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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.

Encinitas

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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 restuarats & cafes and wine tastings for those who desire a quiet escape. La Jolla is truly the jewel of Southern California.


Beaches on this list

  • El Porto Beach

    El Porto Beach is located in front of the El Porto Neighborhood of northern Manhattan Beach, CA. The waves in this area are often times larger than nearby beaches so […]

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  • Hermosa City Beach

    Hermosa City Beach occupies the entire waterfront in the city of Hermosa Beach in LA County. It starts at King Harbor Marina in Redondo Beach and continues north for nearly […]

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Moss Street Beach

    Moss Street Beach is a small rocky and narrow beach in Laguna Beach, CA. Moss Street Beach is the official name of the beach on signage near the access entrance, […]

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  • Cress Street Beach

    Cress Street Beach is a secluded little beach at the end of Cress Street in Laguna Beach, CA. A stair leads down to a small sandy cove with homes above […]

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  • Mountain Road Beach

    Mountain Road Beach is down a steep stairway just west of the intersection of Mountain Road and South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, CA. Next to the stairs there 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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  • 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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  • Boneyard Beach

    Boneyard Beach is located below a very steep cliff between Swami’s Beach and D Street Beach in Encinitas, CA. Boneyards is a dry sandy beach at medium and low tides and […]

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  • D Street Beach

    D Street Beach is one block south of Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas, CA. As the name suggests the beach access is at the west end of D Street. The […]

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  • Encinitas Beach

    If you walk south from Beacon’s Beach or north from Stone Steps Beach in Encinitas you’ll be at an area unofficially called Encinitas Beach. This beach doesn’t have its own […]

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  • Del Mar Shores Beach Access

    Del Mar Shores Beach Access is in Solana Beach just north of Del Mar, CA. The beach is below the Del Mar Shores Terrace condominiums complex and has a public […]

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  • Seascape Sur Beach

    Seascape Sur Beach is a long sandy beach below the high bluffs in Solana Beach, CA. The gradual slope of the beach makes it wide at low tide and narrow […]

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  • Tide Beach Park

    Tide Beach Park is the north beach of Solana Beach, CA. Hike down a long set of stairs from the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Solana Vista Drive and you’ll […]

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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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  • Linda Lane Park Beach

    Linda Lane Park is a family-friendly park north of the San Clemente Pier and downtown area. A tunnel under the railroad tracks provides access to the beach from the parking […]

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  • San Clemente State Beach

    San Clemente State Beach has a large campground and day-use parking area on a prime piece of San Clemente California real estate. The state park was built from 1934 to […]

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Bird Rock Beach

    Bird Rock Beach is a rocky shoreline with a view of Bird Rock in the southern part of La Jolla. This area is known for tidepool exploration at low tide […]

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  • Calumet Park Beach

    Calumet Park is a small neighborhood park in south La Jolla on Calumet Avenue just south of Midway Street. The beach below Calumet Park is rocky and lacks a nice […]

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  • La Jolla Strand Beach

    La Jolla Strand Beach is located along Neptune Place between Palomar Avenue and Gravilla Street in La Jolla. There are several stairs along Neptune Place in this area so you […]

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  • Camino De La Costa Beach Access

    Camino De La Costa Beach Access is located on Camino de la Costa just north of Bird Rock in southern La Jolla. At a sharp bend in the road there […]

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  • Wipeout Beach

    Wipeout Beach is a sandy beach south of Children’s Pool Beach along Coast Boulevard in La Jolla. In the winter the sand gets ripped away by storms leaving a rugged […]

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  • South Casa Beach

    South Casa Beach is a small triangle-shaped cove just south of Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla. Children’s Pool is also known as Casa Beach so this beach got the […]

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  • Marine Street Beach

    Marine Street Beach is a sandy beach in La Jolla located at the west end of Marine Street and Sea Lane. The north end of the beach has apartments towering […]

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  • Linda Way Beach Access

    Linda Way Beach Access is below Sea Ridge Drive at the Linda Way intersection in southern La Jolla. The ramp and stairs at this location take you down to a […]

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