Home Travel 17 Top Los Angeles Beaches

17 Top Los Angeles Beaches

by Atlanta Business Journal

Los Angeles is world-renowned for its beaches, which allow you to trade the hectic atmosphere of the city for the sun, sand and surf. Whether you’re looking for a busy beach with a lot of shops, restaurants and amenities or a secluded strand where you can bask in the beauty of nature, there are plenty of options in the Los Angeles area. Here are the top Los Angeles beaches to consider for your next trip to the City of Angels.

Santa Monica State Beach

A little more than 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles, in the chic beach community of Santa Monica you’ll find the famed Santa Monica State Beach and Pier. The sprawling beach has 3.5 miles of soft sand and an iconic pier complete with an amusement park, various shops and restaurants, and an aquarium. To the north of the pier, explore the Annenberg Community Beach House – which has a splash pad, playground, pool and other family-friendly activities – as well as the North Beach Playground. To the south, you can check out the Original Muscle Beach, a free outdoor gym with gymnastics equipment that traces its roots back to the 1930s. If your pup wants to tag along, leashed dogs are allowed on the boardwalk but not the beach. Past visitors say the sand and facilities are clean, making the beach and pier a great place for fun and relaxation. As such a popular tourist attraction, however, Santa Monica does get crowded.

Note: Select beaches may close periodically or be under advisory due to bacteria levels. Check with the County of Los Angeles Public Health’s water quality map for the status of your intended beach destination.

Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is a beach town 21 miles southwest of Los Angeles with more than 2 miles of sand. Right in the downtown area, you’ll find beach volleyball, oceanfront dining, upscale shops and more. The north end of the beach is a popular surfing area where you can take lessons if you’ve never tried it. Manhattan Beach also boasts a 900-foot pier you can fish from year-round. Visitors say the beach is clean, offers great walking and bike paths, and has a more relaxed vibe than some of the other popular Los Angeles beaches.

Address: 400-4500 The Strand, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Redondo Beach

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With a little more than 1.5 miles of water frontage, Redondo Beach is a 21-mile drive southwest of downtown Los Angeles. The town offers a variety of activities, including boat rides, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, swimming, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. At the horseshoe-shaped pier, you can peruse the shops for souvenirs or beach gear, sit down at one of the restaurants for lunch or dinner, and spend some time people-watching. Beachgoers say Redondo doesn’t get too crowded and recommend watching out for dolphins in the water.

Address: 100-500 Fisherman’s Wharf, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Venice Beach

Originally developed as an LA beach resort 17 miles from downtown, Venice Beach paid tribute to its namesake Italian city with a system of canals in place of streets, some of which are still there. Today this busy beach – just south of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway – is known for its quirky nature and beloved for its boardwalk, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in California. Visitors can walk, bike or skate across this beachfront promenade; stop to watch mimes, jugglers, musicians or other street performers; and check out the interesting shops, galleries and boutiques. Plenty of restaurants, an outdoor gym, a skate park, basketball courts and a host of other activities await Venice beachgoers. You can even take a walking tour to learn about the beach community’s film history. But while the atmosphere is alive and unique, Venice isn’t the cleanest of beaches, so it might not be the best option if you want to spend most of your time on the sand.

Address: 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291

Will Rogers State Beach

Wedged between Santa Monica and Malibu in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood 19 miles from LA, Will Rogers State Beach is named after the renowned American entertainer. Will Rogers bought a ranch in Santa Monica and later owned more than 350 acres, including this stretch of sand; his widow, Betty Blake Rogers, donated the beach to Los Angeles County in 1975. Will Rogers State Beach was a filming location for the popular television series “Baywatch,” along with other shows and movies. You can enjoy a variety of activities along the more than 3 miles of shoreline, including surfing, swimming, volleyball, windsurfing, fishing and more. This serene beach tends to be less crowded than others nearby, so you’ll have plenty of space to stretch out – and perhaps an easier time finding parking. Beachgoers appreciate the quieter atmosphere and cleanliness here.

Address: 17700 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Hermosa Beach

Sailboat at sunset at Hermosa Beach Pier.

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Nestled in between Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach unfurls over nearly 2 miles of sand. In addition to the standard beach activities like volleyball, surfing and swimming, the town also hosts a variety of festivals, concerts and other special events year-round. The biannual Fiesta Hermosa, for example – held on the weekends of Memorial Day and Labor Day – is a treasured community street fair. You’ll also find plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance of the sand. Visitors say the city maintains the beach well and recommend walking along the pier for good views.

Address: Hermosa Avenue & 33rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Leo Carrillo State Park and Beach

A little more than 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, Leo Carrillo State Park offers a more natural beach experience with tide pools, reefs and coastal caves. Along its 1.5 miles of shoreline, the park provides plenty of opportunities for swimming, surfing, fishing, beachcombing and other activities. You can even make a trip out of your visit and stay at the state park’s campground, which has spots for tents and RVs. Dog owners appreciate that the beach is pet-friendly north of Lifeguard Tower 3 but caution that there are no off-leash areas.

Address: 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Carbon Beach

You can’t go wrong with a day spent seaside in Malibu, a city known for some of the best beaches in California. Nicknamed “Billionaire’s Beach” for its luxury Malibu homes, Carbon Beach has been known to host business moguls and celebrities. But despite its wealthy residents, this pristine beach is open to the public. There aren’t many activities on the sandy stretch – and at high tides, Carbon Beach is all wet – but visitors enjoy going for a stroll and seeing the lavish homes right on the water’s edge, as well as the scenic sea views. Parking can be tricky to find as you’ll have to take care not to block any driveways or garages, but past beachgoers say it’s worth the effort.

Address: 22126 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Huntington Beach

A much traveled sandy footpath leading to the Atlantic Ocean at Huntington Beach State Park.

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Known as “Surf City,” Huntington Beach is located about 40 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles in Orange County. The 3.5 miles of shore in this beach destination, considered a surfing mecca, draw more than 8 million visitors every year. The town is also home to one of the longest piers on the West Coast at 1,850 feet, offering breathtaking views, incredible photo opportunities, fishing and a dine-in restaurant. Past visitors say you’ll also find plenty of shops and other eateries within walking distance of the sand. There are even some areas for furry friends, including the off-leash Huntington Dog Beach, which is one of the top dog-friendly beaches in the U.S.

Cabrillo Beach

This mile-long beach – located about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles in San Pedro – is named after the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who led the first European expedition of what is now the West Coast of the U.S. Cabrillo Beach is divided in two parts: one outside the breakwater with ocean surf, as well as an area within the Los Angeles Harbor that has gentler waves for smaller children. Cabrillo Beach is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, beach volleyball, windsurfing and scuba diving, and you can cast a fishing line from the beach’s pier. Visitors recommend bringing children here to burn off steam on the beach and playground before learning about sea life at the adjacent Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

Address: 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, CA 90731

Zuma Beach

Located in Malibu about 35 miles west of LA, Zuma Beach belongs to the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, one of the top national parks in California. Zuma Beach boasts nearly 2 miles of white sand and rough surf that make it a great place to relax or get out on the water for some surfing, bodysurfing and windsurfing. You can also play beach volleyball, grab a bite to eat at the concession stand or one of the nearby restaurants, and even watch gray whales migrate during the winter. Additionally, locals build artificial sand dunes in the colder months to protect the shores from flooding and storms, so those looking to sled over steep dunes will enjoy that aspect of Zuma Beach. Visitors and residents alike love the beach for its pristine sand and water and beautiful Malibu sunsets.

Address: 30000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Playa del Rey Beach

Tire tracks and footprints in the sand with palm trees and power plant in the distance. Sunrise, Dockweiler Beach State Park, Playa Del Rey.

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Just south of Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey Beach is a relatively quiet stretch of sand where you can go to just listen to the waves crash on the shore. The town also has some cafes, taverns and boutiques if you want to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping. Those who want to be more active can make use of beach volleyball courts, a paved bike path and an adjacent grassy park complete with a playground and basketball courts. Because of its proximity to the airport and general lack of crowds, visitors say it can be worth a quick visit, even if you’re not staying in Los Angeles for very long.

Address: 7313-7351 S. Marine Ave., Playa del Rey, CA 90293

El Matador State Beach

The most popular of the three small beaches that make up Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach along the west edge of Malibu, El Matador offers a prime location to experience the natural beauty of beach caves and arches. The beach can get crowded during the summer, but if you visit during the off-season, you may be able to enjoy the beauty of El Matador in near solitude. Visitors say the rock formations are breathtaking, and the beach is a perfect spot to enjoy the sunset – though they caution that you’ll need to take a number of steep stairs and paths to reach it from street level.

Address: 32200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Point Dume State Beach

Secluded Pirate's Cove Beach in Point Dume at sunset with a colorful sky and ocean water flowing around rock formations.

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Another beach on the western end of Malibu, Point Dume State Beach is part of a nature preserve that features rocky coves, cliffs, headlands, tide pools and more than a mile of sand. On a clear day, you’ll get a full view of Santa Monica Bay and Catalina Island in the distance. It’s also an excellent spot for watching the gray whale migration between December and March. Past visitors say that parking here (as at many LA-area beaches) can be a hassle, but Point Dume offers unbeatable views.

Address: 7103 Westward Beach Road, Malibu, CA 90265

Main Beach

About 55 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles sits Laguna Beach, a renowned Orange County destination. Perhaps its most iconic seashore offering is Main Beach, whose lifeguard tower has been featured on both the silver and small screens. While you’re there, you may get lucky enough to see Olympians playing pickup beach volleyball or even a basketball star tearing up the court. The busy beach can get crowded, so it’s not the best place to spread your towel and relax, but you can enjoy the grassy public park, art installations and easy waves. Leashed dogs are allowed on Main Beach during certain hours, and visitors call it the ultimate California beach experience.

Address: S. Pacific Coast Highway & Broadway St., Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Malibu Lagoon State Beach comprises Malibu “Surfrider” Beach, Malibu Lagoon and Malibu Pier. Surfrider Beach, with nearly a mile of ocean frontage, is an ideal spot for a Southern California surfing experience, though swimming areas are limited. Visitors say the clean Surfrider Beach can be a great spot to relax and watch the surfers if you don’t want to get in the water yourself. Malibu Lagoon also has a sandy beach, as well as more than 20 acres of wetlands and 200-plus species of birds. You can fish from the Malibu Pier or learn about the history of the area at the Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum.

Address: 23050 & 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Junipero Beach

Junipero Beach – also called Cherry Beach – is situated in Long Beach, about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Relax on the soft sand, swim in the calm waves or bike along the paths. You can also sometimes take free yoga classes at Bixby Park, one of the two parks overlooking the beach, or grab some refreshments at Alfredo’s Beach Shack, which also offers bike rentals. Locals and travelers alike say Junipero Beach can provide some beautiful views and isn’t too crowded.

Address: 1 Junipero Ave., Long Beach, CA 90803

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