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The phrase “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” certainly doesn’t apply when it comes to Southern California beach towns. They might all look similar to someone who hasn’t seen them before, but each of our coastal communities has its own distinctive traits and a distinguishable “vibe.” And while there truly is no bad beach town to visit (they’re all amazing in their own ways), these seven rank among the best.

Manhattan Beach

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You’ll find Manhattan Beach in the southwest corner of Los Angeles County. It’s a perfect destination for long, scenic strolls since its walkable streets are lined with adorable beach cottages and small local shops. This is a safe, clean community, so feel free to bring your children. And if it’s mouthwatering cuisine you’re seeking, rejoice—Manhattan Beach has an excellent dining scene.

Laguna Beach

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Of course we must mention the quintessential Southern California beach town. Nestled in between LA and San Diego, Laguna Beach is so beautiful that it looks surreal. Of course, it’s also of the most popular beach destinations in Orange County, so plan accordingly. The city’s main beach is perpetually crowded, so when you need some surf and sand, drive south on Coast Highway and access the shore from Sleepy Hollow, Cleo, St. Ann’s, Thalia, Anita or Oak Street. The downtown area of Laguna is an art lover’s paradise, and there are plenty of energetic beachside restaurants and bars to enjoy.


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You’ll find Encinitas in San Diego County about 25 miles from the city. This community wears its surf history like a badge of honor—it was named one of the best surf towns in the world by National Geographic. The neighborhoods are eclectic, often filled with friendly surfers and hippies. You’ll find plenty of quaint local shops and tasty restaurants lining the main street a few blocks from the beach.

Solana Beach

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This relaxing beach community in San Diego County used to be Southern California’s best kept secret. The secret is out, but it’s still an amazing place to visit. There are two miles of coastline for all your favorite beach activities, and the downtown area has something for everyone: Art galleries, shops, restaurants, breweries and wineries, just to name a few.

Hermosa Beach

“The best little beach city” is a pretty terrific place. Located in Los Angeles County in between Manhattan Beach and Redondo, Hermosa feels more like a locals’ beach than the other two. But that doesn’t mean it’s a dull place to be. This lively community is well known for its live music festivals and special events on weekends. The restaurant scene is also outstanding.

San Clemente

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Known as the Spanish Village by the Sea, this Orange County town is a sleepy little hideaway and somewhat of a hidden gem. The San Clemente Pier is relaxing (and a perfect place to catch a sunset), and the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens is a gorgeous place to visit.

La Jolla

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If you need a break from the business of San Diego, head to La Jolla by the Sea. It’s a quiet community located within the city of San Diego, and it offers farmers markets, outdoor restaurants & cafes and wine tastings for those who desire a quiet escape. La Jolla is truly the jewel of Southern California.