If you’re new to the City of Angels and never lived so close to the ocean in your life, you’re in for a real treat. There’s nothing quite like the soothing sound of the waves to calm your body after a stressful day. But with 75 miles of coastline in LA County, you might be a little stumped on where to start. We’ve put together this guide to help give you a head start on finding your favorite beach to bum around. Of course, choosing an ideal beach will depend on what you want to do there – whether it’s surfing, strolling across the dunes, searching for seashells, or whale-watching. If you’re new to the area, you might be surprised by how foggy the beaches can be—but don’t let your guard down and skip the sunscreen. It’s just as easy to get an angry sunburn well before the fog burns off.
1. Santa Monica Beach
This beach tops the list for being so close to DTLA. If you work or live in the area and want a hassle-free trip to the shore, Santa Monica Beach is perfect. Though it can get pretty crowded, the seemingly endless (3.5 miles) stretch of sand offers plenty of room to carve yourself out a place. Plus, it’s open 24/7, and the weekdays are a lot less crowded. Check out the landmark Santa Monica Pier to find an amusement park, aquarium, and plenty of restaurants if you didn’t pack a picnic.
2. Will Rogers State Beach
If you want a good surfing spot for beginners or are ready to try your hand at Scuba Diving, this beach is a great place for either. You also get a lot fewer crowds than you would at other nearby beaches without having to drive too far out of the city. Long and narrow, this beach stretches two miles and is just off the Pacific Coast Highway, with ample parking. Even if you’ve never been, you’ve definitely seen this beach featured in many films and TV shows, so if you’re looking for the iconic white sand beaches you think of from LA, you won’t be disappointed.
3. Venice Beach
Even if you’re not much of a beach person, a walk through Venice Beach is worth your time for all the performers and artists selling their wares. Plus, the food is downright amazing, with all the variety and creativity you’d expect from a bohemian town. The 1.5-mile oceanfront boardwalk calls for a slow stroll to take in all the sights, including Muscle Beach, the birthplace of the physical fitness boom. Of course, all the traditional fun of a beach can be had, too, including surfing, swimming, and volleyball.
4. Malibu Lagoon State Beach
A beautiful place where scenic saltwater marsh meets the shore, this beach offers a unique habit to over 200 species of coastal birds, making it especially popular for birdwatching. But it’s equally iconic for the stretch of sand known as Surfrider beach, a premier place to catch waves. The break is famed worldwide for offering long, smooth waves, and is the first dedicated world-surfing reserve. If birdwatching doesn’t do it for you, you can enjoy pro surfers in the summertime peak.
5. Marina Beach
Also called Mother’s beach, If you want to swim without having to fight the tide, Marina Beach is perfect for you. Located in the Marina Del Rey Harbor, paddleboard enthusiasts love the calm water for mastering the art of the paddleboard. And being just 6 miles from the airport, Marina Beach is also an excellent place to meet up with a friend who’s on a long layover in LA. Cycling trails connect you with several beaches a little further up the coast if you want to take a break from the calm water and do some bodysurfing.
6. Robert H Meyers State Beach
Located on the west end of Malibu, this one gets bonus points for offering three separate, pocket beaches to explore—El Matador, El Pescador, and La Piedra. El Matador is the most popular of the three, and therefore the most likely to get busy in the summer, but it’s nothing compared to the crowds of Venice beach. All are open for swimming, fishing, or a scenic picnic if you need a break from the city, and they generally lack crowds because the signage is minimal. But it’s worth the effort. Sea stacks, arches, and caves that fill you with wonder are great for photography and meditation.
7. Leo Carrillo State Beach
If you’re up for a scenic drive down Highway 1, you can get a little more privacy and a heck of a view. Windsurfing and beachcombing are favorite activities to try out here, and there are plenty of caves and tidepools to explore. It’s easy to spot starfish and hermit crabs in their natural space, which is just as fun for adults as it is for youngsters. Whether or not you enjoyed it as a kid, take another crack at building a sandcastle. Let yourself have fun and focus on the process and sensory experience of it, and it can be soothing and therapeutic. A nearby campsite makes it easy to turn your beach trip into an overnight or weekend getaway. If you’re still not convinced you’re missing anything by skipping the beach, consider one last thing: Because so much of the coast of California faces West, you get pristine views of the sunset year-round, with nothing between you and the horizon to block the view as the sun paints the sky red and pink and orange and the color melts into the waves. On a clear evening, enjoy the last few moments in silence, and you just might catch the green-flash at the very end. The natural beauty can be the perfect end cap to your evening, even on the most stressful city days.