Home >  All Blogs  >  

Best Beach Cities in California

Table Of Contents

  • 1. San Diego

  • 2. Huntington Beach

  • 3. Laguna Beach

  • 4. Santa Monica

  • 5. Malibu

  • 6. Santa Barbara

  • 7. Carmel-by-the-Sea

  • 8. Capitola

  • 9. Pismo Beach

  • 10. San Clemente

  • 11. Newport Beach

  • 12. Oceanside

  • 13. Santa Cruz

  • Conclusion

Best Beach Cities in California

11 read

Thu Feb 01 2024

#Top Lists

Best Beach Cities in California

Top 13 Beach Cities in California

With over 800 miles of coastline, California is synonymous with beach culture. Up and down the Golden State, you’ll find lively seaside towns and cities where you can wake up to ocean views, spend the day tanning on the sand, and enjoy fresh coastal cuisine.

The beach vibe varies from funky and retro to posh and upscale. But these destinations all celebrate the California lifestyle of surf, sun, and relaxation by the sea. Here are the top 13 beach cities to check out:

1. San Diego

San Diego enjoys a laid back beach scene with nearly 70 miles of coast. Neighborhood beaches like La Jolla, Mission Beach, and Pacific Beach each have their own charm. You can surf, kayak, or just chill out with local flair. The historic beach cottages, seafood shacks, and boardwalks enhance San Diego’s seaside appeal.

  • La Jolla Shores - Family-friendly beach with soft waves perfect for beginners.
  • Mission Beach - Lively beach lined with shops, bars, and vacation rentals.
  • Pacific Beach - Surfers and swimmers enjoy this energetic beach scene.Best Beach Cities in California

2. Huntington Beach

Nicknamed “Surf City USA,” Huntington Beach has a 10-mile stretch of sand centered around a lively pier. With its numerous surf shops, beach volleyball courts, bonfires, and outdoor bars, it embodies SoCal’s casual surf culture. The consistent waves, mild weather, and festive atmosphere draw beach lovers year-round.

3. Laguna Beach

Art galleries, secluded coves, and splendid ocean vistas make Laguna Beach an upscale seaside escape. Along the sandstone cliffs, you’ll find over 30 scenic beaches to explore. With a thriving art community and charming village feel, Laguna Beach offers sophistication by the sea.

4. Santa Monica

Fronting the Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica Beach blends vintage charm with a buzzing boardwalk. Beach cruisers and surfers epitomize its laid-back SoCal spirit. Palisades Park atop the oceanside bluffs provides close-up views of surfers and stand-up paddleboarders enjoying the waves.

5. Malibu

Stretching 21 miles along the Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu epitomizes Southern California’s beach lifestyle of surfing, luxury living, and incredible sunsets. Behind grand oceanfront homes lie scenic beaches like Zuma, Surfrider, and Point Dume that cater to surfers and beachcombers alike.

6. Santa Barbara

With the Santa Ynez Mountains as a lovely backdrop, Santa Barbara celebrates the California coastal scene with art galleries, high-end shops, fine dining, and panoramic views. Wide beaches like East Beach and butterflies in the offshore nature preserve enhance this quintessential seaside town.

7. Carmel-by-the-Sea

Charming Carmel-by-the-Sea appeals to artists, families, and couples seeking romance on the water’s edge. Cozy inns, chic boutiques, and acclaimed restaurants line its European-style streets. Along scenic Carmel Beach, you can walk your dog, surf, or photograph the famed sunrises and sunsets.

8. Capitola

On Monterey Bay, the village of Capitola has an old-fashioned coastal vibe epitomized by its beachfront boardwalk. Colorful beach cottages and laidback eateries surround the lively shoreline. Capitola provides a more affordable alternative to Santa Cruz with plenty of seaside allure.

9. Pismo Beach

Classic seaside fun awaits in Pismo Beach along California’s Central Coast. Families flock to its exciting pier, quaint downtown, and 1,200-foot fishing pier. You can pick up fresh seafood, rent an ATV, or just spread out on wide stretches of beach and dunes that allow bonfires.

  • Pismo Beach - Prime beach with shops and restaurants nearby.
  • Oceano Dunes - Miles of sand for off-roading and camping.
  • Best Beach Cities in California

10. San Clemente

In southern Orange County, San Clemente retains its Spanish village charm along with great surf beaches. The fishing pier, historic Miramar Theater, and seaside trails are main attractions. For ocean views, stroll along the paved beach trail to Calafia Beach Park's dramatic bluffs.

11. Newport Beach

Upscale Newport Beach south of Long Beach appeals to yachters, surfers, and oceanfront revelers along Balboa Peninsula. Activities range from paddleboarding to sportfishing. Watch the boats in one of America’s largest small-craft harbors for a taste of the nautical lifestyle.

12. Oceanside

North of San Diego, Oceanside combines military history with lively surf culture, location along one of California’s most impressive beaches. The wooden pier is a hub for anglers, while surf shops line the oceanfront. Oceanside’s laidback atmosphere comes with more affordable prices.

13. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz brings together surfers, artists, students, and free spirits along its scenic shoreline. Old-fashioned amusement rides line the historic beach boardwalk. Surfing is huge, with Steamer Lane attracting pros. With its vibrant culture and idyllic setting, Santa Cruz embodies the best of NorCal beach living.


From upscale enclaves to funky surf towns, you’ll find your perfect sunny retreat along California’s spectacular coast. The beach vibe may differ, but the welcoming waves and inspiring ocean views shine through in all these seaside hot spots.


Beach Blogs