best beaches in california

Visit the Most Beautiful Beaches in California

October 21, 2021 /

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

California’s beaches are renowned, yet those who visit the coast of the Golden State in search of beaches like in the Caribbean are often disappointed when they arrive at the Pacific Ocean, which is generally considered to be for surfing than swimming.

And yet, among the famous and cool California sandy beaches, if you know where to look, you can find wonderful desolate and unspoiled coastlines and many of them have crystal clear water.  Let’s find out which are the best beaches in California.

La Jolla Cove: In Search of Garibaldi

most famous beaches in california
California’s La Jolla Cove, San Diego

Located in the refined seaside community of La Jolla, the renowned La Jolla Cove is a small cove and a protected marine reserve with beautiful transparent waters and sea caves, which make it ideal for those who love snorkeling.

While you dive, try to spot the orange glow of Garibaldi, the state marine fish of California. If you want to visit La Jolla Cove, get there early because the few parking spaces available fill up very quickly. See our article about attractions in La Jolla.

Find accommodations near La Jolla Cove

Coronado Beach: the Best Beach in San Diego

best beaches in california
Coronado Beach and the impressive Del Coronado Hotel in the background

We are in San Diego County and we are talking about one of the most beloved beaches in California and the winner of the Top Ten Beaches in 2012 drafted by Dr. Beach, a true authority on the subject. In fact, to make his highly esteemed judgments, Dr.Beach measures parameters such as clean sand, water, and accessibility.

The beach is about 1.5 miles long and is frequented by families and surfers, and the characteristics that make it unique are its almost subtropical vegetation, a temperate climate and the historic Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian building with pointed towers that is bizarre and magnificent at the same time. While it was built 120 years ago, it still retains all its charm and it is complemented by the natural surroundings. Spending a night here on the ocean is incredible!

Parking lots on this beach also fill up quickly, which is why many prefer to get there from downtown San Diego using public transportation.

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Pfeiffer Beach, the Purple Beach of Big Sur

cool beaches in california
Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur is a beautiful pristine beach that is very popular among locals and not well known to tourists. In addition to the beautiful views of rock formations and stacks, the beach’s special feature is its unusual violet-colored sand, which comes from manganese particles sliding down the hill. The further north you go, the richer the purple color of the sand.

The spectacular natural landscape will allow you to take magnificent pictures, especially at sunset, when the sun aligns with the Keyhole Arch stacks, creating a unique visual effect. There is a cost for admission to Pfeiffer Beach. Read our guide on Pfeiffer Beach in order to better organize your visit.

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Crystal Cove State Park: An Underwater Nature Park

beautiful beaches in california
The beach at Crystal Cove State Park

A secluded beach that stretches for over 3 miles with an “underwater nature park” teeming with coral reefs, natural pools, and incredible coves. Behind this beautiful beach, there are over 2,000 acres of wooded land to explore.

Those who know the area well suggest visiting the coastline when the tide is lower, in order to enjoy a clearer view of aquatic life.

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Channel Islands: A Lonely Paradise

beaches to visit in california
Beach in San Miguel Island

These islands are part of the Channel Islands National Park, which is located near coastal cities like Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. On the beaches of these islands, you can breathe fresh air in unspoiled nature, with wonderful rock formations and crystal clear waters.

Out of the 8 islands, only these 5 are part of the national park: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. There are small and charming beaches in all of the islands, but one beach that is particularly impressive is Cuyler Harbor Beach on San Miguel Island. The only way to get to this natural paradise is by boat and there are no hotels here.

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Laguna Beach, the Pearl of Orange County

popular beaches in california


Laguna Beach is one of the most fashionable cities in Orange County and one of the most interesting cities from a cultural standpoint, but its main attraction is, perhaps, its beautiful beach. The water is generally clean and the beach is very quiet, although the Pacific tends to be cold and can have strong currents. The sand is always clean, white, and warm, which makes it ideal for walking, playing, or relaxing on a towel. If you want to learn more, read our guide to Laguna Beach.

Find accommodations near Laguna Beach

But where exactly are all these famous and beautiful beaches in California? Do you want to create an itinerary to visit them all? Take a look at the map below to get your bearings.

Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

lorenzo puliti
lorenzo puliti

I am fascinated by the wonders of the world I never tire of going in search of them.

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