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Just when you think California beaches can’t get any more beautiful, the sun sets over the horizon for the night – splashing the sky with vibrant colors – and the scene suddenly looks like something of a painting. It has to be one of the most relaxing ways to end your evening. Especially after a long day of work! And talk about romantic. Laying back and watching the sunset over the Pacific waves with your other half is bound to score you a few brownie points. Throw in dinner, and maybe a bottle of wine, and you’ll be all set.

Take these 10 beaches across the Golden State, for example. They’re all dreamy during the day – but they’ll especially blow you away when the sun goes down for the night.

1. Pfieffer Beach

sunset   Justin Kern on Flickr

On Big Sur’s rugged coastline, Pfeiffer Beach becomes aflame with brilliant sunset colors every night. Keyhole Rock is the real highlight here, drawing in photographers with its small natural arch (the “keyhole”) at the base, where the last rays of daylight can shine through. The northern side of the beach is also known for its oddly-colored purple sand, which is due to manganese garnet rocks found in nearby cliffs. The purple sand – combined with the red, orange, and yellow hues in the sky – make for quite the masterpiece every night.

Related: Big Sur Coast Must See Beaches

2. Santa Monica Pier


The vibrant colors at sunset and bright lights of Santa Monica’s ferris wheel are positively breathtaking together. Lay back on the beach along the north side of the pier, or wander around the iconic landmark and browse the many local shops and restaurants. (We recommend Pier Burger! The crispy fries and frozen custard are to-die-for.)

3. Huntington Beach


The sandy shores and pier of Huntington Beach are complimented with some of the most lovely, radiant colors in the evenings. The pier marks the center of the 3.5 mile long beach, but you can go for a long, romantic walk in either direction to break from the crowds.

4. El Matador State Beach


El Matador is without question one of California’s most photogenic beaches. Set along the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, this stretch of coastline is dotted with sea stacks and small caves that glow at sunset. There’s bluff-top parking available, and a trail & stairs that will lead you down to the beach.

Related: The Hidden Beaches of Malibu

5. Manhattan Beach

sunset  Bob Travis on Flickr

An oasis just outside of L.A., the Manhattan Beach Pier at sunset is the definition of California dreamin’. Fiery colors, palm trees, ocean shores, and a long pier stretching out over the water: what more could you ask for?

6. Natural Bridges State Beach


As the name suggests, Natural Bridges State Beach is known for its massive natural rock arch that sits just off-shore. It’s absolutely mesmerizing to lay back and watch the ocean waves come crashing in through the base. Top it off with pretty shades of pink, purple, and blue by sunset, and the photo opportunities are seemingly endless.

7. Hermosa Beach Pier

sunset  Estrategy on Wikipedia

The Hermosa Beach Pier is one of California’s most relaxing strolls at sunset. It stretches out far into the sea, with ocean views as far as you can imagine. There’s benches where you can sit and contemplate life, along with a beautiful beach surrounding the pier where you can lay back and dig your toes into the sand. After the sun goes down, head over to the palm-tree lined Pier Avenue and grab some dinner from one of the many local restaurants.

8. Dillon Beach


On Bodega Bay, Dillon Beach gets massive waves and stunning vivid sunsets. It’s a favorite among local surfers & photographers, and at low tide, there’s also tons of tide pools to explore. The beach is privately owned by Dillon Beach Resort, but for a small fee, anyone can stop by for a visit. And trust us, it’s worth breaking into the piggy bank for.

9. Bolsa Chica State Beach


Long, sandy, and wide, Bolsa Chica State Beach is just north of the Huntington Beach Pier, and generally much less crowded. There’s picture perfect sunsets here every night, plus dozens of bonfire pits, and usually plenty of parking.

10. Windansea Beach


Windansea Beach (a shortened version of “wind and sea”) is paradise no matter what time of day it is. The beach has striking sandstone points jutting out into the surf at both ends, and a quaint tiki hut with a palm roof for shade. It’s not really a prime spot to swim, but rather just lay back, sunbathe, and watch the sun setting over the shore.

So much beauty, so little time to see it all! Where’s your favorite place to watch the sun set in California?