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From San Diego to San Francisco

Beaches Index
San Diego to
San Francisco

California's Central Coast Beaches:

Great Play in the Sand and Surf
Family Beaches

All California beaches have dangerous rip-currents and other hazards. Children playing near or in the surf should be supervised at all times.

  • Seacliff Beach

    - usually gentle surf, convenient and plentiful facilities, including restrooms, snack bar, showers, pier with cement boat, and shaded picnic areas.
  • Capitola Beach

    - good facilities, wharf, close to shops and restaurants in Capitola, family atmosphere.
  • Santa Cruz Beach

    - crowded in the summer, but lots of fun for kids, next to the Boardwalk, pier, good facilities
  • Monterey Beaches

    - close to El Estero Park, wharf, bike trail, lots of room along a narrow beach, usually gentle surf, close to Monterey shops and restaurants
  • Carmel Beach

    - Bring your dog and let it run free, close to shops and restaurants, broad sandy beach, campfires allowed on the beach, free parking
  • Half Moon Bay State Beach

    - Roosevelt, Dunes, Venice, and Francis - a long expanse of sand, good facilities, easy access; Francis Beach has the best facilities, including a big picnic area, outdoor showers, and a lifeguard
  • Avila Beach

    - protected beach, gentle surf, facilities nearby.
  • Pismo Beach

    - long expanse of sand with easy access and plenty of nearby facilities

Some of the Best Surfing Beaches

  • Cowell Beach

    - Steamer Lane, one of the premier surfing destinations in Northern California
  • Waddell Beach

    - Site of the 2009 Grade-3 Oakley Pro Junior ASP North America Championships, compete with kitesurfers, but great waves
  • Carmel River Beach

    - often has good surfing, a favorite of locals
  • Ocean Beach

    - consistently good surfing, especially at the north end. Dangerous rip-currents
  • Pacifica (Linda Mar) Beach

    - always busy with surfers, good facilities nearby, easy access.
  • Scott Creek Beach

    (Davenport) - reliable waves at the north end of the beach
  • Asilomar Beach

    (Monterey) - best surfing at south end, good year-round
  • Sand Dollar Beach

    (Big Sur) - best in the fall, plenty of room to spread out

Best Wildlife Viewing Beaches

Popular Diving Beaches

Scenic Beaches

  • McWay Cove in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

    - McWay Falls spills 80 feet onto the beach, unspoiled, spectacular, a must stop when driving the Big Sur coast.
  • Point Lobos

    - rugged coastal rocks, crashing waves, coves, beaches, and islands - there's something spectacular around every bend in the trail
  • Shark Fin Cove

    - photographers know this place, just south of Davenport - breathtaking rocks rising out of the surf
  • Baker Beach

    - bring your camera for fabulous shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin headlands.
  • Natural Bridges Beach

    - the big arches have collapsed, but the rocks, the surf, the monarch butterflies, and the tide pools draw thousands every year
  • Spooner's Cove

    - in Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay. Beautiful secluded beach with rugged shoreline
  • Gray Whale Cove

    - this scenic little beach hides at the bottom of a long stairway - soaring cliffs, crashing surf, and sparkling sand
  • Pfeiffer Beach

    - one of the best in Big Sur, purple sand, towering rocks with passages for waves to come crashing through
  • Wilder Ranch Beaches

    - hike along this rugged coast to less-often visited beaches such as Sand Plant and 3-Mile Beach. Visit Fern Grotto Cave.

Camping Beaches

  • Francis Beach

    (Half Moon Bay) - camp almost on the beach at Half Moon Bay Beach State Park, best suited for RVs, but there are several tent-only sites.
  • New Brighton Beach

    (Santa Cruz) - great family camping on bluff above the beach
  • Pismo Beach

    - camp in one of two campgrounds within walking distance of the beach or at nearby Oceano Beach right on the sand.
  • Seacliff Beach

    (Aptos) - RV camping in paved sites that face the beach
  • Manresa Beach

    (Watsonville) - walk-in, tent sites on bluff near the beach, well developed campground
  • Sunset Beach

    (Watsonville) - several campgrounds among the trees on bluff well above the beach, great facilities
  • Morro Bay State Park

    - camp along the shore of Morro Bay with views of Morro Rock and easy access to kayaking and hiking
  • Andrew Molera State Park

    (Big Sur) - walk-in campsites, no reservations, forest and meadow setting, within easy distance of the beach
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

    (Big Sur) - perhaps the two finest campsites on the coast, walk-in, environmental sites, overlooking McWay Cove and the Big Sur coast
  • Kirk Creek Beach

    (Big Sur) - on a bluff overlooking Kirk Creek Beach and the Big Sur coast, meadow sites, no water
  • Limekiln Beach

    (Big Sur) - nice tent sites among the redwoods away from the beach, RV and tent sites closer to the shore.

Best Fishing Beaches

  • Sharp Park

    - Pacifica's Sharp Park pier has the reputation as the best fishing spot along the coast
  • Avila Beach

    - reputed to be the best fishing pier along the central coast, open 24 hours, good facilities
  • Pismo Beach

    - one of the most popular fishing piers along the central coast, great facilities, easy access
  • Half Moon Bay Beaches

    - things get wild in late spring and summer when the surf smelt run
  • Capitola Beach

    - fishing from the wharf is always a great experience and often rewarded with big catches
  • Gray Whale Cove

    - enjoyable surf fishing
  • Moss Landing Beach

    - get out on the jetty for some really rewarding fishing
  • Ocean Beach

    - surf fishing for stripers, perch and halibut
  • Seacliff Beach

    - fish off the pier out by the old cement boat
  • Santa Cruz Beach

    - opportunities for fishing all the way out the half mile long wharf

Southern California Beaches:

Great Play in the Sand and Surf
Family Beaches

All California beaches have dangerous rip-currents and other hazards. Children playing near or in the surf should be supervised at all times.

  • Cabrillo Beach

    - Great for small children. The inner beach is protected by breakwaters at the mouth of LA Harbor and has virtually no surf. Outer beach has surf.
  • Corona Del Mar Beach

    - Protected by the harbor jetty, convenient facilities and easy access to beach.
  • Moonlight Beach

    - Simply a great family beach with playground, lifeguards, snack shop, volleyball, and easy acess.
  • Goleta Beach

    - Broad stretch of sand, playground, picnic areas close to sand.
  • Long Beach

    - Virtually no surf, gentle slope, lots of sand, convenient facilities.
  • Fletcher Cove Beach

    - With the adjacent park, Fletcher Cove is a wonderful place for families. Restrooms, showers, playground, and picnic areas along with a nice sandy beach.
  • Refugio State Beach

    - Lots of good facilities, easy access, bike trail.
  • Laguna Beach

    - Usually gentle surf, nearby Main Beach park, playground, tide pools.
  • Leadbetter Beach

    - Wide expanse of sand, gentle waves, close to Shoreline Park.
  • La Jolla Shores Beach

    - Great beach for everyone, good facilities and easy access. Next to Kellogg Park.
  • East Beach

    - long beach, good facilities, use caution around waves, lifeguards
  • Carpinteria Beach

    - Tomol Play Area, gentle waves, tidepools, good facilities
  • San Buenaventura Beach

    - Bike trail, playground on the sand, large picnic area, Ventura Pier
  • Silver Strand Beach

    - Popular with families and kids, portable toilets, moderate waves
  • Hueneme Beach

    - Meandering bike trails, pier, swings, broad beach

Some of the Best Surfing Beaches

  • Salt Creek Beach

    - Site of numerous surfing competitions, great waves at the Point.
  • San Onofre Beach

    - Experts gather at Trestles, beginners and intermediate love Old Man's.
  • Swami's Beach

    - A premier surfing destination in Southern California.
  • Black's Beach

    - South of Torrey Pines, Black's Beach is famous for its huge waves.
  • Imperial Beach

    - The big waves at Tijuana Sloughs are among the most challenging in California
  • Windansea Beach

    - Along La Jolla's coast, a legendary surf spot with a great break.
  • Huntington Beach

    - US Open Surfing competition, big waves around the pier.
  • Surfrider Beach

    - Premier surfing spot, triple point break, long surfing tradition
  • Surfers' Point at San Buenaventura Beach

    - C Street action off the point, Outsides, and other famous breaks.
  • Palos Verdes Beaches

    - Great breaks, hard to access and localism is a problem.
  • Doheny Beach

    - Long surfing history, great breaks at Boneyard and the Indicator, Doheny Surf Festival in July.
  • Rincon Point

    - Indicator, Rivermouth, and Cove - classic point breaks, can get huge
  • County Line

    -Beach and reef breaks. Best spot is The Point.
  • Mondos Beach

    - Moderate waves, but very popular with surfers, easy access

Popular Diving Beaches

  • Leo Carrillo State Park

    - Kelp forest, reefs, unique rock formations, popular for night diving.
  • Crystal Cove Beach

    - Reefs parallel the shore, Irvine Coast Marine Life Refuge, popular dive spots at Reef Point, Scotchman's Cove, Rocky Bight, and Pelican Point, historic anchors, wreckage of Corsair F4U.
  • La Jolla Beaches

    - Excellent diving all along the La Jolla coast, great reefs, La Jolla Canyon.
  • Point Dume Beach

    - Point Dume Pinnacles, Dume Submarine Canyon, lots of marine life, best for experienced divers
  • Palos Verdes Beaches

    - Difficult access at most places, but great diving.
  • Laguna Beach

    - Great diving at Crescent Bay, Diver's Cove, Fisherman's Cove, and more. Reefs, Seal Rock, Deadman's Reef,
  • Malibu Lagoon Beach

    - Snorkel and dive along the coast north of the lagoon.

Lunada Bay, Palos Verdes Peninsula,  CA

Palos Verdes Peninsula

statue of Tim Kelly  at Hermosa Beach,  CA

Hermosa Beach

Fishing at Refugio Beach, Santa Barbara County, CA

Refugio Beach

Scenic Beaches

Camping Beaches

North to South

  • Jalama Beach County Park

    - (Santa Barbara Co.) Camping close together, but many beachfront sites, very popular
  • Refugio Beach

    - (Santa Barbara Co.) standard and group sites, good facilities, close to beach
  • El Capitan Beach

    - (Santa Barbara Co.) great campsites on a bluff overlooking the ocean, plenty of trees and space
  • Carpinteria State Beach

    - (Santa Barbara Co.) Several camping areas, most sites best for RVs, close together, but very popular.
  • Hodson & Faria Beaches, Rincon Parkway

    - (Ventura Co.) Small and usually crowded campsites on or near the beach at Faria and Hobson county beaches. RV camping at Rincon Parkway along the shoreline.
  • Emma Wood State Beach

    - (Ventura Co.) Oceanside camping, best for RVs or trailers, group campsites, inroute and hike and bike sites
  • McGrath State Beach

    - (Ventura Co.) Flooding in 2013 forced closure, some site re-opened. Call to confirm.
  • Point Mugu State Park

    - (Ventura Co.) Camp at Sycamore Canyon for great facilities and nice campsites, or go more primitive and park your RV on the beach at Thornhill Broome Campground.
  • Leo Carrillo State Park

    - (LA Co.) Canyon Campground protected from the wind, yet close to beach.
  • Dockweiler Beach

    - (LA Co.) only beach camping in Los Angeles, RVs or trailers only. Ocean front sites.
  • Bolsa Chica Beach

    - (Orange Co.) RV camping in sites along the sand.
  • Crystal Cove State Park

    - (Orange Co.) RV and family sites on bluff away from the beach.
  • Doheny Beach

    - (Orange Co.) RV and tent camping, some sites ocean-front, no hook-ups.
  • San Clemente State Beach

    - (Orange Co.) RV campground with full hook-ups and family site campground on bluff overlooking ocean
  • San Onofre Beach

    - (San Diego Co.) San Mateo Campground with hook-ups, Bluff Campground overlooking the ocean.
  • South Carlsbad State Beach

    - (San Diego Co.) RV and tent sites along the bluff overlooking the ocean, currently no hook-ups.
  • San Elijo State Beach

    - (San Diego Co.) RV and tent camping along the bluff overlooking the ocean.
  • Silver Strand State Beach

    - (San Diego Co.) RV and trailer camping on paved oceanside campground. No tent camping.

Best Fishing Beaches

  • Gaviota State Park

    - Fish from the Gaviota Pier for halibut, surfperch, bass, bonito, and jacksmelt. Available at night for those camping there
  • Goleta Beach Pier

    - The Goleta Beach Pier is considered one of the top fishing spots on the coast. Open 24 hours a day, lights, restrooms, etc.
  • Redondo Beach Pier

    - great facilities, designated fishing areas, easy access and parking
  • Leadbetter and Arroyo Burro beaches

    -Fish your way along the coast by kayak or float tube, surf fish for perch and corbina.
  • Stearns Wharf - Santa Barbara

    - great facilities, bait and tackle shop
  • Ventura Pier

    - Stretches 1,700 feet into the ocean, good spot for sea bass, halibut, yellowtail, and mackerel, benches, fish cleaning stations.
  • Port Hueneme Pier

    - 1,250 feet long, sandy bottom fishing, open 24 hours a day, restrooms, fish cleaning stations, lights and benches.
  • Newport and Balboa Piers

    - Open 5 AM to midnight, good fishing for rockfish, guitarfish, croaker, and surfperch. More deep-water fish off Balboa Pier.
  • Huntington Beach Pier

    - Bait and tackle shop on pier, good fishing for halibut, bonito, surfperch and more. Night lights, fish cleaning stations.
  • Point Mugu State Park

    - Use extreme caution and fish from the rocks at Point Mugu and down the coast. Rogue waves have taken unwary fishermen.
  • Leo Carrillo State Park

    - Cast from the rocky points in the center of the park or find the best holes along the beach.
  • Malibu Pier

    - try your luck fishing for corbina, kelp bass, halibut, surfperch, and mackerel.
  • San Clemente Pier

    - Artificial reef provides fish habitat, expect croaker, halibut, jacksmelt, guitarfish, corbina, and more. Open 4 AM to midnight. Lights, fish cleaning stations.

Best Wildlife Viewing Beaches

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