Southern California’s 11 Most Beautiful Beaches, Ranked
Even if you’re not going in the water
We’re not short on gorgeous beaches here, but some slices of shoreline are miles above the rest. Here’s our guide to epic vistas, abandoned castles and even a place to swim with your dog. Read our 11 best beaches rundown--we bet your top summer memory is waiting there for you.
11. Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach
What? A pirate tower? Well, pirates (probably) pre-date this ruin of a 60-foot poured-cement tower, built in the 1920s. You can’t go into the tower, but you can lie on the gorgeously soft sand.
10. North Beach in Del Mar
Sure, there are breathtaking surfside cliffs. But really, the most beautiful sight here is the scores of pooches running alongside their owners--and after Labor Day, you can even let them off-leash.
9. Coronado Beach in San Diego
You’re sunbathing on the set of the iconic Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like It Hot. Even if you’re not sleeping at the Hotel Del Coronado, it’s fun to enjoy its gabled grandeur as a backdrop.
8. Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu
Hey, Indiana Jones. This is the beach for you with more than a mile of tide pools and sea caves to explore. A 28-mile drive up PCH from Santa Monica, this Malibu beach even has its own info-packed visitor center so you can know what you’re looking at.
7. Santa Monica Beach
Sure, it’s crowded. And noisy. And that pier is a bit much for anyone who’s hit puberty. But if you discover anything more romantic than the image of its lighted Ferris wheel in the distance, let us know.
6. Muscle Beach in Venice
This stretch of Venice Beach has all manner of physical fitness going on, right there, where everyone can be inspired. Or just admire the view, whichever works for you.
4. Crystal Cove in Orange County
Or maybe you prefer spending a weekend in a cottage set on a stunning 3.2 miles of coastline backed by a couple thousand acres of unspoiled woodland? It’s a bucket-list Cali experience: Reserve one of 46 seaside cottages (they’re as low as $175 per night) seven months in advance.
3. El Matador in Malibu
Sea stacks, hidden coves and, since there’s just a rocky path down to the shore, not a lot of crowds. Three words: Sunset Champagne toast.
2. Point Dume in Malibu
Not only is this beach famed for its cult cinema status (it’s where Charlton Heston wailed over a buried Statue of Liberty in the OG Planet of the Apes); it’s total eye candy for its breathtaking cliffs, climbable by newbies in search of a killer Pacific view.
1. Laguna Beach
Let’s design the perfect beach, shall we? How about miles of alternating rocky and sandy coves, backed by gorgeous manicured landscaping ringed by an unobtrusive boardwalk. Oh, and surf breaks for grommets and champs alike. Plus, of course, plenty of wide sand for doing plenty of nothing. Oh wait, that’s Laguna Beach.