If you’re going to California for the first time, there will be certain things in your mind: gorgeous sun, blue skies, and beautiful beaches.
The beaches are one of the best things about California, and going to them is an absolute must for first time tourists – and even seasoned travelers!
Better yet, there are loads of beaches to choose from in California. Whether it’s relaxed and quiet beaches like Pismo Beach, or something large and stunning like Half Moon Bay, there is a gorgeous beach for everybody’s tastes.
Thankfully, we’ve narrowed the options down for you, collecting together only the very best 10 beaches in California.
Our guide below has them all listed, with descriptions of what makes each one so unique and wonderful. Read on!
We’re starting our list with the beautiful beaches of La Jolla. If you’ve never been before, La Jolla is a key neighborhood of San Diego, offering up some of the most beautiful areas of the city.
It’s famous for its coastline and sweeping views of the ocean, as well as plenty of lovely walks and dreamy waterfront restaurants.
The main beach is La Jolla Shores, which offers beautifully calm and serene water for you to dip a toe in or watch while lazing on the beach.
You can expect to find lots of families enjoying this beach, because it’s a perfect area for a family day out. Better yet, there’s a park at the beachside where the young children can play.
Another great La Jolla beach area is the La Jolla Cove, a sweet and quiet spot that’s popular with swimmers and snorkelers.
Pismo Beach is a city in California which, unsurprisingly, has a lot of beaches within it! You can expect to find loads of happy beachgoers relaxing and swimming at all of these beaches, many of which are popular with surfers.
And who can blame them? Each of the beaches has stunning views, which look even better when the sun is setting.
On top of that, there’s plenty of things to do while at the beaches, whether it’s enjoying a bit of food or even riding a horse on the actual sand.
If you’re bringing the family, then the Dinosaur Caves Park is a great spot. It has a playground for the kids, as well as trails with beautiful ocean views for you all to enjoy.
This Californian beach is perfect for a relaxing (and even romantic) end to the day. You can bring your partner to enjoy the dreamy curve of the beach, which is white, while the waves lap gently nearby.
On top of that, there are cypress trees dotted along the landscape, which really make the beach look even more remarkable.
It’s a great place to walk your dog, too, because they love the laid back vibe and the surrounding beauty. Make sure that you watch a sunset at the beach, too, because they are particularly stunning in this location.
Laguna Beach is a little, cozy coastal city in California which has a collection of gorgeous beaches.
Better yet, there are plenty of coves too, which are great for adventuring around. If you have kids, they’ll love them.
Whether you want a busy beach or a private one, you can take your pick at Laguna Beach.
There are plenty of beaches where you’ll find happy families and people enjoying the sun, while on the other hand there are some that are more secluded and quiet.
The Main Beach of Laguna Beach has exciting tide pools to walk around, as well as a boardwalk that leads to the gardens and paths of the beautiful Heisler Park, which is nearby.
On the other hand, if you like surfing then you’d best head to Aliso Beach Park, where you’ll find plenty of people breaking the waves.
Crystal Cove State Park
This state park in California contains a whole 3.2 miles of Pacific coastline for you to enjoy, making a trip here a very full day out.
You can expect to find a lot of beaches within it, with tide pools in between some of them. This breaks the sights up nicely, mixing the large beaches with the tiny tide pools.
At the same time, you can marvel at the great coastal cliffs that go around Crystal Cove, or take a trip inland to see the fascinating chaparral canyons.
While you’re at the state park, you should also have a look at the underwater park they have, which is a dive site where people can see around 1000 acres of beautiful underwater life.
The city of Malibu in California is packed with things to do, including its great range of beaches. Perhaps the key one is Zuma Beach, which can be accessed right from Highway 1. You’ll see beautiful ocean views here, and the beach is very wide.
If you want to do a bit of surfing, take a trip to the Malibu Lagoon State Beach. You’ll find plenty of surfers enjoying the waters here, because this particular beach is a common spot for great waves.
For something smaller and more private, you can relax at Topanga Beach. There shouldn’t be a lot of people around here, and you can enjoy a romantic evening with your partner in peace, as you wander the small dunes.
And if you want to do some sea-life sightseeing instead? There are a few tidepools at the Leo Carrillo State Park and Beach, where you can see crabs, mussels, and more.
A very long way from the Manhattan you would usually think of, Manhattan Beach is the name for a city in California. As you can guess, it has a lovely beach located at it.
Despite being popular with plenty of families and other beachgoers, this particular Californian beach never has an overwhelmed feel to it.
Instead, you’ll find that it’s very laid back, which makes it the perfect spot for those of you that want to relax in the sun and listen to the soft waves.
There is a sweet, small pier that has an aquarium, which makes this a perfect spot for bringing the kids to. On top of that, there are boutiques to shop at and a handful of parks nearby.
Additionally, you can also get some food at the diverse range of pubs, upscale restaurants, and brunch cafés.
The city of Santa Cruz in California runs along the coast, and as a result has miles and miles of lovely beaches for you to enjoy.
The Main Beach is where you will probably find the most action, and you can enjoy being among the crowds of happy people soaking up the sun and the water.
Meanwhile, a trip to Capitola Beach will give you a chance to see its countless colorful houses. They make this particular beach very unique and picturesque, as does the lengthy pier that sits there.
If you want something to eat, the restaurants there have great sea views, and the beach is in a small cove area, meaning that it’s very calm and relaxed.
Seacliff State Beach is another fine Santa Cruz spot to visit, where you can expect very little wind thanks to the trees that surround the area.
On top of that, you should have a lookout for the old ship that’s closed off next to the pier. The ship dates back to World War One and is a fascinating piece of history – you don’t see that at every beach!
Monterey is a famous city in California, particularly known for its jazz festival. Well, in addition to that, it has a group of lovely beaches for you to enjoy.
The main one will be the beach near Fort Ord Dunes State Park, which is a perfect spot to enjoy a long stroll across the 4 miles of sandy dunes.
Better yet, it’s fairly private too, making it a great choice for a slow romantic walk.
Though you can’t swim on the shorelines, there are plenty of beautiful surroundings to enjoy looking at instead.
The final pick for our list is Ventura, a fabulous city in California that has loads of gorgeous beaches to enjoy. At the edge of Ventura you will find the San Buenaventura State Beach, which is two miles long.
This has a fantastically long pier to walk down, as well as lots of fun activities to enjoy along the beach: picnicking, volleyball, biking, and more.
If you want to try out some surfing, then you’ll be best suited at Rincon Point. This is a very popular spot for surfing, thanks to its good waves and idyllic location.
And for a bit of swimming? The Harbor Cove beach is one of the safer places to swim or paddle thanks to the rock jetties protecting it.
Use our guide to find the perfect beaches in California!
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