Best Family Beach Vacations in California

  • 01 of 10

    Santa Cruz

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    ••• Don DeBold/Flickr Creative Commons

    With its family-friendly beaches, miles of open space and fun events for kids, Santa Cruz makes for a fantastic family getaway. On the classic beach boardwalk, don't miss a ride on the landmark wooden roller coaster, Giant Dipper, while little ones might prefer sticking to the 1911 hand-carved carousel.

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  • 02 of 10

    Pismo Beach

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    ••• Anita Ritenour/Flickr Creative Commons

    With cliffs perched over white sand beaches and jaw-dropping ocean views, the scenic town of Pismo Beach is a gem on California's Central Coast. It is an ideal base from which to explore the 'Five Cities' community along Highway 1 as it winds through the beautiful landscape south of Big Sur.

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  • 03 of 10

    Laguna Beach

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    ••• jmpm3/Flickr Creative Commons

    Known for its mild year-round climate and artist community, the beautiful seaside resort town of Laguna Beach beckons families to enjoy its scenic beaches and kid-friendly attractions.

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    • 04 of 10

      Avila Beach

      Avila Beach in Central California
      ••• Danita Delimont/Getty Images

      For the most kid-friendly stretch of sand near San Luis Obispo, head to Avila Beach, whose jetty protects families from northwesterly winds and huge waves. The town also has a pirate-themed park that’s perfect for a picnic and a boardwalk and pier that extends over a thousand feet out into the ocean.

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    • 05 of 10

      La Jolla

      La Jolla California - Beach Town
      ••• Ashok Sinha/Getty Images

      Beautiful La Jolla is a magnet for beach lovers, boasting some of the best in the state. (In particular, families will love La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores.) Don't miss a visit to the Birch Aquarium or a stroll along the La Jolla waterfront.

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    • 06 of 10

      Santa Barbara

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      ••• katie ruthh/Flickr Creative Commons

      Upscale and gorgeous, Santa Barbara is a gem on the South California Coast. Along with spectacular beaches, you won't want to miss a visit to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Santa Barbara Zoo.

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    • 07 of 10

      Los Angeles

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      ••• Antti T. Nissinen/Flickr Creative Commons

      From its standout beaches to theme parks and cultural pursuits, Los Angeles offers myriad ways for families to have fun.

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    • 08 of 10

      Carmel-by-the-Sea

      Carmel-by-the-Sea in California
      ••• Doug Steakley/Getty Images

      Carmel-by-the-Sea has been a favorite haunt for writers, artists, and actors for more than a century. Clint Eastwood was once mayor of the town and still owns a restaurant there. There's a stunning beach, charming shops and restaurants, and lots of history.

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    • 09 of 10

      San Diego

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      ••• San Diego Tourist Authority

      With 70 miles of coastline and year-round mild temperatures, San Diego offers an ideal beach getaway. After you explore some of the 33 amazing beaches in the San Diego area, here are 10 truly fabulous and free kid-friendly activities that will stretch your vacation budget.

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    • 10 of 10

      Cambria

      Cambria - California Beach Getaways
      ••• Joe Josephs Photography/Getty Images

      Adorable Cambria is chock full of charm, offering jaw-dropping vistas, beautiful beaches, Hearst Castle, and much more. This area of Highway 1 is a great place to spy elephant seals. 

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