Monterey Dunes Beaches

Zmudowski, Moss Landing, Salinas River & Marina Beaches

Monterey Dunes Beaches


Monterey County
Off Highway 1
Zmudowski State Beach
7 miles south of Watsonville, Struve Rd. to Giberson Rd.
Moss Landing State Beach
8 miles south of Watsonville on Jetty Rd.
Salinas River State Beach
1 mile south of Moss Landing on Potrero Rd.
Marina State Beach
10 miles north of Monterey in Marina on Reservation Rd.


Day Use Free
Hours vary:
  (831) 649-2836

Main Attractions

  • Fishing
  • Surfing, windsurfing
  • Horseback riding
  • Wildlife viewing


  • Portable toilets


  • Strong rip currents
  • Deep off-shore dropoffs

Special Regulations

  • No vehicles or trailers over 21 feet - limited turn around space at Moss Landing Beach
  • No alcohol or glass containers on beach
  • No dogs on beach
  • No fires on beach


  • Zmudowski: none
  • Moss Landing: beach trail road has hard packed sand, jetty accessible for 100 yards.
  • Salinas River: none
  • Marina: parking, restrooms, boardwalk, observation platform, 2 picnic tables

Nearby Beaches

  • Sunset State Beach, 3 miles north of Zmudowski Beach
  • Monterey State Beach, 6 miles south of Marina Beach

Monterey Bay

Monterey Dunes Beaches

The Dunes Beaches are a string of four similar state beaches along the northern Monterey County coast. Sand dunes serve as buffers for ocean breezes and as habitat for shore creatures. None of the state beaches has been developed beyond parking areas, simple restroom facilities, boardwalks, and a few picnic tables.

Strong rip currents make them very dangerous for swimming, although experienced surfers and windsurfers frequent some of the beaches. Nearby rivers, estuaries and wetlands are exceptional places for viewing wildlife, including birds, sea otters, and seals.

         Zmudowski State Beach   Moss Landing State Beach   Salinas River State Beach   Marina State Beach

Zmudowski State Beach

A trail leads over the dunes to the sandy beach. Among the most popular activities at Zmudowski Beach are fishing and clamming. The beach connects with Moss Landing Beach to the south, creating a continuous 3-mile stretch of sand. Next to the beach is the Pajaro River estuary, a nature preserve. Horses are allowed along the waterline.

Zmudowski Beach Sign, CA

Visitors to Zmudowski State Beach find they often have the long expanse of sand pretty much to themselves. Expect big waves crashing onto the shore and fishermen casting into the surf. Pick up supplies in nearby Watsonville before heading to the beach.

The road to the beach is filled with potholes in places and requires a little maneuvering. Restrooms consist of a single porta-potty, poorly maintained.

Moss Landing State Beach

Moss Landing Beach draws surfers, windsurfers, horseback riders, bird watchers, nature lovers, and anglers. Its proximity to Elkhorn Slough affords beach-goers the opportunity to watch sea lions and rafts of sea otters out in the slough and even on the beach. Picnickers appreciate the row of sand dunes that shields them from the ocean wind.

Moss Landing State Beach, CA

Kayaks can be launched from a landing spot along the slough, but caution should be taken when entering the main channel. See our information on Elkhorn Slough. Several porta-potties are located along the side of the road. As with nearby beaches, these are poorly maintained.

The inland view includes the yacht harbor, the mouth of Elkhorn Slough, and the towering stacks of the power plant. A jetty at the edge of the slough is a good place to walk out for better views and for fishing.

Salinas River State Beach

A boardwalk and steep dunes trails lead down to the beach. The most popular activities here are hiking, clamming, and fishing. Horseback riders enjoy the beach. Just south of the state beach is the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge.

Salinas River State Beach Sign, CA

A sandy walking trail on the leeward side of the dunes runs the full length of the state beach. Facilities at Salinas River Beach are similar to rest of the Monterey Dunes beaches, porta-potties that are in need of servicing.

Marina State Beach

Follow a 2,000-foot boardwalk to the beach. Halfway to the beach is a wheelchair accessible observation platform. Access to the beach can also be gained from Lake Court in Marina. Pass through a gate and follow a steep trail up to the beach. Horses are not allowed here.

Marina Beach, Monterey County, CA

Hang-gliding is popular at Marina State Beach. A hang-gliding deck with a launch ramp is located at the main beach at the Reservation Road entrance. Learn more about hang-gliding on our Activities page.

The Marina Beach sand dunes extend down the coast to Sand City and are the highest in the central coast. Parts of the dunes are closed during the snowy plover nesting season. Immediately north of the state peach is the Marina Nature Preserve with a signed nature trail.


Moss Landing Beach is a great place to watch for bottled nosed dolphins through summer and fall from one of the overlooks on the bluff. A pair of binoculars is a good item to add to your beach bag. Gray whales are most often sighted from mid-December through mid-April. Humpback whales, blue whales and killer whales are sometimes seen during this same migration period. Also keep an eye out for sea otters. For bird watchers expect various shore birds, white tailed kites, western snowy plovers, and red-tailed hawks.

Zmudowski State Beach Map, Monterey County, CA
Moss Landing State Beach Map, Monterey County, CA

Salinas River State Beach Map, Monterey County, CA
Marina State Beach Map, Monterey County, CA

Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

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