Top 10 Beach Getaways in California
The California coastline has no shortage of beaches (approximately 1,000 in fact). So choosing the ideal location for your beach getaway vacation is no trivial task. Not only do you need access to beautiful beaches, you also want the right mix of hotels, restaurants and attractions. Each travel destination in California offers something unique, so make sure you take the time to find the right fit for your ideal trip. To help, here are 10 California beach getaways that we highly recommend.
With its impressive high bluffs, as well as its secluded and sheltered coves, Dana Point provides not only a sought after surfing location, but also provides one of the area’s few harbors. From the fresh-water lagoon of Doheny State Beach, to the clean surroundings and fantastic views of Salt Creek Beach Park, there is much to offer. Capistrano Beach, or rather Capo Beach, is a true beach town, offering a small-town vibe for both visitors and the neighborhoods within. There are no shortage of hotels here and you can’t go wrong with the Blue Lantern Inn, Double Tree Guest Suites or Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel (one of our top resorts of Southern California).
Avalon on Catalina Island
Perfectly situated along the eastern side of Catalina Island, Avalon is small in size but rich in tourist-friendly options. While some area beaches are only accessible by boat or kayak, Crescent Beach provides an untapped and spectacular setting for beachgoers looking for a secluded locale, while Descanso Beach (pictured above) offers pristine water, perfect for kayaking or snorkeling. Serving as the main drop-off site for the Catalina Express Ferry (service from LA, Long Beach & Dana Point), Avalon features prime locations for sailing and scuba diving, as well as serving up a number of unique restaurants and stores near the pier. There are many hotel options including the Pavilion Hotel, Hotel Vista Del Mar, The Edgewater Hotel & Snug Harbor Inn.
With nearly three-dozen beaches to choose from, Malibu is a beach-lovers dream. From the iconic Surfrider Beach, famous for world-class surfing and movies like “Gidget”, to one of the area’s cleanest beaches at Zuma Beach, to the cave-like rocks and cliffs of El Matador State Beach, there are plenty of options. Keep in mind, though, many of these beaches aren’t very well known, or easy to find. Some do not make it easy for the public to get to either. Learn more about the Hidden Beaches of Malibu. Before you go, stock up on supplies, food and beach equipment at Malibu Pier, which includes the famous Malibu Farm Pier Cafe & Restaurant. There aren’t many hotel options in Malibu, but the Malibu Beach Inn, The Malibu Country Inn & Malibu Motel are all good options.
Whether you are in search of gentle waters or the perfect surf, the City of Carpinteria has it all. This small community is a popular location for whale watching, as well as spotting sea lions and seals during certain months of the year. Two separate beaches run the length of the city. Carpinteria City Beach is both lovely and safe for swimmers with minimized undercurrents, while Carpinteria State Beach commands fantastic mountain views and is popular with campers. Just outside city limits, Rincon State Beach is known for its powerful surfing. Hotel options include Cliff House Inn on the Ocean, Best Western Plus and Carpinteria Shores.
With clean beaches and plenty of caves and coves to explore, Shell Beach is a neighborhood in the city of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County. Pirate’s Cove is a stunning, and well-known clothing optional, beach between Avila Beach and Shell Beach. This area is a prime location for kayakers in search of gentle waters, and those simply trying to beat the crowds. Do not miss a stop at one of the region’s most photographed landmarks, the Pismo Beach Pier. Some of the areas best lodging options are in this neighborhood, including The Cliffs Resort, Dolphin Bay Resort (one of our top resorts in Central California) and Spyglass Inn.
Situated between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the small village of Cambria offers lovely beaches, as well as primitive and untouched views. Bask in the sun, along with sea lions, on the rocky shores of Moonstone Beach. One of California’s top attractions, Hearst Castle, is nearby. This dazzling location also provides a glorious site for watching the sunset. Travelers may also choose to set up camp at the San Simeon Creek Campgrounds, hike the trails of San Simeon or walk the coastal bluffs and rocky shores of Santa Rosa Creek. Hotel options include Pelican Inn and Suites, Castle Inn & Fireside Inn.
With plenty of options for visitors, the town of Capitola brings in tourists to area beaches, and to take in the town. Just steps away from the downtown area is Capitola Beach. With clean sand and uncrowded beaches, this gem of a community offers families the chance to stroll through the village, grab a bite to eat, then relax the afternoon away. New Brighton State Beach also includes a campground perched high above the beach. Capitola hotel options include Capitola Venetian Hotel, Capitola Hotel & Capitola Suites.
Bodega Bay is perhaps best known as the site of filming Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Some of its other recognizable sites are much more beautiful, though, making it a great Sonoma weekend getaway. Bodega Head offers unmatched scenery, from high on the bluffs to down on the shore. Many of the town’s beaches reside along the rugged Sonoma County coastline in Sonoma Coast State Beach State Park. They include Schoolhouse, Bodega Dunes and Salmon Creek. There are several great hotels including Bodega Harbor Inn, Bodega Bay Inn & Bodega Bay Lodge, which is one of the best resorts in Northern California. If you have the time, consider making Bodega Bay part of a larger Sonoma Roadtrip.
Mendocino may be small, but visitors flock to this picturesque town for its art shops, small restaurants and small downtown. Not surprisingly, the town boasts a number of Bed and Breakfasts. Mendocino Headlands State Park is rugged with cliffside trails often captured by visiting painters and photographers. Russian Gulch State Park, meanwhile, is marked by the “Devil’s Punch Bowl” (one of California’s most unique beaches). It also includes a lovely waterfall, miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as plenty of tide pools to explore. For accommodations, check out the Brewery Gulch B&B Inn & Stanford Inn, both of which made our top hotels in Northern California list.
Small by population, the City of Trinidad offers amazing coastline and nearly a dozen public beaches. Trinidad State Beach marks the location of some of the area’s biggest natural landmarks. Trinidad Head and Elk Head overlook the harbor, islands, and the cove. Take the hiking trails at Trinidad Head Park for the best viewpoints. Patrick’s Point State Park includes dense forests with dramatic cliffs and shorelines, while Big Lagoon County Park is a secluded spot for beachcombing. Hotel options include the Lost Whale Bed & Breakfast, Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn & Trinidad Bay Bed and Breakfast.
Let us know what your favorite beach getaway is in the comments section at the bottom of this page.