Top 12 Best Beaches in Los Angeles

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Los Angeles is renowned for its beautiful beaches that offer sun, surf, and sand. With miles of coastline, L.A. is home to some of the most iconic beaches in the world. From tourist hotspots to secluded local gems, the diversity of beaches in Los Angeles is unparalleled.

Beach NameKey Features
Santa Monica BeachFamous pier, amusement park, volleyball courts, bike path.
Venice BeachBohemian vibe, boardwalk, Muscle Beach, street performers.
Zuma BeachLong sandy shoreline, popular for surfing, less crowded.
El Matador BeachSecluded, dramatic cliffs, tide pools, no facilities.
Manhattan BeachFamily-friendly, “The Strand” pathway, nearby aquarium.
Hermosa BeachBeach volleyball, pier eateries, lively atmosphere.
Leo Carrillo State ParkWilderness backdrop, tide pools, camping, trails.
Point Dume State BeachScenic views, marine mammal preserve, dramatic bluffs.
Malibu Surfrider BeachFamous surf break, next to Malibu Pier, crowded waters.
Topanga State BeachSwimming, surfing, tide pools, less crowded.
Abalone Cove BeachSecluded, tidepools, part of nature preserve, scenic footpath.
Cabrillo BeachGentle waves, near port of Los Angeles, local flavor, less crowded.

Whether you want to surf, sunbathe, play volleyball, or just take in the ocean views, L.A. has a beach that’s perfect for you. The mild southern California climate means beach season is year-round. Each beach has its own unique vibe and attractions.

In this article, we’ll explore the top 12 best beaches in Los Angeles. For each beach, we’ll cover what makes it special, what to do there, and any important tips for visiting. With endless coastline to explore, get ready for the ultimate guide to L.A. beaches!

1. Santa Monica Beach

Name and Location: Santa Monica Beach is located in the city of Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California. It runs parallel to the Pacific Coast Highway in downtown Santa Monica.

History and Significance: Santa Monica Beach has been a popular tourist destination since the early 20th century. The beach hosted aquatic sports in the 1932 Summer Olympics. It is now a popular spot for surfing, swimming, sunbathing, and beach volleyball.

What to Expect: Santa Monica Beach is a wide, sandy beach with gentle waves that make it an ideal spot for families and beginner surfers. Visitors can expect beachside amenities like food trucks, equipment rentals, and metered parking spaces along the coast.

Visitor Information: Santa Monica Beach is open daily with no entrance fee. Parking rates vary by season and location. Public transportation and bike rentals are available to access the beach.

Santa Monica Beach is one of the most famous beaches in L.A. Located along Santa Monica Bay in the desirable neighborhood of the same name, it’s at the epicenter of beach culture in Southern California.

The beach is a wide swath of golden sand, with the iconic Santa Monica Pier jutting into the ocean. The pier features Pacific Park amusement park, restaurants, shops, and beautiful views. Volleyball courts line the southern end of the beach, where intense pickup games frequently occur.

Surfing and swimming are popular activities, but be cautious of strong waves and rip currents. A bike path runs along the entire beach, perfect for cruising while taking in the ocean vistas. Facilities include restrooms and showers.

Take a stroll on the bustling Third Street Promenade or visit the luxury shopping at Santa Monica Place when you’ve had enough sun. With so much to see and do right off the beach, Santa Monica is among the best beaches in Los Angeles.

2. Venice Beach

Name and Location: Venice Beach is situated in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. It runs parallel to Ocean Front Walk near the Venice Fishing Pier.

History and Significance: Venice Beach hosted the modifier skateboarding competitions Dogtown and Z-Boys in the 1970s. Its oceanfront boardwalk is now home to eclectic shops, street performers, Muscle Beach gym, and iconic graffiti art walls.

What to Expect: Visitors can expect an energetic, carnival-like BOARD with bodybuilders at Muscle Beach, local artists, fortunetellers, and street performers. The wide sandy beach itself is popular for volleyball, surfing, and sunbathing with friends.

Visitor Information: Venice Beach is free and open 24/7. Parking lots and metered street parking line Ocean Front Walk. Several Big Blue Bus lines stop near Venice Beach for public transportation access.

Experience the lively bohemian vibe of Venice Beach. This vibrant beach community is one of the most unique places in L.A. Visitors flock here to see the iconic Venice Boardwalk with its eclectic shops, street performers, and colorful murals.

Play beach volleyball, gym at the famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym, or rent a bicycle or rollerblades to cruise the paved pathways along the sand. Vendors sell art and food on the boardwalk, while fortune-tellers, musicians and artists line Ocean Front Walk.

The waves at Venice Beach draw surfers though currents can be strong. Swimming areas are periodically blocked off. Watch the weightlifters at Muscle Beach or play a pickup basketball game on the popular Venice Beach Basketball Courts.

With so much energy and activity, Venice Beach is one of the top beaches in Los Angeles. Stick around to wander the scenic residential canals for a quieter perspective.

3. Zuma Beach

Name and Location: Zuma Beach is a long, sandy beach located at 30000 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California stretching over two miles.

History and Significance: Zuma Beach has been a popular sunbathing and surfing destination since the early 1900s. Its vast, sandy shores were used as a movie set for films like Some Like It Hot and Charlie’s Angels.

What to Expect: Visitors can expect mild waves, clean water, and miles of soft sand for sunbathing. Beach volleyball courts, snack bars, showers, and lifeguards on duty make it ideal for families too.

Visitor Information: Zuma Beach has an affordable $12 parking fee on weekdays and $15 on weekends and holidays per vehicle. Leashed pets, food, and fires are permitted in designated areas.

Escape the crowds at Zuma Beach, one of the top beaches in L.A. Located in Malibu past Point Dume, Zuma has over 2 miles of broad sandy shoreline tucked into a long stretch of rugged coastline.

Strong waves frequently pound Zuma, making this a popular surfing destination best suited for experienced surfers. Smaller waves can occur too for those learning to surf. Avoid swimming here as rip currents are common.

Zuma has ample parking, bathrooms, showers, and food concessions. The northern end has fewer people for a quieter experience. Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach before 10am and after 4pm.

Cliffs line sections of Zuma, providing scenic views along the coast. Stay for sunset then head to Malibu for dinner at a coastal restaurant like Nobu or Duke’s. The remote location means Zuma Beach is less crowded than beaches further south.

4. El Matador Beach

Name and Location: El Matador Beach is a secluded beach with stunning rock formations located at 32215 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California.

History and Significance: Originally an epicenter for smugglers with merchandise from Mexico, El Matador is now a popular filming location for movies, commercials, music videos and photo shoots needing a tropical look.

What to Expect: Visitors can expect a remote hideaway surrounded by cliffs leading to sandy shores and sea caves. Given the difficult coastal terrain, the beach is recommended for advanced surfers.

Visitor Information: El Matador has free parking in small dirt lots off the highway. Given limited amenities, guests should prepare supplies for a full day of beach activity.

For secluded beach vibes, visit El Matador Beach just north of Malibu. The beach is tucked between craggy cliffs and rock formations that jut dramatically from emerald waters.

El Matador features tide pools teeming with marine life at low tide. Seals and sea lions may be spotted playing in the crashing waves offshore. But use caution as El Matador is prone to rip currents.

There are no lifeguards or facilities here, so pack necessities for a day at the beach. The beach has limited parking off El Matador Beach Road. A steep 150-step trail leads down the cliffs to the beach – wear proper footwear and be prepared for an ascent on the way back up.

The remote, intimate setting at El Matador makes it among the best beaches in Los Angeles for privacy and nature admiring. Once you find your own sandy spot, El Matador Beach feels like a secret oasis.

5. Manhattan Beach

Name and Location: Manhattan Beach is situated on the Pacific Coast Highway south of Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles County, California.

History and Significance: Manhattan Beach became a hotspot for luxury real estate in the early 1900s known as the “Pearl of the South Bay.” It hosted beach volleyball events in the Olympics in 1984 and continues to host professional tournaments.

What to Expect: In addition to its popular sandy beaches, visitors can expect high-end shops and hotels along the oceanfront Metlox Plaza and tree-lined streets perfect for taking scenic walks.

Visitor Information: Public beach access points provide free entry with metered parking ranging $1-3 per hour. Bus routes and biking trails connect Manhattan Beach to nearby coastal towns.

For the quintessential laidback beach town vibe, head to Manhattan Beach. Families flock to “The Strand”, the paved pedestrian pathway lining Manhattan Beach, perfect for cycling, skating, jogging, and strolling.

Kids will love the nearby Roundhouse Aquarium on the Manhattan Beach Pier, where they can get up close to local marine life. The pier features shops and casual eateries with ocean views.

Manhattan Beach is renowned for great surf, though waves can be strong. Volleyball is hugely popular on the south end. Beach bonfires are allowed in designated fire pits.

Adjacent Old Town Manhattan Beach offers casual restaurants and boutiques in a charming downtown setting. Manhattan Beach is among the top beaches in L.A. for its friendly, safe community feel.

6. Hermosa Beach

Name and Location: Hermosa Beach is located along the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles County between Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, California.

History and Significance: Once a prime oil drilling town, Hermosa Beach shifted towards tourism and surf culture in the 1950s. Its Wooden Pier now hosts colorful sunsets, festivals, and ironman competitions throughout the year.

What to Expect: From laidback beach bars to boutique shopping centers, Hermosa Beach offers a vibrant social scene paired with beautiful sandy shores perfect for beach volleyball and surfing.

Visitor Information: Hermosa Beach stretches nearly two miles with over a dozen public access points. Street and lot parking start at $1 per hour with increased rates in the summer.

Hermosa Beach Pier is the centerpiece of this fun beach community. Locals flock to the pier’s casual eateries for al fresco dining on the iconic wooden platform.

The beach buzzes with activity like beach volleyball, cycling, surfing, bodyboarding, and swimming. Waves can be large, so caution is advised. Guard towers ensure ocean safety from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Make sure to walk out on the Hermosa Beach Pier for sweeping views up and down the golden coastline – it’s stunning at sunset! Afterward, check out the bars, restaurants, comedy clubs, and boutiques along Hermosa Ave and Pier Plaza.

With a lively yet laidback vibe, Hermosa Beach is considered among the top beaches in Los Angeles.

7. Leo Carrillo State Park

Name and Location: Leo Carrillo State Park is a 1.5 mile beach located off the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California with both sandy and tidal pool areas.

History and Significance: Named after actor and conservationist Leo Carrillo, it became a state park in 1953. Its mix of rocky reefs, quiet coves, and canyon trails continue to serve as a popular filming retreat.

What to Expect: In addition to beach access, visitors can enjoy campground accommodations, hiking trails, and swimming holes that make up over 2,000 acres of state park recreation.

Visitor Information: Leo Carrillo State Park charges a standard $12 parking fee per vehicle. Amenities include bathrooms, showers, food stands and ranger-led programs free with paid admission.

For a beach getaway with a wilderness backdrop, visit Leo Carrillo State Park. Tucked between Malibu and Ventura, the state park encompasses beaches, tide pools, canyon trails, and camping.

At Leo Carrillo Beach, families wade in the relatively calm waters, play in the sand, and explore the tide pools. Further out, surfers and bodyboarders ride the waves, which can get big here. Anglers can fish off the rocks.

Swim out to Anacapa Island, an ecologically protected islet just offshore. Hike the trails among the canyons and bluffs in the state park for ocean views. Camp or rent a cottage on the property.

With its mix of beach activities against scenic nature, Leo Carrillo is one of the most alluring beaches in L.A.

8. Point Dume State Beach

Name and Location: Point Dume State Beach is situated along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California. The Headlands Park Preserve sits on an adjacent bluff.

History and Significance: The cliffs of Point Dume were once viewed as a sacred spot by the Chumash people and served as a lookout point for World War II troops. It remains a popular filming destination seen in shows like Iron Man and Planet of the Apes.

What to Expect: Rocky tide pools and reefs make this locale ideal for scuba diving, fishing, and exploring sea caves. Vista points from the bluffs offer panoramic views great for whale watching and sunsets.

Visitor Information: Parking at Point Dume costs $12 on weekdays and $15 on weekends. Amenities include picnic tables, volleyball courts and hiking trails accessible via foot or bike.

Another jewel of the state park system, Point Dume State Beach lies along a scenic stretch of coast in Malibu’s north end. The main beach attracts families while surfers head to adjacent Dume Cove to catch right point breaks.

Climb up the trail at Point Dume to an amazing lookout point with panoramic vistas stretching across Santa Monica Bay – it’s breathtaking at sunset. Return to the beach to watch for dolphins, seals, and even whales offshore as this area is part of a marine mammal preserve.

Swimming is not advised due to strong riptides and waves, but it’s great for beachcombing, picnicking, or simply contemplating the Pacific against the Santa Monica Mountains backdrop. Leashed dogs are allowed at Point Dume Beach, a major draw for pet owners.

With scenic vistas atop dramatic bluffs, Point Dume ranks as one of the top beaches in L.A.

9. Malibu Surfrider Beach

Name and Location: Malibu Surfrider Beach is situated along the Pacific Coast Highway in the Malibu neighborhood of Los Angeles County, California spanning 230 yards.

History and Significance: Malibu Surfrider Beach dates back to the 1930s as a gathering place for early surfing pioneers. It now attracts water sports enthusiasts from around the world as a premier destination for surfing.

What to Expect: In addition to its iconic waves sought out by surfers, visitors can enjoy sandy shores for sunbathing along with limited dining and restroom facilities on site. Lifeguard towers monitor designated swimming areas.

Visitor Information: Malibu Surfrider Beach has metered parking starting at $15 on weekdays and $25 on weekends along Pacific Coast Highway. Peak summer months tend to be most crowded.

Surfers flock to Surfrider Beach, one of the most famous surf breaks in California. Located next to Malibu Pier, perfectly formed waves up to 6 feet high attract elite surfers, though smaller waves also occur for beginners.

The smooth, peeling rights are created by Malibu Creek flowing into the ocean. Expect crowds in the water as it’s easily accessible by the pier parking lot. Its reputation for great surf makes Surfrider one of the best beaches in Los Angeles.

Be prepared to navigate among the surfers if you venture out for a swim. Watch the daredevil surfers from the sand or walk out on Malibu Pier for lunch. Surfrider is also called First Point as it’s the first beach upcoast from Santa Monica.

10. Topanga State Beach

Name and Location: Topanga State Beach is located along the Pacific Coast Highway at Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Los Angeles County, California stretching over two miles.

History and Significance: Nestled at the mouth of Topanga Canyon with the Santa Monica Mountains as a backdrop, this beach hosted the roller disco-themed movie Xanadu in 1980 which contributed to its popularity.

What to Expect: In addition to picturesque coastal views, amenities include volleyball courts, a bike path and nature trail, playgrounds and a cafe offering beachside dining. The mild surf makes it family-friendly.

Visitor Information: Topanga State Beach charges a $12 parking fee per vehicle. Leashed dogs, food, and fires are permitted in designated picnic areas.

Just north of Santa Monica, Topanga State Beach stretches over a mile between Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean. Enjoy swimming, surfing, fishing, and beachcombing with views of the Santa Monica Bay.

Kids will love exploring the tide pools teeming with marine life. Leashed dogs are permitted in the recreation zone north of Lifeguard Tower 8. There are bathrooms, showers, concessions, and paddleboard rentals on-site.

Adjacent Topanga Canyon cuts deep into the Santa Monica Mountains, perfect for nature hikes with ocean views. Enjoy your pick of peaceful spots along this beautiful stretch of coastline. Topanga is easily accessible yet less crowded than beaches further south.

11. Abalone Cove Beach

Name and Location: Abalone Cove Beach is tucked along Palos Verdes Drive South in Rancho Palos Verdes, California covering around 25 acres.

History and Significance: Once inhabited by Native American tribes like the Gabrielino-Tongva, Abalone Cove later operated as an abalone fishing area from 1907-1913 which nearly wiped out the population from overfishing. It is now a protected ecological area.

What to Expect: This rocky beach features tide pools and reefs perfect for exploring sea life. A quiet trail leads down to the cove making it optimal for meditation. Visitors may spot seals, sea lions and other coastal creatures.

Visitor Information: Entry and parking at Abalone Cove is free, although beach hours are seasonal and amenities like bathrooms are located near the parking lot over 0.25 miles from the shoreline.

For a quieter beach experience, head to secluded Abalone Cove on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Monterey cypress trees dot the blufftop setting overlooking this rocky cove.

A scenic footpath leads down to Abalone Cove’s pebbly shoreline. Explore the tidepools during low tide to glimpse anemones, starfish, crabs and more marine life. This protected cove—part of Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve—attracts snorkelers and scuba divers.

Cliffs and rock outcroppings surround the beach, providing plenty of nooks for picnicking, sunbathing, or just absorbing the panoramic ocean views across Santa Monica Bay.

With limited facilities and remote access, Abalone Cove remains peaceful and uncrowded. The spectacular natural setting makes it one of L.A.’s scenic hidden gem beaches.

12. Cabrillo Beach

Name and Location: Cabrillo Beach is situated at 3720 Stephen M. White Drive in the San Pedro community of Los Angeles, California. It sits in the main harbor south of the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse.

History and Significance: Cabrillo Beach hosted Olympic sailing events in 1932 and 1984. Today it serves as a popular launching point for fishing excursions and whale watching tours with the Los Angeles Maritime Museum located in the historic bathhouse.

What to Expect: The beach features soft sand, calm waters perfect for wading, and paved pathways ideal for walking or cycling with scenic harbor views. The tide pools showcase diverse marine life.

Visitor Information: Lot parking rates start at $1 per hour. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium sits steps from the beach. Nearby Pedro facilities have restaurants and shops.

Near the port of Los Angeles lies Cabrillo Beach, an overlooked local treasure. Sandy shores, bathhouse facilities, restaurants, and paved paths draw families and beachgoers who prefer less crowds.

The beach tends to have gentle waves, making it great for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding. Watch boats cruise in and out of the marina. The beach’s location in San Pedro means it’s less visited by tourists.

Walk out along theLST-325 tank landing ship docked nearby on weekends. Visit the Cabrillo Marine Aquariumto see local marine life up close. The beach is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European explorer to sail along the California coast.

With fewer crowds but ample amenities, Cabrillo Beach is a hidden gem in L.A. Visit to experience local flavor and great views across the main channel.

Conclusion

With miles of diverse coastline, Los Angeles offers beach lovers endless options. From tourist hotspots like Santa Monica to secluded coves in Malibu, the top beaches in L.A. have something for everyone. Whether you want to surf, swim, sunbathe or just take in dramatic views, iconic beaches like Venice, Zuma, and Manhattan cater to any ocean whim.

Pack a picnic, slather on sunscreen, and hit the golden sands to enjoy the quintessential California beach lifestyle. As a local or visitor, make sure to explore L.A.’s wealth of spectacular beaches and find new favorite spots along the Pacific coast. With endless summer weather, stunning scenery, and laidback vibes, the beaches of Los Angeles create memories that will linger long after your tan fades.

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