The Best Beaches in Southern California

Every year visitors flock to California to explore its iconic beaches. From ritzy locales to funky coastal enclaves, Southern California’s diverse beaches all provide a different experience. We’re exploring the top five beaches that Southern California has to offer.

La Jolla Shores

San Diego’s La Jolla Shores offers a mile of pristine coastline. Known for its calm surf, La Jolla Shores is a great spot for swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and kayaking. Its gentle waves make it a popular spot for families with small children.

Directly adjacent to La Jolla Shores is the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve. This unique underwater park boasts an abundance of sea life. Snorkelers and scuba divers can swim among harmless leopard sharks, garibaldi fish, sea bass, and La Jolla’s famous sea lions and seals. After a day at the beach, visitors often head to downtown La Jolla, where they can stroll down Prospect Street and check out the many boutiques and galleries in the area.

Sunset Cliffs

Another popular spot in San Diego is Sunset Cliffs, located in the Point Loma neighborhood. This stunning spot on the coast offers a 1.5-mile walk along sheer cliffs that tower high above the rugged beach below. Some visitors brave the trek down to the beach itself, while others simply choose to take in the incredible views from the cliffs. Sunset Cliffs’ coastal bluffs have been carved away from erosion, resulting in striking arches and sea caves.

From the cliffs, it’s not uncommon to see California gray whales in the distance as they complete their annual migration. And as the name suggests, Sunset Cliffs is one of the best spots to catch a sunset in San Diego. It’s also a great place to witness the famous “green flash,” which is a phenomenon that produces a green glimmer of light just as the sun goes down.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is an iconic California beach city west of Downtown Los Angeles. From surfing to people-watching, Santa Monica offers a day full of activities. The soft, sandy beaches are great for sunbathing, and the boardwalk makes it easy to stroll or bike alongside the beach. After going for a swim, head to the Santa Monica Pier. This historic landmark is home to shops, restaurants, attractions, and amusement park rides.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is one of the most popular beach cities in Orange County. This idyllic coastal paradise offers the SoCal beach town essentials: high-end boutiques, a casual vibe, and miles of beautiful coastline. It’s a great spot for a romantic getaway or a trip with the family. With some of the cleanest beaches in Southern California, visitors have peace of mind going surfing or swimming.

While in Newport Beach, be sure to check out Crystal Cove Park, which encompasses over three miles of beautiful coastline, cliffs, chaparral canyons, and tide pools. There is also an underwater park where scuba divers can explore kelp forests that are rich in marine life.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is about 10 miles south of Newport Beach, but it offers its own distinct charm. This Orange County beach town is known for its artistic spirit, casual attitude, and picturesque coastline. After the painter Norman St. Clair made Laguna Beach his home in 1903, artists continued to follow suit and Laguna Beach was known as an artist colony for many years. The town still maintains a vibrant arts scene and hosts the yearly Sawdust Festival, which attracts over 200,000 visitors who come to see local artists.

Thinking about retiring to California? Discover age-restricted communities in the popular retirement destination of Southern California.

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