach. Haven’t figured it out yet. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Dan

    Amazing in-depth article. The sheer number of beaches is mind-blowing. I’m a native Californian but moved away when I was younger and I have always loved the coast. You are doing a great service to promote information on these natural wonders by putting this info out. I was wondering if you have ever been to any of the ones listed and what on is your favorite? Thanks.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Dan, I have only been to the Laguna beach area, so really most of those beaches and I do love all of them. I’m a beach bum, so whats not to love? Lauguna Beach itself is a wonderful beach! Thank you for visiting!

  9. Maggie

    Wow – great guide to beaches on California. Very informative. My family and I are visiting the West Coast in a couple of months, so this website is perfect to help me plan the best beaches to sit and relax on. Well that’s what I want to do, but I have my boogie-board mad daughter with me, so have to make sure she is catered for. Can I ask if it is ok to bring alcohol onto beach? Just thinking that having a glass of wine watching the sunset would be amazing, but as we are not locals I wouldn’t want to do anything I wasn’t supposed to. Thanks for your guidance.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, not all do allow alcohol. Here is an article that gives the beaches that do, and a little description of them 🙂 Should be helpful. Thanks for visiting!

  10. Gail

    Hi, it is my biggest dream to travel… These destinations make me want it even more.. will be hard to choose when I can finally go.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Definitely hard to choose 🙂

  11. J Mario

    Lots of information , I love California …so many beautiful places to visit.
    Excellent site I know A lot of people will benefit from it.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you J. I am trying to make it very comprehensive, so you can find everything and anything related to the beach!

  12. Lefty

    If anyone ever needs information on California coastal beaches, this IS the site to see! very detailed
    and nuanced review. Always think of the America song, Ventura Highway , when that place is mentioned.
    And Carmel is way high on my bucket list! thanks for the great info!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are most welcome Lefty and thank you for visiting and the comments!

  13. pJ

    Hi there! I am hoping to travel to California one of these great days of summer… Thank you for the great information on the beaches. Baja would be my first destination. That would be cool if you included a picture or two of each one… Thanks again… PJ

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I do need to add pictures! Thanks for reminding me 🙂

  14. Dan Maxwell, Jr

    Wow Matty’s mom,

    I will make sure to visit some of them the next time I’m in the U.S.

    Should you ever come to Liberia, make sure to ask about Nana’s beach in Robertsport and JWG Beach & Resort in Marshal. They’re both breathtaking and fascinating. Robertsport is fast becoming a global surfing destination

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      When I am ready to add them to my list, I will ask if I have the information correct 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  15. Travis Smithers

    I have to tell you when I first read your headline; I was thinking how cool it would be to take two or three days to see some of the best central California beaches.

    Right in the first paragraph you mention 250 beaches, and I realize, I would need to take two weeks just to check out some of these beaches.

    I never knew there were so many different beaches in California. The number of beaches to choose from is unbelievable. I have not been to California yet, but I can see I would need at least two weeks.

    I take it you can rent a motorhome. So would you be able to camp along the way from the north checking out beaches, then turn in the RV at a location in the south?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, that is what a lot of people do! I tell you, we have been to a camper park near Laguna Beach, it was awesome. Everyone around the bonfire at night having fun….just a great atmosphere. The motorhome is the way to go Travis!


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