Close your eyes and imagine Los Angeles. What do you see? I’m guessing the beach, a bright yellow sun, and palm trees. Am I right? Close? Well, I don’t blame you! LA is known for its beautiful climate and coastline. And with miles of picturesque coastline from Malibu to the South Bay, the best beaches of Los Angeles are aplenty for outdoor enthusiasts, surfers, families, sun worshippers and beach bunnies. So for your beachin’ pleasure, here’s my roundup of the best beaches of Los Angeles!
Most Romantic: El Matador Beach
Located about 10 miles northwest of Malibu, this secluded pocket beach has rocky shores, robust waves and some of the clearest water in LA. Wear shoes, don’t bring too much gear and watch out for the high tide! There are no lifeguards or other facilities, so you should be able to find some privacy on the beach. But don’t be dissuaded by the lack of facilities or the rugged path to the shore; once there, you’ll find that it’s the perfect place to enjoy a sunset dinner in one of the hidden coves. Arriving early or staying late should reward you with a memorable dawn of sunset!
Most Popular: Santa Monica Beach
Located just north of the historic Santa Monica Pier, this is one of the most popular beaches in LA. At two miles long, Santa Monica Beach seems to go on forever and offers plenty of space to stretch the legs, set up for a game of volleyball, or go for a bike ride. Bring the sunscreen, a little cash for parking and a beach towel or blanket. Let the sun, sand and surf do the rest. From swimming and surfing to biking and volleyball, from outdoor chess to beachside gymnastics, Santa Monica is a haven for those seeking an active, outdoors vacation.
Most Chill: Venice Beach
Venice Beach is one place where it’s almost as much about the people as it is about the surf or the sand. As you’re strolling the boardwalk, keep an eye out for Harry Perry, the turbaned guitar player on roller blades who has appeared in numerous films and TV shows. This is also the place to see bodybuilders, chainsaw jugglers and a full complement of palm readers, folk artists and other colorful characters. Venice Beach includes the beach, the promenade that runs parallel to the beach (“Ocean Front Walk” or just “the boardwalk”), Muscle Beach, the handball courts, the paddle tennis courts, Skate Dancing plaza, the numerous beach volleyball courts, the bike trail and the businesses on Ocean Front Walk. Besides, the recreational fitness, family fun activities and shopping, Venice also has a fishing pier at the end of Washington Boulevard.
Most Family Friendly: Cabrillo Beach
Popular among travelers and locals hitting the beach with kids in tow, Cabrillo Beach is a tranquil setting near San Pedro, with everything you need for the perfect family outing. Located on a thin peninsula near Point Fermin Park, the beach actually has two sides — one outside the breakwater that’s open to the surf, and one that’s open to the harbor. Depending on the activity, you can select either side and enjoy some adventure or some well-deserved relaxation. After you’re finished with the beach, head to the nearby Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and enjoy the interactive exhibits, tidepool touch tanks and other unforgettable attractions. Cabrillo Beach is popular for swimming, surfing, scuba diving and volleyball. Cabrillo Beach also features picnic tables, a snack bar and a playground area. The fishing pier parallels the breakwater, which is a favorite for locals and whale-watchers especially during grunion season when people attempt to catch fish by hand.
For the Pups: Leo Carrillo State Beach
This is an awesome place to take your dog for a walk or a swim! It’s a bit of a drive but certainly worth it if your pup wants to play in the sand. Dogs are allowed on the beach north of Tower 3 with a leash. You can pay for parking in the lot or get free parking on PCH. It’s also a campground just in case you wanted to stay the night with your furry friend.
For Surfers: Malibu Surfrider Beach
At the heart of Malibu’s legendary landscapes, where the mountains meet the sea, Surfrider Beach formally known as Malibu Lagoon State Beach is as the nickname implies a “hot spot” for surfers. East of the swimming and surfing beach, the historic wooden pier is an excellent for a picnic, bird watching and fishing. When it’s time to get out the surfboard, apply a new coat of wax and zip on the wetsuit, there’s no better place to be than Surfrider Beach in Malibu. You don’t have to be an experienced surfer to appreciate the act of surfing, the cool vibe at the beach or the toned bodies of the surfers.
Most Trendy: Manhattan Beach
At Manhattan Beach, it’s all beautiful people, shiny cars, big sunglasses and little lap dogs. But that’s in the trendy area of town next to the shore, where scenes from many television shows have been filmed. On the sand, you’ll find beach volleyball at courts that seem to go on for miles, and bodysurfing near the pier. Check out the aquarium at the end of the pier, with its interesting sea creatures and touch pool. When it comes to getting in the water, you should know that surfing is limited to the south side of the pier and boogie boarding is confined to the water north of the pier. Swimming is prohibited in the areas immediately adjacent to the pier. Manhattan Beach is a classic southern California beach with volleyballs, surfers and sunbathers. The South Bay Bicycle Trail and a pedestrian only walkway run through the beach and is great place to jog and bike. Many dining and shopping options are available in nearby Downtown Manhattan Beach.