The relaxed feeling that permeates throughout California might come from the fact there are beaches nearby no matter where you live in the state. Each has its own unique appeal that often extends beyond simply enjoying the sun and surf. Some beaches are known best for their glistening sands, while others are famous for their historic boardwalks.
It’s hard to narrow down the choices to a select few, but here are ten of the best beaches in California that shouldn’t be missed. Make sure you have your favorite designer swimwear packed and ready to go because you won’t want to miss what these places have to offer.
#1: La Jolla Cove, La Jolla
The clear, blue waters found in La Jolla Cove make it a prime spot to snorkel, swim, and kayak. On any given day, you’ll see a string of kayakers cave-dwelling or a crowd of snorkelers looking for fish or leopard sharks. The cove is a hubbub of activity thanks to the visibility of the waters and calmness of the waves.
The shoreline is situated at the base of sand cliffs where impressive homes are perched on top. It’s the quintessential beach for various water activities, but it’s also nice to simply take in the view. Walk down the “stairs to the ocean” through a cave or further down the coast to the seawall near where the seals and sea lions relax. Since you’ll be spending most of your time in and out of the water, it’s normal to spend the whole day in your swimsuit.
The triangle bikini swimsuit style is the epitome of SoCal cool and is a top option for whatever water adventures you embark on. A yellow hue like the Sunkisses Julie Triangle Bikini matches the 75-degrees-and-sunny weather and attitude people have about this area.
#2: Main Beach, Santa Cruz
Some days are meant for being in the water, but others are better for just being nearby. For true summertime vibes, Main Beach or Boardwalk Beach in Santa Cruz is the place to feel nostalgic and indulge your inner child. The boardwalk that runs along the beach has a mini amusement park complete with a roller coaster, arcade games, and umbrella seating where you can eat a seaside lunch with a front-row view of the ocean.
A swimsuit cover up for your favorite bikini is all you need to enjoy the boardwalk fun. Take a post-lunch stroll along the soft sands and dip your feet in the water or sunbathe on the beach. The scene is set up like a vintage postcard of simpler times when ice cream cones and sandy feet were all we needed to have a good time.
#3: Dockweiler Beach, Manhattan Beach
Feeling extra adventurous? Travel down the California coast to Dockweiler Beach near Los Angeles for hang gliding training. Here you can watch people take off into the skies and decide if you’re daring enough to join them. Like the other beaches in this area, there are activities everywhere you look. If keeping your feet on the ground sounds like a better idea, join the crowds of people who are rollerblading, bicycling, and walking along the trails. It’s close to The Strand, a paved bicycle path that runs along the Pacific, and the historic Manhattan Beach pier which offers magnificent views, especially during sunset.
The sparkling blue waters are the perfect backdrop for an afternoon picnic or evening bonfire. A ripple bikini swimsuit with a halter neck tie allows for freedom of movement, while still looking chic on the beach. With bright, bold colors to choose from or trendy, designer prints, choose the one that fits the mood. For a low-key spot like Manhattan Beach, the playful polka dots of the Arena Ripple Bikini or the true blue color of the Klein Scales Ripple Bikini are two favorites.
#4: El Matador State Beach, Malibu
Take a cruise on the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway and soon you’ll end up in Malibu, a beach escape for many locals. The turquoise waters splashing against the bluffs is a scene that’s made El Matador State Beach one of the top beaches in California. It’s a beautiful place to snorkel, swim, and explore. As you walk down the beach, you’ll reach rock arches and partially hidden caves, where you can see creatures and other marine life under the water during low tide.
This area is also popular among photographers. It’s not uncommon to see several fully staged professional shoots happening, along with a variety of amateur photographers trying to get the best shot of the sunset. With a beach that has views as pretty as this, who can blame them? Make sure you’re wearing a swimsuit that’s photo-worthy for such an idyllic setup.
#5: Coronado Beach, Coronado, San Diego
Coronado Beach is famous for its gold-flecked sands that stretch about a mile and a half and serve as a complement to the famed Hotel Del Coronado. It’s a more relaxed scene here than other beaches with not too many water activities, although, you may see a few surfers. Instead, it’s best for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. The beach is popular for its amount of shells and sand dollars. Keep your eyes on the sand and you’ll find sea treasures with every few steps.
After a day at the beach, stop into the Hotel Del for a drink on the deck or a spa treatment followed by lounging poolside with a view of the Pacific. The resort-style atmosphere feels like the ultimate pampering- and at a beach that’s considered one of the most stunning in the state, this is surely a spot you can’t miss out on. Whether you choose to grab an ice cream and stroll on the beach or dive into the calm waves, you are sure to enjoy this peaceful beach.
#6: Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla
On any given day, locals and tourists alike flock to the cliffs of Torrey Pines to make the hike down to the ocean. It’s a stunning beach with blue-green waters and golden sands that sit against the bluffs. There’s a parking lot which is closest to where the trails start, but if that’s full, there’s always free street parking available, where you can walk parallel to the Pacific.
There are several viewpoints along the walking trails here. The ultimate path is the one that winds down to the beach and ends with a short staircase where you then land on the sand. After your hike, situate yourself on one of the rocks nearby and watch the waves. Look long enough and you’ll see dolphins or sea lions along the horizon as you take a break from hiking.
Wear a one piece swimsuit like the Matisse Madalena One Piece, which will fit smoothly underneath a loose tank top and shorts during your hike. It’s also an ideal style to swim in and then cool off in when you’re done.
#7: Venice Beach, Venice
The smooth sands of Venice Beach aren’t the only reason this location tops the list of best beaches of California. It’s ripe with activity for people watching and urban exploration. Known for its eccentric appeal, anything goes here. Walk along the sidewalks and check out the famed Muscle Beach outdoor gym, the impressive concrete park where skateboarders are practicing their skills, and the numerous street performers and artists. You can even get a match of beach volleyball going with any of the volleyball nets right on the sand.
There’s also a bike path, fishing pier, and plenty of grassy areas, in addition to the beach, to stretch out and relax. There’s always something going on in Venice Beach, making it one of the coolest seaside towns in California. Go bold with the style of boutique swimwear you choose for this beach. Whether it’s a leopard print, bright color, or cheeky cut, in Venice Beach, it’s possible to stand out and fit in at the same time.
#8: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel-By-The-Sea
Further north at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, there’s an incredible beach that is fun for picnicking or walking along the trails. It’s ideal for nature lovers who want to explore more of the landscape and wildlife. There are free guided walks offered daily to learn more about the sea birds and animals that call the reserve home. Plus, there are hiking trails down to the shore that lead to tide pools and hidden coves.
For snorkelers and scuba divers, this is a beach favorite. The Reserve is only available for exploration by certified divers but boasts one of the richest marine habitats in the state. A one piece swimsuit style offers more coverage and comfort for your underwater adventures. A classic cut like the Ventana Ocean Diane One Piece is a great option, but there are several styles and cuts to choose from depending on what you have in store.
#9: Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
The beach is a picturesque spot along what’s been called one of the best scenic drives in the country. Every Californian knows about the allure of Big Sur. This beach, in particular, is known for its purple-hued sand and majestic rock formations that set up the picture-perfect background. While the beach itself is less about your normal day-on-the-sand activities, you’ll want to walk along the shoreline of the clear, sea green waters and snap several pictures.
Following time spent on the shore, walk any one of the hiking trails nearby that are part of the Los Padres National Forest. The area is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate nature and want to soak up as much of its beauty as possible.
#10: Moss Beach, San Mateo County
Approximately 40 minutes outside of San Francisco, you’ll find a stark contrast to urban life. The small towns found along this part of the Pacific seem like a world away. Moss Beach, near Half Moon Bay, is where you’ll find a collection of sea urchins, snails, sea stars, and other marine life, especially at low tide among the beach’s numerous tide pools.
The trails to the water are shaded by trees for a comfortable walk. However, once you get closer to the tide pools, expect rougher sands with large rocks you may need to climb over. It’s an up-close way to see marine life in its natural state for an experience like no other. There’s a ranger station nearby where you can get helpful tips and maps to the best places.
When you ask a group of people what the best beaches in California are, it’s likely you’ll get differing answers, but these ones will likely make anyone’s list. They offer traditional fun on the sand and in the water, while also giving a unique perspective of the personalities that make up these areas. Can’t choose one? Check them all out with a California coast road trip! They are all spectacular in their own right and are definitely worth a visit. Don't forget to pack your bag with a couple of designer bikinis when you check out these beautiful beaches on the California coastline!