10 of the Best Beaches in Southern California

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Key Highlights

  1. Southern California is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with stunning of the Pacific Ocean and a variety of activities for all ages.
  2. Whether you’re looking for a popular destination with an amusement park and iconic attractions like the Santa Monica Pier, or a secluded to relax and enjoy nature, Southern California has it all.
  3. From Laguna Beach to Zuma Beach, Santa Monica Beach to Huntington Beach, and Coronado Beach to El Matador Beach, there are countless options to choose from when it comes to finding the perfect beach in Southern California.


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Southern California is known for many things – its vibrant cities, sunny weather, and of course, its stunning beaches. Stretching from San Diego in the south to Malibu in the north, the southern California coast offers more than 150 miles of picturesque coastline along the Pacific Ocean. With a mix of sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, calm bays, and wave-tossed shores, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Whether you’re seeking ideal surfing conditions or a tranquil spot to sunbathe, Southern California has a beach to suit your preferences. From popular tourist destinations with amusement parks and iconic attractions, to secluded spots where you can escape the crowds and immerse yourself in nature, there is a beach for every occasion. And the best time to visit these beaches is in late October, when the weather is dry and warm but not hot, and the Pacific Ocean is at its perfect temperature after a summer of warming up.

We’ll explore 10 of the best beaches in Southern California, each offering its unique charm and attractions. From Laguna Beach’s pristine waters to Zuma Beach’s perfect surf, Santa Monica Beach’s family-friendly atmosphere to Huntington Beach’s renowned waves, Coronado Beach’s sparkling sand, and El Matador Beach’s secluded beauty. We’ll take you on a journey through the best of what Southern California offers. So grab your sunscreen, towel, and beach chair, and get ready to discover the breathtaking beauty of Southern California’s coastline.

Discovering 10 of the Best Beaches in Southern California

Southern California has many beautiful beaches, but some stand out more than others. Laguna Beach is the place to be if you’re looking for crystal-clear waters and stunning cliffs. The best travel guides highlight Zuma Beach in Malibu for travelers looking to sunbathe and surf. Santa Monica Beach offers a mix of family-friendly activities and fitness opportunities, while Huntington Beach is known for its legendary surfing conditions. If you’re in San Diego, enjoy Coronado Beach’s sparkling sand and dog-friendly areas. And for a secluded beach experience, El Matador Beach in Malibu is the perfect choice.

1. Laguna Beach – One of the best swimming beaches in Southern California

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Laguna Beach in Orange County is renowned for being one of the best swimming beaches in the region.

  1. Pristine Paradise: With crystal-clear waters and a picturesque coastline, Laguna Beach offers a perfect escape.
  2. Easy Access: Nestled along the Pacific Coast Highway, the beach is easily accessible for visitors.
  3. Beach Bliss: Enjoy a refreshing swim, sunbathe on the sandy shores, or explore the fascinating tide pools.
  4. Artful Ambiance: Laguna Beach boasts a vibrant art scene with numerous galleries and festivals year-round.

2. Zuma Beach, Malibu – Perfect for Sunbathing and Surfing

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If you’re looking for a beach that offers both sunbathing and surfing opportunities, Zuma Beach in Malibu is the place to be.

  1. Sunbathing & Surfing: Zuma Beach offers a wide, sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and relaxation.
  2. Stunning Views: Enjoy breathtaking views of Point Dume while soaking up the sun.
  3. Great for Surfers: Clean waters and consistent waves make Zuma Beach ideal for both beginner and experienced surfers.

3. Santa Monica Beach – Ideal for Families and Fitness Enthusiasts

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According to destinations guides, Santa Monica Beach is a must-visit destination for families and fitness enthusiasts alike. Located in Los Angeles, this iconic beach offers a wide range of activities and attractions. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Santa Monica Pier: Take a ride on the Ferris wheel, play games at the arcade, and indulge in some delicious food at the pier’s many restaurants.
  2. Beachfront Bike Path: Rent a bike or rollerblade along the beachfront bike path, which stretches for miles and offers stunning views of the ocean.
  3. Muscle Beach: Watch the talented athletes and bodybuilders at Muscle Beach, a famous outdoor gym where fitness enthusiasts come to work out.
  4. Beach Volleyball: Join a game of beach volleyball or simply sit back and enjoy watching the professionals in action.

4. Huntington Beach – A Surfing Paradise for Beginners and Pros

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Know as the surfing mecca, the next best beach is Huntington Beach. “Surf City USA,” attracts surfers worldwide with its consistent waves and vibrant surf culture.

  1. For All Levels: Beginners can catch their first wave, while experienced surfers face exciting challenges at Huntington State Beach.
  2. Learn & Rent: Surf shops and schools line the beach, offering equipment rentals and lessons from certified instructors.
  3. Catch the Wave: Grab your board and experience the endless summer vibes at Huntington State Beach!

5. Coronado Beach, San Diego – Known for Its Sparkling Sand and Dog-Friendly Areas

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Coronado Beach, a favorite among many, offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy:

  1. Relax and Soak Up the Sun: With its wide stretch of soft sand and calm waters, Coronado Beach is perfect for a leisurely stroll or simply relaxing under the warm California sun.
  2. Play with Your Pup: The beach boasts dedicated dog-friendly areas, making it a haven for furry companions to play fetch and enjoy the refreshing ocean breeze.
  3. Explore Historic Charm: Located next to the iconic Hotel del Coronado, a historic landmark with over a century of hosting celebrities, you can combine your beach day with a touch of history.
  4. Convenient Location: Just north of La Jolla and downtown San Diego, Coronado Beach is conveniently close to other popular beaches like Torrey Pines, making it a perfect stop on a beach-hopping adventure.

6. El Matador Beach, Malibu – One of the best secluded beaches in Southern California

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El Matador State Beach in Malibu offers a secluded paradise for beachgoers seeking tranquility. Here’s what makes it special:

  1. Hidden Gem: Tucked away from the crowds, El Matador boasts dramatic cliffs, rocky outcrops, and stunning ocean views, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle.
  2. Secluded Charm: A steep staircase provides access to the beach, adding to its hidden feel and exclusivity.
  3. Wildlife Encounters: Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions lounging on the rocks, adding another layer of wonder to your beach experience.

7. Venice Beach – A Cultural Hotspot with Muscle Beach and Skate Parks

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Venice Beach is not your typical beach destination. Located in Los Angeles, this vibrant and eclectic beach is a cultural hotspot, known for its street performers, skate parks, and artistic flair. Check out some of the best parts of Muscle Beach:

  1. Muscle Beach: Watch the impressive feats of strength and athleticism at Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym where bodybuilders and weightlifters showcase their skills.
  2. Skate Parks: Visit the Venice Skate Park, where skateboarders, rollerbladers, and BMX riders show off their tricks on the ramps and rails.
  3. Boardwalk: Take a stroll along the famous Venice Boardwalk, lined with shops, restaurants, and street vendors selling unique and handmade goods.

8. La Jolla Shores, San Diego – Great for Kayaking and Snorkeling

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La Jolla Shores, located in San Diego, is a beach lover’s paradise, offering a range of water sports and activities. Here’s why it’s worth a visit:

  1. Kayaking: Rent a kayak and explore the stunning sea caves along the coast, or take a guided tour to learn about the local marine life.
  2. Snorkeling: Dive into the clear waters of La Jolla Shores and discover a world of vibrant marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even leopard sharks.
  3. La Jolla Cove: Just a short distance away from La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove is a protected marine reserve known for its crystal-clear water and abundant wildlife.

9. Hermosa Beach – Vibrant Community and Active Beach Life

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Hermosa Beach is known for its vibrant community and active beach life. Located along the Pacific Coast Highway, this beach offers a laid-back atmosphere and a variety of activities for all ages. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Main Street: Explore the bustling Main Street, lined with trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants offering delicious food and live entertainment.
  2. Beach Volleyball: Join a game of beach volleyball or watch the professionals compete at one of the many courts along the beach.
  3. Surfing and Boogie Boarding: Catch some waves or try your hand at boogie boarding in the warm waters of Hermosa Beach.

10. Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach – A Scenic Spot for Hiking and Tide Pooling

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Crystal Cove State Park, located in Laguna Beach, offers a unique beach experience with its stunning cliffs, tide pools, and hiking trails. Here’s what you can expect at Crystal Cove State Park:

  1. Hiking Trails: Explore the park’s scenic hiking trails, which offer breathtaking views of the coastline and the opportunity to spot wildlife such as dolphins and sea birds.
  2. Tide Pooling: Discover an array of fascinating marine life in the park’s tide pools, including starfish, anemones, and hermit crabs.
  3. Historic District: Visit the park’s historic district, which features charming beach cottages that date back to the 1920s and 1930s.


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So there we have it, the 10 best beaches in southern California. Some of the most breathtaking beaches, catering to various preferences are all found in this one state. From the tranquility of Laguna Beach to the vibrant atmosphere of Venice Beach, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a surfing enthusiast or a family looking for a fun day out, these beaches offer relaxation and excitement. Soak up the sun at Zuma Beach or explore the scenic beauty of El Matador Beach. With options like Santa Monica Beach for fitness lovers and Coronado Beach for pet owners, Southern California’s coastline truly has it all. Plan your visit and experience the diverse charm of the best beaches in southern California firsthand!

If you’re searching for more travel guides to help plan your next vacation, check out some of our more recent guides here!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any beginner-friendly surfing spots in Southern California?

Yes, there are several beginner-friendly surfing spots in Southern California. Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA, is a popular choice for beginners due to its gentle waves and surf schools that offer lessons for all skill levels.

What are the best beaches in Southern California for families?

When it comes to family-friendly beaches in Southern California, Santa Monica Beach and Coronado Beach are top choices. Santa Monica Beach offers a vibrant atmosphere with its iconic amusement park rides and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Coronado Beach, on the other hand, provides a more relaxed and picturesque setting, with its pillowy sand, tide pools, and convenient facilities.

What are the best dog beaches in Southern California?

For dog owners, Coronado Beach, Huntington Dog Beach, and Newport Beach are the best options in Southern California. Coronado Beach has a designated off-leash section where dogs can frolic in the sand and surf. Huntington Dog Beach is a paradise for dogs, with a designated off-leash area for them to run and play. Newport Beach also offers a dog-friendly area where dogs can enjoy the beach alongside their owners.

What other beaches are worth visiting around the world?

There are various beaches that are worth taking a trip to visit. Some of our top beaches have to be in Greece, Hawaii, particularly Oahu, the Florida Keys and Italy. These beaches all have unique characteristics that set them apart from one another.

What are the best beaches for beginner surfers in southern California?

Doheny State Beach in Orange County and San Onofre State Beach are ideal for beginner surfers. Both beaches offer gentle waves and a welcoming atmosphere for those who are new to the sport. With their laid-back vibe and supportive surf community, these beaches provide the perfect setting for beginners to learn and improve their surfing skills.

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