The 25 Most Beautiful Beaches in California

By Landing | Apr 30, 2024
Best California Beaches

The abundance of beaches in California is a great reason to call the Golden State home. Here are 25 of the best ones to explore.

The California coastline stretches over 800 miles, making the Golden State one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. Whether you’re a surfer chasing the perfect wave or a family making lifelong memories, the Golden State has a beach for everyone. 

From the year-round bikini weather in La Jolla to the moody coastal redwoods of Pelican State Beach and everything in between, here are the best beaches in California. 

The 25 Top Beaches in California

If you’re wondering, “How many beaches are in California?” The answer is a whopping 420. That’s a lot of surf and sand to choose from. 

Luckily, we narrowed that down to our 25 favorite California beaches for you to explore. 

1. Pelican State Beach, Del Norte County

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Northern California’s cold, foggy winter weather means its beaches are overshadowed by its southern neighbors. But Pelican State Beach sits on the Oregon border with an undeveloped natural landscape that’s typical of northern California shores. Surrounded by redwood forests, it’s a great spot for picnics and observing wildlife, including the beach’s namesake. 

2. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

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Years of dumping garbage into a coastal dump near Fort Bragg created the sea glass-covered shores of Glass Beach. Over the years, the ocean smoothed the broken glass into colorful pebbles, creating a unique and beautiful beach. Now, there’s no garbage dumping, and the glass is celebrated by locals as a unique beauty. 

3. Point Reyes, Marin County

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North of San Francisco sits Point Reyes Natural Seashore, a 71,000-acre park full of hiking trails, big beaches, and dramatic sea cliffs. It attracts nature enthusiasts more than beach bums since cold water and strong rip currents make many sections of the coast unsafe for swimming — but excellent for sightseeing.

4. Stinson Beach, Marin County

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A short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach has long been a getaway from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Warm, clear days are popular and parking is limited, so be sure to get there early to enjoy a day of volleyball, surfing, and swimming. 

5. Baker Beach, San Francisco

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Although cold waters aren’t ideal for swimming, Baker Beach boasts postcard views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy a picnic before exploring Presidio, a 1,800-square-mile park. And, if you’re feeling brave, take a quick dip in South Bay. 

6. Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz

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From secluded neighborhood beaches in La Selva Beach to tourist-friendly Santa Cruz, there’s no shortage of spots to choose from in this NorCal paradise. Visitors have to visit Natural Bridges, famed for its naturally formed rock bridge and winter population of monarch butterflies. 

7. Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea

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With its cypress-lined shores and powdery white sand, Carmel Beach is a laid-back destination despite its celebrity neighbors. The mile-long stretch is perfect for leisurely strolls, beach volleyball, or sunbathing. Nearby, Carmel River State Beach has several trailheads where you can explore the Point Lobos Natural Reserve, including viewpoints where you can watch sea lions.  

8. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

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Hidden among Big Sur’s stunning cliffs, Pfeiffer Beach is famous for its purple sand. Yes, purple sand! Its unusual scenery is a photographer’s dream at sunset. Although it tends to crowd in the summertime with sunbathers and Instagrammers alike, it’s a friendly spot where locals love to bring their dogs. Get there early to make the most of this beautiful location. 

9. Pismo State Beach, San Luis Obispo County

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The oceanside towns of Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, and Oceano sit on 17 miles of coastline. Nature lovers head to the famous sand dunes, which can be explored on foot or all-terrain vehicles. It’s also a popular spot for clam digging, a local Pismo delicacy. 

10. Steps Beach, Santa Barbara

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Despite being a popular resort town, Steps Beach is a secluded getaway mostly known by locals. A long, steep staircase takes you down to a small stretch along the bluffs, popular with surfers. Be sure to check for high tide to avoid walking up and down nearly 500 steps to find choppy waters taking over the sand.  

11. Moonstone Beach, Cambria

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Named for shiny moonstones that line the shore, Moonstone Beach is a treasure trover’s dream. The wooden boardwalk and tide pools offer endless exploration, making it a favorite for families or couples seeking a romantic stroll. Nearby Hearst San Simeon State Park has coastal campgrounds amidst Monterey pine forests if you’re looking to extend your Californian adventure. 

12. Crystal Cove, Newport Beach

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We don’t blame you if you never want to leave Crystal Cove. The beach community is like stepping back in time, with vintage cottages and an untouched, natural coastline. And there’s more to do than soak up the sun. The Crystal Cove State Park gives guided hikes, tidepool tours, and geology talks to families and natural enthusiasts. 

13. Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica

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An amusement park, aquarium, and food stalls make Santa Monica Beach an ideal spot to hang out with friends or spend time with the family. Located in the trendy neighborhood of the same name, this beach is a great spot to experience the pros of life in Los Angeles. Spend the afternoon in the sand and follow up with shopping and restaurant hopping along Main Street. 

14. Venice Beach, Los Angeles

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Los Angeles’s incredible coastal offerings make it one of our favorite digital nomad destinations. Venice Beach’s palm tree-lined boardwalk is famous for its bohemian vibes, colorful murals, and street performers. Whether you’re here to skate, surf, or people-watch, Venice never fails to entertain. 

15. Zuma Beach, Malibu

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You might feel déjà-vu when you step foot on Zuma Beach in Malibu. “Planet of the Apes,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and other Hollywood films have used the beach as a sunny backdrop. And with nearly 2 miles of coastline, you rarely have to fight the crowds or film crews for a spot. 

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16. Point Dume, Malibu

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More secluded from Zuma Beach and El Matador, Point Dume is one of the most beautiful beaches in California. A 15-minute walk from the Pacific Coast Highway leads to cliffside views of Catalina Island and tickseed flower meadows. The Point Dume “Pinnacles,” home to dolphins, lobsters, and torpedo rays, is also a popular deep-sea diving site.  

17. El Matador State Beach, Malibu

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Just outside of Los Angeles is El Matador, a quiet retreat from the city buzz. Sea caves, unique rock formations, and tide pools offer plenty to explore — and a weekday visit lets you enjoy a picnic or lounge with a book without the big weekend crowds.

18. Descanso Beach, Catalina Island

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People flock to Catalina Island in the Channel Islands for its crystal clear waters and luxurious resorts. Cabana-lined Descanso Beach is one of few California beaches where you can legally enjoy a cocktail, which is a great reason to take a day trip. 

19. Laguna Beach, Orange County

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The town of Laguna Beach is a laid-back, family-forward town with plenty of water activities and smaller beaches for you to explore. Victoria Beach is a popular skimboarding spot, Crystal Cove State Park is an underwater park popular with snorkelers, and trails through the coastal canyons of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park offer relaxing hikes under the year-round sun.  

20. Huntington Beach, Orange County

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Although the nickname “Surf City USA” is up for debate among California natives, Huntington Beach is a favorite destination for many surfers. The city’s surf culture is everywhere, with surf competitions, beach-themed bars, and bonfires dotting the coastline. 

21. Newport Beach, Orange County

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Luxury yachts, upscale dining, and boutique shops make this southern California beach town a must for vacation goers in need of a bit of luxury. And if you’re not into sunbathing, the Wedge is another surf beach known for its big waves.  

22. Doheny State Beach, Dana Point

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One must-visit location is Doheny State Beach, California’s first state beach. It attracts nearly one million visitors every year, probably because it has something for everyone. There’s plenty of surf, acres of lawn with volleyball courts and picnic tables, and a family-friendly aquarium. 

23. Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles County

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The small coastal town of Hermosa Beach is a haven for sports enthusiasts. Volleyball nets and bike paths line the shore, inviting visitors to join the local community’s active lifestyle. 

24. Coronado Beach, San Diego

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The iconic Hotel del Coronado creates a picturesque backdrop. It’s a magnet for travelers in search of old-school California charm. Coronado Beach’s gentle waves make it a great spot for young children, while the expansive sands offer plenty of space for sandcastle building and sports. 

25. Pacific Beach, San Diego

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It’s hard to choose the best beach in San Diego. Southern California is full of them, and year-round incredible weather means a trip to the coast in December is nothing out of the ordinary. La Jolla Cove, Coronado Beach, and Mission Beach are popular among tourists, but locals head to Pacific Beach (or “PB”) for a quiet afternoon. Gentle waves and wide shores make it ideal for kicking the ball around, sandcastle building, and body surfing.

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It’s Time to Hit the Waves

If you’re ready to make a dip in the ocean part of your daily routine, let Landing help you find the right beachside apartment. We have fully furnished apartments with flexible leases all over California. And we’ll let you decide what the best beach in California is when you’ve had the chance to experience it like a local.