Summer is here, and we want to go to the beach! In case you missed it, Los Angeles is a coastal city with several neighborhoods that lie right by the Pacific Ocean. Yet since LA is such a huge city with so much going on 24/7, it may feel daunting to figure out which way to go to find your new favorite beach.
- Did We Mention That Los Angeles Is a Coastal City?
- Leo Carrillo State Park and County Line Beach
- Point Dume State Beach and Zuma Beach
- Will Rogers State Beach and Sunset Point
- Santa Monica Pier
- Venice Beach
- Manhattan Beach
- Flat Rock Beach and the Palos Verdes Estates Shoreline Preserve
- Terranea Cove and Abalone Cove
- Before We Go, Here Are a Few More Tips for a Better Day at the Beach
So which beaches should you visit during your LA trip? Because the City of Angels is so massive, we’ve put together a convenient cheat sheet of the best Los Angeles beaches to make your beach day(s) a little less stressful. From the glamorous shores of Malibu to the hidden gems of Palos Verdes, here are the best LA beaches to explore and enjoy.
With the stunning skyscrapers of DTLA, the bright lights of Hollywood, the paparazzi cameras staked out to catch glimpses of celebrities all over the place, and so much more to see and do across town, it’s weirdly easy to forget that the Pacific Ocean is one of LA’s next-door neighbors. In fact, Los Angeles County actually has about 75 miles of coastline with a wide variety of beaches to please almost anyone.
While there are plenty of reasons to explore on dry land, let’s not forget the beaches that made this region famous in the first place. We’re moving north to south to guide you through these great beaches. Whether you prefer dramatic bluffs, great surfing waves, charming tide pools, or wide stretches of sand, we’re sure there’s a beach here that’s right for you.
If you’re down for a long drive away from the city—and even a long drive from the main attractions of Malibu—you’ll be rewarded with the spectacular sights and sounds of Leo Carrillo State Park. This northwestern corner of LA County boasts some of the region’s cleanest ocean water, multiple point breaks with good northwest swells, several sea caves and tunnels, and pretty tide pools at the south end of Leo Carrillo.
This is especially a great place to stop if you’re doing an extended road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to Santa Barbara, Big Sur, and San Francisco. If you’re planning to stay in the LA area, it’s probably a good idea to make a day trip of visiting the beach here, hiking the Santa Monica Mountains and cruising the PCH in Malibu.
If you want almost 2 miles of wide and sandy beach closer to the center of the action in Malibu, then you’ll probably want to go to the legendary shores of Zuma Beach. While this area tends to be less crowded than the beaches closer to the I-405 Freeway, you probably still want to go as early as you can to find parking, find your spot on the sand, and find your perfect spot to enter the water. After all, local surfers love the close-to-shore breaks here.
For even more beach for you to enjoy, Point Dume State Park is right next to Zuma. The water here is great for swimmers and scuba divers, and landlubbers can still have a great time at the nature preserve on top of the bluff.
For many on LA’s Westside, this beautiful expanse of coastline in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood is basically their extended backyard and their window to the sea. Don’t get too worked up over potential celebrity sightings here (you’ll probably have better luck in Malibu, or heading inland to Brentwood), but do get excited for a long and broad stretch of sand that opens up to the area’s calmest and gentlest waves—particularly at Sunset Point, right where Sunset Boulevard meets PCH. This beach is perfect for stand-up paddle-boarders and novice surfers, and you’re sure to enjoy stunning views of the entire “Queen’s Necklace” of Santa Monica Bay from Malibu to Palos Verdes.
You’ll find more amenities on the south side of Will Rogers (closer to Santa Monica), while you’ll find the fancier ocean-view restaurants on the north side of the beach, closer to Malibu.
Now this feels more like the world-famous LA beachy B-roll footage that we all know and love. Though Santa Monica is an independent city, its beaches are more accessible to more Angelenos and way more tourists, so there’s almost always a huge crowd here. Regardless, Santa Monica is worth visiting for the very wide beaches with amazing views of the entire “Queen’s Necklace,” as well as a long and wide pier that also functions as the local open-air market and amusement park.
Though the water quality directly under and by the pier tends to be quite rough, you will find cleaner water and better surfing waves a little way south in Santa Monica’s Ocean Park neighborhood.
No list of great LA beaches seems complete without mentioning the one LA beach that’s known the world over for legendary bodybuilders, the grooviest countercultural vortex this side of San Francisco‘s Haight-Ashbury, and a richness of cultural diversity that we don’t find in most other Southern California coastal communities. Of course, we’re talking about Venice.
If you want to try out the kinds of workouts that burly legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and Frank Zane did, or if you simply want to—ahem—”take in the views,” head to Venice’s Muscle Beach for all the flexin’ and all the admirin.’ For a radically different set of aesthetics, saunter along the boardwalk and enjoy the prime opportunity to watch street performers, skateboarders, artists of all stripes, and so many more people march to the beat of their own drums. For the actual beach and actual ocean water, you’ll catch some surfers at Breakwater near the skate park. For a quieter stretch of sand, head south of the pier and towards the Marina del Rey Jetty.
Located south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the infamous Chevron oil refinery, Manhattan Beach and the rest of the South Bay communities simultaneously feel so close to the big city and so removed from the rest of the LA scene. Instead of movie stars and paparazzi, you’re more likely to find a lot of surfers, a whole lot of beach volleyball action, and the kind of “chillaxed” vibes that are more common down in Orange County.
Fortunately for ocean lovers, Manhattan Beach’s water quality tends to be quite high despite whatever assumptions travelers have based on seeing the nearby Chevron refinery. El Porto on the north end tends to attract more surfers, while the pier tends to draw in more casual beachcombers and revelers. For a particularly fascinating look into California Black history, head to Bruce’s Beach between the pier and El Porto to learn more about how a family of trailblazers and local civil rights activists successfully prevented the erasure of Southern California’s most storied Black-run beach resort.
While the Palos Verdes Peninsula tends to attract fewer visitors than the more famous LA County beaches to the north—and perhaps even the Orange County beaches to the south—you’re really missing out if you sleep on this picturesque stretch of California coastline. In Palos Verdes Estates, you can enjoy a particularly scenic drive, walk, hike, or bike ride along the Bluff Cove Trail and the Shoreline Preserve.
At Bluff Cove Trail, you can access the very rocky yet very pretty Flat Rock Beach. Amenities are sparse, and this isn’t really a good spot for swimming or surfing, but this is a prime location for hikers and rock climbers who appreciate some stunning scenery with their exercise.
Continuing south, the bluff top trail at the Shoreline Preserve will lead you to another small beach loaded with vibrant tide pools. If you continue south, you can even check out the remains of the SS Dominator, a freighter ship that crashed here in 1961.
Situated right by the Terranea Resort in the more understatedly luxurious enclave of Rancho Palos Verdes, Terranea Cove offers an amazing sea cave and a small rocky beach to enjoy. It’s not the best beach for sunbathers and swimmers, but it does connect to a nice blufftop trail that goes along the perimeter of the resort. If you continue east, you’ll land at Abalone Cove, where you’ll find more amenities, a wider sandy beach, a spectacular vantage point to spot Catalina Island, and some of the best tide pools in the entire region.
On the west side of the resort, you’ll find Pelican Cove and the Point Vicente Lighthouse. Across Palos Verdes Drive from Abalone Cove, you can see for yourself the famed Wayfarers Chapel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright. Even better, you can connect to more trails in the area that reveal more of Palos Verdes’ natural beauty.
LA’s beaches don’t always get the love and respect they deserve, so we wanted to do our part to change this. No matter which beaches you visit, please make sure to respect the beaches and the wildlife that depend on them by cleaning up after yourself (as in, don’t litter) and taking good care of yourself (as in, make sure you have water and sunscreen). For more information on Southern California beaches, including up-to-date water quality reporting and more detailed environmental records, check Heal the Bay’s interactive map. The Surfrider Foundation is also a valuable resource for in-depth environmental data on California’s beaches.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey across LA to discover la-la land’s best beaches. For more awesome content to help you plan your next adventure, check out the 20 best national parks to explore, Lake Tahoe’s best outdoor adventure spots, and our favorite San Diego beaches.
OK, that’s enough of us talking—it’s time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!
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