Looking for the best beaches in California? You’ll be spoilt for choice as the Cali coast boasts the finest sandy stretches on the entire western seaboard. Beautiful scenery, balmy weather, and bodacious waves set the scene, with scores of surfers and sunbathers looking to see and be seen.

    Stray from the state’s bustling seaside towns into its remote protected reserves, however, and you’ll find pristine coastal wilderness with scarcely another soul in sight. From the world-famous classics to a few lesser-known gems, check out our guide to the best beaches in California.

    1

    Venice Beach

    An epicentre of Californian culture

    Venice Beach is an iconic landmark for every traveller on a visit to California. A mishmash of alternative lifestyle outlets and wafty head shops line the world-famous boardwalk, while surfers rub shoulders with sunbathers on the vast stretch of gorgeous golden sand.

    The best way to soak up the electric atmosphere is to hire a pair of rollerskates (or a bike) and cruise down the oceanfront promenade. Stop by Muscle Beach to gawk at fit locals strutting their stuff, and the iconic pier to fish or try your hand at carnival games. Up to 30,000 folks frequent the spot each day, and it isn’t hard to see why.

    Lokalizacja: Venice Beach, Venice, CA 90292, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 6 am to 11 pm

    Telefon: +1 310-396-6794

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    2

    Dockweiler Beach

    Watch enormous aircraft come in over the waves

    Plane spotters adore Dockweiler Beach – the vibrant stretch of sand lies directly opposite LAX. And even though the roaring jet engines of  America’s second busiest airport add an element of noise pollution, the inconvenience is worth it to see oversized jumbos up close.

    Despite the racket, Dockweiler Beach draws in thick crowds of locals and out-of-towners, especially during the evenings in summer, when the hordes gather around council-approved beach bonfires. The fishing is superb, both off the shore and the pier, and there’s a pretty promenade for cycling, jogging, and rollerskating. Public restrooms are available on-site, and you’ll find plenty of parking for daytrippers and RVs.

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    Lokalizacja: 12000 Vista Del Mar, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Telefon: +1 424-526-7777

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    zdjęcie: Carl-Henrik Skårstedt (CC BY 2.0) zostało poddane edycji

    3

    Corona Del Mar State Beach

    A child-friendly beach with incredible coastal views

    Corona Del Mar State Beach is a heaving family-friendly spot on the eastern end of Newport Beach City. The area was once a surfing mecca – the first professional tournament on mainland America took place here – although an extension to the Newport Pier now shelters it from the swell (keen surfers can paddle offshore to The Wedge). Calm lapping waves and a lifeguard patrol make it a good option for little ones learning to swim.

    The gorgeous half-mile-long stretch is framed by dramatic cliffs and a rocky pier, a spellbinding scene that set the stage for the sitcom classic Gilligan’s Island. Doggies are allowed on leashes during the early mornings and late afternoons, and there’s ample amenities on-site: paid parking, picnic areas, toilets, showers, volleyball nets.

    Lokalizacja: 3001 Ocean Blvd, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625, USA

    Telefon: +1 949-644-3151

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    4

    Hermosa Beach

    True to its name, this beach is “beautiful”

    Hermosa Beach is a delightfully unpretentious spot just outside Los Angeles in the lovely South Bay. Laidback and awash with casual surfy and skater types, this isn’t the kind of place that thrives on glitter and glam. Come to soak up the easy-going SoCal lifestyle with a wander down the boardwalk or casting a line with local fishermen off the pier.

    Family-run stores sell your usual array of beachwear and accessories, while plenty of rental joints offer bikes, surfboards, and more. Of course, if you’re not feeling so energetic, there’s no harm in pulling up a towel for a quick snooze in the sun.

    Lokalizacja: 1 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Telefon: +1 310-318-0239

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    5

    Crystal Cove State Park

    A pristine coastal reserve in the OC

    Crystal Cove State Park is the perfect place to get reacquainted with nature. The stunning Orange County reserve is famed for its 2.5-mile stretch of spectacular coastline, while 2,400 acres of wonderful wilderness beckon hikers to explore.

    Forget everything you’ve heard about the OC for Crystal Cove is the antithesis to materialism. You won’t find any ritzy oceanfront villas here, but rather a charming selection of humble RV parks and basic backcountry camps – the perfect setting to reset and unwind. Paid parking is available on-site, accessible via the Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach.

    Lokalizacja: 7402 Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92657, USA

    Telefon: +1 909-949-2425

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    6

    El Matador State Beach

    A small beach withs stacks of stunning rock pools to explore

    El Matador State Beach isn’t your quintessential Cali stretch – the cragged little spot is more about intriguing rock formations than gnarly breaks. Tucked away down a steep hidden staircase near Malibu, the hard-to-find spot is awash with crustacean-filled tidepools and spectacular sea caves.

    Keen photographers will have a ball documenting the dramatic ocean-worn landscape, although there’s ample soft golden sand if you just want to lie in the sun. Alternatively, the offshore snorkelling is sublime – keep an eye out for starfish or anemones – and the stretch is aptly long for a scenic sunset stroll.

    Lokalizacja: 32350 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 8 am to 8 pm

    Telefon: +1 818-880-0363

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    7

    Half Moon Bay State Beach

    A seldom-visited spot for serious R&R

    Half Moon Bay State Beach sits 1 hour south of San Francisco yet feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke. The 4-mile stretch of pristine and secluded Californian sand welcomes a small contingent of beach aficionados each day, so you’ll rarely feel crowded while sunning or fishing by the waves.

    Drop into the Visitors Centre to get the lay of the land, or grab yourself a tent or RV site at the picturesque grounds of Francis Beach. Although the water is a little too cold and treacherous to swim, the Coastside Trail offers 3 miles of superb scenery to enjoy on foot or by bike.

    Lokalizacja: 6 Venice Blvd, 95 Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019, USA

    Telefon: +1 650-726-8819

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    8

    Silver Strand State Beach

    A lovely recreational area on the San Diego Bay

    Silver Strand State Beach splits the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, with a mild climate and spectacular setting ideal for outdoor recreation. Surfing, water-skiing, and boating take place on the water, while camping, volleyball, and hiking are popular pursuits on land. Anglers can enjoy the best of both, with perch, yellowfin, and grunion in abundance.

    You can find 4 sprawling parking lots that accommodate up to 1,000 vehicles – don’t anticipate to have the postcard-perfect place to yourself. But that’s not necessarily a con, for the lively summertime beach bonfires are a wonderful way to mingle with other travellers and alternative types. Stroll south of the developed area should you desire some peaceful respite.

    Lokalizacja: 5000 CA-75, Coronado, CA 92118, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 7 am to 8 pm

    Telefon: +1 619-435-5184

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    9

    Seacliff State Beach

    A chilled Cali beach with an impressive old wreck

    Seacliff State Beach straddles the shoreline of Aptos, a laidback little beach town just east of Santa Cruz. The beach’s claim to fame is the half-submerged wreckage of SS Alto Palo, a wartime concrete tanker that once operated as a dancehall and arcade. Visiting is now prohibited due to safety concerns, but you can head to the far end of the pier for up-close views.

    The long sandy stretch is patrolled during the peak summer months, and there’s a pretty shaded picnic area for an alfresco lunch (reserve in advance). Oceanfront lots are available for campers and RVers to spend the night, while a breezy paved trail gives locals a scenic spot to jog.

    Lokalizacja: State Park Dr, Aptos, CA 95003, USA

    Telefon: +1 831-685-6442

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    10

    Pacifica State Beach

    A relaxed Bay Area favourite

    Pacifica State Beach (Linda Mar Beach to the locals) is a dune-fringed stretch 1 hour south of downtown San Francisco. Hikers and cyclists hit the hilly trails that wind through Rockaway Point, while surfers, swimmers, and paddleboarders find favourable conditions in the middle of the beach.

    Pets are welcome if they’re kept on a leash, and the skate park across the highway is a great place to practice your tricks. Plenty of paid parking is available on-site, and the washroom amenities are tidy and well-maintained.

    Lokalizacja: 5000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacifica, CA 94044, USA

    Telefon: +1 650-738-7381

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    zdjęcie: Bob n Renee (CC BY 2.0) zostało poddane edycji

    11

    Coronado Beach

    Glittering sands and Hollywood glamour

    Coronado Beach is found on its namesake Coronado Island, just a 15-minute drive or ferry ride from downtown San Diego. This wide stretch of sparkling sand and gentle surf is a favourite escape for families and groups of friends. Marilyn Monroe helped to make the beach famous in her 1959 movie Some Like it Hot, filmed at the still-open luxury beachfront Hotel del Coronado. 

    Visitors could simply go for a stroll along the soft sands, or enjoy a day of surfing, paddleboarding or fishing from Ferry Landing Pier. The water is inviting, but do watch out for stingrays. 

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    12

    Point Lobos State Reserve

    California sea lions under cypress trees

    Point Lobos sits at the northern tip of the world-famous Big Sur. It's a stretch of coastline that means the Golden State is always in the travel brochures because it fuses the wild Carmel Highlands with the lashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. To put it another way – don't forget to charge the camera for this one...

    There's not just a single beach to sample in these parts. Start in the north, where crystal-clear waters filter through to Coal Chute Point. Then, hike the pine woods that halo lovely Whaler's Cove. Push on to Sea Lion Point, where you'll be able to see some of the region's more entertaining coastal inhabitants sunning themselves on the rocks.

    Lokalizacja: 62 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 8 am to 7 pm

    Telefon: +1 831-624-4909

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    13

    Mission Beach

    Its boardwalk is great for people watching

    Mission Beach is a favourite for San Diego residents and for good reason: miles of soft sand, surfing and other water sports to enjoy, and a vibrant dining and nightlife scene. Families flock to the beachfront Belmont Park amusement park, with its groovy vintage wooden roller coaster plus many more rides and arcade games to try.

    Head to South Mission Beach for some outdoor sports action with several volleyball nets set up and a pier for fishing. The stretch of sand to the north of Belmont Park is called Pacific Beach – a popular place that attracts a younger, more party-minded crowd.

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    zdjęcie: Thomas Galvez (CC BY 2.0) zostało poddane edycji

    14

    Huntington Beach

    Watch the sunset at Huntington Beach Pier

    The coastal city of Huntington Beach is close to Anaheim, making it a good choice if you want to enjoy a day at the beach. It’s often packed with surfers looking to hit the waves on sunny days, but you also get to enjoy snorkelling and swimming, as well as sunbathing on the clean sands. Huntington City Beach’s centrepiece is its 563-metre-long pier, which offers expansive views of the ocean. Huntington Beach is located about 21 miles south of central Anaheim, about 30 minutes away by car.

    Lokalizacja: Huntington Beach, CA 92648, USA

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    Harry Stewart | Autor

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