California is known as the Golden State for good reason, from the expanses of golden sand on some of the finest beaches in the nation to the golden rays of the sunshine that never seem to end. With so much sun, surf and impeccable coastline along the coast, California is truly a beach destination for the books. From luxury beaches to family friendly escapes, there’s no end to the type, style or size of beach California has to offer. Here are some of the best beaches in the state. Find the perfect the perfect vacation rental near one of California’s beautiful beaches!

1. Coronado Beach

San Diego may draw young surfers looking to catch the waves, but families know that Coronado Beach is where you’ll find no end of family friendly fun. Plop down on the wide stretches of sand for whale watching from January through March. Or take a walk on the luxurious beachfront and see the glamorous houses along Ocean Boulevard. Families with dogs can take their pups to Dog Beach, where canines can frolic without their leashes. Or join the other swimmers, body surfers and boogie boarders who take to the water of Coronado Beach.

2. Venice Beach

In addition to sand and the sunshine, Venice Beach offers a cultural extravaganza along its boardwalk. Ocean Front Walk stretches for about three-quarters of a mile, and, like most boardwalks, is lined with stores, eateries, and vendors. But, unlike other boardwalks, Venice Beach offers an eclectic gathering of street artists, sculptors, hoopsters, performing artists and more. You may find an urban street circus putting on their act, or musicians grooving to their own tunes. For sight and sounds in addition to the surf, Venice Beach is your best bet.

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3. Laguna Beach

Almost as Hollywood famous as Beverly Hills, Laguna Beach is reality television’s equivalent to the big star city. Located in Orange County, Laguna Beach is fabulously rich when it comes to culture and impeccable beaches. The waters are clean and mostly calm, creating near perfect conditions for a dip. The sands are white and warm, perfectly inviting to sink your toes or go on a stroll. If you’re looking for a rather upscale beach experience, Laguna sets high standards.

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4. Huntington State Beach

If you’ve ever cruised along the PCH, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, you might have seen glimpses of this gorgeous state beach. Huntington is located right where the city of Huntington Beach begins. Known for its great surfing and swimming conditions, the two miles along the coast also offer prime spots for sunbathing, beach volleyball and fire rings for bonfires. However, the 121-acre state park is the true draw of this beach. The protected area was established in 1942 to preserve the fragile beach environment and the endangered wildlife on it. Visit the state beach, and you might be able to see the threatened snowy plovers and the California least terns.

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5. Santa Monica Beach

Travel to an era where beach boardwalks took the place of amusement parks, offering just as much fun, if not more. Santa Monica Pier is known for their festive amusement park rides, aquarium, and food. Walking the historic boardwalk is completely free, but your kids might not be able to pass up a ride or two on some of the thrill rides. As you wait for the incredible sunset to round out your day, check out the local artists who’ll paint your name on canvas, or sketch your caricature in minutes.

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6. La Jolla

La Jolla Beach is small but precious, like a gemstone, which is possibly why it’s referred to as “the jewel” of San Diego. While you won’t be able to surf or boogie board in La Jolla waters, the Cove is one of the top spots along the California coast to swim, snorkel or go diving. The area is ecologically protected, so you’ll be able to see a variety of fish species and wildlife in La Jolla Cove. Looking for a bit more space to stretch out on the sand after a day of swimming with the fish? Head north to find La Jolla Shores.

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7. Malibu Lagoon State Beach

The surf is definitely up in Malibu, where you’ll find one of the most-surfed spots in the Los Angeles area. Since the 1960s, Malibu Beach, known back in the day as Surfrider Beach, was popular for its perfect swells. For non-surfers, there’s the historic Malibu Pier, where visitors can go fishing, bird watching or have a picnic. The nature area nearby is also the optimal destination to study a Southern California saltwater marsh.

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8. Newport Beach

With five whole miles of beach to explore, Newport offers something for everyone in the family. For those who appreciate all that’s upscale and luxury, the ritzy Harbor and chic shopping district provide plenty of opportunities to feel the class. Those who just want to get out in the water can join the surfers and swimmers hitting the waves. Sunbathers might make a friend or two among other trendy sun soakers or families who’ve set up camp in the sand. Newport Beach not only brings back coastal charm but turns up the heat.

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9. Pfeiffer Beach

This northern California gem is located on Los Padres National Forest land, just of Highway 1. It’s one of the most spectacular Big Sur beaches you’ll lay eyes on unless purple sand and gigantic boulders often set the scene on your beach vacations. The thrill starts on the drive to the beach, where you’ll pass towering ancient redwoods that line the road. The beach itself is rather small, located in a tiny cove, but the huge boulders give it a sense of majesty. Though the rough waters are unsuitable for swimming, the crashing waves add to the mesmerizing beauty of Pfeiffer Beach.

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