Best Southern California Beaches

Get ready….this is a long list!  and I have only included the best beaches for each area!  Visit the best southern California beaches for a great beach destination.   From Santa Barbara to San Diego, each beach area has its own distinct charms and attractions. What almost every California beach vacation shares in common besides the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean is a delightfully sunny, mild climate throughout most of the year.  You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Santa Barbara Beaches

Tapped the “American Riviera”, the city of Santa Barbara is perfectly situated between the mountains and the ocean. East Beach is the main beach for tourists and beach volleyball, while West Beach allows water sports, with the exception of swimming. The Santa Barbara Pier, also known as Stearns Wharf, separates the two, with plenty of souvenir shops and fresh seafood to be had. Ready to visit Santa Barbara?  Check out our Santa Barbara Travel Guide

Butterfly Beach

Across from the Four Seasons Biltmore, this beach is deceptive in its simplicity.  Since it is a Montecito Beach, and Montecito and the Biltmore have their share of celebrities, you have a good chance of seeing somebody famous here.  This is a west-facing beach, so you can see the sunset over the water.  There are no public facilities, so pack your lunch, water and sunscreen.

Butterfly Beach

Butterfly Beach

East Beach

East Beach is in the middle of everything and has it all.  If you get bored with the sun and volleyball, you can find a restaurant, swing by the zoo, rent some blades or walk along the wharf.  The only drawback is the parking.  Go early and make a day of it or go later and prepare to walk. Either way, this is a wonderful beach for just about any member of your group.

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East Beach

Arroyo Burro Beach

The locals call this beach Hendry’s Beach, a place to meet for breakfast or a cocktail at sunset, stroll or jog the sandy shore, watch for whales, surf fish, or ride the wild surf.  Known for it’s sandy beaches, swimming, surfing, and surf fishing, this park also offers a cool grassy area for picnics and playing.  The MTD bus stops at the park entrance.

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Arroyo Burro Beach

Mesa Lane Beach

Mesa Lane Beach is a narrow beach below the West Mesa neighborhood of Santa Barbara. At low tides, this beach is wide enough for sunbathing and beach sports, but at high tide there is little dry sand. It requires a hike down a steep stairway to reach the beach here.

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Mesa Lane Beach

Thousand Steps Beach

Thousand Steps Beach is one of the largest beaches in South Laguna Beach, CA. It’s a wide sandy beach with volleyball courts, restrooms, and tide pools and caves to discover. There is a large cave at the south end of Thousand Steps Beach that you can enter when the tide is out and the entrance is exposed. You can walk all the way through this cave (which is actually a tunnel) to a tiny rocky cove on the other side.

Thousand Steps Beach

Thousands Steps Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Ventura Beaches

Situated along California’s scenic central coast, the City of Ventura was once referred to as the “land of endless summers” and even the “city of good fortune”. This picturesque community offers plenty for visitors to do, including a stop along the pier at San Buenaventura State Beach and a stroll down the historic Ventura Pier. For those visitors more into surfing than swimming, make a stop at the rocky, narrow beach of Surfer’s Point. When it is time to take a break from the surf and sand, head to the vibrant restaurants, galleries and more of Ventura Harbor.Ready to vacation to Ventura?  Visit our Ventura Travel Guide

Harbor Cove Beach

Beautiful views of the entire Ventura coastline and hills, small lapping waves, and windblown sand dunes are just a few things that attract local families to Harbor Cove Beach. Coined as one of the safest beaches in Ventura, locals often refer to this protected shoreline as, “Mother’s Beach.” Harbor Cove Beach serves as the perfect spot for waterfront activities such as kayaking, flying kites, and watching the boats go in and out of the harbor.

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Harbor Cove Beach

San Buenaventura State Beach

Enjoy a laid back, retro vibe at San Buenaventura State Beach. Watch time slow down as you arrive and enjoy swimming, surfing, picnicking, beach volleyball, or playing Frisbee. The beach is two miles of sandy expanse mixed with a small lagoon and copious wildlife. This beach is lifeguarded by the State of California’s highly trained lifeguards year-round with every tower occupied and watching the water in the summer months.

San Buenaventura State Beach

San Buenaventura State Beach

Surfer’s Point Beach

Surfer’s Point, off Figueroa Street, includes one of California’s premier surfing and windsurfing spots. A landscaped promenade and the Omer Rains Bike Trail connect this sandy beach to the Ventura Pier. Promenade Park, next to the beach commemorates the site of an ancient Chumash village. Beach and park facilities include restrooms, showers, a spacious lawn and picnic tables and grills.

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Surfer’s Point Beach

Surfer’s Knoll Beach

With its amazing views of the coastline and Channel Islands, Surfer’s Knoll Beach serves as a wonderful sanctuary to relax, indulge, play, refresh, and explore. Located on Spinnaker Drive across the street from the Ventura Harbor Village, Surfer’s Snoll Beach has a great surf break at the Santa Clara River Mouth. Fun for all includes sunbathing, sea glass hunting, long walks towards the bird sanctuary along the beach. Swimming, unless an expert surfer, is not ideal due to common riptides. Amenities include restrooms and showers. No lifeguarding services at this location.

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Surfers Knoll Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Malibu Beaches

With nearly three-dozen beaches to choose from, Malibu is a beach-lovers dream. From the iconic Surfrider Beach, famous for world-class surfing and movies like “Gidget”, to one of the area’s cleanest beaches at Zuma Beach, to the cave-like rocks and cliffs of El Matador State Beach, there are plenty of options.  Do Malibu California!  Visit our Malibu California travel guide here.

Point Dume State Beach

Point Dume State Beach features headlands, cliffs, rocky coves and vast beach access. The beach is presently operated by Los Angeles County, which also operates Zuma County Beach. These facilities are noted for swimming, surfing, scuba diving and fishing. Point Dume is a perfect place to watch for California gray whales during the December to mid April migration period.

Point Dume State Beach

Point Dume State Beach

El Matador State Beach

El Matador State Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Malibu located a couple miles south of Leo Carrillo State Beach.  Down at the beach you can find large rocks that attract many beach goers to this beach in particular. Also, the views from the upper cliffs are incredible, looking down on large boulders and deep blue water filled with kelp forests.

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El Matador State Beach

Zuma County Beach

Zuma is the ultimate Southern California beach: wide, extends for miles. Zuma Beach has 1.8 miles of beach frontage with 105 acres of property. There are eight parking lots with approximately 2,000 parking spaces. Food stands are located at each end of the beach. Other amenities include restrooms, restaurants, showers, volleyball nets, and a bus stop. Beach wheelchairs are also available.

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Zuma County Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Santa Monica Beaches

Enticing for visitors from around the world, Santa Monica includes both mountain and beachfront views. Santa Monica State Beach offers up not only miles of waterfront, surfing and biking paths to its star-studded community, but also a number of adjacent parks with endless opportunities. Santa Monica Pier provides an ideal spot for family fun, including amusement rides, a video arcade and restaurants.  Ready to visit Santa Monica?  Check out our Santa Monica Travel Guide.

Santa Monica State South Beach

Santa Monica State Beach is an iconic destination that draws visitors from around the globe. It is 3 miles long, covers 245 acres of sand and is managed by the City of Santa Monica in cooperation with California State Parks.

Santa Monica State South Beach

Santa Monica State South Beach

Will Rogers State Beach

Will Rogers State Beach extends one and three-quarters mile along the shore. The beach features swimming and skin diving.  Facilities include volleyball courts, playground and gymnastic equipment, as well as a bike path and walkway.  A number of movies and TV shows have been filmed at this beach.

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Will Rogers State Beach

Santa Monica State North Beach

Santa Monica State Beach is an iconic destination that draws visitors from around the globe. It is 3 miles long, covers 245 acres of sand and is managed by the City of Santa Monica in cooperation with California State Parks.

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Santa Monica State North Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Long Beach Beaches

With a diverse locale, Long Beach provides close proximity to big city attractions, as well as Southern California adventures. Belmont Shore is the city’s answer to tourist-friendly restaurants and shops, while the narrow Long Beach City Beach provides views of the snowy San Gabriel Mountains as well as the mega-mansions of Naples Island. Take a chartered boat from Belmont Pier or head to the popular sandy beaches of Alamitos Bay. Mothers Beach is a winning force with families in search of some outdoor fun, while Alamitos Bay Beach is perfect for young adults and singles.  Vacationing to Long Beach California?  Then visit our Long Beach Visitor’s Guide!

Belmont Shore Beach

Belmont Shore Beach spans the waterfront of the Belmont Shore neighborhood in Long Beach, CA. Generally this beach is between the Belmont Pier area and 55th Place.  Waves typically don’t crash here because of the Long Beach breakwaters so surfing is rare, but swimming is common.

Belmont Shore Beach

Belmont Shore Beach

Marine Park (Mother’s Beach)

Located in a beautiful marina setting, Marine Park has volleyball courts, a play area and picnic sites. Known as “Mother’s Beach” for its gentle wave action, shallow swimming area and Lifeguard Supervision during peak periods. Marina Beach offers both a great beach for kids and a nearby grassy play area.

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Mothers Beach

Long Beach City Beach

Long Beach City Beach is the main beach of Long Beach, CA. This long south-facing beach is located along Ocean Boulevard from the Belmont Pier all the way to Alamitos Beach at the west end. Locals call this beach “Junipero Beach” because the main parking lot in the center is at Junipero Avenue.

Long Beach City Beach

Long Beach City Beach

Seal Beach

Seal Beach is a wide sandy beach packed with sunbathers and surfers on sunny days. At the north end it is bounded by the San Gabriel River mouth and on the south end by a jetty protecting the entrance to Anaheim Bay. There is a nice grass park, Eisenhower Park, and the Seal Beach Municipal Pier at the central part of the beach where two parking lots can be found.

Seal Beach

Seal Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Huntington Beach Beaches

So popular with surfers its nicknamed “Surf City USA” the community of Huntington Beach offers up impressively consistent surfing all year long. Limiting to developers, the area is mainly unmarked from its natural existence. Huntington State Beach comes with plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as fire pits serving as evening bonfires. Vacationing to Huntington Beach?  View our Huntington Beach Travel Guide

Bolsa Chica State Beach

Bolsa Chica State Beachis a popular state beach, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to its location south of the community of Sunset Beach in Orange County. This area was once called “Tin Can Beach” and became a state beach in 1960. Bolsa Chica is a perfect place to go surfing, sunbathing, play volleyball, enjoy water sports, hold family outings or to watch the sun set.

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Bolsa Chica State Beach

Huntington City Beach

Huntington City Beach is where the action is, from beach concessionaires and concerts, to volleyball tournaments and surf contests. Not to mention the majestic Huntington Beach Pier. Where the city meets the surf, this 3.5-mile stretch of beach serves as Downtown’s pristine backdrop.

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Huntington City Beach

Huntington State Beach

The 121 acre state beach is a popular destination for water enthusiasts of all ages and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors year round.  Huntington in a great place to surf, swim, sunbathe, fish or just watch the sun set.

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Huntington State Beach

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach (the beach) is a wide sandy public beach in the Huntington Beach community of Sunset Beach. Sunset County Beach, as it is often called, is located about two blocks west of Pacific Coast Highway between Anderson Street and Warner Avenue.

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Sunset Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Newport Beach

With eight miles of beachfront and the sophistication of a picturesque Southern California community, Newport Beach has plenty to offer tourists and locals alike. With its canyons, coves and bluffs, Crystal Cove State Park offers up a number of beaches and trails, while Corona Del Mar Beach is so beautiful its been the backdrop of a number of television series.  Vacationing to Newport Beach?  Visit our Newport Beach Visitors Guide to help with your planning.

West Newport Beach

The beach here is wide and less populated than the beaches near the Newport Pier and Balboa Pier to the south. Sand volleyball courts line the beach between here and the mouth of the Santa Ana River where surfers congregate in an area nicknamed “River Jetties.”

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West Newport Beach

Little Corona Del Mar Beach

Little Corona Del Mar Beach is a popular small beach at the end of a ravine called Buck Gully in the Newport Beach neighborhood of Corona Del Mar. This is a rocky cove that draws snorkelers and scuba divers and tide pool aficionados. Bring sturdy shoes to explore the rocks south of the sandy beach.

Little Corona Del Mar Beach

Little Corona Del Mar Beach

Crystal Cove State Beach

Pelican Point Beach in Crystal Cove State Park has a broad beach between Pelican Point and the park’s Historic District at Los Trancos Beach. The beach slopes gradually so it’s a narrow beach at high tide and a wide beach with rocks in the surf at low tide. There are tide pools at the north end near Pelican Point where scuba divers enter in search of even more marine life.

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Crystal Cove State Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Laguna Beach Beaches

Rocky bluffs and canyons dot the landscape of the tourist-rich community of Laguna Beach. This creative city offers the ideal destination for budding artists as well as visits to the laid-back cove beaches like Thousand Steps Beach and steep scuba diving locales of Wood’s Cove. Both scuba diving and snorkeling are big draws at Laguna beaches.  Ready for a vacation to Laguna Beach?  Check out our Laguna Beach Travel Guide.

Treasure Island Beach

Treasure Island Beach is a safe place to swim because it has some protection from huge rocks just offshore.  Access to Treasure Island Beach is down a long graded concrete ramp on the southwest side of the Montage Resort. There is a large flat platform at the bottom of the Treasure Island wheelchair accessible beach access. West of this platform you can hike on the rocks around the point through a natural arch on the way to Middle Man Cove and Goff Cove beyond that.

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Treasure Island Beach

Crescent Bay Beach

Crescent Bay is a large cove about ¼ mile in length. It is located where Cliff Drive intercepts North Coast Highway. The beach is a sandy stretch with rocky areas at the north and south ends. Off the north point there is a large rock about 120 yards offshore called Seal Rock because of the seals and sea lions that take refuge there.

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Crescent Bay Beach

Main Beach in Laguna Beach

Among all the stretches of sand in Laguna Beach, none is more iconic, more recognizable, or more accessible to the masses than Main Beach. Its famous lifeguard tower often appears in TV and movies. Olympians are known to show up to play pick up volleyball. Michael Jordan once spent a few hours dominating the shockingly scenic basketball court.  This is one of America’s truly “must visit” beaches. It’s bucket list worthy — a place you really ought to experience for yourself.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

Woods Cove Beach

Woods Cove may be small and secluded, but that hasn’t kept it from being wildly popular. In fact, with locals making this beach part of their weekend routines, it can sometimes feel downright crowded.  At the north end of the cozy cove, you’ll find the deep tide pools of Cactus Point – a rock outcropping which is home to Orange County’s only blow hole. Head south and you’ll score a superb snorkeling spot and skimboarding, if there’s a swell on.

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Woods Cove Beach

Victoria Beach

Victoria Street is, without a doubt, one of Laguna’s most famous beaches. It’s home to iconic sights – like the famed “Pirate Tower” and a circular, man-made pool that blew up thanks to Instagram. It’s also beloved by skim boarders. So much so that the most successful skim board company on earth, Victoria Skim Boards, borrowed the beach’s name.

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Victoria Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Dana Point Beaches

With its impressive high bluffs, as well as its secluded and sheltered coves, Dana Point provides not only a sought after surfing location, but also provides one of the area’s few harbors. From the fresh-water lagoon of Doheny State Beach, to the clean surroundings and fantastic views of Salt Creek Beach Park, there is much to offer.  Vacationing to Dana Point?  Visit our Dana Point Visitors Guide and start planning today!

Salt Creek Beach

Salt Creek Beach Park is operated by the County of Orange. It offers beach access as well as grassy areas with barbeques, picnic tables, and benches to enjoy the view.

Salt Creek Beach

Salt Creek Beach

Dana Strand Beach

The beach here is a nice sandy sunbathing spot that is also popular with surfers. You’ll find excellent tide pools at the point if the tide is low. Activities: surfing, sunbathing, walking, beach walking and tide pooling.  Amenities: boardwalk, restrooms, showers, lifeguard and tide pools.

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Dana Strand Beach

Doheny State Park South Beach

This southern area of the state park has a large campground and a long day-use parking area. The beach here is long and narrow, however it’s easy to find a spot to enjoy somewhere along this expanse. The view west from here looks over San Juan Bay and the Dana Point Harbor jetties to the Dana Point Headlands. There are lifeguards, picnic tables and fire rings provided along South Beach, but it doesn’t have grass lawns and shaded picnic areas like North Beach does. This is a great birding spot.

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Doheny State Park South Beach, Dana Point

Doheny State Park North Beach

This North Beach is located north of the San Juan Creek mouth and has a large grass park with nice picnic facilities, sand volleyball courts, and an excellent beach. It’s popular for swimming, SUPing, and beginner surfing as the waves roll in slowly from San Juan Bay. At low tide a boulder field and marine life is exposed for some fun tide pool exploration. This state park has a visitor center complete with interpretive exhibits, an aquarium, indoor tide pools, and a store with books and other fun items.

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Doheny State Park North Beach, Dana Point

Capistrano Beach Park

Capistrano Beach Park is the main beach in the community of Capistrano Beach (“Capo Beach”) in Dana Point, CA.  There is a basketball court here and sometimes north of the parking lot there are sand volleyball courts, but there is no grass. The beach is narrow at the parking lot but it opens up north of there.

Capistrano Beach Park

Capistrano Beach Park

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

San Clemente Beaches

Famed for its Spanish Colonial architecture, San Clemente attracts vacationers with its dramatic views and powerful winds. Bounded by a steep bluff, San Clemente State Beach offers an escape for visitors looking to surf, hike or just set up camp.  Ready to visit San Clemente?  Check out our San Clemente Travel Guide

Calafia Beach

Calafia Beach Park isn’t much of a park per se as it doesn’t have much grass, a playground, or other amenities. But it has a large day-use pay parking lot with access to a fantastic sandy beach. If you want more grass to throw a frisbee on, just hike up the trail at the back of the parking lot to a large lawn high on the bluff on Avenida Lobeiro.

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Calafia Beach, San Clemente

North Beach

North Beach is wider than the rest of San Clemente City Beach that stretches south to the San Clemente Pier. There are picnic tables, fire rings, swings for kids, and volleyball courts to enjoy.  North Beach is the north starting point of the San Clemente Coastal Trail, a multi-use trail that offers walkers, runners, and cyclists a way to explore the coastline between here and Calafia Beach at the south end of San Clemente.

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North Beach, San Clemente

San Clemente Pier City Beach

The beach is a wide sandy spot on both sides of the pier between T-Street Beach and Linda Lane Beach. Although the railroad tracks run right behind the beach, it is a nice setting with palm trees and grassy areas near the pier entrance. This is a great place for people watching.

San Clemente Pier City Beach

San Clemente Pier City Beach

Trestles Beach

Surfers know this area near San Mateo Point as Uppers, Lowers, and Middles for the different surf spots near the train trestle the beach is named after. Under the trestle at the beach San Mateo Creek stagnates and sometimes flows through the sand to the ocean. This wetlands area is called Trestles Wetland Natural Preserve and it is popular with bird-watchers.

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Trestles Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Oceanside Beaches

Close enough to area attractions, and rich in historic charm, you’ll find the casual destination of Oceanside. Take a step back in history, strolling along Oceanside Pier, one of the area’s most expansive wooden piers. This destination plays host to the infamous Ruby’s Diner, as well as serves as a prime fishing and surfing location.

Buccaneer Beach

The beach at Buccaneer Park is a small family-friendly beach along the southern part of Oceanside, CA. Buccaneer Beach is basically a gap between the homes and condos that exist right at the high surf line. Buccaneer Park is a grass park for kids and families complete with a kids playground, a basketball court, and a large gazebo. Surfing is allowed at Buccaneer Beach outside of the designated safe swimming area.

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Buckaneer Beach, Oceanside

Oceanside Harbor Beach

Oceanside Harbor Beach is a large wide beach sitting in front of the Oceanside, CA city harbor. The beach is boxed in by two rock jetties at both ends which seems to hold in the large amounts of sand here. There are volleyball courts, picnic areas, BBQ’s for grilling, and many other beach amenities. Fishermen can cast off the jetties at Harbor Beach and surfers ride the waves when conditions are right.

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Oceanside Harbor Beach

Oceanside Pier View North Beach

The beaches north of Oceanside Pier have much more sand than those south of the pier and provide more space for those visiting the beach. Due to the Pier Amphitheater being situated on the south side of the pier, there are fewer activities and events that occur on the north side of the pier. This often makes for a quiet, more relaxed atmosphere. There are two lifeguard towers north of the pier (Towers 2 and 4). During the summer months, an area is closed to surfing (blackballed) but open for all other water activities. The surfing and swimming area will always be marked with checkered flags and swim-surf signs.

Oceanside Pier View North Beach

Oceanside Pier View North Beach

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Encinitas Beaches

Known widely for its incredible floral industry, including poinsettias, the beachfront City of Encinitas provides a vintage feel where surfing is the dominant sport. This hip community ranges from massive rocky bluffs to the white sand of area beaches.  Vacationing to Encinitas?  Visit our Encinitas Travel Guide

Moonlight State Beach

This wide, sandy beach offers swimming, surfing and fishing. Facilities include volleyball and tennis courts, recreational equipment rentals and a snack bar.  The “moonlight” in the name of this beach comes from the fact that local residents used to come to the area for midnight picnics early in the early 1900s.

Moonlight State Beach, Encinitas

Moonlight State Beach, Encinitas

Swami’s Beach

Swami’s is the popular surf break at the southernmost end of Encinitas, set below bluffs where the golden-spired Self-Realization Center is located—an enduring symbol of Encinitas’ positive and spiritual vibe. A great surf break, this spot is highly coveted by local surfers.

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Swami’s Beach, Encinitas

Grandview Beach

Grandview Beach is a narrow beach below high bluffs topped with homes and condo buildings that have a “grand view” of the ocean. At high tide there isn’t much beach exposed, but otherwise this beach is excellent for walking.

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Grandview Beach, Encinitas

D Street Beach

D Street is the access point to the mile-long beach also known as Boneyards that runs below the bluffs from Moonlight Beach south of Swami’s point.  D Street is a rocky cobblestone-encumbered spot better suited to surfing than sunbathing, although some of those dedicated enough to make the pilgrimage are also devoted enough to bare it all, despite state law.

D Street Beach

D Street Beach

Stone Steps Beach

The reason for this name is a large concrete and stone stairway that descends the steep crumbly bluff to the narrow beach below. Surfers catch waves that roll over a reef here. It’s a great beach to walk in either direction, but be aware that high tides can cover the entire beach in this area.

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Stone Steps Beach, Encinitas

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Carlsbad Beaches

With mild, year-round temperatures, Carlsbad draws in visitors seeking rugged adventures as well as relaxing family fun. South Carlsbad State Beach offers visitors a remote camping adventure, situated among rugged cliffs, but allowing room for surfing, swimming, fishing and skin diving. Meanwhile, Tamarack Beach provides access for joggers, bikers and walkers along the Carlsbad Seawall and Frazee Beach offers a low-key locale for swimmers in search of calmer waters.

South Carlsbad State Beach

This beach features camping, swimming, surfing, skin diving, fishing and picnicking. The large bluff-top campground is very popular, especially in summer. Stairs lead to the beach.

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South Carlsbad State Beach

Tamarack State Beach

The beach is ideal for the family and kids, the state beach offers swimming, surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing and beachcombing. Many people fish off the Carlsbad jetties, both near Tamarack beach and the campgrounds.

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Tamarack State Beach, Carlsbad

Robert Frazee State Beach

This beach is similar to Tamarack Beach to the south, but it’s less crowded. The beach at Frazee is wide and sandy. North of the parking lot the state beach continues in front of homes and condos and it lacks lifeguards and facilities. robert-frazee-state-beach-carlsbad

Robert Frazee State Beach, Carlsbad

North Ponto Beach

North Ponto Beach is the northern day-use beach access point at South Carlsbad State Beach. The beach here is narrow unlike the wide beach at South Ponto at the other end of the campground. Surfers park and head out from North Ponto, but sunbathers and other beach goers don’t flock to this location.

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North Ponto Beach, Carlsbad

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

Del Mar Beaches

The prosperous beachfront community of Del Mar offers some unique downtown shopping locales, as well as illustrious dining options catered towards the rich and famous. For more casual options, head to the scenic Powerhouse Park to watch the surf or stretch out on the sand. Del Mar City Beach is the place to go for people watching, plus taking long walks along the soft sand or just enjoying an ocean-side picnic while basking in the Southern California sun.

Del Mar City Beach

Del Mar City Beach starts at Powerhouse Park or 15th Street and stretches all the way up to the lagoon entrance at the San Dieguito River (where it meets Dog Beach). It’s a hot spot for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing, and is usually crowded on the weekends. There is almost always a lifeguard on duty, and the park above provides restrooms and picnic tables in addition to a large grassy area and a sandbox play area for children.

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Del Mar City Beach, Del Mar

Del Mar Dog Beach – North Beach

If you travel north of Del Mar City Beach, you’ll find one of the few dog-friendly beaches in San Diego where your pup can be off-leash for most of the year. Although it is mainly known as a playground for man’s best friend, the San Dieguito River Mouth makes a kid-friendly wading pool as well!

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Del Mar Dog Beach

South Beach of Del Mar

It may be hard to differentiate from the other Del Mar beaches, but it is easy to find and absolutely worth exploring. Although it is less suitable for swimming and surfing, the cliffs above it make it a very scenic beach.

South Beach of Del Mar

South Beach of Del Mar

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, La Jolla and San Diego Beaches.

La Jolla Beaches

With plenty of high-end shopping and dining, the upscale San Diego County community of La Jolla offers a wealth of opportunity for tourists both on, and off the beach. Flanked by sea cliffs, La Jolla Shores provides a superb launch site for kayaking, while Windansea Beach is full of charm and romance, offering a stunning backdrop with few visitors.

Black’s Beach

San Diego Black’s Beach is also famous among surfers as it is considered one of the strongest surf breaks in Southern California. The powerful waves are due to the Scripps Canyon, an underwater submarine canyon, which funnels the waves toward the shore. The surf in Black’s Beach San Diego is recommended for experienced surfers only, and although there are lifeguards on duty, swimmers are advised to avoid the rip currents at San Diego Black’s Beach. Black’s Beachvisitors should also check out the sky to catch sight of flights, as the cliffs are a common area for daring hang gliders and paragliders to take off into the air.

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Blacks Beach, La Jolla

La Jolla Cove Beach

La Jolla Cove is a very small beach, tucked between sandstone cliffs.  Because of its extraordinary beauty, La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California.  With small surf in the summer months, the north facing La Jolla Cove is ideal for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Water visibility at the Cove can sometimes exceed 30 feet.

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La Jolla Cove Beach

La Jolla Shores Beach

La Jolla Shores is a sandy beach approximately 1 mile long located in the community of La Jolla. In summer, waves at this beach are usually the most gentle of all San Diego beaches.  Many novice scuba classes are held at La Jolla Shores.  La Jolla Shores is one of nine beaches that has permanent lifeguard stations patrolled by San Diego Lifeguards.

La Jolla Shores Beach

La Jolla Shores Beach

Boomer Beach

As one of of the smallest and more ‘hidden’ beaches in La Jolla, Boomer Beach is tucked away just south of La Jolla Cove. It’s a big favorite for bodysurfers because of its powerful surf and lack of surfers and boogie boarders (both are prohibited). It’s possible to catch some sun while laying out on the sand here, but swimming can be difficult for even those more experienced. This is the perfect spot to have a picnic, enjoy the beach, and watch the bodysurfers from shore.

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Boomer Beach, La Jolla

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, San Diego Beaches.

San Diego Beaches

One of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. is sought after for its mild temperatures and expansive beaches. San Diego is home to large crowds of people at both Pacific Beach and Mission Beach and at the only 24-hour dog beach located within Ocean Beach. Perfect for sunning, surfing and for swimming, many of San Diego’s beaches are protected by Mission Bay.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – Garbage Beach

Dedicated in 1983, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a 68-acre resource-based park stretching along the Pacific Ocean bordering the western edge of Point Loma.  The park’s topography includes intricately carved coastal bluffs, arches and sea caves. It affords inspiring panoramic ocean views. From the cliffs, California gray whales often can be seen migrating annually from the Bering Sea to Baja California and back.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park - Garbage Beach

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – Garbage Beach

Ocean Beach City Beach

Ocean Beach is located in the San Diego community of Ocean Beach. This is a wide beach, approximately 1 mile long and broken up by several rock jetties.  A volleyball area can be found near the north end of the beach.

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Ocean Beach City Beach

South Mission Beach

South Mission Beach is located at the southern end of the Golden Strand which runs from Pacific Beach Point to the Mission Bay channel. Perhaps the widest beach in the city, it is a popular place for sports such as beach volleyball and basketball. South Mission also has the only oceanfront area dedicated to playing “Over-The-Line”. The southern end of the cement boardwalk running the length of the Golden Strand is located in the eastern portion of the parking lot.

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South Mission Beach, San Diego

North Pacific Beach

North Pacific Beach extends approximately a mile north of Crystal Pier to Pacific Beach Point. This beach is bordered by cliffs up to 75 feet in height with an extension of the boardwalk traversing the cliff-top along much of the south end of the beach. At the north end of the beach is Tourmaline Surfing Park which includes a public parking lot, showers and restrooms. This area is heavily used by surfers, kite surfers and sailboarders year round

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North Pacific Beach, San Diego

You can go to these links to find the best southern California beaches include Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Ensinitas, Del Mar Beaches, and La Jolla.

36 Comments

  1. Effie

    I’ve never been to California and the US, although I have dear friends there. All I know about beaches is a result of movies and your website-I love it because it helps me travel using my imagination. My question will make you laugh, I’m sure about it: How about sharks? Are there any in Calfornia?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      LOL you are right! There are sharks, but there are very few shark attacks. They keep on the look out for them and close the beach when one comes too close to shore. You do have to treat yourself to a beach vacation!

      Reply
  2. Robyn-lynn

    Wow …I can feel the sand on my toes just reading this! We are in Autumn and about to hit Winter next month in Australia 🙁 Thank goodness for Qlds and Bali ! Some of these names are so famous to us – seeing the pics and the beaches i will definitely visit one day: Laguna, Santa Monica, Malibu and Santa Barbara. Great travel site for those of us who may visit from OS. We also have a Boomer Beach in South Australia which is not for the faint hearted. Crashing waves and you are sure to be dumped several times. Loved the photos. I will open and admire as the cold slowly creeps in here and await my next trip to Bali in a few months.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Robyn-lynn and thank you for reading 🙂

      Reply
  3. Kris

    Poor you having to visit beaches all day long! You have done an amazing job documenting a strip consisting of so many different beaches! I have been to a few of these myself and can see that your reviews are accurate. I wonder how you rate them? What is your favourite Southern California Beach and why? Just so I know which one to visit next time I am in the country!
    Thanks, Kris

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I know right Kris 😀 I love the beach, no doubt about it. If in Southern California, make sure you go to Laguna Beach…..great beach!

      Reply
  4. paul

    Hi Leahrae

    I was staggered with the number of beaches and amenities you have listed, I had no concept of the length of the Californian coastline, just names on a map. Here near where I live in the Vendee region of France we have 140 miles sand along the Atlantic coastline. I know where our holiday for 2017 will be:)

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, and I have only listed the best and most loved ones 🙂 I am glad I could steer you to their beaches!

      Reply
  5. Hillary

    Wow!! What an informative post–you’ve really put basically everything you need to know in here! I live near the water in Florida, but have only been to California a couple of times. I want to bring my kids there so this will definitely be useful. We’re a travelling family and want to drive up the west cost, so a couple of these beaches will definitely be on our must-do list.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad I could help 🙂 Florida has many awesome beaches as well and the water is warmer!

      Reply
  6. Peter

    Hi Leahrae. Thank you for the very informative article on recommended beaches in Southern California. I hope to be visiting my sister in San Diego later this year. She had mentioned once about the Garbage Beach at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and the steep path down to it. I see you have it listed here. if we went there in early September, would there be life guards on duty?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Peter, yes there are lifeguards in Southern California year round. I’m not sure how each beach is affected and how many patrol, I am not sure. But they do keep lifeguards on duty. Hope this helps 🙂

      Reply
  7. Steven

    I use the same wordpress theme on my website so I instantly liked your site 🙂
    HOLY MACRO!! That is more than a lifetime of walks in the sand. That’s more sand in my shorts than I bargained for. LOL
    Did you visit all these beaches?
    I think you need an index so people can quickly do an alphabetical search and be on the page they want.
    The other thing is links for each beach which I see you already have quite a few but not all. Because you can probably do quite a bit of promotional offers with this.
    Nice site and I better not show my girl or im going to permanently be on vacation.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Permanently on vacation sounds wonderful and thank you for the tips and ideas. I like the idea of a search, thanks!

      Reply
  8. rutla

    Hi Mattysmom. This is fantastic site. I am really looking for to come visit that site when i have the money to traveling. That is nothing that i cant suggest to you. It is well organized, well written and entertaining. The website is bright, colorful and warm. I could go around the site without losing where i would like to go.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks for your very kind comments Rufia. It is a passion of mine and I was hoping that it would reflect in my website. I see that it does, so that makes me happy. Please come back again and visit 🙂

      Reply
  9. KidsWorldSoccerDad

    Leahrae,

    I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Santa Monica beaches and found them to be absolutely wonderful. For anyone who has never been, these beaches are a great place to visit.

    Being a scuba diver, I’m looking to get back to the southern coast to spend some time underwater. Given the insights you’ve provided, I think Little Corona Del Mar Beach may be the place I need to visit next!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great! I am glad I could help you find a new underwater spot! The whole area is really just beautiful! Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
  10. Anna

    Hi Leahrae,

    Fantastic in-depth article – wow!!! I went to California many years ago and loved it so much!! Didn’t realize they had so many beaches!!

    I am the biggest beach lover – could be there 24/7 and never get sick of it! I hope someday I can live near one! I find it so relaxing and therapeutic.

    I’m definitely coming back to your site – wonderful, helpful information, just what I need! Thank You!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Anna, I’m with you! I am the biggest beach lover too and plan on moving to St. Pete Beach in the very near future 🙂 That lifestyle just can’t be beat!

      Reply
  11. Suzette

    As a beach lover, this was very interesting and informative. I have been to a lot of the beaches on the east coast and would love to visit the west coast just to check out the beaches. Maybe I will put this on my list of things to do. Thanks for the information….can’t wait to see what you add next.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Suzette and the east coast beaches are also pretty amazing 🙂 Beaches are a passion of mine and I have a lot more to share….so stay tuned!

      Reply
  12. Roger

    Leahrae,

    Wow! You’ve really outdone yourself here! That’s a lot of beachfront property! Thanks for the tour and description of each location.

    I lived n San Francisco, but never really visited the Southern California beaches. Of course California is a VERY large state, and is also VERY long, and finally obviously studded with many beaches!

    2 of my favorites from your exhaustive list are Arroyo Burro and Will Rogers. Both because of their connection to famous men.

    Arroyo of course related to Kirk Douglass, not to mention his son! It was interesting that it is one of the cleanest beaches, yet the water can be unsanitary.

    And the other to Will Rogers, a comedian who I always loved. Do you know any of the history of how this came to be named after Will Rogers? I’d love to learn more!

    Thanks for the great breakdown, including the list of amenities and local activities.

    Now where to go swimming? Or beach combing?

    Roger

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I know….and it did take me a while but I do like to be thorough 🙂 In regards to Will Rogers beach…. In the 1920s, Rogers bought the land and developed a ranch along the coast. He owned 186 acres along the coast in what is now Pacific Palisades. Rogers died in a plane crash in 1935. Then when his widow, Betty, died in 1944, the ranch became a state park. And that is how it got named 🙂 Yes, I plan, after I have listed the beaches, to list the best beaches for surfing, swimming and shelling 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  13. john savage

    Hey

    Ive been been to the US a few times and loved it every single time!

    Washington, North Caroline, Florida, New York and not once did I go to a cali beach!

    Glad I didn’t because looking at your blog i would have never left!!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Exactly John, however IMO Florida beaches are awesome too! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Reply
  14. Jim Cook

    Great article. Never been to California. I like Caribbean and Mexico, but I would rule out Cali. I liked your Rivera Maya post. Went to Playa de Carmen beach last Christmas. Love your website. Good luck

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Jim!

      Reply
  15. Eric

    Great post….

    Hi Leahrae very informative articles you’ve done here. I’ve never been there in United State but hopefully one day I can go there. I love beaches back in my country every summer with my family were going to beach. The most beach that we’ve been is in north and south part of the Philippines.

    All the person who will visit your website I’m sure they’re take now some Idea where they go this summer. And not only good information you does in your post, you attract also a tourist, so you helped also your tourism there in your country Leahrae as well.

    Do you heard the BORACAY BEACH in the Philippines? I’m really glad if next time you do articles, you included this beach.

    Thank you so much and take care always!

    Cheers
    Eric

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Eric and yes, I have heard of that beach! I will be doing a lot more locations…just very time consuming 🙂

      Reply
  16. James W D

    I visited a couple beaches in central to south California when I was a young teenager. The water was freezing, but the sun was definitely nice and warm.

    There was a beach that had a nice amusement park with it that we stopped at, but it wasn’t terribly long after a Earthquake had hit the region, so a lot of the rides were not open. We still had a lot of fun though.

    I really enjoyed my time visiting the California coast and would definitely recommend it as there are many different and cool locations to check out!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks James!

      Reply
  17. Gabriel

    Wow! Great post! Not too big fan of beach holidays but after seeing this post i’d like to visit like all of these beaches listed. 😀 Too bad i can’t afford travelling just yet. Can’t wait to see more posts from you so i can get ideas for holidays when i get the chance.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks for looking Gabriel. They are beautiful and relaxing….well depending on which one you go to!

      Reply
  18. GiuliaB

    Wow Leahrae, you know your stuff about beach holidays and best beach locations. I must say, both my husband and I are not best fans of beach holidays – we do not particularly like hot weather and sun bathing hols, as we prefer sightseeing. But the pics you have added to your post here are the most inviting ever!
    I read you have also travelled in Europe. Any chance maybe in future you will also add your expert insight on holiday destinations there, as we leave in UK? Thank you. Giulia 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Giulia and yes I will be adding destinations in Europe as well 🙂

      Reply

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