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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

Beaches on this list

  • South Mission Beach

    South Mission Beach is at the extreme south end of the Mission Beach Peninsula at the Mission Bay Channel Entrance. There is a grass park there with picnic tables, restrooms, […]

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  • North Pacific Beach

    North Pacific Beach is north of the Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach and south of Tourmaline Beach. This wide sandy beach located below a steep bluff in the Pacific Beach district […]

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  • Scripps Beach

    Scripps Beach is adjacent to the UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus in northern La Jolla. The long concrete Scripps Pier is not open to the public unfortunately, but the […]

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  • South Black’s Beach

    The southern section of Black’s Beach, also known as Torrey Pines City Beach, is accessible through a gate at the intersection of Blackgold Road and La Jolla Farms Road. Find […]

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  • South Beach of Del Mar

    South Beach in Del Mar is best described as south of Powerhouse Park all the way to 6th Street at the north end of Torrey Pines State Beach. This beach is […]

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  • Torrey Pines State Beach – North Beach

    North Beach at Torrey Pines State Beach is on the north side of the lagoon entrance at Los Penasquitos Marsh Natural Preserve. The lagoon and wetlands are excellent for bird-watching. […]

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  • Riviera Beach

    Riviera Beach is a public beach with access from a hard to find spot in south San Clemente, CA. The beach is wide enough that even at high tide you’ll […]

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  • Lost Winds Beach (Lasuens)

    Lost Winds Beach is situated below a housing development high on the bluff in southern San Clemente. The entrance is between homes at 2006 Calle De Los Alamos just south […]

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  • The Hole

    Boca del Canon Beach is better-known as “The Hole” by San Clemente local surfers. It’s is a San Clemente Municipal Beach about half-way between San Clemente Pier and Calafia Park […]

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  • Mariposa Beach

    Mariposa Beach is a San Clemente City Beach access point in northern San Clemente, CA. The entrance to this long walkway begins where West Mariposa and West Escalones avenues meet […]

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  • El Portal Beach

    This beach goes by two names, El Portal Beach and Buena Vista Beach. That’s because the public access entrance is at the intersection of Buena Vista and El Portal streets. […]

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  • Dije Court Beach

    Dije Court Beach Access is one of many ways to access San Clemente City Beach. This access is a long steep stair that begins high on the bluff in a […]

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  • Sleepy Hollow Beach

    Sleepy Hollow Beach is below Sleepy Hollow Lane near central Laguna Beach, CA. The access to Sleepy Hollow Beach is at the north end of the Sleepy Hollow Lane which […]

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  • Cleo Street Beach

    Cleo Street Beach Access is a block west of Highway 1 in Laguna Beach, CA. The stairway to Cleo Street Beach is right where Cleo Street turns to the left […]

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  • St. Ann’s Street Beach

    St. Ann’s Street Beach is at the end of St. Ann’s Drive in Laguna Beach. Surfing and bodyboarding are both popular here. At times a lifeguard station will be manned, […]

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  • Thalia Street Beach

    Thalia Street Beach is below the dead end of Thalia Street in Laguna Beach where a long stairway gives access. Thalia Street Beach is exclusively for surfers and skimboarders who […]

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  • Anita Street Beach

    Anita Street Beach is another tucked away beach access in Laguna Beach, CA. When you get to the end of Anita Street at Gaviota Drive (west of South Coast Highway) […]

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  • Oak Street Beach

    At the end of Oak Street at Gaviota Drive in Laguna Beach there is a little park with benches and an access stairway to Oak Street Beach. This park is […]

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  • Brooks Street Beach

    Brooks Beach is at the end of Brooks Street in Laguna Beach. There is a nice sitting area with railings at the top of the stairs where you can enjoy […]

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  • West Newport Beach

    West Newport Beach is the western end of the Newport Beach Municipal Beach before the area at Santa Ana River. West Newport Park parallels Pacific Coast Highway here and has […]

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  • Santa Ana River Beach

    Santa Ana River Beach is the northernmost beach in Newport Beach, CA. The main beach is just south of the Santa Ana River channel, but the area on both sides […]

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  • Will Rogers State Beach

    Will Rogers State Beach is a state park operated by Los Angeles County that occupies the entire waterfront of the Pacific Palisades District of Los Angeles. The southern section of […]

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  • Sunset Point Beach

    Sunset Point Beach, aka Sunset Beach, is located in the Pacific Palisades district of Los Angeles and is the northernmost beach in Will Rogers State Beach. This narrow beach north […]

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  • Big Rock Beach

    Big Rock Beach is a narrow rocky beach in Malibu that is under water during higher tides. It is named for the big rock just offshore at the point which […]

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  • Amarillo Beach

    Amarillo Beach is the official name of the eastern beach along Malibu Road in Malibu, CA. This is the beach on the point below Malibu Bluffs Park. East of the […]

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  • Puerco Beach

    Puerco Beach is the official name for the beach on the western portion of Malibu Road in Malibu, CA. This is a narrow south-facing beach in front of tightly packed […]

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  • Latigo Beach

    Latigo Beach is on the east side of Latigo Point in Malibu. More specifically, Latigo Beach is below the houses and condo buildings along Latigo Shore Drive in Eastern Malibu. […]

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  • Escondido Beach

    Escondido Beach is a south-facing sandy beach east of Point Dume in Malibu, CA. The most direct beach access is a public gate at the bridge over Escondido Creek next […]

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  • Broad Beach

    Broad Beach is a long narrow public beach in front of beautiful Malibu homes. Bulkheads, rock piles, and other methods are being employed to protect these homes from beach erosion. […]

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  • Lechuza Beach

    Lechuza Beach is a little-known public beach in Malibu, CA. It’s located below homes at the northern end of Broad Beach Road. The best public access is at the center […]

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