California Beaches

From Openwaterpedia is a website and services that describes beaches along California’s 1,264 mile coastline. The editors and owners of this site personally visited the beaches to keep its information current. There are nearly 1,000 beaches profiled on CaliforniaBeaches and additional ones are continuously researched and profiled.


Bryce, Doug



The website describes the following areas:

  • Southern California
    • The San Diego County coastline starts at the border with Mexico and runs north to Orange County. In between are over 100 named beaches with a lot of diversity.
    • Orange County is sandwiched between the large urban metropolises of San Diego and Los Angeles. The OC coastal cities are smaller in size, but they compete in the quantity and quality of their beaches.
    • Los Angeles County is home to about ten million people and on sunny days it seems like most are at the beach. Luckily there are many amazing beaches from Long Beach to Malibu to choose from.
    • Catalina Island is a short ferry ride away from ports in Long Beach, Dana Point, and Los Angeles. Catalina’s public beaches are yours to discover.
  • Central California
    • Ventura County marks the southern end of the Central California Coast. Between ritzy Malibu and Montecito you’ll find many uncrowded stunning beaches.
    • Santa Barbara County has a long south-facing stretch of the Central California coastline with a Mediterranean feel. It’s no wonder that Santa Barbara is known as The American Riviera.
    • San Luis Obispo County is located along the Central California coast about mid-way between LA and the Bay Area. The SLO coastline is a long one with small cities spaced out just right.
    • Monterey County has a diverse coastline that includes rugged beaches in the remote region of Big Sur and sandy beaches near the urban areas of Carmel and Monterey.
    • Santa Cruz County coastline is south of San Mateo County on the San Francisco Peninsula and just a short drive from San Jose and the southern San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Northern California
    • San Mateo County takes up most of the San Francisco Peninsula south of San Francisco. San Mateo is known for its great beaches along the Pacific Coast from Pescadero to Half Moon Bay to Daly City.
    • San Francisco County and San Francisco City are just different names for the same place. They both have the same boundaries and the same beaches.
    • Marin County is just across the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco. Marin has beaches on San Francisco Bay, Tomales Bay, and on Point Reyes National Seashore.
    • Sonoma County coast has a lot of great beaches but few cities. Drive Highway 1 from Bodega Bay to Jenner to Sea Ranch and you’ll pass by many stunning coves and beaches.
    • Mendocino County has a large chunk of Northern California coastal real estate. Driving twisty Highway 1 here is over 100 miles of scenic driving pleasure.
    • Humboldt County coast is chock full of wild and remote beaches that beg for exploration.
    • Del Norte County is the northernmost county in California and has more wild remote beaches than urban beaches.

Top 10 Beaches in California

The Top 10 Beaches in California were researched and searched by co-founders Bryce and Doug of California Beaches.

1. La Jolla Shores Beach: The San Diego beach is a popular spot that can be jam-packed at times. Visitors can explore the La Jolla Shore in a kayak or on a stand-up paddle-board. Surfers ride the waves here and children can enjoy the waves on bodyboards. People can enjoy solitude by walking north on the beach toward the Scripps Pier. Beyond the pier, there is a clothing-optional area known as South Black’s Beach.
2. Santa Monica State Beach: With an amazing pier sporting amusement rides and great shops and a huge beach that can accommodate thousands of visitors daily, the parks south of the pier are clean and diverse. Parking is abundant. Nearby are many restaurants and hotels making it easy to stay here for a weekend or even a week.
3. Coronado Beach: A popular San Diego area beach that is great for children, families, couples, and dogs. It’s a walkable beach and typically doesn’t have large waves as it gets protection from Point Loma. A sidewalk and boardwalks back all the beaches along this shoreline. The famous Hotel Del Coronado and its various restaurants are nearby. At the north end of the beach is Coronado Dog Beach where many friendly pooches roam freely.
4. Carmel City Beach: Carmel-By-The-Sea is a seemingly pretentious city with a median home sales price well over US$1 million. The people are very friendly while the Carmel City Beach offers bright white sand and lots of space to spread out on. It’s a great spot to watch sunsets from and small beach fires are allowed on the south end.
5. Moonstone Beach: In contrast to Carmel’s white beaches, Cambria has beautiful brown sand beaches. Moonstone Beach made the list this year even though the beach is narrow at high tide. It parallels Moonstone Beach Drive where many comfortable motels and a couple tasty restaurants can be found in this northern part of town. A wooden boardwalk meanders on the bluff above the beach between two other beaches at Santa Rosa Creek and Leffingwell Landing. This walk has several access points to Moonstone Beach.
6. Salt Creek Beach: A favorite beach in Orange County, Salt Creek Beach Park is located in Dana Point. Have a picnic on the large grass lawns or down on the beach if the wind isn’t blowing. Surfers love it while lifeguards watch over ocean swimmers and bodyboarders. Tide pools can be found at the south end of the beach at low tides. South of that is another walkable beach called Dana Strand Beach.
7. Sand Dollar Beach: Many people drive on Highway 1 in Big Sur cruise by this hidden gem. It’s a day-use area, but Plaskett Creek Campground is across the highway for campers. This beach is a gorgeous spot with large rocks off-shore in the surf. While walking the beach, visitors can look for sand dollars and green jade stones. Jade Cove is nearby even though most of the valuable jade stones have been stolen by profit-seeking rock-hounders.
8. McClures Beach: This is the most hidden beach on the list. It’s a long drive out to the northwestern shoreline of Point Reyes National Seashore to get to the parking lot. Then it’s a mild half-mile walk downhill on a trail to the sand. McClures Beach has a wild and remote feel like its neighboring Point Reyes strands. McClures has colorful crumbling bluffs behind the beach and is large enough to explore around.
9. Pebble Beach of Crescent City: While there are several beaches named Pebble Beach in California, this one is the best of them. It’s not very hidden from the lucky residents of Crescent City in Northern California, but few others know about it. The beach slopes gradually so at low tide it is very wide and at high tide it is quite narrow. Offshore is a huge rocky island called Castle Rock. It’s part of national wildlife refuge that protects other rocks nearby that are home to seabirds, seals, and sea lions.
10. San Gregorio State Beach (Best Beach): San Mateo County has many amazing beaches that has trails to explore on the bluff next to the large picnic area. Behind the beach is a creek and lagoon where birds show off. A very walkable beach, southward to Pomponio State Beach and much farther (except at high tide). North of the creek there are caves in the cliff to check out. Further north is a private clothing-optional beach. Look for unique rocks and fossils in the cliffs around San Gregorio State Beach.

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