The sunshine state of the United States, California, boasts a complementary mix of glorious beaches and bustling big city culture. Take a stroll along the Strand, catch a wave or two, and watch the locals spiking up a storm in a heated volleyball match on the beach. Here is a list of the top 10 beaches to visit in the sunshine state.
Best beaches in California: Santa Monica
Santa Monica is one of Los Angele’s most famous beach communities. It’s an upscale city with a vibrant, urban character, and is home of some of the most sophisticated restaurants, hotels and shopping in the LA area. There’s never a shortage of seaside fun at Santa Monica Pier where the beach meets the boardwalk in a festive display of amusement park rides, aquarium wonders, and tasty festival food.
There’s always something to see or do in Santa Monica, but you may be disappointed if you were looking for a secluded seaside retreat as the beach and pier are usually jam-packed with people. But there are places to walk, people to watch, and shops to splurge in. Bike rentals are available near the pier, and renting a bike in Santa Monica is a great way to spend the day.
Santa Monica has some of the area’s most deluxe ocean front hotels, but like almost all hotels in Santa Monica, they don’t come cheap. Santa Monica itself has a polished bus system for getting around, and although it isn’t “central” for visiting Los Angeles, it’s as central as any beach area gets.
No beach in the world is quite like Venice Beach if you’re looking for unusual beachside culture. While other California beaches have sand, surf and sunshine, they don’t all have a street circus complete with artists, trash-talking hoopsters, weightlifters, or barefoot sand sculptors. This activity takes place on Ocean Front Walk which is a boardwalk splattered with stores, fast-food spots, flea markets and artists.
Venice is the beach just to the south of Santa Monica and is famous for its “arts” community, and the Oceanfront Walk which is filled to the brim with interesting characters and stalls. The walk from central Santa Monica to central Venice takes about 40 minutes, and the two beaches blend together.
While Venice Beach is an interesting place to visit with a distinct personality, it’s not the best place for a family vacation. Getting around is easy as a number of regional bus lines serve the area, including buses to Santa Monica and Westwood, Downtown LA and Culver City.
Laguna Beach is one of Orange County’s most fashionable towns as well as one of the most culturally rich – and the beach is an alluring aspect. The water at Laguna is clean and calm, though occasionally the Pacific tends to be cool with strong tides. Laguna’s sands are perfect for strolling, taking part in competitive volleyball matches, or unwinding on a blanket to watch the surf and sunset.
Laguna is known for its mild year-round climate, scenic beaches, coves, and artistic community. Tourism is the primary industry here with about three million people visiting annually. Annual large events include the Pageant of the Masters, Festival of the Arts, Sawdust Festival, Art-A-Fair, and Kelpfest.
Malibu is the “brand name” beach community of Los Angeles County world-famous for being a location of celebrity beach homes and an ideal surfing destination. Most of Malibu’s coastline is a narrow stretch of beach with some of it private without public access. Think high-class beachside living, with a focus on playing “spot the celebrity.”
Malibu has a single bus line along Pacific Coast Highway which connects to Santa Monica, it’s an elongated community with beaches, stores, and restaurants strung out along the road. It is north of Santa Monica, beyond the narrow beaches of Pacific Palisades, and is on the outer edge of the major urban area of Los Angeles.
Heading much farther west in Malibu, views of the ocean increase and you will find beaches with excellent public access, such as Zuma beach. Zuma is known for its long, wide sands and excellent surf, not to mention it consistently ranks among the healthiest beaches for clean water conditions in Los Angeles County.
El Matador Beach
If you’ve come to El Matador to savour the beach rather than get sucked into the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, then you’re in luck. There’s little else to do here other than bask on Malibu’s most glorious stretch of beach. The best way to enjoy your time is to check the tide schedule, pack a picnic lunch or sunset dinner, grab a blanket, and make tracks to one of El Matador’s hidden coves to enjoy the romantic atmosphere.
El Matador State Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Malibu, with sea caves and large rocks decorating the beach. The views from the upper cliffs are incredible, looking down on large boulders and deep blue water filled with forests of kelp. The beach is long and there is plenty of sand for sunbathers to gently toast themselves in the Californian sun.
Manhattan Beach is a coastal city located in southwestern Los Angeles County. The city is on the Pacific coast, south of El Segundo, and north of Hermosa Beach. Manhattan Beach is a hot spot for beach volleyball and surfing, and every August the city hosts the Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball Tournament and the International Surf Festival which never fails to draw a large crowd of spectators.
The Downtown area of Manhattan Beach is a mix of trendy restaurants, family friendly dining, shops, and is topped off by the Pier where you can watch volleyball and the surfers. It’s a quieter alternative to Santa Monica Beach for families and couples due to the relaxed culture, but there is still plenty to see and do.
Redondo Beach is located in the South Bay region of the greater Los Angeles area. The primary attractions here include Municipal Pier, and the delicately sandy beach. Although a vibrant community in its own right, much of the Redondo Beach lifestyle is a blend of neighbourhoods, activities, and people.
A paved path called The Strand runs from Torrance through South Redondo, north to Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and eventually to Santa Monica. A typical day on this path will see thousands of people on foot, bicycle, skateboard, roller-blade, wheelchair, and stroller enjoying the sun and surf.
Surfing is a key element of the South Bay lifestyle year-round, and beach volleyball is another important aspect of Redondo Beach’s lifestyle. The wide and flat beaches provide the perfect venue for the sport. Fox’s The O.C. was seen filming at Redondo, and Redondo Beach was home to the filming of the classic television series Baywatch.
Hermosa Beach is a beachfront city bordered by Manhattan Beach to the north and Redondo Beach to the south and east. The city’s beach is popular for sunbathing, beach volleyball, surfing, and its nightlife. By day, the Strand is a thoroughfare for bikers, bladers, joggers and strollers. At night, the Strand is a great people-watching spot as crowds fill nearby the restaurants and bars.
Situated on the Pacific Ocean, Hermosa’s average temperature is 70 degrees in the summer and 55 degrees in the winter. Westerly sea breezes lessen what can be high summertime temperatures in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the county, and help keep the smog away 360 days of the year.
Coronado Central Beach stretches 1.5 miles behind the great houses along Ocean Boulevard. Swimmers, surfers, boogie boarders, sand sculptors, tide poolers and whale watchers all take to the sand and sea. North Beach attracts surfers in the morning, and at the extreme north is Dog Beach, where man’s best friend can run free and play in the surf.
Coronado, also known as Coronado Island, is an affluent resort city located in San Diego County. For well over a century Coronado’s beaches have been its fortune, namely the seaside in front of the glamorous Hotel Del Coronado which has been open since 1888.
La Jolla Cove
With its small crescent of sand tucked between towering sandstone cliffs, La Jolla Cove is one of the smallest beaches along the Southern California coastline. While it may be small this beach is beautiful, and things are just as lovely below the water’s surface, making it a popular spot for scuba-diving and snorkelling.
The swells that often roll in from the open ocean here can be rather large and strong, so being in the water at the Cove is not always suitable for people who don’t have good water skills. During very low tides, a lot of interesting tide pools are revealed, which makes a great time for exploration.
La Jolla Cove is rich in marine life and is a marine refuge area so surfboards, boogie boards, and inflatable mattresses are not permitted. No fishing is allowed, nor is collecting dead specimens or seashells. In other words, look but don’t touch.