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The 20 Best Beaches in California

July 05, 2022

The Golden State is calling you to surf, sunbathe or just watch a gorgeous sunset. Don't miss these top California beach getaways.

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Find Your Ideal Beach in California

Whether you want to bodysurf, soak up some rays (with UV protection, of course) or dive in an underwater forest, California has a beach for you. Are the kids bored? Head to Santa Monica's amusement park. Need a place to dock your yacht? That's Newport Beach. Join a drum circle in Venice, swim in Laguna's sparkling blue water or chow down in the "Clam Capital of the World." Our list of the best California beaches will help you find the perfect place to go.

If you're into swimming and body surfing, check out Zuma Beach, where the golden sands stretch for almost two miles. The water is usually colder than other beaches in the LA area, and the waves can be rough, so you'll need a wet suit. Zuma is also popular for surfboarding and windsurfing. Lifeguards keep daylight hours most of the year but beware of dangerous riptides. In the winter, watch for migrating gray whales. Zuma is about 10 miles north of Santa Monica and has facilities like public restrooms, showers and snack bars.

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A 7-mile stretch of coves and beaches attracts sun-lovers to Laguna, located halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles in affluent Orange County. Deadman's Reef is known for its beauty and for the abundance of marine life that divers and snorkelers can see, including lobsters, sand bass and bat rays. Above the waves, the sparkling blue water is great for swimming and bodysurfing. There are more than 20 public beaches and coves to explore in Laguna, along with more than 20,000 acres of spectacular protected wilderness.

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Coronado is a regular on the list of California's best beaches. Just five minutes from San Diego, this family-friendly beach boasts wide stretches of sand (and it sparkles, thanks to large amounts of the mineral mica), along with mostly calm waves and great whale watching from mid-December through April. Lifeguard stations are staffed seasonally, depending on the weather and the number of beach-goers. Nearby public facilities and free parking along Ocean Boulevard add to Coronado's convenience and popularity. North Beach is dog-friendly. And children will love the tide pools that form at low tide at Central Beach.

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Santa Monica

There’s never a shortage of seaside fun at the Santa Monica Pier, where Santa Monica State Beach meets a boardwalk with amusement park rides, an aquarium, shops and eateries. There's no charge to stroll the historic boardwalk and more than 3 miles of warm, soft sand invite you to sit and people-watch, play games like beach volleyball or sunbathe. The mild surf is good for bodysurfing and swimming, but the water is cold, with temperatures ranging from the low to mid-60s.

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