Some beaches are for lying on the sand, some beaches are for walking barefoot as the waves softly lap at your ankles, some beaches are for watching waves crash and surfers hang ten, some beaches are for paddle boarding, boogie boarding and frolicking in the surf and some beaches are for admiring from afar, from the top of a bluff, or from the deck of a restaurant.
California has 840 miles of coastline. There’s a beach for everyone.
All beaches in California are open to the public, with rare exceptions. In most states, including California, all land below the mean high tide line belongs to the state and citizens have the right to unrestricted access to that land.
Coronado Beach, Coronado Island
919 Ocean Blvd., Coronado, 92118
Coronado Beach’s mile and a half of silvered beach is created by a high concentration of mica, a pearly, silver mineral. If it seems as if the beach “shines,” in fact, it does. The beach is popular for swimmers, surfers, boogie boarders, sunbathers and beachcombers. The flat beach is great for skim boarding and walking, Free parking on Ocean Boulevard.
La Jolla Shores, La Jolla
8200 Camino del Oro (between Vallecitos and Lee Lane), La Jolla, 92037
La Jolla Shores is a soft, sandy beach approximately 1 mile long bookended by ocean-carved sandstone cliffs to the north and south. In summer, waves at this beach are usually the gentlest of all San Diego beaches. La Jolla Shores is one of nine beaches that has permanent lifeguard stations patrolled by San Diego Lifeguards.
Perfect beach for swimmers, snorkelers, kayakers, novice surfers, scuba divers and would-be sailors.
Heisler Park, Laguna Beach
375 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, 92651
Laguna Beach has the best selection of beaches in Southern California. Some claim that its miles of coast along Pacific Coast Highway might be some of the best in the world. Here are two “must see” beaches.
Heisler Park offers multiple beautiful beaches and a number of walking trails, gardens, a marine refuge with tide pools, picnic areas with barbecues, public art installations and lawn bowling greens.
Treasure Island Beach, Laguna Beach
Coast Highway and Wesley Drive, Laguna Beach, 92651
Beautiful views, towering cliffs and a secret cove make this beach one of the most romantic beaches in California. It is a great swimming beach adjacent to the Montage Laguna Beach hotel. However, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy this amazing beach. Follow the public access signs past the hotel. Access is down a long, graded concrete ramp on the southwest side of the resort. Park above the beaches (Treasure Island, Goff Cove and Christmas Cove) that run the length of the hotel.
Newport Beach Municipal Beach, Newport Beach
Balboa Boulevard at Oceanfront and 21st Street, Newport Beach, 92661
A glorious five-mile expanse of gorgeous, fine, soft sand on Balboa Peninsula awaits south of Huntington Beach on Highway 1. Surfers, swimmers and sunbathers can all find room to bask in the warm SoCal sun. Watch as pelicans and seagulls soar overhead. Skate, bike and board rentals are popular, as well as surfing off the jetty.
Huntington State Beach, Huntington Beach
21601 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, 92646
This is one of the five “storied” beaches along the 10-mile “Surf City USA” coastline and a 2016 Best Beach in the USA. This stretch of coast boasts 121 acres, with 3.5 miles of waterline and 200 fire rings, perfect for nighttime cookouts. The beach doesn’t close until 10 p.m. In daylight hours surf, swim, sunbathe or fish. Hang out and watch the sun set on this iconic stretch of sand. The scenic Huntington Beach Bike Trail runs the length of Huntington Beach’s 10-mile waterline.
West Beach, Santa Barbara
State Street and W. Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, 93103
A beautiful, wide beach located adjacent to Stearns Wharf Pier, the oldest working wood wharf in California. Great for walking, volleyball, kayaking and boating. Because it’s so close to the harbor, swimming is not advised from the beach. Park along Cabrillo Blvd, in the lot just east of the pier at Garden Street or on the pier. Shops, restaurants, a museum and a fish market sit atop the 2,300-foot wharf, built in 1872.
Downtown Avila Beach, Avila Beach
404 Front St., Avila Beach, 93424
Set almost halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco this is a great place to stop and smell the salt air. The half-mile stretch of sand is a family-friendly haven of BBQ pits and beach volleyball courts. Explore the beach and surrounding area from a kayak or paddleboard. See wildlife, explore coves and secret beaches and visit the historic Point San Luis Lighthouse.
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
9100 Sycamore Canyon Road, Big Sur, 93920
Pfeiffer Beach’s famed purple sand, created by the manganese garnet that is washed down from the hillsides above, soaring rock formations and pounding waves make this difficult to access beach worth the effort. A “bucket list” beach so make sure you have a camera or your phone has plenty of photo storage space.
This isn’t a place to sunbathe or swim. It’s a place to marvel at the power of nature, explore famous arch rock, clamber over rugged rocks and simply take a deep breath of clean, ocean air.
GPS is spotty here. This hidden gem can be found off Highway 1 and there is no signage, so print out a map and directions before you go.
Parking is $10 and no RVs or trailers are allowed down the narrow access road. Get there early if possible, you will be turned away if parking is full.
Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea
Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road, Carmel-by-the-Sea, 93921
A mile-and-a-quarter expanse of soft, white sand next to a cerulean blue ocean marks one of the most iconic spots on California’s Central Coast. The chilly water keeps most visitors at the water’s edge. However, romantic scenery with greenery-covered cliffs, glorious sunsets and views of striking Monterey cypress trees makes the visit one to remember. If you surf, wear a wetsuit. Dog friendly, beach fires allowed, scenic path and beach volleyball. Free parking.
W. Elm Street and Glass Beach Drive, Fort Bragg, 95437
A beautiful beach for hiking, tide pooling and beachcombing. The water here is a little cool for swimming or other immersive activities, unless you’re wearing a wetsuit. The beach is covered with layers of rounded pieces of sea glass, as the site was once a trash dump.
The sea glass can be picked up, examined and photographed, but you are not allowed to remove any sea glass from Glass Beach. Heartbreaking for a collector of sea glass, like myself, but necessary to preserve the beauty of this unique and amazing beach. Free parking.