The 10 Best Los Angeles Beaches

long beach at sunset

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley 

Los Angeles's beaches may almost be as much of an icon as Disneyland or the Hollywood sign. With almost two dozen beaches in Los Angeles County to choose from, you may have a hard time picking one or two to visit during your vacation. It can be a daunting task, so we've compiled this guide to the best Los Angeles beaches to help you choose.

The Truth about Southern California Sunshine

The Beach Boys weren't quite telling the truth when they crooned about West Coast sunshine. If you've never been here before, you may find Southern California less sunny than you expected, especially at the beaches.

When temperatures rise, so does the air, pulling cool, moist marine air inland onto the beaches like a foggy blanket. It's so predictable in early summer that local residents dub it "June gloom," but it can start in "May Gray" and sometimes extends into "No Sky July" and "Fogust", too. To find out more and what causes June Gloom, check out this guide.

Some days, the fog and low clouds disappear early, but on other days, like a carefree beach bum, the sun may not put in an appearance until mid- to late-afternoon. Don't forget to layer on the sunscreen even on these overcast days because the UV light goes right through the clouds.

01 of 11

Will Rogers State Beach

Will Rogers State Beach
esimpraim//Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Will Rogers State Beach is a long, narrow beach — nearly two miles long, sandwiched between Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean. It's closer to Los Angeles than the Malibu beaches, but not as crowded as those further south.

This beach may invoke a feeling of deja vu: Even if you haven't been here before, you've probably seen it in movies and television, including the classic "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and early seasons of "Baywatch."

And who was this Will Rogers guy? He was one of the best-known - and most amusing - celebrities of the 1920s and 1930s, who once owned land nearby.

Will Rogers State Beach is best for: Beach volleyball, walking or biking, surfing, scuba diving. Its mild right point break is good for beginning surfers. In 2010, The Nature Conservancy gave Will Rogers State Beach an "Ocean Oscar" for Best Swimming, saying it's "one of the nicest beaches in California to take a dip in the ocean and bask in the sunshine on a beach towel."

Pros and Cons

Just north of Santa Monica, this beach is closer to the city than those in Malibu, but less crowded than the ones south of it.

When the beach gets busy, it can also get pretty noisy.

Parking is another sore spot, with many thinking it costs too much.

Some beachgoers complain about the men's restroom, especially because the stalls don't have doors.

Some sources say Will Rogers State Beach is so popular with the gay community that it should be nicknamed "Ginger Rogers," but other online reviewers say they've been going there for years and never noticed. Who's there may depend on which part of the beach you go to.

Heal the Bay often gives Will Rogers State Beach an A+ for water quality, but it can experience periodic problems in the winter. Check current conditions.

In summer, Los Angeles beaches are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here.

How to Get to Will Rogers State Beach

Will Rogers State Beach is just west of Santa Monica on Pacific Coast Highway, near its intersection with Temescal Canyon Road. If you need an address for your GPS or smart phone, try 15500 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades.

You can park in any of several paid lots along the highway, including the one at Gladstone's Restaurant. Don't try to park along Temescal Canyon Road, though. There is some free parking, but tow-away signs aren't always visible - and the ticket and towing fees are far higher than what the parking lot charges.

You can get to Will Rogers State Beach using public transit on LA Metro Bus #534

Entrance fees are a little confusing, but I'll try to explain. Will Rogers is a California State Beach, but it's run by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors. Basically what that means to you is that neither of them does a great job of providing information online. And if you have a State Parks day pass, it isn't accepted here.

02 of 11

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Sunset at Leo Carrillo Beach
Antonio Busiello/Getty Images

Leo Carrillo State Beach is one of the most scenic beaches in Los Angeles, with a 1.5-mile-long, sandy beach, caves, and interesting rock formations.

Leo Carrillo State Beach is best for: Tide pooling, beachcombing, swimming, surfing and windsurfing, surf fishing, scuba diving. Photographers like Leo Carrillo State Beach and others nearby for sunset photography. Because the beach faces south and not west, it provides more even illumination.

03 of 11

Point Dume State Beach

Point Dume, Malibu, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Point Dume State Beach is located - as you might guess from its name - on a promontory, one of the south-most points along this section of east-west-running coastline. The sand isn't all on the beach at Point Dume, it's also piled up in a sand dune that forms a bluff protecting the beach. Not only are the views from the top of the bluffs expansive, but they provide a great spot to watch migrating gray whales in the winter.

Sheltered between sand dunes and the ocean, Point Dume provides not only a nice, sheltered beach but also some nice vistas from the top of the sand. The final scene of the original "Planet of the Apes" movie was filmed at the location in this photo. Other films that used Point Dume are the Normandy landings in "D-Day the Sixth of June ," Tony Stark's seaside mansion in "Iron Man and the ashes-scattering scene from "The Big Lebowski."

Why is it called Dume? In 1793, explorer George Vancouver wanted to name it in after Padre Francisco Dumetz of Mission San Buenaventura, but it was misspelled "Dume" - and so it's been ever since.

Point Dume Beach is best for: Fishing, swimming, scuba diving, tide pooling, whale-watching (in winter)

Dogs are not allowed at Point Dume because they disturb the wildlife and even if they never leave the parking lot, their scent can stop migrating birds from nesting.

Pros and Cons

Point Dume is further out of the LA metro area than the Malibu beaches, so it takes longer to get to - but that may mean smaller crowds.

Some beachgoers report that they've seen Dall's porpoises and sea lions at Point Dume - and if you're there at the right time, you may see some California gray whales swimming by.

Like all southern California beaches, Point Dume can be foggy until early afternoon - or even all day long, especially in summer.

The cliffs behind the beach protect it from wind.

Back in the wild 1960s and 70s, Point Dume was a clothing optional beach, but nowadays, nude sunbathing is strictly illegal in Los Angeles County.

Water quality watchdog Heal the Bay doesn't monitor Point Dume State Beach, but you can check current conditions at nearby Zuma Beach to get an idea of what's going on.

In summer, Los Angeles beaches are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here.

Point Dume State Beach is operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors and is one of the few California State Parks that does not accept the Annual Day Use Pass. Their parking fee varies by season.

How to Get to Point Dume State Beach

Point Dume State Beach is 18 miles west of Santa Monica and just off Pacific Coast Highway. The official address is 7103 Westward Rd., Malibu, CA. Turn west onto Westward Beach Road toward the ocean.

You'll find some free parking along the roadside on the way in, or stop freeloading off the state parks and use the paid lot at the end of the road.

When it's busy in summer, they run a shuttle from a second parking lot on Westward Beach Road.

To get there from US Hwy 101, exit at Kanan Road and turn right when you reach Pacific Coast Highway.

04 of 11

El Matador Beach

Malibu Sunset
Photo by Bryan Bzdula / Getty Images

El Matador Beach is one of the cliff-foot strands known as "pocket beaches" that make up the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, on the west end of Malibu.

This south-facing beach can be crowded during the summer, however during the off season, it's lightly visited with plenty of opportunity for romantic strolls, exploring the sea caves and taking pictures of the "sea stacks," eroded sandstone pillars that line the shore.

It's called a "pocket" beach because it's so small you might think it can fit in your pocket.

El Matador Beach is best for: Romantic walks, swimming, bodyboarding and bodysurfing

Pros and Cons

The beach is small and can be crowded in summer, making parking difficult to find.

This is one of the few beaches in the Los Angeles area where you can go in the water and still see your feet, it's so clear.

Pets are not allowed on the beach.

How to Get to El Matador Beach

El Matador Beach is 10 miles north of Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway (CA Hwy 1). The entrance sign is parallel to the highway, making it hard to see until you're almost past it.

Check the tide times before you visit. Some of the smaller coves get cut off at high tide.

Continue to 5 of 11 below.
05 of 11

Malibu Lagoon

Tidepooling at Malibu Lagoon
tsoleau/Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license

Malibu Lagoon State Beach is a white, sandy beach with a lagoon and wetlands nearby that draw marine life and shorebirds, and the waves are usually mild.

You can get a sense of the area's past at the Malibu Lagoon Museum or tour the Adamson House, a luxurious, a 1920s Spanish-Moorish-style home featuring locally-made Malibu Tile and tons of fantastic artisan touches.

At low tide, you can walk west along the sand to get a peek into the exclusive, gated Malibu Colony - as long as you stay closer to the water than the houses.

Just next door is Surfrider Beach, home to some of the area's best waves. Some say those who ride them are less territorial toward outsiders than in other locations. Malibu Lagoon is so close to Surfrider Beach that we're treating them as one - and there's a lot to do besides the normal things you do where ocean meets water, including some interesting wetlands to explore and a chance to see an exclusive neighborhood.

Malibu Lagoon is best for: Tide pooling, swimming, fishing, wildlife-watching, walking. Beach volleyball and surfing at Surfrider Beach.

You can also vsit the historical museum and tour the Adamson House.

Pros and Cons

So many things to do make Malibu Lagoon a good choice if you like some variety, but if all you want is sand and ocean, you might like other places better.

Many locals rave about how natural this spot is in the middle of built-up, sometimes-pretentious Malibu and close to the rest of LA.

The lagoon is least attractive at low tide. Occasionally, dead seaweed on the beach can create a stink.

The Adamson House located nearby is well worth a visit if you like early twentieth century homes and it's a great little peek into a wealthy family's lifestyle from that time.

Parking is limited and fills up, sometimes before noon even on a weekday - and they place the "Lot Full" signs so far off the road that you can't see them until after you've turned in. Street parking close by is limited and usually full. We hear there's free parking west of the beach, off PCH on Malibu Road, behind the shopping center, but it's almost half a mile from the beach entrance and 3/4 mile to the Adamson House.

The Malibu Surfing Classic is held at Surfrider Beach every September.

Water quality watchdog Heal the Bay monitors Surfrider Beach, just north of Malibu Lagoon State Beach and their ratings vary widely. Check current conditions.

In summer, Los Angeles beaches are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here.

How to Get to Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Malibu Lagoon State Beach is 13 miles west of Santa Monica on Pacific Coast Highway (CA Hwy 1). The official address is 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA. You can get there from US Hwy 101 by exiting at Las Virgenes Road, driving to Pacific Coast Highway and turn left on it.

The parking lot and nature area entrance is at Cross Creek Road. You can also park in the lot in front of the Adamson House or in the county parking lot on the west side of the Malibu Creek Bridge.

06 of 11

Venice Beach

Surfboard on Venice Beach
Cultura RM/Gu/Getty Images

The town and the beach have the same name, but we're talking about the sandy part here, along with the beachfront walk that faces it. The outrageous array of humanity that regularly appears on this beach can upstage even the best day on the sand and water, and the mix is irresistible.

Venice Beach is best for: People-watching, bicycling and walking

Pros and Cons

This beach scene is noisy and chaotic, something people either love or hate.

There's no entrance fee, but nearby parking lots fill up early, on weekends making it sometimes difficult to get to. Try the Venice Beach lot at the end of Washington Street or one of the nearby paid parking lots off Rose Avenue, Bay Street or Venice Boulevard.

Water quality is generally good here during dry weather, but Heal the Bay gives Venice Beach an "F" grade when it's wet.

In summer, Los Angeles beaches including Venice Beach, are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here.

How to Get to Venice Beach

Venice Beach centered around the Venice Pier at Washington Street. Exit I-405 at Washington and go west.

07 of 11

Manhattan Beach, The Strand

Manhattan Beach Pier at Sunset
MoMaBi/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Manhattan Beach may well be the prototype for the quintessential Los Angeles beach. A Beach Boys' hangout in their early days and the birthplace of beach volleyball, this west-facing urban beach attracts a broad mix of visitors.

There's always a lot going on at Manhattan Beach, which makes it feel lively, fun and lived-in - and the beachfront homes here are among the nicest along the coast (good for gawking at and daydreaming about).

You can use this guide to find out all the things you can do in Manhattan Beach, on the sand and in town.

Manhattan Beach is best for: People-watching, beach volleyball, surfing, swimming, fishing, walking and bicycling

Pros and Cons

This urban beach is always busy. It can be hard to find parking and nearly impossible to find a free parking space. Because it's in the middle of town, it's easy to find a place for a cup of coffee, a meal or a drink - or to do a little shopping.

Street parking here is scarce. Be prepared to feed the streetside parking meters or those in the parking lots - and don't push your luck by overstaying your time limit. Parking enforcement is diligent.

No pets are allowed on the beach, but they can walk on the beachside sidewalk.

Heal the Bay usually gives Manhattan Beach an "A" grade, but it has occasional problems in wet areas. Check current conditions.

In summer, Los Angeles beaches including Manhattan Beach, are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here

How to Get to Manhattan Beach

The Manhattan Beach pier is at the end of Manhattan Beach Boulevard. From I-405, exit on Hawthorne Boulevard north and turn left onto Manhattan Beach Boulevard. From Pacific Coast Highway, turn west on Manhattan Beach Boulevard.

From LAX, head west on Imperial Highway to Vista del Mar and follow Vista del Mar and Highland Avenue south to downtown Manhattan Beach.

08 of 11

Abalone Cove, Palos Verdes

Abalone Cove
Christina Hsu/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The official name is Abalone Cove Shoreline Park and it's actually two beaches in one place: Abalone Cove and Sacred Cove. Its location on the Palos Verdes peninsula gives it some of the best views of Catalina Island you'll find anywhere.

The tide pools at Abalone Cove are full of sea creatures, protected as a State Ecological Preserve which make taking of protected animals and marine life illegal.

Abalone Cove may be closed on major holidays.

Abalone Cove is best for: Swimming, tide pooling.

Abalone Cove is only good for surfing once in a while, and that's mostly in summer - and when it is, locals don't like to share

You can also take a hike or dive offshore. Pacific Wilderness has information about scuba diving at Abalone Cove

The tide pools at Abalone Cove are full of all kinds of fascinating sea creatures including colorful starfish, giant slugs, periwinkles, hermit crabs and anemones - but unfortunately, not the abalone the cove is named for.

Pros and Cons

Abalone Cove can be packed on busy weekends and it's a long drive from the freeway, which takes a while.

The main part of the park is on top of the cliffs and it's a long walk from the parking lot to the beach, which makes it less than the best place to take smaller children who don't like to walk.

Kelp can pile up on the beach, decaying, smelling bad and attracting flies. Even though it's a perfectly normal process, it's not the most pleasant thing to see.

Speaking of unexpected sights, nearby Sacred Cove (which is also called Smuggler's Cove) is said by some to be a nude beach. Nude sunbathing is strictly illegal in Los Angeles County, but that may not stop some people from baring it all anyway.

Abalone Cove charges a parking fee but no entrance fee. It's hard to find parking anywhere else in the area and somebody's gotta pay to maintain the place, so your best bet it to just pay up.

Heal the Bay routinely gives Abalone Cove Beach an A+ for water quality, but any beach can have temporary problems. Check current conditions.

In summer, Los Angeles beaches are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here

If you're going down to the tide pools, wear sneakers, water shoes or something with a good sole so you don't slip on the wet rocks.

Dogs are not allowed.

How to Get to Abalone Cove Beach

Abalone Cove Beach is located at The address is 5970 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes CA, between Portuguese and Inspiration Points. You can get there from the South Bay by following Hawthorn Boulevard to the end and turning right, or by connecting with Palos Verdes Blvd from Pacific Coast Highway in south Redondo Beach.

You can also get there using public transportation on LA Metro Bus #344.

To get to Sacred Cove, walk along Palos Verdes Drive from the parking area to trails that lead to it.

Continue to 9 of 11 below.
09 of 11

Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach
Paul Iwancio at Flickr Under Attribution-ShareAlike License

The northernmost Los Angeles beach has lots of room and if you're lucky, you may see dolphins in the surf.

With white sand, clean water and plenty of room, Zuma Beach is a perennial favorite with residents and visitors alike. This south-facing beach attracts lots of visitors on summer weekends, but Zuma Beach is relatively quiet during the week.

If you want to sound like a local, drop the "beach" and just call it "Zuma."

Zuma Beach is best for: Surfing, swimming, beach volleyball, whale-watching (in winter)

Pros and Cons

On a busy day, the parking lot and every inch of roadside parking are packed - and so is the sand.

Because Zuma Beach is a bit further north, the water is colder than at other Los Angeles beaches (about 68F in mid-summer).

In summer, Los Angeles beaches are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here. You may also want to check the water quality before you go.

The Zuma Beach snack bar is better-suited to kids than adults. If you're going to be at Zuma very long, stop on the way up from Malibu and pick up something to eat.

No pets are allowed.

How to Get to Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach is 19 miles north of Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway.

If you get there early, you can park for free on the west side of Pacific Coast Highway. Otherwise, park in the paid parking lot, which has over 2,000 spaces.

10 of 11

Paradise Cove

Enjoying the View at Paradise Cove in Malibu
Betsy Malloy Photography

Paradise Cove is accessed through a privately-owned parking lot with a restaurant, framed by bluffs and with nice, level sand.

This small beach, located north of Malibu just off Highway 1 is framed by bluffs and looks out on boats moored nearby. Don't be surprised if it looks familiar. Television programs "The OC," "Baywatch, and "The Rockford Files" were filmed here, and movies "American Pie 2" and "Beach Blanket Bingo."

Owner Bob Morris grew up in Malibu and wants to preserve a slice of the Southern California beach life he grew up with, making Paradise Cove the kind of place tourists seldom find.

The Beach Cafe's attire is 100% casual. We recommend a table outside by the sand or inside by the windows looking out on the beach.

Paradise Cove is best for: Swimming, fishing, beach volleyball, people-watching

Pros and Cons

You'll have to pay to get in, and parking spaces are limited, but we love the lively, "let's go to the beach" feel - and it's fun to sit at the restaurant and just watch it all.

All-day parking costs more than nearby public beaches in Malibu, but restaurant validation covers 4 hours' parking, enough time for a meal and a little beach play.

Entry fees keep crowds at bay.

Avoid weekend waits. Call 310-457-2503 for restaurant reservations. Weekdays crowds are just enough to make it feel lively.

Restaurant prices seem high at first, but portions are enormous. One appetizer order can feed four. Splitting an entree or taking half home makes portions and prices just right.

According to Heal the Bay, the water quality at Malibu's Paradise Cove Beach varies widely. Check the latest report if you're concerned.

In summer, Los Angeles beaches are subject to red tides. Find out everything you need to know about red tides here

How to Get to Paradise Cove Beach

Paradise Cove Beach is on Pacific Coast Highway (CA Hwy 1) in Malibu. The address is 28128 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA

There's a per-person fee if you walk in or get dropped off. For two or more people, it's less expensive to drive in and park. Parking fees vary depending on how long you stay at Paradise Cove and whether you get validation from the restaurant.

11 of 11

The Lists: Best Los Angeles Beaches by Type

Santa Monica Beach signage, Santa Monica, CA

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

These lists give you a different way of looking for the best beach for what you want to do. It also includes a few beaches that have enough negatives to keep them out of the top ten but that are nevertheless good for specific activities.

Beach With the Best Waves for Surfing

Locals love Zuma Beach north of Malibu for its good waves and clean water. You'll find lots of surfing buddies in Manhattan Beach

Best Beach to Watch People

Venice Beach Los Angeles' quirkiest beach can be its most interesting, attracting a cast of characters fit for any Hollywood movie

Best for Walking

The long, paved walking path with Santa Monica Bay views makes Manhattan Beach our favorite place to take a walk

Best for the Beach Experience

Paradise Cove is a small, private beach that offers a charming, old-fashioned beach experience and a beachside restaurant

Best for Beach Volleyball

Manhattan Beach is the birthplace of beach volleyball and home of the world's first beach volleyball tournament. Up toward Malibu, Will Rogers State Park is often less crowded.

Best for a Bonfire

Dockweiler Beach is the only Los Angeles County beach where you can have bonfire.

Best for Tide Pools

Leo Carrillo State Park and Malibu Lagoon State Beach - both in Malibu - and Abalone Cove in Palos Verdes offer great tide pools to check out at low tide.

Best Beach for a Romantic Stroll

A secluded, little pocket beach north of Malibu, El Matador Beach is a great place to watch the sunset with your sweetie

Best for Families

Redondo Beach offers lots of sand to play on, a pier full of amusements and a long, paved path for biking or skating making it a place you can take the kids to and let them run until they're exhausted

Best for Amusements

Santa Monica Beach is home of a lively amusement park on the pier and summer concerts

Best for Ocean Swimming

Swimming in the ocean at a Los Angeles beach is a chilly dip any time of year. Water temperatures vary from 60°F in winter to 68°F in August, the warmest month. If you're determined to give it a try, The Nature Conservancy gave Will Rogers State Beach an "Ocean Oscar"in 2010 as the best California beach for ocean swimming, saying it's "one of the nicest beaches in California to take a dip in the ocean and bask in sunshine on a beach towel."

The Los Angeles Times rates Zuma Beach north of Malibu as a good place for swimmers, saying "frequent visitors are no longer surprised to find themselves swimming among dolphins" - and a quick search on YouTube will yield lots of videos to back them up.

Best for a Weekend Getaway

The beach, pier and marina in Redondo Beach serve up plenty to keep you busy all weekend

Los Angeles Beaches to Bare it All

Public nudity is illegal anywhere in Los Angeles County and there are no nude beaches here. The nearest option is San Onofre at the north edge of San Diego County, but law enforcement hassles have limited its use. Next closest nude beaches are San Diego's Blacks Beach or More Mesa Beach near Santa Barbara.

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