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bigstock-Santa-Monica-Beach-crowded (Custom)

Many of California’s top beaches are super crowded on sunny days and on weekends. While it is fun to go to these popular beaches just for the people-watching, getting more space for spreading out and relaxing is great too. When there are hordes of people on the sand, it is hard to throw a football or play other beach games. And walking at the water’s edge is much better when you aren’t tripping over small kids running back and forth from the water to the beach towel.

The best-known beaches in California often have a nearby alternative that has the same quality of sand, but has less people. In some cases it means going from a beach with lifeguards on hand to save kids and adults that wade too far out, to a beach that doesn’t have this safety net. Keep that in mind if you are taking children to the beach, or planning on swimming in the surf.

Don’t get us wrong, the beaches listed here are awesome beaches! Sometimes it’s just nice to get away from the crowds. Here are our suggested alternate beaches.

Mission Beach in San Diego – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead consider heading south to South Mission Beach where you can find some personal space. A bit farther and to the north is North Pacific Beach which is a little narrower, but it will have far fewer tourists.

north-pacific-beachNorth Pacific Beach, San Diego

La Jolla Shores Beach – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead, go to Scripps Beach which is next to the pier that is visible to the north. It’s possible to walk here, but if you get and early start street parking spots can be found near the beach. Another option with REAL solitude is South Black’s Beach which requires parking in a remote neighborhood and walking a half-mile down a wide paved path to the beach.

scripps pier beach la jolla bryce16 (6)Scripps Beach north of Scripps Pier, La Jolla

Del Mar City Beach – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead, walk south on the beach to South Del Mar Beach. This southern area is hidden below a steep bluff between City Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach. To get here, you can walk south from City Beach or it’s possible to park in the neighborhood and find a steep route down the bluff.

IMG_9549 (Large)South Del Mar Beach

San Clemente Pier Beach – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead go to any one of the hidden neighborhood beaches. Sometimes these beaches are all wet at high tide, but most of the time these are excellent alternatives. South to north the beach names are Riviera, Lost Winds, The Hole, Mariposa, El Portal, and Dije Court. It is possible to walk north or south from the pier to these beaches either on the sand or on the San Clemente Trail.

El Portal Beach San Clemente Bryce16 (13)El Portal Beach north of San Clemente Pier

Laguna Beach Main Beach – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead drive south on Coast Highway and access the shore at one of the many beaches named after streets. These hidden accessways have stairs that lead down to sandy beaches below homes, condo buildings, and resorts. North to south these street-named beaches are Sleepy Hollow, Cleo, St. Ann’s, Thalia, Anita, Oak and Brooks.

Laguna Beaches 3.28.14 054 (Custom)Thalia Beach in Laguna Beach

Newport Beach Municipal Beach – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead avoid the area around Newport Beach Pier and head up the PCH to West Newport Beach where only locals go. There is a ton of space at this beach so there are no conflicts for sandy real estate. At the river mouth the surfers hang out at beach called Santa Ana River Beach.

IMG_1068 (Large)Newport Beach looking west from Municipal Pier

Santa Monica State Beach – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead go to nearby Will Rogers State Beach which has just as much sand and fewer people. Another option is Sunset Point Beach which most tourists miss out on.

IMG_3945 (Large)Will Rogers State Beach

Zuma Beach in Malibu – DON’T GO THERE!

Instead go to any one of the Hidden Beaches of Malibu. Malibu has over 30 beaches and many people don’t know that most of them exist. That’s because they are hidden away on the 20 mile long shoreline in Malibu.

IMG_5104 (Large)Broad Beach just north of Zuma Beach