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Best Beach Towns California: Discovering The [Surprising Hidden] Gems

The California coast is one of the world’s finest. From the snowcapped mountains and rugged shorelines to the breathtaking seaside sunsets bordered by the azure-blue sea, it’s no wonder that California beach towns attract visitors from all over the world. But what criteria make a beach town great, and which ones are the best beach towns in California to visit?

A few of the best beach towns California are Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Diego. They are among over 100 beach towns in California. These places have a mix of good weather, exciting attractions, beautiful coastal views, and a cool beach vibe. 

Gold sand Califormia

California boasts over 800 miles of beautiful coastline. If you’re planning a family vacation there, you should reconsider your destination pick. You want to find a town with attractions everyone will enjoy. Our top choices include San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Big Sur.

It’s a combination of elements that makes a great beach — from sunny weather to activities like great surfing, fishing, swimming, and more — and some have realized that the perfect beach requires both of those things. From the bustling Los Angeles beaches like Ventura to the quiet coastal community of Seal Beach, there are plenty of California beach towns to satisfy anyone’s tastes. 

I grew up in San Diego and have traveled up and down the West Coast, experiencing the different attractions and combinations that make each place special in its own way. 

Keep reading to explore some of these wonderful beaches in California!

Which Cities in California Have the Best Beaches

The best beaches in California are scattered along the long coastline. They offer beautiful views, calm waters, and plenty of room for swimming and surfing. The most popular beaches are Santa Monica Beach, Malibu Beach, Zuma Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.

Criteria for Best Beach Towns in California

To get closer to figuring out the best Californian beach towns, it makes sense to list some of the criteria that signify an attractive beach town for people. 

Venice California has nice beach activities

1) Urban beaches – These are the most popular beaches in California. They’re close to major cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Monica, Long Beach, and Orange County.

2) Family beaches – These are family-friendly beaches where kids can play safely on the shallow beach areas and have tide pools to explore

3) Quiet beaches – These are secluded beaches where people enjoy peace and quiet.

4) Beaches with water sports – These are beaches where people can participate in water sports like surfing, swimming, boating, fishing, etc.

5) Beaches with wildlife – These are beaches where you’ll see animals like seals, whales, dolphins, otters, and birds living wild in nature

6) Beaches with restaurants – These are often small coastal villages, with a warmth and charm that invites the visitor to something good to eat

7) The Beach Vibe – The beach vibe is based on the atmosphere of the town’s beach. You can feel it as everyone smiles. Everyone seems to be happy, but there is an aura of energy in the air. Not to mention the “cool factor” that sets this place apart


What’s the Attraction of California Beach Towns?

California beach towns attract visitors for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that California beach towns offer a variety of attractions. It’s linked to our criteria listed above. California beach towns offer visitors a plethora of things to do and see. California beach towns are known for their beautiful beaches, mild weather, and great scenery. 

To some, the best beaches in California can be found on the coast of Orange and Los Angeles counties. For example, here are three favorites:

Surfing is possible in most California beach towns

Santa Monica has been voted as one of the most beautiful beach towns in America, in the top five, according to theTravel.com (Source) (https://www.thetravel.com/best-beach-towns-to-live-in/).

Huntington Beach is known for its waves and perfect sandcastles, while Malibu offers crystal clear waters and stunning sunsets.

San Diego is home to some of the most popular surfing spots in North America, including La Jolla Shores and Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Coastal towns in Northern California are attractively beautiful. However, the northern coast is colder and wetter. However, different types of attractions and activities can be found in the northern beach towns, especially for those who like wildlife and beach landscapes with rocks, trees, and cliffs.

List of Beach Towns – Some Favorites

California beaches are famous for their beauty and charm. But there’s something else about these towns that makes them unique: They’re home to some of the most beautiful and charming communities in the world.

From San Diego to Santa Monica, here are 5 of our favorite California beach towns.

  1. Newport Beach

Newport Beach is one of Southern California’s most popular destinations. With its gorgeous homes, amazing restaurants, and stunning views, it’s no wonder people flock here every year.

  1. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful scenery. The town itself is small, but the surrounding area offers plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities.

  1. Malibu

Malibu is known for its celebrity residents, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking views. This coastal community is located in Los Angeles County, but many people consider it part of the West Coast.

  1. Venice Beach

Venice Beach is a neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA. It’s known for its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and art galleries. People come from all over the world to visit this place.

It's easy to enjoy the sand and ocean in California beach towns
  1. Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a city in southern California. It’s known for being a hub of culture, dining, shopping, and nightlife.

California beaches are known for their beautiful scenery and warm weather.

But there’s another side to these popular destinations: They’re home to some of the most beautiful towns in the state.

Whether you live near one of these coastal cities or plan to visit one of them for the first time, here are 5 of our favorite California beach towns.

  1. Monterey

Monterey is located along the Pacific Coast, about 90 miles south of San Francisco. This picturesque town is known for its historic buildings and gorgeous views.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the world’s top aquariums, and the Cannery Row area is a must-see destination.

  1. Big Sur

Big Sur is located along the Pacific coastline about 150 miles south of San Francisco and is known for its rugged beauty and stunning views.

Artists and writers have settled in the city, and it has appeared in movies like “Gravity” and “Jurassic Park.”.

What Is the Nicest Beach in Southern California

San Diego, which is also my hometown, has many beaches which win the prize of being named the nicest beaches in Southern California.

There are several reasons why San Diego beaches are great places to visit. The weather is almost always perfect. The beaches are also excellent places for surfing. Moreover, some beaches are both dog- and family-friendly. Finally, the area offers a wide variety of shopping and dining options.

The notable San Diego and San Diego County beaches are:

*Coronado Island- This island is accessible by the Coronado Bay Bridge and driving on the Silver Strand. It has several parks with picnic tables and grills, restrooms, and other facilities. There are also many restaurants, bars, and stores.

Mission Bay Park

Mission Bay Park is located in Mission Bay, and it’s a wonderful place to spend the day. There are lots of parks and playgrounds, and there are also many restaurants and shops nearby. It is a great place to go swimming, fishing, and boating. 

La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove are two of the most popular beaches in San Diego County. La Jolla Shores beach is popular and is often called “Kellog’s Beach,” as the park right behind the beach bears the same name. It boasts a nearly one-mile shoreline and has plenty of space for surfing and other beach activities. Often you can see red kayaks paddling en masse further out in the distance. 

 La Jolla Shores is just a few minutes away from La Jolla Cove, and both offer beautiful views of La Jolla’s famous rock formations. There are restaurants and cafes lined up in the town center, so if you want to grab something to eat before heading back to your hotel, this is the place to do it.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is another great place to visit in San Diego. It has a beautiful ocean view, especially from the Ocean Beach Pier (it might be closed for repairs). OB is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, with lots of bars and restaurants nearby, and it’s a short drive from Downtown San Diego.

Pacific Beach

Located in the heart of San Diego, Pacific Beach is a great place to spend a day with the family. There’s a sandy beach to explore and plenty of restaurants and shops nearby if you need a break from the sun. Pacific Beach is also home to one of San Diego’s most popular nightlife districts, so there’s always something to do.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Situated in Torrey Pines, Torry Pines State Beach is a perfect place to spend a day by the ocean. You can swim in the gentle waves, and there are picnic areas and barbecue pits nearby. Torrey Pines State Beach is also great for hiking; the Torrey Pines Nature Preserve is adjacent to the beach and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Beach life in California beach towns

Del Mar

The city of Del Mar is located just north of Los Angeles. Del Mar is known for its beautiful beaches, including Del Mar South Beach, Del Mar North Beach, and Del Mar West Beach. Del Mar is also known as a community where families and dogs go together. Many of the beaches in Del Mar are family-friendly, allowing kids to play while parents relax.


Encinitas operates Moonlight State Beach, a California state park, and it is the main beach in Encinitas. In addition to being a large family-friendly beach, it has a grassy park with a kids’ play area. Because the beach slopes gently, playing in the surf is more fun and safer. The park and the beach are crowded with people during the summer months.


Carlsbad State Beach offers an amazing view of the sunset. Ponto Beach, just south of the campground, has a pay lot. The beachfront closest to the parking lot is flagged for surfing only.

Southern California Beach Town

Southern California beaches are known for their beautiful scenery, warm weather, and pristine waters. But there’s another reason why these beaches are popular: They’re filled with fun things to do for the whole family.

Here are five southern California beach towns where families can enjoy everything from surfing lessons to sandcastle building contests.

  1. Newport Beach

Newport Beach is located about 30 miles south of Los Angeles. The city is home to Balboa Island, which features many restaurants, shops, and hotels.

Balboa Island is also home to the famous Balboa Pavilion built-in 1927. This landmark structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are plenty of places to visit in the area, such as the Newport Harbor Art Museum, which houses artworks by artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Newport Beach is also home to the Orange County Fairgrounds, which hosts car shows, concerts, and rodeos.

  1. Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is located about 25 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The city offers visitors a wide variety of attractions, including the Surf City USA amusement park, which features rides, games, and food.

Surf City USA is also home to the Huntington Beach Pier, featured in movies such as “Gidget” and “Happy Days.

Huntington Beach also offers several museums, including the Huntington Beach Central Library, containing over 1 million books.

  1. Laguna Beach

Located about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Laguna Beach is one of the most picturesque cities in southern California.

The city is home to the Laguna Beach Art Center, which features exhibits by local artists. Visitors can also take a stroll down Main Street, lined with art galleries, boutiques, and cafes.

Laguna Beach is also home to Laguna Canyon State Park, featuring hiking trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds.

  1. San Clemente

San Clemente is located about 35 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The town is home to the San Clemente Pier, which is open daily during daylight hours.

Visitors can rent kayaks and paddleboards here, and they can also go fishing.

San Clemente is also home to the San Clement Beach Golf Course, part of the Pacific Palisades Golf Club. There are two 18-hole courses at this club.

  1. Dana Point

Dana Point is located about 40 miles south of Los Angeles near Orange and San Diego counties.

This coastal community is home to the Dana Point Harbor, surrounded by parks and public spaces.

The harbor is also home to the Dana Point Public Market, which sells fresh produce and seafood.

Dana Point is also home to the Mission Inn, originally built in 1926. It now serves as an inn and restaurant.

blue sky and palm trees make California Beach towns scenic
  1. Pismo Dunes Beach

One of the beaches in Southern California is Pismo Beach. Located in San Luis Obisbo County, Pismo Beach is a classic beach town. The city is situated on the Central Coast, halfway between San Francisco to Los Angeles.

People often go to Pismo Beach because it’s a beautiful place to visit. However, it’s also a great place to live. People come here to relax, take walks along the beach, and enjoy the stunning views of the sunset.

Nothern California Beach Towns

Beach towns can range from small villages to large cities, and each has its own unique vibe. Some are bustling metropolises, others sleepy fishing communities and some are just plain beautiful. Here are the most popular beach destinations in California.

Northern California has some of the most beautiful beach landscapes in the US, including Monterey Bay, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and many others. Some of the most popular beach towns in this region include Pacific Grove, Carmel, Monterey, Cambria, Aptos, Santa Cruz, Capitola, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and Del Mar.

San Francisco has many beaches, including Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, Golden Gate Park, and Ocean Avenue. It’s also home to the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can find shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Northern California beaches are known for their beautiful scenery, warm weather, and amazing views.

But there’s another reason why these towns are perfect for families: They’re close to San Francisco and Sacramento.

Here are five northern California beach towns that are ideal for families.

  1. Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is located about 30 minutes north of San Francisco. The town itself is home to many restaurants and shops. But what makes it unique is its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a popular destination for surfers and swimmers alike. There are plenty of places to rent a houseboat or condo, too.

  1. Monterey

Monterey is one of the most popular tourist destinations in California. It’s famous for its historic buildings, art galleries, and scenic beauty.

There are many things to do here, such as visiting the aquarium, going whale watching, and taking a tour of the Carmel Mission.

  1. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a small city located near Silicon Valley. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and surfing spots.

There are lots to see and do here, including visiting the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, riding the roller coaster, and checking out the local farmers market.

  1. Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a small coastal community located between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles. It’s known for being an excellent place to visit for fishing, boating, and swimming.

There are tons of restaurants and bars in this area so that you won’t go hungry. Plus, there are plenty of hotels nearby.

  1. Eureka

Eureka is a small city located about 50 miles south of Redding. It’s known for having a lot of outdoor recreation opportunities.

The city has several parks to enjoy camping, hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

There are also several museums and historical sites in the area.

—2. Carmel

Carmel is located about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. It’s a small coastal town with a lot of history.

There are lots to see and do in town, including wineries, golf courses, and outdoor recreation.

—3. Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove is located about an hour south of San Francisco. The town is known for its scenic beauty, historical sites, and quaint charm.

There are many things to do in Pacific Grove, including walking along the boardwalk, visiting the zoo, and exploring the gardens.

What Is the Most Affordable Beach Town in Southern California

Two affordable beach towns close to each other are Encinitas and San Clemente. 

Encinitas is a surf town in southern California that retains its “throwback to what is known as Highway 101 beach culture” and “the charm here is that the town remains a throwback to what is known as Highway 101 beach culture”. (Source

It’s in San Diego and is one of the most affordable beach towns. It has a median home value that’s considerably lower than many other towns in the area.

San Clemente is another classic Californian coastal town with great surfing. The average cost of a home in this city is around $490,000. It is significantly less than the average home in nearby Newport Beach, for instance, or further up the coast in Los Angeles. There are four public beaches in Encinitas and San Clemente, which can be accessed by car or bike. It’s also known for growing the popular Christmastime flower, the poinsettia.

Final Thoughts      

The following article will help you decide where to spend your next vacation. It will also help you determine whether or not you would enjoy living in these towns. If you choose to move here, you’ll be glad to know that you won’t have to worry about finding jobs because plenty of opportunities is available. 

You’ll also love the fact that you can live comfortably without having to work very long hours. There are many things to consider when choosing a beach town to live in. Some factors include weather, cost of living, crime rates, etc. We’ve included some helpful information below that might help you narrow down your choices. Good luck!