The 20 Most Popular Beaches in California (based on web traffic)
There are many best/top beaches lists for California on the Internet and they often are skewed by whoever wrote the article. We wanted to create a better list, one that is based on votes by more that one person or a small “committee” of like-minded folks. How about a list that’s voted on by you!
Well with over 4 million digital votes for nearly 1000 beaches on CaliforniaBeaches.com, we found the clear winners and wanted to share the list with you.
Malibu scored well, as did Laguna Beach, Ventura, Marin County and the San Diego area. Two of the most unique beaches in California made the list. Overall, after reviewing these “most popular beaches” we feel like this is a marvelous Top 20 list (actually we included a few extras).
So without further ado, here is the list of the 20 most popular beaches in California based on website page views for an entire year.
1. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
Bragging rights for Fort Bragg goes to its famous trash dump beach that the ocean has turned into a seaglass wonderland. And while it has less glass now than it used to, it still tops our list of the Most Unique Beaches in California.
2. El Matador Beach, Malibu
This is the crown jewel of Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, a collection of 3 beaches in Western Malibu. El Matador is one of the most photographed beaches due to its rock arches, sea stacks, and unique nooks and crannies. Go see it for yourself and even with your phone’s camera you’ll come away feeling like a pro photographer.
3. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
With one of the largest and most recognizable rock arches on the California Coast, Pfeiffer Beach is on many people’s bucket list. It also has some purple sand if you know where to look.
4. Black’s Beach, La Jolla
Hidden below a high bluff near La Jolla you’ll find a popular beach with paragliders soaring overhead. It’s surprising that a beach with such difficult access made the top 20 but portions of the beach are considered clothing-optional and those types of beaches are in short supply in Southern California.
5. Thousand Steps Beach, Laguna Beach
This is definitely one of Laguna Beach’s best beaches (and there are many). It only feels like 1000 steps when you climb back up to Coast Highway!
6, Capitola Beach, Capitola
Here’s a delightful beach with the most colorful backdrop, not just in California, but probably on the planet. It’s right in downtown Capitola with shopping and restaurants nearby.
7. Moonstone Beach, Cambria
Home to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, and a beautiful sandy beach to walk too, Moonstone Beach and the charming town of Cambria form a perfect romantic getaway destination.
8. Mission Beach, San Diego
With a boardwalk, an amusement park, abundant sand, and nearly constant sunshine, it’s not surprising to see this one in the top 20. In addition to the popular ocean beach, there is a family-friendly sandy beach on the calm waters of Mission Bay just paces away.
9. Dillon Beach, Marin County
Just far enough away from San Francisco, Dillon Beach feels like a real getaway. With loads of sand and waves too, it draws sunbathers and surfers alike.
10. Coronado Beach, Coronado
Coronado is a large sandy beach in front of an iconic hotel that’s on almost every top 10 beaches lists for California. It’s a family-friendly spot not far from San Diego.
11. Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach
Home of the mysterious tower of Laguna Beach, Victoria Beach draws locals and curious travelers alike. It’s one of Laguna Beach’s best beaches and that’s saying a lot.
12. Leo Carrillo North Beach, Malibu
Here’s another popular Malibu beach that has caves and tunnels to explore. It’s a family-friendly beach that’s also open to dogs which is rare in Malibu. The adjacent campground and hiking trails complete the package.
13. Maverick’s Beach, Half Moon Bay
Being the site of the famous Maverick’s Surf Competition might be why this beach made the list. Yes it’s a cool beach and it has an even cooler bird-watching lagoon nearby, but there are better beaches that should make this list (like Half Moon Bay State Beach).
14. Pirate’s Cove Beach, Avila Beach
In a beautiful secluded cove between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach you’ll find this hidden beach, one of the most unashamed clothing-optional beaches in California.
15. Black Sands Beach, Marin Headlands
An excellent brown sand beach that’s just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is not a shocker for this list. Parking is real slim pickings, but the beach is worth the effort to find.
16. Ventura Pier Beach, Ventura
This beach is within walking distance of downtown Ventura and has an amazing wooden pier with stellar views so that’s enough for it to make the top 20 list, but it’s also next to a killer surf spot at Surfers Point.
17. Sycamore Cove Beach, Ventura County
Located between Ventura and Malibu at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, this beach and its campground both have a remote feel. Hiking trails venture up into the hills from this spot.
18. San Clemente Pier Beach, San Clemente
The beach and the setting around San Clemente’s Pier is hard to beat. The waterfront is lovely and the water is inviting.
19. Moonlight State Beach, Encinitas
A family friendly beach with great facilities. This beach park is a popular one and belongs on this list for a reason.
20. Paradise Cove Beach, Malibu
Paradise Cove is more of an experience than just a beach. It makes the list because… well if you haven’t been there, you need to see why.
21. Black Sands Beach, Shelter Cove
This is the other “Black Sands Beach” where the sand is actually almost black when wet and where you can begin an epic backpacking adventure on The Lost Coast Trail (or just a super cool beach walk).
22. Panther Beach, Santa Cruz
This is truly one of the most beautiful beaches in California (pictured above). As a bonus, it comes with a rock arch that, if you walk through it, takes you to hidden Hole-In-The-Wall Beach.
23. South Carlsbad State Beach, Carlsbad
An enormous campground lining the bluff top in this urban setting north of San Diego means that this state beach gets a lot of interest. The beach itself isn’t the best, but this stretch of coast is pretty darn cool.