Locals and tourists alike can enjoy the beaches in Los Angeles year-round, and for good reason. With warm winters and mild summers, it’s always a good day to go to the beach in the Los Angeles area. But if you suffer from decision paralysis, you may need some local expertise to know which of the over 75 miles of shoreline and 100 beaches in this So Cal county you should visit.
As a beach lover who has lived in Los Angeles for over ten years, I’m excited to share my favorite beaches with you and my go-to method for picking the perfect location. Using this method and my local tips, you should be able to plan your beach day in Los Angeles with confidence.
When you ask beach lovers in the City of Angels what their favorite beach is, you’ll get many different answers. Some love to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to their favorite Orange or Ventura County haunts. Others prefer the convenience of hopping on the Metro to enjoy the day in Santa Monica or Venice.
The trick is to first identify what you actually want out of a beach day. After that, it’s a simple matter of matching up your decision criteria with the right sandy patch of sunshine.
So, how do you know which piece of coastline to choose if you’re planning a trip to one of the many Los Angeles County beaches? Start by identifying why you want to go to the beach in the first place, and that will help you decide which of the beaches are right for you.
It might sound a bit overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with beach-going, but we’ve gone ahead and done some of the heavy lifting in this article for you. We’ve built out a list of what we consider to be 19 of the best beaches in Los Angeles.
Also, to help you narrow your decision even further, we’ve detailed how our decision criteria can be applied to each location to help you pick your perfect beach.
Like any good review, I’m setting out a few criteria for my “best Los Angeles beaches” list. Everyone has their own personal opinions about what makes a good beach. When it comes to Southern California beaches, though, I’m looking for:
- soft sand
- swimmable ocean water
- accessible restrooms
- affordable parking
- local food and drink scene
Sandy Beach Factor
Not all beaches are created equal, but the beaches in Southern California are famous for their impossibly soft sand, creating the perfect setting for beach volleyball, sandcastles, and lazy afternoons in the sun.
Before you wade into the cold shallows of Santa Monica Bay or Dockweiler State Beach, make sure to check the Beach Water Quality Advisories published frequently by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.
Some beaches in SoCal have more frequent warnings or closures due to contamination, including Santa Monica Bay and Marina Beach (aka Mother’s Beach) in Marina Del Rey.
Facilities / Amenities
After settling into your beach chair, the last thing you want is to pack up and leave early just to use the facilities. That’s why beaches that provide clean and convenient facilities on or near the beach are near and dear to beach lovers’ hearts.
Not only that, but when you’re looking to spend a full day at the shore, it’s great to have access to local rental shops, beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and restrooms.
Parking / Transportation
All the beaches in California are open and free to the public. However, expensive or sparse parking options can make some sandy spots as difficult to access as a private beach club.
Luckily, there are plenty of parking lots and spots near the best beach in Los Angeles. While you might pay more for convenience, some are free, and others are inexpensive.
Restaurants and Entertainment
When you’re exploring rocky cliffs, taking in the sun, or cruising bike paths all day, you’ll work up an appetite. If you can save your parking spot and walk to get a quick bite to eat afterward, you’ll be coming back to that beach over and over again.
Santa Monica Beach
We can all agree that no one is surprised to see this sandy California beach on the list of the 19 Best Beaches in Los Angeles. We just can’t deny that some of the best beaches on the Pacific Coast Highway are also some of the most popular beaches. And Santa Monica Beach is one of them.
The Santa Monica State Beach boasts a world-famous ocean view and a wide sandy beach with miles of soft, fluffy sand glittering happily between the Pacific Ocean and the generous parking lot options.
The only downside to wide sandy beaches is that you’ll need to walk on the hot sand for a bit to reach the shoreline. So pack light and wear comfy beach shoes to protect your feet from the hot sand.
It’s a beautiful beach, no matter where you post up. But if you want to be close to the facilities and restaurants nearby, set up your beach chairs by the Santa Monica Pier or close to the strand beach boardwalk (aka the Strand). There are free public restrooms on the beach. They can’t seem to stay clean with the traffic they see, but they serve their purpose.
Beyond the sands, Santa Monica is one of the most active beach cities in Los Angeles County. Even if the water is too cold to swim, there is still so much to do. You can join the locals at Ocean View Park on the tennis or basketball courts.
After that, feel free to go for a bike ride on the bike path. It’s easy to rent bikes from local vendors right on the Strand or just enjoy a leisurely stroll along this sandy beach. Santa Monica State Beach also has plenty of volleyball nets, so you can enjoy beach volleyball all day long.
I’ve even planned a corporate offsite beach day on the southern tip of Santa Monica Beach. I just called up one of the many beach party planning companies that advertise their services online, and they set up and broke down a fancy tent, blankets, and games. It was a huge hit with the employees who lived in the colder states and wanted to experience a real “LA Beach Day.”
After a day in the sun, it’s always nice to relax with a cold drink and a good meal. When it comes to beachside restaurants, Santa Monica has some incredible options. To keep it simple, just head up the boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier. You won’t need to worry too much about your damp clothes or beach waves at these oceanside haunts, but you will want to bring your pocketbook.
Many restaurants line both the Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Avenue. They’re not inexpensive, but they are fun. You can easily spend over $100 on two people. It might be just what you’re looking for, though.
If you want to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean with a Martini in one hand and a Lobster Roll in the other, head straight to Water Grill on Ocean Ave, and you will not be disappointed. That’s my go-to option with hubby.
If you’re looking for more local charm, hop on a scooter or call rideshare to drive up Santa Monica Boulevard a few blocks. Then, settle in for a critically acclaimed Vietnamese, French, Chinese, and Singaporean fusion dinner at Cassia.
Just remember to make a reservation in advance to ensure you can get in. If you can’t get one, there are countless other exquisite dining options in Santa Monica and down Ocean Ave into the Ocean Park neighborhood.
When you’re looking to spend your day on your feet and not on your bum in the sand, head over to Venice City Beach. You won’t be bored enjoying the sights, sounds — and budding(?) smells — of the famous oceanfront boardwalk.
You can join the fun at the volleyball courts, rent a bike, or strap on some roller skates. Note that this is a busier area than the rest of the coastline. The bike path is next to the boardwalk and can get a bit crowded. Just keep a careful eye out for people and their dogs, and be prepared to stop suddenly.
Feel free to join the swarms of tourists and locals walking around and taking in the sights. Even if you want to just saunter down the boardwalk or utilize the beach wheelchairs, you’ll be in good company.
People-watching is the main activity here. Post up next to the skate park to watch amateurs and professionals pump and flow. Check out the oiled-up bodybuilders at the famous outdoor beach gym fondly known as Muscle Beach. Take in the impressive murals and graffiti art on display across the boardwalk and beach structures.
However you choose to spend your time at Venice Beach, the fun doesn’t have to end there. You’re just a short walk away from more sights, great food, and shopping in greater Venice — like Abbot Kinney and the Venice Canals — so plan to spend an activity-filled day enjoying the local scene.
Marina del Rey
While the main beach for this small marina enclave is actually an extension of Venice Beach, the Marina end of this long sandy beach could not be more different from its northern neighbors. Quiet, peaceful, and local are the words that best describe my favorite beach in Los Angeles.
The Venice Beach boardwalk actually comes to an abrupt end as it approaches the streets that lead into this one-time fishing town. Instead of shops and skateparks, you’ll have volleyball nets, thirty-somethings hanging out with their friends listening to Avril Lavigne, and regular beach yoga healing sessions open to all.
Over the last few years, the neighborhood has grown into a clean, well-to-do area. It’s walkable, safe, and full of amenities. You can even walk 20 minutes inland from the shore and find a hidden beach called Marina Beach (aka Mother’s Beach).
Instead of facing the ocean, it faces the Marina itself. This makes it an incredible place to enjoy watching the sailboats and yachts or try your hand at paddle boarding. They even have beach wheelchairs available.
During the warmer summer months, you can even spend a dollar to hop on the Marina del Rey Water Bus. It will ferry you around to the eight boat basins. You can take the opportunity to explore. Keep an eye out for wildlife — some unique to the area — and enjoy the many wonderful seafood-focused restaurants with waterside views.
Will Rogers State Beach
When you want a pure beach oasis away from the vendors and other tourists filling the other westside beaches, you should head to Will Rogers. Further north than other beaches in Los Angeles but not as far as the beaches of Malibu, this local paradise is accessible by car or rideshare.
If you’re driving, plan on spending a daily fee of around $15 for parking. For that price, though, you’ll have no worries about finding a spot and easy access to the beach.
You can enjoy swimming in the waves or suntanning on the sand. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are plenty of volleyball nets spread across this beach, along with the northern extension of the bike path and walkway that will take you all the way down to the southern beaches.
This is the main beach for locals who live in the Pacific Palisades, Westwood, and Topanga Canyon. While there aren’t a lot of restaurants or shops within walking distance, you can find some great places to eat if you drive inland a few miles.
The Beaches of Malibu
You can’t ride your bike from Manhattan Beach to the Beaches of Malibu because this is where the bike paths stop. The Beaches of Malibu are instead famous for their water activities.
The beaches themselves are longer and sit at the foot of towering rocky bluffs and cliffs. Some are even connected to hiking trails that will take you up into the hills and grant you an unparalleled ocean vista.
Visit during low tide and grab the chance to watch marine life swim in the tide pools. If you like, you can just drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) into Malibu until you find the beach that speaks to you.
Nicholas Canyon County Beach
Nicknamed “Zeros” or “Point Zero” by surfers, Nicholas Canyon is a long beach where you can watch surfers enjoy the perfect point break or get out on the water yourself. With lifeguards on site, this spot is known for great water sports.
Even if you aren’t getting on a surfboard, you can enjoy body surfing, swimming, scuba diving, or even wind sailing. During low tide, you’ll have fun exploring the tide pools.
During the summer months, you’ll have your pick of great snacks with plenty of food trucks. To add to your cultural experience, you can visit the working Native American Village on-site at Wishtoyo Foundation’s Chumash Village.
About 1 mile south of the more populated Leo Carrillo State Beach, this is one of the most secluded beaches in Malibu. You’ll feel like you’re enjoying a private oasis. If you’re driving, you can find parking along the PCH for free or park at the generously sized self-pay lot for a reasonable fee.
Point Dume State Beach
Looking for a beach in Malibu with amenities? Point Dume boasts restrooms, showers, and parking lots on site. You can explore the main beach or wander the ascending hiking trails to marvel at an ancient coastal bluff sand dune.
Like other Malibu beaches, you can enjoy plenty of activities like surfing, boogie boarding, and scuba diving. If you happen to be here during the winter month, you can take advantage of the view that the tall ocean cliffs afford to catch gray whales migrating to Baja California, Mexico.
El Matador State Beach
El Matador Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Malibu. It is also one of three beaches that comprise the larger Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. Known as a pocket beach, each is inaccessible to the other. You have to access them from their separate entry points. The other beaches of Meyer Memorial State Beach are El Pescador and La Piedra.
Locals adore El Matador because it’s close to the actual town of Malibu and offers plenty for beach lovers to do. You can enjoy the day sunbathing, exploring local caves and viewing sea stacks, snorkeling, or spending quality time with family and friends at the picnic areas. As you explore, just keep an eye on those tides so you don’t get unwittingly stuck in a sea cave!
When locals or tourists recommend a beach in Malibu, it will almost always be Zuma Beach. This is the ultimate Malibu spot. It boasts a long and wide sandy beach similar to Will Rogers State Beach or Santa Monica but lacks the large crowds. With over 2,000 spots, plenty of beach parking exists, and it even has its own bus stop.
Other amenities include restrooms, showers, volleyball nets, and even beach wheelchairs. When you’re hungry, there are food stands available and restaurants nearby. You’ll see experienced surfers cruising these waters, and if you get in the water, be cognizant of rough waves and riptides.
Malibu Lagoon State Beach (aka Surfrider Beach)
To get a first-hand look at surfing history and culture, check out Malibu Lagoon State Beach (aka Surfrider Beach). Park in the state or county-managed parking lots near the beach and set up camp. From Malibu Surfrider Beach, you can walk to the Malibu Pier where you’ll find locals fishing, restaurants, and great views.
This cultural gem also hosts a California Historical Landmark, the Adamson House. You can tour this Spanish Colonial Revival house and the Malibu Lagoon Museum to absorb the local history of the Chumash tribe, early California ranchos, and 20th-century surfing culture.
The Malibu Pier has even more to offer throughout the year. You can charter a fishing boat or join a whale watching or coastal cruise.
Leo Carrillo State Park
Beachcombers will love exploring this 1.5-mile beach and the surrounding natural park. Named after a famous actor, conservationist, and preservationist, Leo Carrillo State Park is full of tide pools, coastal caves, and reefs.
Giant Sycamore Trees shade campgrounds at the park, so you can enjoy some off-road rest. You can also get off the beaten path on the back-country hiking trails.
Paradise Cove Beach
Aptly named Paradise Cove, it works hard to make you forget your worldly troubles. This is the most resort-like of all Malibu beaches. Paradise Cove Beach Cafe sits directly on the beach here. Stay in your bathing suit and enjoy crispy waffles and fresh coconut drinks while taking in the views. This is one of the few beaches in Los Angeles that openly serves alcohol.
If you’re meeting friends and want to splurge, you can leave your beach umbrellas and wagons at home. Instead, pool your funds and book a Palapa or Double Chaise Lounge. It doesn’t come with a full-service beach butler like the rentals at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, but this is the closest to a beach “resort” that you’ll find in Malibu.
If you want a more curated experience, you can always book a night or eat at some of the finer resort hotels in the area, like Malibu Beach Inn or the Surfrider Hotel, although most of their setups are not directly on the sand.
South Bay Beach Favorites
Starting with Playa del Rey and ending just before Huntington City Beach, the southern beaches in this SoCal county are known for their cute beach towns, good surf, relaxed vibes, fish tacos, volleyball nets, and bike paths. You’re bound to have a “movie-perfect” day at the beach when you visit these southern gems.
Playa del Rey Beach
The first beach you’ll come to after the Marina del Rey breakwater and Ballona Creek is Playa del Rey. This is a quiet beach where you can enjoy a day playing beach games, traveling the bike path and walking trail, or building sandcastles.
While there is a block of small houses and apartments running up into the sand for a couple of blocks (affectionately nicknamed the “Jungle” by locals), Playa del Rey isn’t necessarily a beach town. Most of the locals live on cliffs, and you’ll need to catch a bus or drive up there to enjoy the local shops and food.
Now, if you’re planning on spending a star-studded evening by the bonfires at Dockweiler State Beach (just to the south), you can head to Whole Foods up in Playa del Rey for marshmallows and hot dogs.
Dockweiler State Beach
One of the most unique beaches in LA, Dockweiler offers fire rings, a hang gliding practice and training area, a bike trail (of course), shore fishing, and protected local wildlife. There is plenty of parking, beach wheelchairs are available, and if you’re catching a flight later on, it’s the closest beach to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
El Porto Beach
The El Porto neighborhood is your introduction to the City of Manhattan Beach if you drive south down the PCH. If you’re a surfer (or body surfer), the waves at El Porto Beach are known to be larger than nearby parts of the coastline.
There are volleyball courts, biking, and skating on the Marvin Braude bike path. Parking is limited, and you’ll likely be at a meter, but this is a great place to start if you want to head into the City of Manhattan Beach later in the day and enjoy a more peaceful morning earlier on.
Manhattan Beach is known for its world-famous beach volleyball. There are over 50 volleyball nets set up on this sunny, 2-mile California stretch. The Strand bike path also winds its way through Manhattan Beach, connecting the relaxed vibes of this well-off sunny paradise to other southern beaches like Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.
Due to its age and materials, Manhattan Beach Pier is a state historic landmark that you can walk along to feel “one with the waves and the surfers.”
Manhattan Beach has a great sandy beach to enjoy, and there are many wonderful restaurants, shops, and parks to visit within walking distance. Grab a bite to eat or a gelato in town and walk north along the strand for about 20 minutes until you find Bruce’s Beach. Here, you can watch the sunset with locals from this hilly top and read about the tumultuous history of this plot of land.
Hermosa City Beach
The City of Hermosa Beach is a destination for Angelenos looking to live the modern surfer guy or gal lifestyle. It’s a cute beach town with a lively restaurant and bar scene and blocks of developed suburban neighborhoods as you move inland.
If you’re looking to enjoy the local scene, check if you’ll be visiting Hermosa Beach during one of its many community events or festival days. They frequently host events like the AAU Southern Pacific Grand Prix Series — a youth regional volleyball competition. And this town takes its young athlete’s careers seriously.
After a day in the sand, take in the setting sun from the Hermosa City Beach Pier and then head up Pier Avenue. You’ll have your pick of great beachside eateries to wash down some oysters and beer.
Redondo County Beach
If you’re curious about what a horseshoe-shaped pier looks like, then you’ll want to head down to Redondo Beach. Instead of sticking straight out into the ocean at a 90-degree angle from the shoreline, the scenic Redondo Beach Pier curves out from one end of the beach to end on the other side.
There’s a fun and rich history around surfing legends and the historical oil and lumber trade that you can learn as you saunter through the colorful buildings, restaurants, and shops that line the pier and the nearby Esplanade.
If you bring your pole, you can even fish from the pier. Redondo Beach is a great destination for a romantic beach day or a fun family adventure with plenty of parking, a sandy shoreline, and a vibrant local restaurant scene.
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, right below Redondo Beach, offers a unique beach experience that caters to various preferences.
With tide pools, trails, and cliff-top ocean vistas, this location caters less to the sun-bathers and more to the adventurous hiking types. Because of the beach’s rocky shoreline, you should wear water shoes if you plan to go near the water or explore tide pools.
Note that this beach is part of a nature preserve, so there’s a fee to get in. Check the website for the most up-to-date admission fee, but as of this writing, the first 30 minutes are free, and then it’s $6 every two hours after that. There’s available parking, a nearby picnic area, and clean restroom facilities located near the park entrance.
Although there are no dining establishments right on the beach, the park’s proximity to Rancho Palos Verdes and its charming coastal villages means that a diverse range of local food and drink options are easily accessible just a short drive away, allowing visitors to savor the flavors of the region after a day of rustic seaside adventure.
Long Beach is a city renowned for its picturesque beaches and vibrant culture. Among its many seaside gems, one area — Belmont Shore Beach — stands out as the ultimate destination for sun-soaked serenity and coastal charm.
The backdrop of the beach is a charming coastal community dotted with colorful beachfront homes and palm-lined streets.
For water enthusiasts, Belmont Shore Beach offers a range of activities to enjoy. Whether you’re into swimming, paddleboarding, surfing, or simply wading in the gentle waves, this beach has something for you. Additionally, there are rental shops nearby where you can purchase all of the necessary gear for your aquatic adventures.
Belmont Shore Beach also has a beachfront bike and pedestrian path. The path stretches along the beach, providing an excellent opportunity for biking, walking, or jogging, with the soothing sound of waves to guide you as you go.
After a day of beachside fun, Belmont Shore offers a vibrant dining and entertainment scene. The beach is within walking distance of a ton of shops, restaurants, and attractions. Visitors can easily explore 2nd Street, the area’s main commercial thoroughfare, which offers dining options, boutique shops, and entertainment venues.
You can savor a delicious meal while overlooking the beach or unwind with a cocktail at one of the beachfront bars. The lively atmosphere and friendly locals make it a great place to enjoy the Long Beach life.
Belmont Shore Beach is not just a great destination for solo travelers or couples; it’s also highly family-friendly. With its calm waters, clean sands, and nearby playgrounds, children can safely enjoy the beach, ensuring that parents can relax and enjoy the beach as well.
There are two nearby parking lots, both of which cost $3 every two hours. They’re located here:
- 5400 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90803
- 1 Bennett Ave, Long Beach, CA 90803
The beach also has an accessible public restroom at 79 Claremont Pl, Long Beach, CA 90803.
Frequently Asked Questions for Best Beaches in Los Angeles
1. What are the best beaches in Los Angeles?
- Some of the best beaches in Los Angeles include Santa Monica State Beach, Venice Beach, Zuma Beach, Malibu Beach, and Manhattan Beach. Each offers its unique charm and attractions.
2. Which beach is best for families?
- Santa Monica State Beach is a great choice for families. It has a wide sandy shoreline, a large parking lot by the beach, a famous pier with an amusement park, and plenty of restaurants nearby.
3. What is the best beach for surfing?
- If you’re into surfing, head to Malibu Beach. It’s renowned for its consistent waves and is a favorite spot for surfers of all skill levels.
4. Are there any dog-friendly beaches in Los Angeles?
- Yes, there are dog-friendly beaches in Los Angeles. Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach and Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach are popular choices where your furry friends can enjoy the sand and surf.
5. Are there any hidden gems among Los Angeles beaches?
- El Matador Beach in Malibu is often considered a hidden gem. It features sea caves and stunning rock formations, making it a picturesque and less crowded spot.
6. Are there any free public beaches in Los Angeles?
- All beaches in California are free and open to the public, including those in Los Angeles. However, sometimes, it can be challenging to access a beach without parking in a paid lot nearby. Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Zuma Beach are a few examples where you can enjoy the sun and surf without any entrance fees.
7. What’s the best time to visit?
- The best time to visit Los Angeles beaches is typically during the summer months, from June to September, when the weather is warmest, and the water is most inviting. However, the beaches can be crowded during this time, so plan accordingly and explore the less popular beaches on this list for more private beach time.
8. Are there facilities like restrooms and parking available at Los Angeles beaches?
- Most popular Los Angeles beaches have facilities like restrooms, parking lots, and food vendors nearby. However, it’s a good idea to check ahead, as availability can vary by location.
9. Can you have bonfires at Los Angeles beaches?
- Some Los Angeles beaches, like Dockweiler Beach, allow bonfires in designated areas. However, regulations may change, so it’s essential to check local ordinances and fire conditions before planning a bonfire.
10. What is the main beach of Los Angeles?
- Remember that conditions at beaches can change, so it’s always a good idea to check local websites or inquire with authorities for the most up-to-date information on beach access, rules, and safety precautions. Enjoy your time exploring the beautiful beaches of Los Angeles!
Miranda, a food and travel blogger for Travel Breakdown, loves to travel the world with the love of her life, eating and drinking her way through different cultures. Her ultimate joy stems from the simple yet profound act of relishing a delightful meal in the company of people she cherishes.