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The adventurous folks are keen to bucket lists. It might be a list of mountains they want to climb, national parks they want to visit, or streams where they want to cast a line. This list of beaches is for them. If you know an adventurous soul, you should share list this with them, or maybe you want to challenge yourself.

How did we pick them? Well these are all unique and amazing beaches. Most are off-the-beaten-path so they require some effort to reach them. It might be a long drive, a long hike, a long boat ride, or a long walk on the shore to reach the beach. This is not an easy list to complete!

PFEIFFER BEACH

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Driving the Big Sur Coast should be on everyone’s bucket list. While Big Sur has many stunning beaches that few tourists ever see, Pfeiffer is a beach that no one should miss. It has a huge rock arch, dunes to climb, and even purple sand if you know where to look.

BLACK SANDS BEACH

Black Sands beach, Shelter Cove, CA

Backpacking the entire Lost Coast Trail might be too adventurous for most folks, but visiting some of the beaches along this coast should be on your bucket list. Black Sand Beach is probably the best beach that is “easily” accessible way out there. Still it’s a long drive to this beach in remote Northern California. This is not a day trip so book a hotel in Shelter Cove ahead of time. There are several other beaches in town to check out while you are there.

ALAMERE FALLS

Alamere Falls

Next time you are staying in the San Francisco Bay Area, set aside a full day to venture out to Point Reyes National Seashore. It is a long but scenic drive out to the peninsula. This beach is best accessed from the south end near the town of Bolinas. From the trailhead it is a four mile hike to the beach where a waterfall cascades down the bluff onto the sand. Beach waterfalls are rare so consider adding this one to your bucket list.

JALAMA BEACH

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Jalama is a wonderful beach that is miles from Highway 1 between Santa Barbara and Lompoc. The palm trees at the end of this long and winding road, that passes through an otherwise barren landscape, make this spot feel like an oasis. Although it is possible to make this a day trip, we suggest making it an overnight trip or longer. On site they have a campground, cozy cabins for rent, a camp store, and even a restaurant. Camping at Jalama Beach and eating a world famous Jalama Burger should be on every Californian’s bucket list.

KEHOE BEACH

Point Reyes National Seashore is a remote place despite being close to San Francisco as the crow flies. The outermost beaches of this triangular chunk of land that’s being severed from the mainland by the San Andreas Fault are wild and beautiful. Kehoe Beach is one of the best beaches in California, but few visitors to this national park every see it. If you go to Point Reyes, make the trip out to Kehoe.

BORDER FIELD STATE PARK

Getting to this beach requires driving as far south as you can in California. It doesn’t get much more remote than this in Southern California. The fence that divides the US from Mexico sticks out into the surf . Due to river flooding and tidal issues this beach access might be closed or might require a long walk from where you can park. Check ahead before heading there.

BEN WESTON BEACH ON CATALINA ISLAND

Ben Weston Beach on Catalina Island

Visiting Santa Catalina Island is an international bucket list item. It draws many tourists from all over the world, but few venture out farther than the colorful port town of Avalon. True adventurers should get far away from the ferry landing to see some of the remote beaches such as this one. To get to this beach you’ll take a ferry to the island, then ride a safari bus on a long dirt road, then hike one mile on a trail. Camping at Ben Weston Beach is really the way to go as it takes a lot of time and effort to get there. See all the best beaches on Catalina.

PUNTA GORDA LIGHTHOUSE

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This beach is truly in the middle of nowhere. It is a long drive out to the nearest parking lot at Mattole Beach. From there it is a 3-mile beach walk to this remote lighthouse on a beautiful driftwood-covered beach. Guaranteed solitude is your treasure at this hidden spot.

POINT SAL STATE BEACH

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This beach used to be a lot easier to visit. After continual washouts on the access road, the state closed the road and made it a ten-mile round trip hike. And since overnight camping is not allowed, this long steep hike must be done in one day. Those who take on this challenge will be rewarded with an incredible beach that few people ever see.

USAL BEACH

If you’ve heard of the Lost Coast Trail and ever wanted to experience part of it, this is your beach. Usal Beach is the southern trailhead for one of the most adventurous trails in all of California. It’s also a challenge to get to the beach because the road is so remote, narrow, and slippery when wet.

SAN MIGUEL ISLAND

Tyler Bight Anchorage on San Miguel Island NPS (Medium)

San Miguel is the outermost island in Channel Islands National Park. It takes a 4 to 5 hour cruise from the mainland to get there so it is the least visited island. The weather on the island can be brutal, but it’s a beautiful place. There are rules for your visit including not leaving the established trails (or you might step on a bomb). San Miguel Island has an excellent sandy beach (that is free from unexploded military ordinances) and a ranger station. The boat tour includes a visit to a huge cave on the way back when conditions allow. Most visitors are hardy campers, but it’s possible to do a day trip out here just to cross it off the your bucket list!


Beaches on this list

  • 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 […]

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  • Alamere Creek Beach

    Alamere Falls is at a dramatic spot where Alamere Creek cascades onto a sandy beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. This hidden waterfall is at the far south end of […]

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  • Jalama Beach County Park

    Jalama Beach spans the mouth of Jalama Creek at the site of a historic Chumash Indian settlement named “Halama.” Now this site is a popular Santa Barbara County park with a […]

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  • Point Fermin Park Beach

    Point Fermin Beach is below the steep bluffs of Point Fermin Park and Lighthouse in the San Pedro District of Los Angeles. The beach here isn’t sandy, but the rocky […]

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  • 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 […]

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  • Border Field State Park Beach

    The beach at Border Field State Park is the southernmost beach in California. This beach starts at the Mexican border and continues north to the mouth of the Tijuana River. […]

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  • Ben Weston Beach on Catalina Island

    Ben Weston Beach is located on the southwest side of Catalina Island. Getting to Ben Weston Beach requires a hike down the Ben Weston Canyon Trail from Middle Ranch Road […]

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  • Punta Gorda Lighthouse

    Punta Gorda Lighthouse along the Humboldt County Coast is nearly a four mile walk on the beach from the Mattole River Beach parking area. The beach trail is part of […]

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  • Point Sal State Beach

    Point Sal State Beach is a remote public beach that has become quite difficult to access. The trail to the beach is an old road that has eroded over time […]

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  • Usal Beach

    Usal Beach at Usal Campground is the southernmost beach in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park along the Mendocino North Coast. It’s a remote dark sand beach that’s over a mile long […]

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  • San Miguel Island Beaches

    San Miguel Island is the westernmost island (farthest out) in Channel Islands National Park. Because of the remote location it gets the most severe weather and the fewest annual visits […]

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