California is known for many things, from the famous San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge to LA’s Hollywood sign that makes everyone feel famous. But it’s without a doubt that Southern California is known for its beaches, especially in Los Angeles. If you’re new to the City of Angels and have 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 after a stressful day. But with 75 miles of coastline and a year-round Los Angeles summer, you might be a little stumped on where to begin your sand-filled, sun-kissed adventure.
We’ve put together this guide to help give you a head start on finding the best beaches in Los Angeles. With so many miles of sandy shores to choose from, you’ll find the perfect coastal destination to fit your vibe.
1. Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica Beach tops the list of best beaches in LA because it’s so close to downtown. If you live or work in the area and want a hassle-free trip to the shore, Santa Monica Beach is the perfect destination.
While it can get pretty crowded, the seemingly endless 3.5-mile stretch of sand offers plenty of room to carve out a place under the sun. Plus, it’s open 24/7—and the weekdays are a lot less crowded if you’re looking for some alone time with the shore.1
No matter where you are on the beach, you’ll see stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica Pier, the Pacific Coast Highway, and the palisades. You might even recognize the area from famous films like Fast Time at Ridgemont High, Forrest Gump, and Iron Man.
When dipping your toes into the Santa Monica Beach sands, you can also experience:
- Santa Monica Pier – Marked as the official end of Route 66 on the Pacific coast, the Santa Monica pier is full of history and thrills. When you visit, you’ll be able to explore the arcade games, amusement rides, food stalls, and even ride a Ferris wheel. Sometimes, you’ll even be able to catch an outdoor concert with the rolling tides as its backdrop.
- The Original Muscle Beach – First created in the early 1930s, the original muscle beach features a set of old gymnastic and acrobatic exercise equipment right on the sand. Not to be confused with Muscle Beach in Venice Beach, this old-school set of outdoor equipment is what started the athletic craze in the area. Now it serves as an outdoor acrobatic and gymnastic training area.
- Hotel Casa Del Mar – Built for the A-listers of old Hollywood, this hotel harbors historic luxury right off the coast. Even today, the accommodations are upscale, featuring a spa, pool, gardens, and fine dining options, which source ingredients locally from the Santa Monica markets.
2. Will Rogers State Beach
Another one of the best Los Angeles beaches is Will Rogers State Beach. Long and narrow with ample parking, this beach stretches two miles and is just off the Pacific Coast Highway. If you want a good surfing spot for beginners or are ready to try your hand at scuba diving, Will Rogers State Beach is a fantastic place for either. You also get fewer crowds than you would at other nearby beaches, without having to drive too far out of the city.
If surfing or diving isn’t your thing, you can also:
- Play volleyball
The beach itself was named after the famous Hollywood actor, Will Rogers, after his wife donated the land in his honor. Speaking of Hollywood, you’ve probably seen this sandy beach featured in many films and TV shows—like the famous Baywatch slow run.
So if you’re looking for an iconic white-sand California beach, you won’t be disappointed by this serene seaside destination.
3. Venice Beach
Even if you’re not much of a beach person, a walk down Venice Beach is worth your time, especially if you’re in the mood to watch an eclectic lineup of performers or peruse local art wares. Plus, the food is downright amazing, with all the variety and creativity you’d expect from a bohemian town.
When strolling along the 1.5-mile oceanfront boardwalk, you can take in all the sights, including Muscle Beach, the birthplace of Venice Beach’s bodybuilding culture. Of course, you’ll be able to enjoy other beach activities, too, like surfing, swimming, and volleyball.
Check out some of the things you can do in the area:
- Watch skaters drop in at the skatepark – Venice beach hosts an iconic skatepark where skateboarders and rollerbladers regularly try out some tricks. Most of these skaters are used to the gathering crowds, so don’t be afraid to spend your day oohing and aahing. Or, rent some rollerblades yourself and skate down the Venice Beach Bike Path.
- Break a sweat at Muscle Beach – Once home to famous bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, Muscle Beach is a cultural landmark for the famously fit. In the surrounding area of the iconic outdoor gym, you’ll find any number of fitness facilities, yoga studios, and gyms to explore.
- Explore the street art – In the side corners and empty walls, you’ll be able to see Venice Beach’s distinct street art. Every third Thursday, you can head down to the Boardwalk and check out various pop-up art galleries. Or if tattoos are your thing, you can check out the famous tattoo parlors the area is known for.
4. Malibu Lagoon State Beach
A beautiful place where scenic saltwater marsh meets the shore, Malibu Lagoon State Beach offers a unique habitat to over 200 species of coastal birds, making it especially popular for birdwatching. If birdwatching doesn’t do it for you, you can enjoy watching pro surfers in the summertime peak.
One of the beach’s most iconic features is 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 it is the first dedicated world-surfing reserve.
If you’re wanting to know more about what you can do in the area, you can spend your day:
- Hiking the nature trails
- Taking a tour of historical houses
- Eating at the Malibu Farm & Restaurant Bar
- Shopping local stores like Ranch at the Pier and Miansai
- Taking a boat tour of the area
5. Marina Beach
If you want to swim without having to fight the tide, Marina Beach is perfect for you. Also called Mother’s beach, Marina Beach is located in the Marina Del Rey Harbor. 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.
If you’re a paddleboard enthusiast, you’ll love the calm water if you’re looking to master your balance on the board. If paddleboarding isn’t your speed, the area also has places for kayaking.
Once you’re done enjoying the calm water, you can take a cycling trail that connects to several other beaches further up the coast if you want to take a break from the gentle waves and do some bodysurfing.
The beach offers many amenities, including:
- Barbecue grills
- Bike paths
- Picnic tables
- Beach volleyball courts
- ADA accessible facilities and beach access
6. Robert H Meyers State Beach
Located 10 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu, Robert H Meyers State Park gets bonus points for offering three separate beaches to explore—El Matador, El Pescador, and La Piedra. These “pocket beaches” are just off the bluffs from the coastal highway, and they can be easy to miss—so make sure you bring your map or GPS if you’re looking for these hidden treasures.
El Matador is the most popular of the three, with stunning views and rock formations that act as a perfect backdrop to sunset photos. The beach can get crowded during the on-season, and parking can be scarce, so when you’re making the trip out, be prepared for a bit of a hike down to the water.
If you need a break from the city, each of these beaches is open for swimming, fishing, and picnicking, and the crowds generally die down during the off-season. If you’re wondering about the drive, it’s worth the effort. There’s nothing like the meditative water crashing against the sea stacks, arches, and caves. Just remember to bring a camera because you won’t want to forget these sights anytime soon.
7. Leo Carrillo State Beach
If you’re up for a scenic drive down Highway 1, you can get a little more privacy at The Leo Carrillo State Beach, just 28 miles north of Santa Monica. Named after the late Leo Carrillo, who portrayed Pancho in the 1950s show Cisco Kid, this park features numerous natural preservations, from towering giant sycamores to tide pools full of hermit crabs.
If you’re into the outdoors, try camping out near the beach. You’ll be able to listen to the ocean from your tent. With the nearby camp store, you’ll also have everything you need to enjoy a night under the oceanside stars.
For even more outdoor adventures, you can try one of the many hiking trails in the area, which vary in difficulty for all types of travelers:
- Yellow Hill Trail (easy)
- Leo Carrillo Beach Trail (moderate)
- Nicholas Flat Trail (hard)
8. Manhattan Beach
If you’re wanting a beach that’s perfect for tanning in the Californian sun, then look no further. Manhattan Beach can get slightly crowded on the weekends—especially near the Manhattan pier. But if you’re willing to brave the crowds, you’ll find another excellent wide beach that’s perfect for surfing.
Beyond the beach area is a 22-mile long bike trail that runs along the length of the shore. This bike trail stretches up the coast to connect Manhattan Beach with places like Torrance and Santa Monica.
At the end of the pier, you can step inside the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium. Admission is free, and you’ll be able to view and learn about local marine life. Volunteers in the aquarium allow visitors to interact hands-on with the marine in touch tanks, too.
9. Redondo Beach
This list wouldn’t be complete without listing Redondo Beach and its famous pier. Unlike other beaches, the beach sand here takes a backseat to its incredible horseshoe-shaped pier—one of the largest on the California coast.
There are countless places to shop and eat, with famous restaurant landmarks like Tony’s On The Pier. Tony’s has been on the Redondo Pier for over 60 years and is most recognizable for its “Crow’s Nest” lookout, offering stunning views of the water and surrounding beach.
In addition to bay watching and snacking, there are many other events in the area, including:
- Concerts on the pier (July – August)
- Kite Festival (September 19th)
- Farmer’s Market (every Thursday)
- A.M. Yoga (second Saturday of each month)
10. Alamitos Beach
While technically in the city of Long Beach, Alamitos Beach—and the surrounding beaches—are worth the mention if you’re willing to make the trek. About an hour from downtown LA, Alamitos Beach contains miles of soft white sand. Even on busy weekends, you’ll be able to stretch out your beach towel away from the crowds.
The beach itself is wide and great for walking, connecting to the nearby Long Beach City Beach.
Across the water, you’ll be able to see and visit the famous Queen Mary—a 1930’s ocean liner that now serves as a floating hotel.
The concession stand towards the end of the beach can provide you with drinks, food, and even rentals, including:
- Beach cruisers
- Tandem bikes
- Fishing poles
- Beach chairs
Find your home base by the beach with Common
When you live in the Los Angeles area, you’ll be able to find a beach community where you can thrive. Whether you’re catching waves, soaking in the sun, or exploring the local beach town, there’s always a little slice of beach paradise to explore. So, if you’re asking what city to live in, it’s no secret that Los Angeles should be at the top of your list.
If you don’t want the beach days to end, we can help you find homes to fit your coastal lifestyle. Interested in the idea of a beach buddy? Check out our coliving homes, where our members get their own fully-furnished bedroom in a private shared suite. Our living spaces in Los Angeles can help you to discover your Common community.
- Planetware. 12 Top-Rated Beaches in Los Angeles, CA. https://www.planetware.com/california/top-rated-beaches-in-the-los-angeles-area-us-ca-360.htm