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California’s Best Beaches

The Golden State is lined with breathtaking blue waters perfect for a day at the beach or week-long vacation. Here is a great selection of iconic beaches and unique coastal attractions worth checking out.

Oxnard’s Hollywood Movie-Era Beach
Named for being a popular filming location for 1920s films, Hollywood Beach is one of Oxnard’s dog-friendly spots for swimming, surfing, and admiring the Channel Islands. Nearby Oxnard Beach Park has BBQ pits, a bike and walking path, and playground for kids. 

Colorful Sea Glass in Mendocino County
Famous for its colorful and smooth sea glass, Glass Beach in Mendocino County’s Fort Bragg offers a unique experience. From 1906 to 1967, items from cars and batteries to bottles, cans, and appliances were commonly pushed over the ocean cliffs. In turn, Mother Nature responded by creating beautiful colored glass for thalassophiles to admire. 

Seaside Fun at Oceanside Harbor Beach
Oceanside Harbor beach offers a relaxed family-friendly atmosphere, perfect waves for swimming and boogie boarding, and a great place for the USA Surfing team to train. Surrounded by a New England-style harbor village, it also includes the “Love the O” interactive sculpture where loved ones can leave a special love rock. 

Historic Tide Pools in Encinitas 
Running parallel to historic Highway 101, Cardiff State Beach in North San Diego County is known to have the best tidepools in Encinitas. They are composed of 45-million-year-old sedimentary rocks containing embedded fossil clams, and can be found on the southside of Seaside Beach along with starfish, sea cucumbers, and other mollusks.

Año Nuevo State Park on The San Francisco Peninsula
Located on the southern coast of The San Francisco Peninsula, Año Nuevo State Park has an extraordinary wilderness experience. Up to 10,000 elephant seals return to breed every year, and it is also a major bird migratory route. Offshore on Año Nuevo Island, find the remains of a 19th century lighthouse and fog signal station.

Six Miles of Beaches in Morro Bay
Morro Bay’s beaches supply over six miles of continuous sand, offering their own unique set of activities, wildlife, and atmosphere to discover. Visit North Point Beach to observe aquatic creatures up close through its tidepools or allow dogs off-leash in the white sand Toro Creek Beach. The bay is a protected sanctuary brimming with wildlife such as sea otters, seals, whales, monarch butterflies, and various bird species.

Dana Point Water Activities
Dana Point Beaches are best suited for water activities from paddle boarding and kayaking in Baby Beach, to surfing at Doheny State Beach. There is even whale watching at Strands Beach and Salt Creek Beach for those who would rather stay out of the water. 

Rincon and C-Street: Ventura Beaches Home to Surfing Pros
Rincon Beach, also called Rincon, in Ventura is known as one of the best places to surf in California. The Rincon is home to the annual Rincon Classic where professional and rookie surfers all gather. Surfer’s Point/C Street is also famed for its long rides on perfectly shaped waves and big winter swells that turn C Street into a world-class playground. The beach made history as one of the first pro surfing contests held in California. 

Montaña de Oro: “The Mountain of Gold”
A short drive from San Luis Obispo, Montaña de Oro State Park is one of the largest state parks in California. With over 8,000 acres, including seven miles of shoreline, spectacular views surround the rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches and coastal plains. The park's name, "Mountain of Gold," comes from the explosion of golden wildflowers that bloom in spring. 

Whiskeytown Lake Beaches
East Beach is a local favorite spot for relaxation and swimming, as well as catching sunsets reflecting over the lake. Brandy Creek Beach, on the south side of Whiskeytown Lake, caters to families and groups with a snack shop and shaded picnic areas. Oak Bottom, a beachy cove surrounded by trees, provides a peaceful setting for nature lovers along the north shore of Whiskeytown Lake. Visitors can hike to nearby waterfalls through old-growth forests.

Four Beaches in Pacifica
Pacifica has some of the best beaches in the Bay Area with each offering something unique. Pacifica State Beach is known as one of the best surf beaches. At Rockaway Beach, embark on a hiking trail or explore local favorite restaurants. The sand at Sharp Park Beach is one of California’s few black sand beaches. Visitors can enjoy easy access to local shops and restaurants on Palmetto, and fishing on the Pacifica Pier.

Golden Sunsets in Carlsbad
Carlsbad State Beach offers a picturesque view of the sunset. Every night, people gather at the north end of the beach to watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean. The Palisades and walkway atop the Seawall is another romantic spot for watching the sunset and enjoying the ocean view.

Find Your Beach in Sonoma County
Loved by beachcombers, Schoolhouse Beach in Bodega Bay in Sonoma County is a vibrantly colored shore filled with small ocean-polished stones and seashells great for collecting. The tidepools are teeming with colorful marine life, such as starfish, mussels, hermit crabs, sea anemones, and other crustaceans. Portuguese Beach is the ideal place to watch a stunning, golden sunset sink into the Pacific Ocean.

Family Friendly Coronado Beach 
Recognized as one of the 10 best family beaches in North America, Coronado Beach is perfect for an all-day stay for families. The long, white sand beach offers plenty of space for paddleball, sandcastle building, kite flying and volleyball. In the village of Coronado, the small-town atmosphere is ideal for dining and relaxing. Bike rentals are available at the Coronado Ferry Landing and are the perfect way to explore the island, with or without parents.

Swim, Surf, and Hike at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego
Torrey Pines State Beach in La Jolla is a popular beach off Highway 101 with bathrooms, showers, lifeguards, and a safe place for kids to play by the lagoon. The bluffs above the beach are part of the 1,750-acre Torrey Pines State Reserve Park dedicated to preserving its namesake, the Torrey Pine tree, and other indigenous wildlife in its native environment. Eight miles of trails offer views of the Pacific Ocean, while walking amid native chaparral plants, wildflowers, and wildlife. 

Goleta Beach Park
Fondly known as “The Good Land,” Goleta is a community just 12 miles north of Santa Barbara. The large sandy beach features ample room for picnicking and fishing on the pier. The slough is a haven for bird watching, with plentiful local and migratory bird species like snowy egrets and great blue herons. Pedal along the scenic bike trail or rent kayaks to glide through kelp forests and view wildlife. Campus Point, a surf break with long rides and gentle waves is great for beginners. The Ellwood at Goleta Beach, a new Coastal cuisine restaurant, is expected to open in late summer 2023.