Best Beaches in Southern California
West coast, best coast? We won’t argue with that. After all, when it comes to vacationing, the sun-drenched coastline of Southern California is certainly something to write home about. The region is home to some of the best beaches in California and is one of the most desired places to spend those summer days. From its blue skies and swaying palms to its barreling blue waves and silky soft sand, it’s no wonder visitors flock to The Golden State for some fun in the sun.
The region’s rugged coastline clocks in at about 150 miles in length, stretching from Los Angeles—which includes the famed Hermosa Beach, Venice Beach and Manhattan Beach—to San Diego, where Mission Beach, Coronado Beach and La Jolla Cove reside. Sandwiched between these two sits the stunning region of Orange County—a place where the sun shines most days and avocado toast costs at least $12. But all jokes aside, OC boasts a string of beautiful beaches, including Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and more.
Already packing your bags? Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! To plan your trip like a pro, be sure to visit the Newport Beach Neighborhoods Blog for the most up-to-date itineraries and information.
Best Beaches in Newport Beach
No West Coast adventure is complete without a trip to the splendid city of Newport Beach. This charming Southern California town lies approximately 19 miles from the famous Disneyland Park in Anaheim and is bordered by Huntington Beach (north) and Laguna Beach (south). Here’s an inside look at a few of the best beaches in Newport Beach and what makes each one worth a visit!
Located on the south end of Newport Beach lies the picturesque Corona del Mar—a charming seaside neighborhood known for its gorgeous real estate and collection of upscale shops and restaurants. Part of this suburb is the ever-popular Corona del Mar State Beach. This half-mile stretch of sand is framed by rugged cliffs and a rock jetty and offers a superb spot to surf, swim, sunbathe and everything in between. The beach is especially great for families as it features soft sand, moderately sized waves and 16 wood-burning fire rings for bonfires.
One of Newport Beach’s hidden gems, Balboa Island, offers a peaceful escape from the influx of tourists in the summer months. The Bay’s calm waters surround the island, so don’t expect any surfing or boogie boarding opportunities. However, island visitors will enjoy the serene atmosphere and numerous sandy spots to lay their towels. Plus, Balboa Island is an ideal place to rent a kayak or paddleboard or simply watch the boats cruise by. And when hunger strikes, a stroll down Marine Avenue is sure to please any palate, with its multitude of quaint cafes and time-honored restaurants. Stop by Wilma’s Patio Restaurant for a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner, or enjoy a frozen treat from Dad’s Donut & Bakery Shop!
With miles of sand and two piers, the Newport Pier and the Balboa Pier, it’s no wonder the Balboa Peninsula is one of the most popular destinations to catch some rays and waves. The stretch boasts endless opportunities for activity, including surfing, sunbathing, running, walking, skating, biking and playing volleyball. Whether you’re taking a morning stroll on the paved beach trail, picnicking on the sand, fishing off the pier or catching some barreling waves, the Balboa Peninsula truly has it all. Amenities include everything from public restrooms and showers to lifeguards, picnic tables, restaurants, volleyball courts and fire rings.
Known for its massive, 20-foot waves, this iconic beach located at the end of the Balboa Peninsula is a daring spot for any saltwater savant. In other words, The Wedge is much more of a “people watching beach” than anything else. Find a spot on the sand and watch as the pyramid-shaped waves roll in; you’ll notice a handful of surfers and bodysurfers jockeying for position. And once you’ve witnessed The Wedge’s intense, “arena-like” atmosphere, finish your outing with some relaxing retail therapy at Newport Beach’s luxury lifestyle center, Fashion Island. This open-air complex is under two miles away from The Wedge, Balboa Island and Corona del Mar State Beach, making it the perfect destination for some apres beach shopping!
When it comes to family fun, soft sand, shallow water and gentle waves are a must. Newport Beach’s Marina Park on the harborside of the Balboa Peninsula checks all the kid-friendly boxes and offers amenities like clean restrooms, picnic tables and a nautical-themed playground! Whether you plan to picnic on the spacious lawn or grab a bite at the neighboring Lighthouse Bayview Café, you’ll love the options for food, fun and sun at this bayside park!
California State Beaches
Encompassing 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of backcountry wilderness, Crystal Cove State Park is a breathtaking destination for all kinds of exploring. The park is located just off the busy Pacific Coast Highway in Corona del Mar and is home to several smaller beaches, including Little Treasure Cove, Los Trancos Beach, Pelican Point Beach and Treasure Cove Beach. Spend a day exploring the tide pools, sandy coves and rocky reefs, or stick an umbrella in the sand for a day or swimming and sunbathing. Crystal Cove State Park truly offers a little something for everyone with its variety of recreational opportunities.
For those looking to camp out on the coast, Carlsbad State Beach boasts a number of bluff-top campsites and has all the amenities you’ll need for a cozy staycation. The beach itself features gentle waves, perfect for swimming, surfing, fishing, scuba diving and more. Beachgoers also have access to restroom and shower facilities. And if camping isn’t your thing, look into booking a night or two at the nearby and newly renovated Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa for a weekend of coastal adventures, oceanfront golfing and elegant dining.
One of Los Angeles’ most scenic beaches and parks, Leo Carrillo State Park boasts 1.5 miles of shoreline—ideal for surfing, swimming, windsurfing and beachcombing. Visitors of the beach often rave about the less-populated appeal compared to other beaches north of it. Leo Carrillo State Park also contains 135 campsites located across the highway from the beach with everything from tables and fire rings to restrooms, showers and RV hookups.
Tucked between the sunny cities of San Clemente and Oceanside, San Onofre State Park remains one of the most popular destinations for any and all types of adventurers. The park attracts approximately 2.5 million visitors per year and is among the top five most-visited state parks in California. What makes this coastline so popular? Well, it’s great for just about any activity. These include surfing, swimming, sunbathing, camping, kayaking, bird-watching, fishing and biking! The park also features three distinct areas: the San Onofre Bluffs, the San Mateo Campground (home to the world-class surf spot, Trestles Beach) and the San Onofre Surf Beach.