While California is mainly famous for The Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood, it’s also home to beautiful beaches that attract visitors from all around the globe. After a difficult last couple of years, we can all agree that we’re in need of a relaxing vacation with stunning views and plenty of fun activities to occupy ourselves with. Below you’ll find a list of top beach destinations that each have their own charm and will make your getaway unforgettable.
10. Hermosa Beach
As the name suggests, Hermosa Beach is one of the prettiest California beaches and vacation destinations as it features milky sand and clear water perfect for swimming or admiring while sunbathing. Even though the beach isn’t the best surfing spot for those who are experienced, it’s perfect for beginners and there are plenty of surfing classes to choose from to suit your needs. You can also learn how to play volleyball by joining Volley Camp Hermosa.
If you want to admire the beach view while doing something active, you can jog or skate along The Strand, a pedestrian path always full of outdoor enthusiasts. The highlight of the beach is the pier which is where everyone gathers to watch the sunset – there’s nothing more captivating than the orange-colored sky reflected by the ocean. Another tourist attraction is the famous Farmer’s Market where you can witness in-season produce every Friday of the year.
9. Elmer Ross Beach
While a day at the beach should give you a sense of peace and help you relax, you might find it hard to enjoy your time at some California beaches as they can become slammed with tourists. This is what sets Elmer Ross beach apart from the others – it’s a hidden gem that doesn’t get listed as one of the top beach destinations often but will appeal to those who value connecting with nature and appreciate scenic views far away from the crowds. Small and surrounded by cliffs, the beach is the perfect spot to clear your mind and take a break from your daily life – if you’ve ever wanted to try meditation, there’s no better location to do it at than Elmer Ross. When the tide is low, those who like to explore can visit tide pools and nearby caves, otherwise it’s a great place to bury your feet in the sand and read a good book or go for a swim. Just like in other parts of California, the sunsets are spectacular and worth hanging around for. If you’re visiting with friends, consider making the anticipation extra special by organizing a picnic.
8. Santa Monica State Beach
If you’ve ever dreamed of staying at the beach that was featured in the iconic ‘Baywatch’ series, Santa Monica State Beach is one of those stunning filming locations. Compromising two miles long beach, picnic area and pier, and averaging more than 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s the perfect destination where you never run out of fun things to do. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you can either spend your days lying on the beach and going for an occasional swim or head to the pier to challenge yourself on rides, test your skills at the Playland Arcade and explore the aquarium once the adrenaline rush is over.
To witness one of the most memorable sunsets of your life, get yourself on the famous Ferris wheel and enjoy the panoramic view of the Southern California coastline. And if in the unlikely event of getting bored of what the beach has in store, you can always head to Hollywood which is located just an hour away. There are very few as entertaining California beaches as Santa Monica.
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7. Crystal Cove
If you’re tired of beach destinations that have nothing to offer but turquoise water and white sand, Crystal Cove might be the right place for your vacation. The park is a safe haven that allows you to escape the metropolitan area and transform back in time as the beach is lined with cottages that resemble those typically built in the 30s. There you can experience California beauty at its best by taking romantic walks along the natural seashore and then having a go at tide pooling.
If you have a more adventurous side or looking for even more solitude, you should consider exploring one of the many hiking trails that stretch over 18 miles and allow you to witness geological formations and gorgeous sights of the Pacific Ocean. If you pay enough attention to your surroundings, you’ll also have the chance to witness native plants and evidence of animal species such as tracks and nests. Plus, the sunsets there are out of this world. Crystal Cove is the ideal beach destination for those who like to combine relaxing activities with something more active and enjoy spending time in the wilderness.
6. Huntington Beach
Huntington is a great place to experience the Mediterranean climate and laid-back lifestyle many of us crave all year round. This California beach is best described as a surfer’s paradise; the waves are epic and it’s easy to meet other enthusiasts to exchange experiences with. But if you’re a total beginner or have never surfed before, there are other ways to experience the surf scene; for example, you can visit The International Surfing Museum where you can find displays of longboards and learn more about its history or head to the beach to see surfers in action. If you visit the city during summer, you might get a chance to watch a week-long surfing competition that usually takes place at the end of July.
Huntington Beach is also known as a great social spot where you can join a volleyball play or make good use of fire pits - is there anything that says summer more than gathering around the fire with your friends and drinking craft beer (yet another thing the area is famous for)? Finally, the white sand and clear water make it a beach destination as great as others. It’s also a short walking distance from Huntington Dog Beach where you can let your pet off the leash and give it a chance to make some friends.
5. Bolsa Chica State Beach
Bolsa Chica is one of the beaches that don’t get overcrowded and where birdwatching and fishing are as popular as playing volleyball and sunbathing. Whether you’re looking for solitude or a spot to enjoy spending time with your friends, you won’t be disappointed. Additionally, it’s a real treat for nature lovers as it’s located close to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve which features marshes, dunes and islands where you can experience wildlife firsthand. It’s not uncommon to come across sea lions or sea turtles and many visitors hang around for a chance to spot bird species (if that’s what you’re interested in, it’s best to visit in winter or summer).
If you enjoy being active, you can take advantage of jogging paths that allow you to admire stunning views at the same time. When the sun goes down, you can get cozy in front of a fireplace or even spend the night in a tent to fully enjoy what the area has to offer (stargazing at a beach is something else). Bolsa Chica is the perfect beach destination for those who want to be closer to nature and enjoy a peaceful vacation.
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4. Venice Beach
If you want to be where the fun is, head to Venice Beach located in one of the most buzzing parts of Los Angeles. When you take a stroll around the neighborhood, you’ll be able to experience its bohemian spirits as you catch a glimpse of street art at every corner and pass by art studios and shops by independent designers. As you head towards the beach, you’ll walk through Broadwalk full of street vendors and performers that make for a vibrant atmosphere. Venice also boasts a great dining scene so whenever you have to recharge your batteries, make sure you explore one of the seafood joints seen as one of the best in the world.
The beach itself looks like a picture straight out of a postcard and features plenty of activities that make it impossible to be bored; if you like keeping active, try out the outdoor gym or visit the skatepark to learn a new skill. For those who like to party, you’re in luck because Venice has a variety of bars beloved by both tourists and locals. Venice is the best California beach destination if you’re into a vibrant lifestyle.
3. La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is a family-friendly spot that boasts plenty of facilities and picturesque views. This beach destination isn’t just a chance to put your feet up but also to bond with your family away from electronic distractions. You can start your day by having a picnic by the beach and then go for a swim in crystal clear water and lie on the sand framed by a backdrop of cliffs and palms. Younger children will enjoy making sandcastles and older children can sign up for surfing or paddle boarding classes.
La Jolla Cove is also San Diego’s most famous diving spot and the reason behind its popularity is because you get a chance to swim with sea lions and explore kelp forests you can swim through – if you’re into photography, you’ll get some stunning shots. The village is also every shopper’s dream as it’s lined with upscale boutiques where you can treat yourself to a new outfit or get a souvenir for your friends back home. Perfect for a family vacation.
2. Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer beach isn’t your typical beach destination but if you’re in search of natural wonders and a bit of peace and quiet, you should add it to your Bucket list. While swimming isn’t recommended due to its strong current and surfing is definitely out of the question, the stunning views will make it difficult to sit in one place for too long.
One of the highlights is the famous rock formation called Keyhole Arch which attracts tourists every year and is often featured in wedding photos. If your goal is to capture a beautiful sunset that will make everyone jealous back home and experience a sight that will stay with you forever, this is where you should head to next summer. And if it isn’t enough to convince you, another unusual thing about the beach is the violet sand caused by purple minerals that have trickled down from the mountains after a rainfall. Pfeiffer beach is the definition of raw and unique beauty that makes for a great Instagram photo and plenty of great memories, whether you travel on your own or looking for a honeymoon destination.
1. Crescent Bay Beach
Laguna Beach is our number one California beach destination because, as cheesy as it sounds, this mesmerizing coastal city has something for everyone. With 7 miles of coves and beaches to explore and sport activities to occupy yourself with, your California vacation will be far from boring and you’ll get to see wonders you might not have had a chance to witness back home.
One of the most stunning views you can treat yourself to is bioluminescence often found on Crescent Bay beach. The phenomenon is what happens when a neon glow appears on the water. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll get to see it, it’s worth looking out for it and taking night walks as the sight is out of this world. In the morning, the rising sun overlooks the crystal clear ocean and the golden sand is backed up by a background of beautiful houses and cliffs, which look exactly what it sounds like – a scene straight out of a movie. The beach also wins extra points for being dog friendly. If you travel with your fur friend, you can take them with you to play in the sand, as long as it’s not during the regular beach hours.
Learn more about contributor, Joanna Cakala