You’re in California and want to spend some time outside during the scorching summer. You may be thinking about what you should do on a hot summer day. Perhaps going for a walk? It’s too hot and too dull. How about going to the museum? There is a better time to visit than during the summer. What about the beach? Yes! A sweltering summer isn’t complete without a trip to the beach. Now, the question is: what are the best beaches in California to visit?
California – and its popular cities – is a popular tourist destination since there are so many things to do in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Summer events held at California’s beaches make many tourists wish to enjoy the scenery, swim, or spend time with others. The beach resorts are delightful because you may spend a good one or two nights there staring at the sea, which you don’t often get amid the city. Knowing about the best beaches to visit in California is essential so that you can fully enjoy the summer. Here, we’ll go through the 11 best beaches in California that will be worth your time visiting. If you prefer to visit these beaches on a single road trip, we recommend joining Day Trip to Monterey and Carmel via California Coast Tour.
Before visiting California, we recommend checking the latest COVID-related news on California’s Government Website. It’s best to prepare everything to avoid disappointment.
Table of contents
Baker Beach, San Francisco
We start with a beach near an internationally recognized bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. This beach, located beneath the bridge, is one of the best beaches to go in California since it allows you to see so much. The giant Golden Gate Bridge adds to the beach’s California atmosphere. And it’s also a great spot to take your first photos of the bridge. Can’t get enough with the view? Stay at one of the best hotels near the Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy some more!
Although you cannot swim on this beach due to its high tides, it’s still a beautiful sight, especially at night. That’s when the bridge beams light onto the beach, making it more attractive. This is the beach to visit if you want to create memorable footage from your California beach vacation.
Drakes Beach, Inverness
Like seeing wildlife? Then this is one of the best beaches in California you can go to. Located near Inverness, California, this beach is home to wild elephant seals, frequently seen hanging out on the sand. They occasionally visit the warm beach, making them the main attraction at Drakes Beach. However, keep in mind that when these seals appear, the beach is usually closed. You can only observe them from a distance to protect them.
Aside from the elephant seals, Drakes Beach is stunning in general. They feature large sand coves that were formed by sea waves and look gorgeous. The weather is warm and windy. Consider visiting this beach if you want to spend a night or two at the beach while also looking at seals.
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
How could this beach not be one of the best beaches in California? Located in Big Sur, California, this beach is beautiful for its pure water, quiet tides, and white sands. The rock formations are undoubtedly the most iconic feature of this beach. A large rock shaped like a fortress may be seen in the distance from the beach, one of the main views you get to admire.
The resorts here also make the beach a popular tourist attraction because they are some of the top beach resorts in California. Besides, this beach provides various beach-themed and activities, including beach volleyball and ATV rides. Because of the gentle tides, surfing isn’t very popular here. Therefore this isn’t the beach for you if that’s what you’re looking for. However, if you want to swim in peace while admiring the scenery, we highly recommend this spot.
Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz
Many travelers agree that this beach should be your first choice if you want to admire the sunset in California. Here, you’ll see one of the most unusual natural bridges composed of rocks and corals. Hence the name Natural Bridge State Beach. In fact, it’s one of the best natural bridge beaches in California. This bridge complements the sunset so well. As a result, this beach is busy from dusk until midnight. Perfect sea tides allow marine organisms such as crabs and starfish to appear at the bottom of the natural bridge. Tourists are also permitted to climb the bridge and take photos. Spend the night near the bridge where you can enjoy the moonlight reflecting off the bridge, creating an ideal ambiance for a romantic night.
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
True to its name, this beach is one of the most unusual in California. There wasn’t a beach in Fort Bragg, believe it or not. Years ago, many debris was dumped into this area. Glasses were thrown in significant quantities. In 1967, this dumping site was permanently closed. Most of the stuff was taken away, although glass and waste alike remained. Then, after decades of being shattered and broken into pieces by the ocean waves and rocks, the spot started to turn into a beach full of smooth glass that is safe to touch. This beach is ideal for those who look for unique sites to visit. However, keep in mind that taking the glass debris home is prohibited.
Coronado Beach, Coronado
Make sure to bring your cameras if you visit this beach. It’s ideal for photoshoots and even film production. Unlike other best beaches near California resorts, this one is usually clean. So clean that it’s used for many pre-wedding and professional photoshoots. Not to mention the low tides, which create a neat pattern near the shore that reflects sunlight like glass.
This is one of the best beaches to go in California if you enjoy photography. Make this beach a peaceful swimming spot, thanks to the low tides and relatively warm water. If you wish to stay in this area, you’ll find many best hotels in the San Diego area with the best experience. If you want to make this beach a peaceful swimming spot, you can do so because the tides are usually low, and the water is warm.
Main Beach, Santa Cruz
This beach is designed for what you have in mind when it comes to the summertime beach holiday. With white sand, palm trees, warm breeze, and low tides, being here feels like something out of a 90s movie. There are also recreational parks nearby where children can spend the entire day having fun. Beach activities such as beach volleyball, surfing, and snorkeling are also popular here. Better bring your surfboard for beginners if you want to start learning!
Fret not about safety as this beach is lined with lifeguard towers to keep everyone safe. The best part is the downtown is just behind the beach. This beach is among the best beach California resort offers as it’s not too expensive for most tourists. It’s particularly ideal at night as the stars are brighter and the waves are calmer. Consider coming here if you want to spend time with family or friends.
Pacific Beach, San Diego
If you’re looking for a spot with wide sandy parts and less rocky ones, then this is one of the best beaches in California for you. This beach, located in San Diego’s north downtown, is ideal for a vacation with family and friends. The open coastal line with warm sands is great for sunbathing and building sandcastles. Shells and other marine creatures can be frequently seen here as if they like to greet tourists.
Surfing and swimming are among the most recommended activities you can do here. Never surf before? Don’t worry, you can also take a surfing lesson here! You’ll find surf coaches that will guide you while you enjoy yourself surfing. Those who prefer swimming must be thrilled to know the water is warm and calm. If you stay at one of the most romantic hotels in San Diego, make sure you enjoy an evening stroll along the shore with your loved ones before dinner!
Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo County
This beach has a plethora of activities available, ranging from golf to ATV riding. This lovely beach, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is, without a doubt, one of the best beaches in California. The view and the conveniences that it provides simply make it great. The coastal line is so vast, with a small port in the middle facing the ocean. The waves are stronger than other beaches, but swimming is still safe to do here. All these make it one of the best beach California resorts, which takes your beach vacation to the next level.
Laguna Beach, Southwest Orange County
Not only is it among the best beach California resort has to offer, but it’s also the cleanest beach in the entire United States. Laguna Beach is about halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, which are about 50 miles apart. The beach is well-kept, giving it the appearance of a resort rather than a natural beach.
The fact that the seawater is relatively calm and clear improves the beach ambiance. This beach is frequently visited by families and groups of friends, enjoying surfing and snorkeling. Feeling hungry while relaxing on the beach? No need to worry; Laguna Beach is ideally located along streets with various restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines. No wonder this beach is rated to be one of the best beaches in California.
Due to its location, it’s best to visit this beach from Los Angeles. From the airport, it takes around an hour and half to get here. After long flights, we suggest you stay at a hotel near Los Angeles airport and get well-rested before the trip to the beach area.
Zuma Beach, Malibu
Zuma Beach, located in Malibu, is a great destination to spend your summer. The beach itself doesn’t offer fantastic rock formations or extraordinary marine life. Still, the spot and its surrounding areas make it one of – if not the – best beaches in California. Malibu is well-known for being a place featured in songs and book titles. It has magnificent beaches that serve as a source of inspiration for artists. Because of its natural beauty, Zuma Beach is frequently used as a filming location. There are massive cliffs behind the beach that you must go through before leaping into the beach. This area is highly suggested for those who enjoy sunbathing, swimming, or just sightseeing.
Point Dume, a well-known recreational cliff, is located nearby. It’s a massive cliff that adds to the beauty of Zuma Beach. Before going to the beach, we recommend taking a short trek. It’s also a good idea to go around to the cove to take a look around because it’s one of the most popular areas for taking pictures or just relaxing.