The Best California Beaches

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California beach vacation

The Best California Beaches for a Beach Vacation in California

Are you in the mood for a California beach vacation? However, finding the best California beaches for a vacation in California is not that easy. The most beautiful beaches in California line up between Santa Barbara and San Diego along the Pacific coast from north to south. These are among the most beautiful beaches on the west coast of the USA.

West Coast Beaches for swimming are beaches in California - but not all

Which West Coast Beaches are best for a beach vacation in California? That depends on whether you prefer to go on beach hikes or bathing holidays. Not all beaches on the West Coast are suitable for swimming. This is due to the cold ocean currents that flow past part of the California coast.

Map for a California road trip along the beaches

Map created using Wanderlog, a trip planner app on iOS and Android


Beautiful beaches in California's coastal cities

Here are some beautiful beaches you can visit in California's coastal cities.


Golden Gate from Baker Beach
Golden Gate from Baker Beach

The best beaches near San Francisco

Because of the cold ocean currents, the best beaches near San Francisco are only for beach walkers. However, they will find a paradise here with beaches that never seem to end. If you like hiking along wide sandy beaches, you will find exactly what you are looking for south of the Presidio.

One of the most beautiful beaches in the world - the Baker Beach near San Francisco

It is perhaps one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Baker Beach. However, it is not, because you can swim well there, because this is not possible here. The water is way too cold for that. The magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge more than makes up for this shortcoming. Baker Beach is worth a visit for the views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is best for you to take it Picnic with and enjoy the view.



Ocean Beach near San Francisco
Ocean Beach near San Francisco

Beautiful beaches on the Pacific - the Ocean Beach near San Francisco

A little further south, Ocean Beach stretches seemingly endlessly along the west coast of San Francisco. It borders Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District and the Sunset District. Here you can take long walks on the beach. However, the water is too cold for swimming.


The most beautiful California beach for a California beach vacation
A California vacation isn't complete without a California beach vacation - East Beach is one of them © Damian Gadal, Flickr

Best Beaches in Southern California

If you want to combine your visit to the beach with a swim, then this is only possible in southern California. Only there is the water warm enough for a swim in the Pacific to be fun. But which is the best beach in Southern California? The question is not that easy to answer, as the answer depends on how you want your beach vacation to go. Do you prefer swimming or surfing? Can the beach be a little crowded? Or do you prefer a natural coastal region? Therefore, we introduce you to the beaches in Southern California here.

Where is the warmest beach in California?

You can assume that the sea water is only warm enough south of Santa Barbara for comfortable swimming in the sea. The further south you go, the warmer the water temperatures.

Beautiful Beaches for a Beach Vacation in California

Because the water off the California coast north of Santa Barbara is too cold for swimming due to cold sea currents, you can only count on bathing possibilities in and south of Santa Barbara with its East Beach. To the north you can see the Santa Ynez Mountains, to the south is Stearns Wharf with its yachts. Santa Barbara also averages nearly 300 days of sunshine. And those who come on Saturday can also browse the offerings from nearly 250 artists exhibiting at the Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show.


What to do in Santa Barbara

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Zuma Beach - one of the most beautiful beaches in California for a beach holiday California
The Most Beautiful Beaches in California - Zuma Beach © Alex Beattle, Flickr


Zuma Beach - a vacation in California at Malibu

Approaching Malibu on Highway 101, be sure to look out for a line of cars tightly parked along the Pacific Coast Highway. This indicates that you are approaching Zuma Beach. If you see an empty parking space here, take it. Or pay the parking fee for the large parking lot. This beach is also a great place to relax - just bring a towel, bathing suit and time and while away the day at the beach.


What you should definitely pack for your California beach vacation:

  • This beach equipment must be in yours suitcase. With our checklist you won't forget anything.
  • Bathing shoes * should not be missing on many beaches in California. Of course you need one too swimsuit. Not all beaches are sandy beaches. At some, visitors go "tide pooling," meaning they climb over rocks to tide pools to collect shells or other items. You need non-slip shoes that can get wet.
  • "It never rains in Southern California" - the Beach Boys were right with their song. Therefore a sun hat must definitely be in the suitcase for a beach holiday on California's beaches. This is particularly practical because it can be folded up and easily fits into a handbag or suitcase.
  • Reading material for the beach holiday We've put together a list of easy holiday reading that's perfect for the beach.

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Malibu Beach - one of the most beautiful beaches in California for a beach holiday California
Vacation in California USA on Malibu Beach © Ted Murphy, Flickr


The best beach in Los Angeles

Los Angeles beaches line the Pacific Coast in suburbs stretching from Malibu far south, the perfect place to start California road trip. However, the “Best Beaches in California” are not located directly in the Los Angeles area. Because of the vastness of the megacity of Los Angeles, it is not always easy to reach these beaches.


What to do in Los Angeles

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Malibu - California Vacation Tips for Beach Holidays

Parking on the Pacific Coast Highway is not allowed here. Instead, Geoffrey's Malibu even has valet parking. Don't miss seeing the beach beauties sipping cocktails at the Bussiparade. The best beach in Los Angeles is Malibu if you want to experience Californian beach life.




Venice Beach - one of the most beautiful beaches in California for a beach holiday California
The Most Beautiful Beaches in California - Venice Beach © Esther Lee, Flickr


Venice Beach Hotels California are located on a famous beach in California

A well-known beach in California is Venice Beach. The beach community in Venice Beach is very different. Muscle men vie for the attention of sporty beach mermaids. Muscle Beach has been famous since Arnold Schwarzenegger flexed his muscles here. Dropouts also enjoy life on the beach. You need stamina to get behind the hustle and bustle on the promenade to the actual beach.


What to do on Venice Beach

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Manhattan Beach Pier
One of California's Most Beautiful Beaches - Manhattan Beach Pier © Tino, Flickr


Manhattan Beach - glamorous vacation in California

Manhattan Beach feels like stepping into one of those glossy magazines that promote life on the shore. Manhattan Beach is easily one of the most stylish beaches in Southern California, with its bougainvillea-covered fences, groomed children playing on the beach, and cottages on the hillside behind the beach.


What to do on Manhattan Beach

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Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach © Teresa Boardman, Flickr


Cabrillo Beach - perfect for a California beach vacation with kids

Before San Pedro you can find Cabrillo Beach. Cabrillo Beach consists of two beaches. One is protected behind the breakwater. This beach is suitable for families with children. On the pier you can cast your fishing rod or just go to the end to get another view of the beach. In a park on the coast is the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

The second beach is outside the breakwater and exposed to the surf. This beach is a true paradise for those who enjoy tide pooling. What is tide pooling? Very easily. Ponds form in the steep cliffs on this coast, where marine life is stranded at low tide. With a bit of luck you will find starfish, sea anemones, crabs, mussels and other animals that otherwise feel comfortable in the water. When the next tide comes, it sweeps the animals back into the sea. It's fun to look around the tide pools for washed-up sea creatures. You just have to be careful. Because the surf on this coast is unpredictable and wild.




Cabrillo Beach San Pedro Tristan Loper Flickr CC BY SA 20
Cabrillo Beach San Pedro Tristan Loper Flickr CC BY SA 20


California beach vacation at Huntington

Surfin 'USA - that's happening at Huntington Beach. In any case, the city is considered one of the centers of surfing. No wonder that you keep walking past surf shops in town. There is even a statue dedicated to the surfer Duke Kahanamoku dedicated to one of America's most famous surfers. However, the view of the ocean is marred by offshore oil rigs.


Discover the 10 best beaches for surfers in California here.


What to do in Huntington Beach

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Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach © Don Graham, Flickr


Laguna Beach California USA - one of the most beautiful beaches in California

It's more natural in Laguna Beach. One of the prettiest stretches of beach in this town is definitely Heisler Park, with its bougainvillea-lined walkways and rocky outcrops that reach into the sea.




La jolla cove
La Jolla Cove © SD Dirk, Flickr


Enjoy a California beach vacation at San Diego

La Jolla Cove - one of the most beautiful beaches in California

La Jolla is where you live if you are part of the affluent segment of the San Diego population. But it's also a place for families with kids who enjoy exploring the sea caves, looking for starfish in the tide pools, or climbing the cliffs that border downtown.


What to do in La Jolla Cove

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Coronado Beach
Coronado Beach © hoteldelcoronado, Flickr


California beach vacation at San Diego

San Diego has a number of beautiful beaches that are worth visiting. One not to be missed is San Diego's Coronado Beach with its beachfront hotel, the Hotel Del Coronado. The charm that this five-star hotel radiates also gives the Pacific beach in front of it a very special appeal. However, military planes fly over the beach at irregular intervals when approaching the nearby military base. Special San Diego hotel tips * can be found under this link. Do you want the beaches of San Diego with kids * experience? Use this link to find hotels with family rooms near the beach.


What to do in San Diego

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California beach vacation questions and answers

Where can I find the best beaches in California?

The most beautiful beaches in California are between Santa Barbara and San Diego.

When is the best time of year to take a beach vacation in California and enjoy the best weather and water temperatures?

That depends on which part of California you want to visit. In general, the summer months from June to August are the warmest. But if you're in Southern California, you can still experience pleasant temperatures in late fall and early spring.

What Types of Marine Life Can I Expect to See on California Beaches?

The California coast is home to a wide variety of marine life. You can spot everything from starfish and crabs to dolphins and sea lions, depending on the area and time of year.

Are there any safety precautions on California beaches that I should be aware of?

Yes, there are a few things to watch out for. For example, it is important to heed the warnings and advice regarding currents and always keep a safe distance from the cliffs and rocks.

Are California Beaches Kid Friendly?

Many California beaches are very family friendly with facilities such as playgrounds, picnic areas and lifeguards. However, it's always a good idea to do some research before you visit to make sure the beach is safe for children.

Which beaches in California are particularly good for surfing?

California is known for its surf spots. Some of the most famous spots are Huntington Beach, also known as "Surf City USA", and Santa Cruz, where you can find the famous Steamer Lane.

Are there options for renting water sports equipment on a California beach vacation?

Yes, many beaches offer rentals of equipment such as surfboards, paddleboards, and snorkeling gear. It is best to research in advance or contact a local surf school for more information.

Where can I find Venice Beach hotels for a California beach vacation?

Here you can Book Venice Beach hotels *

Which San Diego hotel is located on Pacific Beach?

Discover your Hotel San Diego Pacific Beach *

More tips:

Travel Arrangements:

Parking at the airport

Here you can reserve your parking space at the airport.

Getting to your California beach vacation

Compare and book flights here*. Lufthansa, United and others will follow San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Rental car for your California beach vacation:

Cheap rental cars - book here! *

Are you looking for another beach hotel California?

For example, here you can Beach Hotel California * search. Click on the map view. All Hotels in California * can also be found via this link.

If you purchase via a link marked *, we receive a commission, which we use to run this blog.


Other Slow Travel Tips is available for example at this link. Do you also know the most beautiful beaches in Canada?


Do you like to travel to your California beach vacation with your motorhome?

  • Do you want to rent a mobile home? Then you will find information and a selection of booking options.
  • Also check our packing list for campers to see whether you have packed everything for your motorhome tour.



California Beaches
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Source Vacation in California: research on site. Our opinions definitely remain our own. The article also contains affiliate links from which we receive commission. However, the price does not change for you.

Text beach vacation in California: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos vacation in California: © Copyright see photo as well as Wikimedia Commons public domain and Unsplash

The Best California Beaches

Monika Fuchs

Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the authors and publishers of the Slow Travel and Enjoyment travel blog TravelWorldOnline Traveller. You have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline has been online since 2001. Your topics are Trips to Savor and wine tourism worldwide and Slow Travel. During her studies, Monika Fuchs spent some time in North America, where she traveled to the USA and Canada - sometimes together with Petar Fuchs - and spent a research year in British Columbia. This strengthened her thirst for knowledge, which she pursued for 6 years Adventure Guide for Rotel Tours and then for 11 years as Study tour guide for Studiosus Reisen tried to breastfeed all over the world. She constantly expanded her travel regions, but curiosity still gnawed at her: “What is beyond the horizon? What else is there to discover in this city? Which people are interesting here? What do you eat in this region?” These are the questions she is now trying to answer as a freelance travel journalist (her articles have appeared in DIE ZEIT, 360° Canada, 360° USA, etc.), among others. travel writer and travel blogger answers in many countries around the world. Petar Fuchs produces the videos on this blog as well as on YouTube. Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline is below Germany's top 50 bloggers in 2021 Other Information about Monika and Petar Fuchs. Recommendations on LinkedIn from tourism experts Further recommendations from cooperation partners and tourism experts Professional experience Monika on LinkedIn

6 thoughts too "The Best California Beaches"

  1. Stunning photos! So far I have had a slightly different picture of LA in LA. Since you can also do very good beach vacation without much public traffic.

    1. Of course, LA is also a mega-city. But she is also by the sea. That's a big part of their attraction. The beaches here in the article, however, are not all to find in the immediate area of ​​Los Angeles. They stretch from Malibu to San Diego, where the water is the warmest.

    1. Hello nicole,

      that would be a good idea. The beaches in Southern California are worth a trip alone.

      Best regards,

    1. I can only confirm that, dear Jenny. From Santa Barbara to the south, California is a true beach paradise.

      Best regards,

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