Search by beach, city or zipcode

There are many best beaches lists and top beaches lists on the Internet and it seems like everyone is trying to ‘best’ the rest with a longer list. First it was Top 10 lists and then someone did 11 and so on. We think a much better list is 20 or more (we’ll keep expanding this list) and it should be 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 the most popular beaches we feel like this is a marvelous Top 20 list.

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.


Beaches on this list

  • Glass Beach

    Glass Beach is the well-known southern beach of MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. Glass Beach gets its name from the smooth colorful glass pieces that you can find mixed […]

    See details

  • El Matador State Beach

    El Matador Beach is one of three beaches within Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. El Matador is the most popular of the three and the closest to Malibu. The […]

    See details

  • Dillon Beach

    Dillon Beach on Bodega Bay is privately-owned by the Dillon Beach Resort, but for a small fee anyone can enjoy this beautiful beach. The beach is located in the small […]

    See details

  • Pfeiffer Beach

    Pfeiffer Beach in the Big Sur area is definitely off the beaten path, but well worth the drive. Just south of Big Sur Station on Highway 1 there is unsigned […]

    See details

  • Thousand Steps Beach

    Thousand Steps Beach is one of the largest beaches in south Laguna Beach, CA. It’s a wide sandy beach with volleyball courts, restrooms, and tide pools and even caves to […]

    See details

  • Victoria Beach

    Victoria Beach is a long white sandy beach south of Victoria Drive in Laguna Beach. The majority of this southwest-facing beach lies in front of the private gated Lagunita housing […]

    See details

  • Black’s Beach

    Black’s Beach is a famous clothing-optional beach below a “gliderport” parking area on Torrey Pines Mesa. Blacks is a combo of Torrey Pines City Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach […]

    See details

  • Leo Carrillo State Park – North Beach

    North Beach at Leo Carrillo State Park is a wide family friendly and dog friendly beach in western Malibu. It has a large linear day-use parking lot right on the […]

    See details

  • Moonstone Beach

    Moonstone Beach is along Moonstone Beach Drive which parallels Highway 1 in northern Cambria, California. The shoreline here is made up of brown sandy coves separated by rocky bluffs. At […]

    See details

  • Capitola Beach

    Capitola City Beach is a sandy beach at the north end of Monterey Bay in Capitola, CA. It’s a popular urban beach that can be jam packed on sunny days […]

    See details

  • Coronado Beach

    Coronado Beach, aka Central Beach, starts at the famous Hotel del Coronado and continues north to Sunset Park. At the north end of the beach in front of Sunset Park […]

    See details

  • Sycamore Cove Beach

    Sycamore Cove Beach is a day-use area in Point Mugu State Park in southern Ventura County. The beach in Sycamore Cove is excellent, but the biggest draw to this spot […]

    See details

  • Black Sands Beach

    Black Sands Beach is a south-facing dark sand beach below the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There are great city views to be had just a few […]

    See details

  • Mavericks Beach

    Mavericks Beach at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay is the site of the annual big wave surfing competition called Maverick’s. This big wave surf area is located a quarter-mile […]

    See details

  • Ventura Pier Beach

    The sandy beach at Ventura Pier is Ventura’s main central beach and is nearest downtown. San Buenaventura City Pier is an old structure on wooden pilings that attracts fishermen and […]

    See details

  • Black Sands Beach

    Black Sands Beach is the south end of a long walkable coastline that is over 20 miles long between the town of Shelter Cove and Mattole River Campground. This shoreline […]

    See details

  • Paradise Cove Beach

    Paradise Cove in Malibu is a public beach in front of a privately-owned facility by the same name. The property and the restaurant has surfboards all around and the outside […]

    See details

  • Panther Beach

    Panther Beach is a popular sandy beach north of Santa Cruz near the hamlet of Davenport. It’s part of the Coast Dairies State Park land acquisition and will eventually be […]

    See details

  • Mission Beach

    Mission Beach (the beach) is a long wide sandy beach in the Mission Beach area of San Diego. The beaches here are continuous, but Mission Beach is typically considered the […]

    See details

  • San Clemente Pier City Beach

    San Clemente Pier Beach is the main city beach of San Clemente, California. The beach is a wide sandy spot on both sides of the pier between T-Street Beach and […]

    See details

  • Pirate’s Cove Beach

    Pirate’s Cove is a well-known clothing optional beach between Avila Beach and the Shell Beach area of Pismo Beach, CA. This south-facing cove is somewhat protected from the weather and […]

    See details

  • South Carlsbad State Beach

    South Carlsbad State Beach is a three-mile long beach on the waterfront of Carlsbad, California. Most of this state beach is in front of the linear South Carlsbad Campground that […]

    See details

  • Moonlight State Beach

    Moonlight State Beach is a California state park that is operated by the city of Encinitas. This is the main central beach of Encinitas. It has a grass park with […]

    See details