Best Southern California Beaches

California beaches

Laguna Beach, Southern California 2016 by inkknife_2000 (8 million views +) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Caribbean may have turquoise waters, the Hamptons might be full of celebrities but our Southern California beaches have over 1,000 miles of breathtaking beach coastline. California is paradise for beach lovers. Whether you head to the beach for surf, sand or sun, California beaches offer something for everyone. Best part you don’t need a boarding pass. Grab those flip flops, apply that sunscreen and get moving to your new favorite beach spot. Check out my favorite top 10 Southern California beaches listed by beach activities or pastimes.

Find the best California beaches for you…

1. If you just want to getaway – El Matador State Beach

El Matador by Passion Leica (CC BY-SA 2.0)
El Matador by Passion Leica (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sometimes you just need to getaway from it all. In this case you want to avoid crowded beaches and busy boardwalks and just be one with the sound of the waves. Ranking #1 in Washos most secluded beaches in Los Angeles, El Matador State beach is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. With its dramatic rock formations and pristine sand, you’ll feel like you’ve washed up on a secret island.

Heisler Park Scenery by (CC BY 2.0)
Heisler Park Scenery by (CC BY 2.0)

2. If you want to enjoy a family Picnic with amazing viewsPicnic Beach at Heisler Park

Grab your picnic basket or just pick up your favorite take out and head to Laguna Beach Heisler Park. With a perfect backdrop of palm trees and grassy cliffs, you can dine on picnic tables that overlook the beach while keeping the sand out of your food. You can always head closer to the shore If you prefer to have your toes in the sand and watch the sunset on the horizon. This is one of many beaches in Laguna Beach that are connected by a trolley.

3. If you want to ride the waves or watch Surfers – Huntington Beach

Huntington State Beach, Huntington Beach, California by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Huntington State Beach, Huntington Beach, California by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Also known as “Surf City,” Huntington Beach is home to international surf competitions every year. With 8 miles of shore and easy parking, this spot is a favorite for OC residents. Set your beach chair toward the action and you’ll have a front seat to some surfing magic. This California beach also offers a paved bike path and an iconic boardwalk if you get tired of watching or riding the waves.

4. If you want to explore the Tide poolsLeo Carrillo State Beach

Taking the kids on a field trip? Explore the life hidden beneath the surface at low tide at Sequit Point which has tide pools and fun caves. This beach is family friendly and even allows dogs on leashes. You might even make a weekend of your visit and using the local camping grounds.

5. If you want to take your  dog off leash – Fiesta Island Off-Leash Dog Park

Let your pup run free at this top rated off leash dog beach. With continuous beach area your furry friends will roam for days. Find other dog friendly beaches here.

6. If you want to cruise the Boardwalk Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier by Anne Varak (CC BY 2.0)
Santa Monica Pier by Anne Varak (CC BY 2.0)

If you prefer being at the beach without actually getting sandy, then the boardwalk cruising is for you. Put on your newest summer gear and take a stroll through this iconic boardwalk. The Santa Monica Pier has features it’s very own Pacific Park Amusement Park complete with rides, arcade games, restaurants, shops and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Feel like a tourist as you follow the crowds around the pier or jump on the rides for the best seat in the house to watch the sunset.

7. If you want to ride bikes or surreys – Santa Barbara

Want to feel the sea air in your hair? Rent a bike or bring your own and jump on the clearly marked bike paths that follow the shoreline. These paths are filled with happy families riding tandem bikes or pedaling along in a surrey. The entire downtown Santa Barbara is very bike friendly and encourages bike safety. Although Santa Barbara is technically, central California, it’s a perfect spot for a family weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of LA. Other SoCal Bike friendly beaches include, Torrance Beach The Strand or the Huntington Beach Bicycle Trail.

8. If you want to do some Hiking – Crystal Cove

This idyllic spot features 3.5 miles of beach and undeveloped woodland. The bluff above the beaches connect visitors to neighboring beaches at any tide. Inland the state park has a great network of hiking trails that with amazing vista points.

Los Angeles - USA by -marika bortolami- (CC BY 2.0)
Los Angeles – USA by -marika bortolami- (CC BY 2.0)

9. If you want to Play or watch beach volleyballManhattan Beach

With over 100 sand volleyball courts available to visitors, this is a popular spot for active beach goers. The vast sandy areas are also perfect for less active visitors that rather sit back and watch the game. Ride your bike along the path from Santa Monica Beach or Torrance on the connected bike path.

10. If you want to have a Beach bonfireDockweiler State Beach

Enjoying a beach bonfire is SoCal summer time tradition. The Dockweiler State Beach is a perfect place to enjoy your bonfire as it’s conveniently located to Downtown LA and even has views of planes taking off out of LAX. There a number of Southern California Beaches that allow bonfires or have prepared fire pits, check out the list here for your next summer night beach party.

What are your favorite beach spots? Please share your favorites below.