The 15 Best Beaches in California

Few states are lucky enough to get the type of beaches the Golden State possesses. With all of the options, how do you pick the best beaches in California to visit? Considering the state is so large, it can also be tricky to know what kind of weather to expect in different regions. 

 

We did the research and even tried some out to round up (in no specific order) the best beaches in California for you, with helpful information on driving, parking, and what to do in the area.

1. Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach is a gated community that sits on the Monterey Peninsula just north of the fairytale-home town of Carmel by the Sea, California.

 

Pebble Beach is part of the 17-Mile Drive along the coast in this part of the Golden State. Pebble Beach is about one hour and 30 minutes north of San Francisco, and just over two hours west of Sacramento.

Getting To Pebble Beach

From San Francisco, you can take US-101 along the scenic coast. From the Sacramento area, you can take I-80 west, but note that portions of this drive are on private or gated roads and require a fee. 

 

You will have to pay the $10.25 fee to enter the Pebble Beach area from one of the five guarded gates in either Pacific Grove or Carmel (no motorcycles are allowed).

Parking At Pebble Beach

You will want to research events before visiting Pebble Beach, as it is host to significant happenings such as the AT&T Pro-Am Golf Tournament, the Concours D’Elegance car show, and even the US Open. For some events, designated free spectator parking spots are available. 

 

Along the 17-Mile Drive, there are scenic lookouts for quick parking. Sometimes, you can find a spot.

Photos Of Pebble Beach

pebble beach with trees and a hillside in the background
rocks on pebble beach
a view of pebble beach at sunset time looking at a tall cliff

Pebble Beach is known for golfing and the scenic drive. The Cypress Point Club, Pebble Beach Golf Links, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club are all notable golf club right in the vicinity of Pebble Beach. 

 

Only advanced surfers should brave the waves here.

Good For Yes / No

Surfing

 

 

Yes

Swimming

 

 

No

Fishing

 

 

Yes

Snorkeling

 

 

No

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Visiting the beach is more for the views and grabbing some pictures, rather than swimming for beach sports.

 

Those who want a peaceful drive along the rocky, scenic coast, or a quiet stroll on the shore to admire the environment will enjoy the Pebble Beach area.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

No

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Pebble Beach Weather

Pebble Beach is not part of the perfect-year-round weather of Southern California. 

 

Average highs in July and August only hover around 68° and 69°, but this is a temperate area, with the high in January with a pleasant average of 60° and lows around 44° during those coldest months of winter.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach is an upscale area, so resorts are abundant, as are hefty price tags for lodging if you aren’t careful.

  • Casa Palermo 
  • La Playa Carmel
  • The Colonial Terrace
  • Lincoln Green Inn
  • Sea View Inn

Top 5 Things To Do Near Pebble Beach

Scenic views, golfing, driving the coast, and visiting the fairytale houses of Carmel by the Sea are the highlights of this area. One of the most notable sights is the view of the Lone Cypress; a tree believed to be roughly 250 years old.

  • Visit Carmel by the Sea and Carmel Beach
  • Take the scenic 17-Mile Drive
  • View the Lone Cypress
  • Golf one of the eight courses in the area
  • Tour Carmel Mission Basilica Museum

Top 5 Restaurants Near Pebble Beach

You’ll have to travel to Carmel by the Sea for most dining options unless you are staying at one of the resorts in Pebble Beach. Upscale European is prominent in the area, along with seafood options.

  • La Bicyclette 
  • Mission Ranch Restaurant
  • Dametra Café
  • Caraccioli Cellars
  • The Bench American Restaurant

Pebble Beach is a scenic area that is ideal for coastal drives, golfing nearby, and surfing for those advanced wave-riders. The water is cold, so wear a wetsuit if you are braving the low temps.

2. Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is just north of Newport Beach, west of Irvine, and south of Los Angeles. Seal Beach sits north up US-1 (Pacific Coast Highway).

Getting To Huntington Beach

From Los Angeles, you can take the 605 to the 405 to 39 South. Yorktown Avenue to Lake Street will take you to the heart of Huntington Beach.

Parking At Huntington Beach

There is a municipal parking lot, a pier parking lot, and garages in Huntington Beach, with varying rates to park per hour or for the full day. Metered parking is also available in allotted areas. Prices and spots are listed here. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Huntington Beach

surfers walking at sunset at huntington beach
a crowded clear sky day at huntington beach california
surfer in a full wetsuit surfing a wave at huntington beach

Huntington Beach is known as Surf City, USA, and is home to an iconic walkout pier, fantastic surf conditions, tourist shops, and a stretch of beautiful sandy beach.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

The popularity of Huntington Beach has lasted decade after decade, and you can see everything from young families to teens to elderly individuals enjoying the beach. Huntington Beach can be a spring break spot for some college students, too.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Huntington Beach Weather

Huntington Beach gets beautiful weather most of the year. The highs in July hover around 72°, and the daily average is January is a high of 64°. The beach gets fantastic sunsets over the water.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Huntington Beach

A few more affordable motels are around Huntington Beach, as well as an RV park, but if you want the best beach experience, check out one of the spas or resorts.

 

Prices vary a bit, and some are high because of high tourism.

  • Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort
  • The Waterfront Beach Resort
  • Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach
  • Paséa Hotel & Spa
  • Huntington Surf Inn

Top 5 Things To Do Near Huntington Beach

Whether you like shopping, walking the pier, eating out, or playing a game of beach volleyball, there is something to do for almost everyone at Huntington Beach. Watching surfers catch the waves is fascinating.

  • Surf or watch surfing
  • Walk the pier
  • Surfing Walk of Fame
  • International Surfing Museum
  • Take the Huntington Beach downtown bus around town

Top 5 Restuarants Near Huntington Beach

Ruby’s Diner is an iconic spot to eat out on the pier. American food, seafood, and tacos are abundant in Huntington Beach.

  • Ruby’s Diner
  • Duke’s Huntington Beach
  • Chronic Tacos
  • Caffe Caldo
  • Subculture Extraordinary Sandwiches

Surf City is worth a visit for anyone who loves to ride waves or enjoys watching the sport. Huntington is one of the best beaches in California for surfing and that So-Cal vibe.

3. Catalina Island

Catalina Island is 22 miles off the coast of California, just south of Los Angeles, due west of San Clemente and Dana Point.

Getting To Catalina Island

You can take a helicopter for a 15-minute ride in the air, or a ferry for a one-hour boat trip to the island. The Catalina Express and Catalina Flyer are two vessels that transport visitors and commuters back and forth from the island.

Parking At Catalina Island

Parking for ferries (such as the Catalina Express) are in designated parking lots, and they were generally designed to accommodate the number of travelers that get ushered back and forth. Unless it is a hectic time, spots are usually available. You can almost always find a spot.

Photos Of Catalina Island

a view of catalina island bay with many boats anchored in the bay
boardwalk at catalina island

An array of beaches and activities are around the island. Avalon Beach, Middle Beach, South Beach, and Step Beach have lifeguards on duty for swimming in the summer.

 

Two Harbors Beach on the island has excellent beach volleyball spots. Shark Harbor is one of the best-known places for surfing off Catalina.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

With SCUBA tours, zip-lines, hiking trails, shopping, beach sports, and swimming (when the weather is warm) there is a place on Catalina Island for virtually every demographic.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Catalina Island Weather

Catalina Island gets the typical, lovely Southern California weather, with slightly cooler temps thanks to the breeze over the Pacific island. Averages in July are 70° / 56° with most days seeing no (full-day) rainfall in summer. 

 

Temps in December average 59° / 43° with the winter months only getting around three to four days of rain each month.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Catalina Island

Average hotels on Catalina Island are around three-stars and can be pricey during summer months. Hotels near Avalon Beach are abundant.

  • The Avalon Hotel
  • Descanso Beach Club
  • Pavilion Hotel
  • The Old Turner Inn
  • Seacrest Inn Catalina

Top 5 Things To Do Near Catalina Island

Snorkeling at Lovers Cove is a hot spot, touring the Avalon Beach area is prime for swimming or shopping, and for those who love eco-tourism, the Trans-Catalina Trail, zip-lining, and the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) are worth checking out.

  • Catalina Island Nature Conservatory Center
  • Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden
  • Catalina Island Undersea Expedition
  • Snorkeling Catalina
  • Catalina Island Zip-Line Eco Tour

Top 5 Restaurants Near Catalina Island

Seafood is a huge staple in restaurants on the island, but plenty of burger joints and even some Mexican (The Sandtrap) are available, too.

  • Buffalo Nickel Inc.
  • The Sandtrap
  • The Lobster Trap
  • Luau Larry’s 
  • Seaport Bistro

Catalina Island has a bit of something for everyone. If you enjoy outdoor adventures or exploring the world of marine life, you will especially enjoy a visit.

 

Catalina has some of the best beaches in California for diverse activities.

4. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is a beachside community in Orange County, roughly an hour and a half south of Los Angeles.

Getting To Laguna Beach

From the Los Angeles area, you can take I-5 south to CA-133 south. The 405 south to CA-73 is another option when traffic is lighter. Signs for Main Beach will take you to the heart of the shore activities.

Parking At Laguna Beach

Parking is sometimes tough to find near the beaches. It’s best to use one of the periphery parking lots and take the city trolley to the shore area. You can sometimes find a spot.

Photos Of Laguna Beach

a view of the ocean from laguna beach under 2 umbrellas
looking at the rocky boulders by laguna beach with cliff in the distance

Once featured on the show Laguna Beach, this area is home to a more affluent area. Some of the main attractions in Laguna Beach are art museums and public art, beautiful beaches, outstanding public parks, and gawking at gorgeous homes.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

No

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

Beachcombing strolls through parks overlooking the Pacific, kayaking, and admiring the lovely architecture and outdoor art are some of the main draws to this affluent beachside community.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

No

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Laguna Beach Weather

Laguna Beach gets nearly perfect weather. In summer, the high is around 80° with very little rain. January sees about four to five rainy days, with average highs of 68° and lows of 44° in winter.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Laguna Beach

Hotels are not cheap right in Laguna Beach, especially during peak seasons. This affluent area has some fantastic accommodations, though, with high-end resorts, hip new hotels, and an array of three-star establishments or somewhat reasonable prices.

  • Hotel Joaquin, Saline
  • Laguna Beach House
  • Surf and Sand Resort
  • Laguna Surf
  • Laguna Shores

Top 5 Things To Do Near Laguna Beach

Public art is big around Laguna Beach, with numerous outdoor art pieces on display, including sculptures and murals (perfect for those Instagram photos).

  • Main Beach 
  • Explore public art 
  • Visit Heisler Park
  • Laguna Beach kayak tour with sea lion viewing
  • Hollywood Sightseeing Tour from Orange County

Top 5 Restaurants Near Laguna Beach

Seafood, “Californian” cuisines, upscale dining, and Mexican are some of the most popular types of places you’ll find. Beach views are available at several restaurants with breezy California-style fair.

  • Driftwood Kitchen
  • South of Nick’s Laguna Beach | Mexican Kitchen + Bar
  • The Cliff
  • Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico
  • Nick’s Laguna Beach (the original)

Laguna Beach is ideal for those looking for a quintessential Southern California getaway with an upscale flair, and a quieter area with lots of outdoor parks, sandy beaches, and activities such as kayaking.

5. Newport Beach

South of Huntington Beach, and north of Laguna, Newport Beach is a hub of a lot of activities.

 

This Southern California community is about one hour and 45 minutes north of San Diego, and roughly one hour and 20 minutes south of Los Angeles.

Getting To Newport Beach

Taking either CA-4 or the 405 south to CA-73 and then 55 South will get you to the heart of Newport Beach. CA-5 to CA-73 north from San Diego. Much of the activity is on the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island.

Parking At Newport Beach

There are several lots on the Balboa Peninsula, such as the Municipal Lot and the Ocean Front Lot. Parking can fill up quickly, so go early in the morning for the best chances of a spot. The 26th Street Lot can often be a good bet. Sometimes you can find a spot.

Photos Of Newport Beach

sunset view of the boardwalk at newport beach
man standing on the archway over the ocean at newport beach

The Balboa Fun Zone is an old-school amusement park next to a park and across from a pier. Surfing and kite surfing are commonplace activities. Swimming is popular but use caution as waves and rip tides can be intense.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

No

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

With outdoor parks, two piers on the peninsula, an amusement park, whale watching, and coastal “adventure” boat rides, Newport Beach is full of family activities.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Newport Beach Weather

Newport Beach faces directly southwest, getting some breeze off the Pacific with the southern California sun. July sees highs around the mid-70s with almost zero rain, while the coldest winter months have highs in the low 60s.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Newport Beach

A mix of more affordable chain hotels (such as Holiday Inn Express) combine with four-star resorts all through the peninsula, along the Pacific Coast Highway, and around Newport Center.

  • Balboa Bay Resort
  • Fashion Island Hotel Newport Beach
  • Balboa Island Hotel
  • Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa
  • Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel

Top 5 Things To Do Near Newport Beach

Newport Beach is ideal for surfing, watching yacht races, golfing, boat rides, and strolling museums as well as Balboa Village.

  • East meets West Excursions Whale Watching
  • Newport Coastal Adventure
  • Ferry to Balboa Island
  • Balboa Fun Zone
  • Balboa Village

Top 5 Restaurants Near Newport Beach

Newport Beach is one of the more eclectic dining beach communities on our list. You can find Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Vietnamese, sushi, Chinese, American, seafood, and oyster bars all within the peninsula and Balboa Island area.

  • Fly N Fish Oyster Bar and Grill
  • Saigon Beach Restaurant 
  • Aurora
  • 21 Oceanfront
  • Trattoria Restaurant (Balboa Island)

Newport Beach has something for almost everyone in the family. Offshore boat excursions are worth checking out, as is a walk on one of the piers and dinner in one of the abundant choices of restaurants. Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA) is also right up the road to the north.

6. Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is only about 15 minutes from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. It connects to the long strip of shore that turns into Hermosa Beach to its south.

Getting To Manhattan Beach

From LAX, you can take CA-1 south to Valley Drive, which gets you to the heart of the Manhattan Beach area. For a more scenic route, take Imperial Highway to Vista Del Mar south for a ride along the coast.

Parking At Manhattan Beach

There are 12 public lots for parking in Manhattan Beach. Some will fill up quickly, especially closer to the shore, so get there early. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Manhattan Beach

manhattan beach california at sunset

Manhattan Beach has a casual vibe, lots of cafes, and a fantastic bike trail. Swimming and kiteboarding are typical, although the water can get cold out of the summer months. Rules regarding fishing are here.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

No

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

Manhattan Beach is an affluent yet casual area. It’s typical to see families here, young adults on the beach, and outdoor sports lovers.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Manhattan Beach Weather

Manhattan Beach gets the heat of Los Angeles with those Pacific sunset views. High during the year average between 67° in winter and 76° in summer. Air quality is more likely to be an issue than severe storms.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Manhattan Beach

Hermosa Beach, just down the road to the south, has some affordable places to stay. Manhattan Beach still has a decent mix of some reasonable places, alongside high-end four-star hotels.

  • Shade Hotel
  • Ayres Hotel Manhattan Beach
  • Best Western Plus Manhattan Beach
  • Manhattan Inn and Suites
  • Westdrift Manhattan Beach, Autograph Collection

Top 5 Things To Do Near Manhattan Beach

The Roundhouse Aquarium at the end of the pier is a can’t-miss attraction. Take a stroll down the pier, then check out some of the art galleries right by the shore.

  • Roundhouse Aquarium
  • Manhattan Beach Pier
  • Riley Arts Gallery
  • Marvin Braude Bike Trail
  • Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden

Top 5 Restaurants Near Manhattan Beach

Cafes, sushi, pizza, Mexican, and bakery/gluten-free options are prevalent in Manhattan Beach. It’s easy to find quick and casual dining in the area. Check out Kotosh for Peruvian cuisine.

  • Pisces
  • El Tarasco Mexican Food 
  • Kotosh
  • Fishing with Dynamite
  • Crepe Lab

If you are visiting Los Angeles, but need a day at the shore, Manhattan Beach is a decent bet. It’s a safe area and has plenty of places to grab a bite.

7. Hermosa Beach

Just down the road to the south of Manhattan Beach, you’ll find Hermosa Beach—part of the South Bay area of Greater Los Angeles.

Getting To Hermosa Beach

From Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) take CA-1 south to Pier Avenue (less than a half-hour). Imperial Highway to Vista Del Mar, then Highland Avenue will take you along the coast in roughly the same amount of time.

Parking At Hermosa Beach

All around downtown Hermosa Beach, you can find parking areas, and those closest to the water can fill up fast. Parking tickets are commonplace, so following the guidelines. You’ll almost never find a parking spot at Hermosa Beach. If you do – consider yourself lucky!

Photos Of Hermosa Beach

view of hermosa beach with people and a bright slight cloudy blue sky
morning surfer wading out into the ocean at hermosa beach by the boardwalk
palm trees on the grass by hermosa beach with a building in the background

With a comedy venue near the beach, a hostel, and more of a nightlife vibe than Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach can be a fun hangout for young people. Fishing regulations for Hermosa Beach are here.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

With Manhattan Beach to the north and Redondo Beach to the south, Hermosa Beach offers a ton of outdoor activities along with some nightlife. It’s a relatively short drive from Los Angeles and can be a fun place for young people.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

No

Hermosa Beach Weather

Hermosa Beach, being connected to Manhattan Beach, has a virtually identical climate. The high hovers around 67° in winter and 76° in summer, and facing southwest, the sunset views are idyllic. Keep an eye on the air quality.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach has a little less to choose from in terms of hotels compared to many California beach communities. There is a super affordable hostel near the shore and some affordable hotels, and Manhattan Beach is a nearby option for more accommodations.

  • Beach House (14th Ct)
  • Grandview Inn
  • Quality Inn & Suites Hermosa Beach
  • Surf City Hostel
  • Sea Sprite Motel

Top 5 Things To Do Near Hermosa Beach

If you’re looking for a beach with young people, a place to get a tattoo (Hermosa Ink Collective) or have some laughs, Hermosa Beach specializes in a somewhat hip, youthful vibe.

  • Hermosa Beach Pier
  • The Comedy & Magic Club
  • VolleyCamp Beach Volleyball 
  • Resin Art and Photography Gallery
  • Beach Tennis Hermosa Beach

Top 5 Restaurants Near Hermosa Beach

With an eye on youthful eating trends, you can find health-conscious dining, casual Mexican, bistros with live music, and a blend of seafood and traditional American cuisine.

  • Brother’s Burritos
  • Good Stuff Restaurant
  • Playa Hermosa Fish & Oyster Co.
  • Lighthouse Café
  • Greenbelt Restaurant

With a progressive vibe, affordable places to stay, and some live music and nightlife, Hermosa Beach is an excellent place to stay for young people on a budget.

8. Coronado Beach

One of the highest-rated beaches in America, Coronado Beach is part of San Diego on Coronado “Island” (technically a peninsula). The Pacific Ocean and the San Diego Bay surround the peninsula.

Getting To Coronado Beach

Visitors can take the Coronado Bridge for the most direct route to the beach or drive the length of the peninsula along Silver Strand Blvd. Coronado Beach is on the west, Pacific side of the “island.” Consider taking the ferry for incredible views.

Parking At Coronado Beach

It is free to park along Ocean Blvd. at the central beach. Expect spots to go fast, so plan to get there early. Many residential streets also allow parking for the day.

Photos Of Coronado Beach

kids and families at coronado beach with red roof building in the background

The beach is fantastic on Coronado, but so are the laid back attractions. You can visit the USS Midway Museum, enjoy historic buildings, and view the Hotel del Coronado, which is said to be the inspiration for the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz

 

Only those advanced at kite surfing should attempt the North Pacific Beach area, as the winds can be incredibly strong.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

San Diego is fantastic for history lovers, families, and during parts of the year, college students on spring break. Coronado is one of the best beaches in California for perfect weather, too.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Coronado Beach Weather

Coronado Beach experiences highs in the mid-70s during the summer and mid-60s during the winter months. It can be a bit overcast on some days in spring.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Coronado Beach

The Hotel del Coronado is not only highly-rated, but it is also part of the more famous sights around the San Diego area. Lodging is a bit more upscale on the island but within proximity of abundant beautiful views.

  • Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton
  • Coronado Beach Resort
  • Glorietta Bay Inn
  • Coronado Island Mariott Resort & Spa
  • 1906 Lodge

Top 5 Things To Do Near Coronado Beach

The picture-perfect white sandy beach is an attraction itself. The famous Hotel Coronado is worth seeing in person, as taking the Ferry to enjoy the skyline and exploring the historical buildings and Wizard of Oz memorabilia (the author resided on the island).

  • Coronado Beach & Dog Park
  • Walking through Hotel del Coronado 
  • Centennial Park for water and city skyline views
  • USS Midway Museum
  • Coronado Tidelands Park

Top 5 Restuarants Near Coronado Beach

This beach area is full of excellent Mexican and seafood restaurants, with a few Italian and burger places in the mix.

  • Chez Loma
  • Night & Day Cafe
  • Brigantine Seafood Restaurant
  • Primavera Ristorante 
  • Coronado Brewing Company

Coronado Beach is ideal for family vacations, golfing, history buffs, beachcombing, and even a bit of kite surfing. Try out a bike rental to ride around the island, as the trail offers lots of views and stops.

9. Pfeiffer Beach

If you’re visiting Big Sur and want to spend some time at a sandy beach, Pfeiffer is a good bet. Located in the northern portion of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Pfeiffer Beach has gorgeous rock formations in the water, but a pleasant strip of sand for strolling and beachcombing.

Getting To Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach is secluded, and it’s as if they want to keep it that way. You can get there through an unmarked road roughly a mile and a half south of Pfeiffer State Park, off Sycamore Canyon Road. The street is just a few miles long to the parking lot. Using GPS is your best bet.

Parking At Pfeiffer Beach

There is a small lot at the end of the road to the beach, and you must pay a small fee. Many people come for a quick visit or to take photos rather than spend a day swimming so that spaces can open back up quickly. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Pfeiffer Beach

During certain times of the year, the sun shines directly through Keyhole Arch, a significant rock formation in the water off the beach. Purple-hued sand also washes down from the mountains, providing a thin layer over the sandy beach. Be sure to follow regulations for activities such as fishing.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

No

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

There is no lifeguard on duty at Pfeiffer Beach, and the water is quite cold with lots of rocks. Young children should not swim for that reason. Pfeiffer Beach is mostly known for beach strolling, photography, and scenic lookouts.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

No

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Pfeiffer Beach Weather

Pfeiffer Beach can get quite hot in the summer, with daily averages in the low 80s. You’ll get occasional spots of shade from the rocky location, but the direct sun can feel sweltering in the hotter months. Wintertime tends to reach highs in the mid to high 60s. The water is a bit cold, and there is no lifeguard, so walking the beach is best.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Pfeiffer Beach

The Post Ranch Inn is a famous resort with incredible views (that come with a hefty price tag). Campgrounds are in the area for those looking for a more outdoorsy trip.

  • Post Ranch Inn
  • Ventana Big Sur
  • Glen Oaks Big Sur
  • Ripplewood Resort
  • Spa Alila

Top 5 Things To Do Near Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach is not your typical sunscreen and umbrella shore trip. This area is for those who love the wilderness, want to walk the beach, see the cliffs, and maybe even stay at a high-end resort and spa. If you like camping, this is an area to check out.

  • View Keyhole Arch
  • Get a picture in some of the “purple” sand 
  • Stop by Redwood Deck
  • Explore Big Sur State Park
  • Stop by Andrew Molera State Park

Top 5 Restuarants Near Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach resides in Big Sur State Park, and very few restaurants are super close. You can find a few homestyle joints along Cabrillo Hwy/Coast Ridge Road, though, and upscale dining in the resorts dotted through the area.

  • Big Sur Smokehouse
  • The Village Big Sur
  • The Sur House
  • Nepenthe
  • Big Sur Bakery

Pfeiffer Beach is famous for the purple sand that washes down from the mountains after rainfalls. Pfeiffer isn’t a swimming beach, but it’s ideal for those who want to walk the rocky shoreline or enjoy a contemplative moment with the Pacific.

10. La Jolla Beach

La Jolla (pronounced La Hoy-ya) is in the San Diego area, just north of the city. La Jolla Cove is a small beach, but the most popular tourist destination.

Getting To La Jolla Beach

Roughly a half-hour drive from downtown San Diego, I-5 north takes you to La Jolla Parkway. La Jolla Cove is off of Coast Boulevard, which runs parallel to the busy Prospect Street.

Parking At La Jolla Beach

Street parking is free, but pay close attention to the parking regulations, including which way to cramp, or turn your wheels on hills. They do ticket for ignoring rules as such. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of La Jolla Beach

aerial view of the beachfront houses on la jolla beach

La Jolla Cove is ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, exploring tide pools, and checking out the caves. The Children’s Pool has a constructed cove pier to make for calmer water at a less crowded beach. You can often view seals from the end of this pier.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

No

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

La Jolla is an upscale area, with options for those with small kids, adults looking for fine dining, beachcombers, and those who want to check out tide pools, seals, and beach caves. Blacks Beach is a nude beach near the La Jolla Cove area.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

No

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

La Jolla Beach Weather

Just as all of the beaches in Southern California get the lucky climate of the high 70s in the summer and mid-60s in the winter with very little rain, La Jolla is no different. May can be a bit foggy/gloomy.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near La Jolla Beach

Staying close to La Jolla isn’t the cheapest night’s sleep, but the hotels are luxurious, and the views are fabulous. Plenty of hotels overlook the water and are in walking distance of shopping.

  • La Valencia Hotel
  • La Jolla Hotel
  • Empress Hotel
  • Scripps Inn
  • Casa de la Playa

Top 5 Things To Do Near La Jolla Beach

The main beaches are La Jolla Cove and the Children’s Pool (also a beach). There are ample benches and walking paths around the beaches. Marine Street Beach is uncrowded and common for locals, which is ideal for body surfing for advanced surfers.

  • Visit the Cave Store 
  • Explore shops and restaurants on Prospect
  • The Cliff Walk
  • Enjoy the views at the top of Mt. Soledad 
  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Top 5 Restaurants Near La Jolla Beach

Most restaurants are more upscale, and you can find fantastic places on Prospect. You’ll pay for the views, but the scenery is spectacular. Upscale dining, seafood, Italian, and sushi are popular.

  • La Dolce Vita Ristorante
  • Cove House
  • Duke’s La Jolla
  • George’s at the Cove
  • Brockton Villa Restaurant

Known as “the gem” of San Diego, La Jolla offers cave walks, tide pools, views of seals and sea lions, body surfing, and plenty of shopping.

11. Baker Beach

Only about seven minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach is one of the best places to catch a view of the iconic crossing. It sits south of the bridge in the Sea Cliff area of San Francisco, among the waters of Golden Gate, just off the Gulf of the Farallones.

Getting To Baker Beach

Lincoln Boulevard to Bowley Street with lead you to Gibson Road. Check a GPS before heading out, as you have to drive through the city to get to the beach, and traffic can get congested in some parts.

Parking At Baker Beach

Parking is available at the beach, but break-ins are notorious at the beach. Leave nothing valuable in your car. Consider taking an Uber to the beach, if possible. Sometimes, you will find a spot if you decide to not catch a ride to Baker Beach.

Photos Of Baker Beach

view from baker beach looking at golden gate bridge in the early evening
people enjoying the sun at baker beach on a clear blue sky day
empty baker beach with golden gate bridge in the background on a foggy day

The sunsets over the Pacific are grand on most California beaches, but few have a view like Baker Beach. The Golden Gate Bridge hovers in clear sight, and on sunny days, gets a warm glow at sunset. All sorts of visitors frequent the beach, including the occasional naked sunbather. 

 

So, be warned, you might get an eyeful at this lively beach.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Occasional nudists hang out at this beach, and some characters also show up for demonstrations. The views are not just of the people, though. The sight of the Golden Gate Bridge is unbeatable and worth the visit.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

No

 

Families

 

 

No

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Baker Beach Weather

Being part of San Francisco, Baker Beach experiences cold water temperatures. The air temps in summer and autumn (fall is often a touch warmer) hover around 60-65° and in winter months, expect around the mid-50s. Rain is more prevalent in the winter, but fog can happen throughout the year.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Baker Beach

The area just outside of Baker Beach is mostly bed and breakfast inns, so you will have to travel farther for hotels. Lodging is not cheap in San Francisco, so keep an eye out for deals at different times of the year.

  • Lodge at the Presidio
  • Inn at the Presidio
  • Monte Cristo Bed & Breakfast
  • Ocean Beach Bed & Breakfast
  • The Laurel Inn

Top 5 Things To Do Near Baker Beach

Just in the vicinity of Baker Beach, you can stop by Marshall Beach, various hiking trails and lookouts, stop by Land’s End Labyrinth and Land’s End Lookout, and see the USS San Francisco Memorial. A bit farther out, you can visit Fort Point National Historic Site and The Walt Disney Family Museum.

  • Golden Gate Park
  • Hiking Batteries to Bluff’s Trail
  • Immigrant Point Overlook
  • China Cove
  • Land’s End Lookout

Top 5 Restaurants Near Baker Beach

Being in San Francisco, you can find a veritable melting pot of cuisines nearby. Everything from Russian to sushi, pizza to Korean BBQ. Asian restaurants are especially popular in the area.

  • Pizzetta 211
  • Bazaar Café 
  • Pearl 6101
  • Red Tavern
  • Daigo Sushi

Baker Beach has one of the most iconic views on our list, and ideal for catching some rays when the fog moves out. The water is cold for swimming, and the undertow can be dangerous, but walking the beach and snapping some pictures is perfect.

12. El Matador Beach

Situated north on the Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu, just over an hour north of the heart of Los Angeles, El Matador Beach is technically a collection of three small cove beaches, only partially separated by substantial rock formations.

Getting To El Matador Beach

Take US-1 (Pacific Coast Highway) directly to the parking lot. If you are coming from the Los Angeles area, you can also take N9 (Kanan Dume Rd) to the US-1 to avoid traffic. Walking down the wooden steps will get you to the beach.

Parking At El Matador Beach

A designated parking lot with about 44 spots for El Matador State Beach is located right off of Pacific Coast Highway. Places are available most of the time, especially during off tourist seasons. Peak hours during summer months can fill up quickly, though.

Photos Of El Matador Beach

sitting on a blanket overlooking el matador beach
el matador beach at sunset time with a man standing on a rock

Known for its plentiful rocky formations, El Matador Beach is down the cliffs in Malibu and often has photography sessions taking place. This beach is better for strolls than swimming.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

No

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

Those seeking a stroll along the beach in the Malibu area will love El Matador Beach. Those with limited mobility might have some trouble with the walk down the cliff stair, as well as those who have several children to keep an eye on.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

No

 

Elderly

 

 

No

El Matador Beach Weather

El Matador Beach sees the mid to high 70s on average in summer months and highs in the mid-60s during the winter. Like the rest of Southern California, rainfall is low, peaking in the winter with a few days per month on average.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near El Matador Beach

Hotels are not extremely prevalent in the area right around El Matador Beach. You’ll have better luck around Thousand Oaks, but a few high-end resorts are in Malibu, too.

  • Malibu Broad Beach House
  • The Ranch Malibu
  • Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club
  • Jet Luxury Resorts Malibu Estate
  • Hyatt Regency Westlake

Top 5 Things To Do Near El Matador Beach

El Matador Beach is part of the Malibu area, surrounded by canyons, state parks, and rocky beaches. Much of the tourism is to see the cliffside shoreline and hike trails in the area.

  • Check out Point Dume
  • Travel up to El Pescador State Beach
  • Nicolas Canyon Beach
  • Leo Carrillo State Park
  • Malibu Wine Safaris

Top 5 Restaurants Near El Matador Beach

Healthy eats, upscale Californian dining, Italian, and old western-themed restaurants are in the general area, although you will have to drive about a half-hour for some decent options. 

  • SunLife Organics
  • Geoffrey’s 
  • Gravina Malibu
  • The Malibu Café 
  • Old Place

El Matador Beach is an ideal stop if you are in the Malibu area and want to snap some fantastic photos, stroll the beach, and check out gorgeous rock formations.

13. Moonstone Beach

Roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Moonstone Beach is in the Cambria and San Simeon area, and part of Moonstone Beach State Park. It sits about 15 minutes south of Hearst Castle.

Getting To Moonstone Beach

From either the north or south, the Cabrillo Highway takes you to Moonstone Beach Drive.

Parking At Moonstone Beach

Santa Rosa Creek parking lot offers over 20 parking spots right near the tranquil boardwalk. Visits for many are somewhat brief, as this is not your typical sunbathing and swimming type of beach.

Photos Of Moonstone Beach

boardwalk at moonstone beach on a bright partly cloudy day

Known as Surf City, USA, Moonstone Beach is home to an iconic walkout pier, fantastic surf conditions, tourist shops, and a stretch of beautiful sandy beach.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

No

 

Fishing

 

 

Yes

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

The Moonstone Beach and boardwalk is a serene shoreline within the Leftingwell State Park area. This beach is ideal for those looking for a quiet stroll, pictures, or beachcombing.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

No

 

Families

 

 

No

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Moonstone Beach Weather

August is typically the warmest month, with daily highs around 75° and winter months getting up to around the mid-60s. Rainfall is limited, with only a few full days of rain per month in the heart of winter.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Moonstone Beach

Lots of inns are available, and with fantastic ratings, just north of Moonstone Beach on the Cabrillo Highway. Several overlook Leftingwell Cove for views of the Pacific.

  • Cambria Shores Inn
  • El Colibri Hotel & Spa
  • Little Sur Inn
  • Moonstone Landing
  • Moonstone Cottages

Top 5 Things To Do Near Moonstone Beach

After walking the shore and the boardwalk at Moonstone Beach, you can explore the Cambria State Marine Conservation Area and check out the famed Hearst Castle to the north.

  • Nit Wit Ridge house tour
  • Cutruzzola Vineyards
  • Hearst Castle tours
  • Leftingwell Landing State Park
  • Friends of the Elephant Seal gift shop

Top 5 Restaurants Near Moonstone Beach

A blend of seafood bistros, Southern cooking (Linn’s), vegetarian options and taco joints, along with a winery or two on the way.

  • Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill
  • Linn’s Restaurant
  • Sea Chest Restaurant 
  • Robin’s
  • Madeline’s Restaurant & Wine Tasting Room

Moonstone Beach is a quiet shoreline near the San Simeon area, roughly 15 minutes south of Hearst Castle. This beach is best for tranquil strolls on the sand or woodland boardwalk.

14. Treasure Island Beach

Located between Laguna Beach and South Laguna/Laguna Niguel, Treasure Island Beach is next to the Montage Hotel. The area is roughly an hour and a half south of Los Angeles, depending on traffic.

Getting To Treasure Island Beach

Taking I-5 south from Los Angeles to I-133 will get you to the Laguna Beach area. Whether you’re coming from the north or the south, CA-1 runs right past Montage Resort Drive.

Parking At Treasure Island Beach

Roughly a five-minute walk will get you from the Aliso Beach parking lot or the street parking you can sometimes find on the Coast Highway. Valet at the Montage Hotel is another option. Most of the time you can find a spot.

Photos Of Treasure Island Beach

treasure island beach at sunset

With views of opulent resorts, paved walkways that curve along the pristine sandy beach, and aqua blue water when the sun is shining, Treasure Island beach is excellent for swimming, sunbathing, and checking out sparkling aqua water.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

No

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

No

 

Snorkeling

 

 

Yes

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

No

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

Yes

 

Beach Sports

 

 

No

The area is full of high-end resorts and affluent homes. Treasure Island Beach is a peaceful beach for sunbathing or walking the path just above the shore.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Treasure Island Beach Weather

Expect typically Southern California weather—average highs in the high-70s during summer months. In the direct sun, it can feel much hotter, though. Rainfall is more frequent in winter, but still sparse.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Treasure Island Beach

Treasure Island Beach is right next to the Montage, which is quite high-end. A few lodges dot the area for more affordable prices right near the water.

  • Montage Laguna Beach
  • The Ranch at Laguna Beach
  • Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa
  • Seaside Laguna Inn & Suites
  • Laguna Beach Lodge

Top 5 Things To Do Near Treasure Island Beach

Check out the various beaches along the Laguna shoreline. Pirate Tower is worth a view. Excursions are also available for outdoorsy people.

  • Pirate Tower
  • Laguna Beach kayak tour with sea lion viewing
  • Pageant of the Masters
  • Laguna Beach SUP (paddleboard) lesson and tour
  • Walking tour of best beaches in Orange County

Top 5 Restaurants Near Treasure Island Beach

Upscale dining melds with Californian cuisine, healthy eats, and Mexican cuisine.

  • Mosaic Bar & Grille
  • The Loft
  • Studio
  • La Sirena Mexican Grill
  • Starfish Laguna Beach

For those who want a picture-perfect beach in southern California with fantastic water, Treasure Island Beach is worth a visit.

15. Salt Creek Beach

Salt Creek Beach is part of the Laguna Niguel area in the vicinity of Dana Point, just west of the Monarch Beach Golf Links and Monarch Beach Resort.

Getting To Salt Creek Beach

The Pacific Coast Highway runs right past the beach area, whether you are coming from the north or south. Pull into Ritz-Carlton Drive for the most parking.

Parking At Salt Creek Beach

A lot is available for $1 per hour, but you will find more spots up at Pacific Coast Highway and Ritz-Carlton Drive. Most of the time you will find a spot.

Photos Of Salt Creek Beach

bright beach house with lots of windows and 2 palm trees at salt creek beach california
sunset on the horizon at salt creek beach california

Surfing is hugely popular, but the waves are too big for quiet paddle boarding. Offshore excursions are available in the area, such as kayaking and whale watching.

Good For Yes / No

 

Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Swimming

 

 

Yes

 

Fishing

 

 

No

 

Snorkeling

 

 

No

 

Kite Surfing

 

 

Yes

 

Paddle Boarding

 

 

No

 

Beach Sports

 

 

Yes

The area is affluent, and there are upscale hotels and resorts, golfing, alongside family water adventure-tours. Surfing is typical, as is bodyboarding.

Good For Yes / No

 

Young Adults

 

 

Yes

 

Families

 

 

Yes

 

Elderly

 

 

Yes

Salt Creek Beach Weather

Just like Treasure Island Beach, Salt Creek Beach experiences the idyllic weather around the Laguna area. The high 70s are typical for summer months. Sitting in the sun can feel much warmer. Expect beautiful sunsets over the Pacific.

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Top 5 Places To Stay Near Salt Creek Beach

Hotels are on the higher end, and only a few sit right near Salt Creek. Expanding farther out to the Laguna area opens up a variety of options, with many opulent resorts and a handful of affordable lodges.

  • The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
  • Monarch Beach Resort
  • The Ranch at Laguna Beach
  • Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa
  • Dana Point Marina Inn

Top 5 Things To Do Near Salt Creek Beach

Surfing is prevalent at Salt Creek Beach, and plenty of water adventures are available, such as parasailing. The Laguna Beach Trolley can take you up the shore to several other beaches in the area, too.

  • Surf or watch surfing
  • Monarch Beach Golf Links
  • Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching
  • Dana Point Parasailing
  • Laguna Beach Trolley

Top 5 Restuarants Near Salt Creek Beach

Mostly upscale dining with California and American fare. Several places have fantastic sunset views.

  • Salt Creek Burger on the Beach
  • Monarch Bay Beach Club
  • Raya
  • 180blũ
  • Beach Hut Deli

Those who enjoy golfing, surfing, sunbathing, whale watching and dining with perfect sunset views should enjoy Salt Creek Beach.

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