When one thinks of sunny southern California, one of the first images that comes to mind are the countless beaches that run up and down the coast. Sun, surf and sand are the epitome of the casual and laid-back lifestyle in So Cal, which is why going to the beach is one the most popular things to do here year-round—not to mention the amazing weather. Many beaches in the area also have a celebrity angle to them, from Malibu (where multiples movies and shows have been filmed) to Laguna Beach, which rose to fame after the hit MTV reality show Laguna Beach. These are 10 of the best beaches in southern California that you need to add to your bucket list next time you visit.
1. El Matador State Beach
If you’re the adventurous type, this is the beach for you. Full of sea caves, beautiful rock formations and lots of birds, El Matador Beach is an explorer’s dream. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in Malibu, and when you come here you’ll see why. A dirt trail leads down a pair of stairs, and the upper cliffs of the beach offer stunning views. Many people come here to go bodyboarding and bodysurfing, and the beach is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
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2. Laguna Beach
Known for its pleasant year-round climate, Laguna Beach is a seaside town that became famous when the MTV television series by the same name debuted. The beach town is located in Orange County and is known for multiple art galleries, coves, cute restaurants and upscale shopping boutiques. Main Beach is the main area of beach located in the central part and has sand volleyball courts, two half-court basketball courts, picnic tables, showers and a children’s playground. There is also access to the boardwalk area, which leads to Heisler Park.
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3. Manhattan Beach
Located in the upscale community of Manhattan Beach, this cute beach town hosts numerous volleyball tournaments and is where many TV shows have been filmed. There is an aquarium located at the end of the pier, which also includes a touch pool, and visitors and locals alike also enjoy strolling through the town area, which is home to many boutiques, restaurants and bars.
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4. Venice Beach
One of the more unique beaches in Southern California, Venice Beach is definitely the place to go people watch, thanks to all of its colorful characters that roam the famous Ocean Front Walk. There, you can do everything from purchase handmade art and Rastafarian-themed merchandise to get a tattoo or have your fortune read. There is also a skate park here and the famous Venice Beach sign—you’ll recognize various parts of Venice from the multiple movies that have been filmed here, such as Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen.
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5. La Jolla Cove
Located between adjacent sandstone cliffs, La Jolla Cove is a small beach surrounded by cliffs in San Diego that is famous for the cute sea lions that like to lie to sunbathe on its rocks. This has also become a popular spot for diving, kayaking and snorkeling, and many people enjoy coming here to watch the waves crash on the rocks and take in the daily sunsets.
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6. Coronado Beach
This 1.5 mile-long sandy beach is located right by the famous Hotel Coronado, famous for its classic Victorian architecture and signature red rood. The beach is a favorite of swimmers, surfers and sunbathers, and you’ll notice a silvery sheen in the sand which is due to the presence of mica. Lifeguards are also present, making it an ideal place for families with young children to spend their afternoon.
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7. Hermosa Beach
Located next door to Manhattan Beach, Hermosa is a cozy beach town known for its casual and laidback atmosphere. During the days, people can be seen skateboarding, biking and roller skating along the oceanfront Strand, and during the evenings, everyone flocks to the Pier area to bar hop and grab dinner at one of the numerous oceanfront restaurants. The pier also hosts various local festivals and musical performances.
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8. Santa Monica Beach
From miles away, one can easily spot the historic Santa Monica Pier, which has its own amusement park that includes multiple rides, games, food and shopping. The two-mile-long beach is one of Southern California’s most popular seaside spots, and offers plenty of space for biking, beach volleyball, and soaking up the sun. Be sure to stop by the world-famous Muscle Beach Gym, which is a beachfront gym area where you can observe bodybuilders and fitness fanatics working out in public.
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9. Huntington Beach
The ultimate surfer’s haven, Huntington Beach is home to the US Open of Surfing—the world’s largest surf competition. People come here year-round to participate in beach bonfires, play volleyball next to the Pier, go stand-up paddle boarding, and bike along the strand. Also popular are the various surf shops, bars and restaurants located along Main Street.
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10. Leo Carrillo State Beach
With more than a mile of sandy beach, Leo Carrillo is part of Leo Carrillo State Park and is located 28 miles north of Santa Monica in Malibu. Dotted with sea caves, tide pools, and other exciting discoveries, this beach has become a popular camping spot, and many people come here to go swimming, windsurfing, fishing, surfing and beachcombing. It also has picnic tables for feasts and fiestas, and is a dog-friendly beach.
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