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California has several picturesque beach waterfalls and falls near beaches. Waterfalls that flow right onto the sand are a unique phenomenon – only two exist in California. Southern California has large sandy beaches and much more to offer, but it has no waterfalls anywhere near the ocean. Central and Northern California have several waterfalls right on the beach. All of them require some sort of hike to reach them, but in most cases the hikes are short and the trails are in good condition. Below is a list with pictures of the best beach waterfalls in California.

Note that all of these waterfalls will be a trickle after a long dry spell. If you want to see them at full throttle, it is best to visit during the wetter months or after a heavy rain. We think these waterfalls are beautiful even they are barely flowing. For a map and location of each waterfall, click on the links under the photos.

McWay Falls, Big Sur

McWay Waterfalls at Beautiful Sunset, Road Number 1, California

at the scenic landscape of McWay Falls near Big Sur California

At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park you are not allowed to go down to the waterfall, but you do get a perfect vantage point for photography. In addition to a waterfall, this beach has a rock arch (barely visible on the right in the zoomed picture above). See more rock arches in California. McWay Falls is one of the most photographed spots on the Big Sur Coast.


Alamere Falls, Point Reyes

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls is a hard one to find. It’s on a remote beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. That said, many diehard waterfall fans will hike all the way out here to see and photograph it.  McWay might be the best-known beach falls, but Alamere Falls is much more rewarding as you can get right up to it. The long day-hike to get here and back to the car is strenuous, but doable. Start at the Palomarin Trailhead and hike north.

Point Reyes has another cascade behind Secret Beach. It’s small and probably not worth the long trek out there by itself, but Secret Beach has a rock arch and natural amphitheater and is one of the most unique beaches in California.


Phillips Gulch Falls, Jenner

This waterfall is seasonal and doesn’t fall onto sand, but it is cool to see in person. Few people know about Phillips Gulch Falls, but they should. It’s just a short walk from Highway 1 near Salt Point State Park between Jenner and Sea Ranch in Sonoma County.


Soberanes Creek Falls, Carmel

Soberanes Point BS-DC Mar2015 (22)

Soberanes Creek passes under scenic Highway 1 in Garrapata State Park about 8 miles south of Carmel-By-The-Sea. It’s not a big falls, but the setting is beautiful. The creek cascades down in a series of pools directly above a small rocky beach that is a accessible via a steep scramble.


Russian Gulch Waterfall, Mendocino

Russian Gulch State Park

This 36-foot waterfall is a short hike away from the beach at Russian Gulch State Park. In addition to the Russian Gulch Falls, this beautiful park has a wonderful sandy beach, a picturesque concrete arch bridge, and a “punchbowl” which is one of the most unique features on the California Coast.


Black Swift Falls, Big Sur

Black-Swift-Falls-Ragged-Point-Young Creek Beach Big Sur CA-E1 (Large)photo Big Sur Lodging

Black Swift Falls flows down a cliff right behind a beach located below Ragged Point Inn on the Big Sur Coast. During most of the touristy high season Young Creek is just a trickle as seen in this photo, but after a rain it can be an impressive sight. The hike down from the inn down to Young Creek Beach is a steep one but it’s worth the effort. Staying at the inn is also highly recommended.

Other Big Sur Waterfalls

Big Sur has several other waterfalls that are easily accessible from Highway 1, but are not right at a beach.

Salmon Creek Falls is a short hike from a ranger station along Highway 1.

Limekiln Falls can be found up a trail in Limekiln State Park.

Canyon Falls on Mcway Creek is a short distance up the Ewoldsen Trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Highbridge Falls a short walk up a small road on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway 1 at Andrew Molera State Park.

Pfeiffer Falls are in the Big Sur area, but not that close to the beach. The hike up is over 400 feet elevation gain, but an easy day hike.

Beaches on this list

  • 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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  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

    Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on the Big Sur Coast is home to iconic McWay Falls. It’s just a short walk out on a trail to an overlook where many […]

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  • Secret Beach of Point Reyes

    Secret Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore is a hidden beach that is reached by walking south on the shore from Sculptured Beach. It is only accessible at very low […]

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  • Young Creek Beach at Ragged Point Inn

    Young Creek Beach is the official name of the beach below the Ragged Point Inn and Resort on the southern Big Sur Coast. The view from the bluff above the […]

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  • Limekiln State Park Beach

    The small beach at Limekiln State Park sits in the shadow of a tall bridge on Highway 1 in the southern Big Sur area. It’s a rock and sand beach […]

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  • Russian Gulch State Park

    Russian Gulch State Park, north of Mendocino, has a sandy beach below the Highway 1 bridge where Russian Gulch Creek flows into a narrow cove. Kids can play in the safe […]

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  • Andrew Molera State Park

    Andrew Molera State Park Beach is a long sandy, rocky, and driftwood-covered beach along the base of the Big Sur headlands. This is the largest state park along the Big […]

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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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Related Attractions

  • Phillips Gulch Falls

    A seasonal waterfall pours over a rocky cliff in a hidden part of Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County. If you happen to visit this area in winter or spring […]

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  • Highbridge Falls

    Highbridge Falls is located across the highway from Andrew Molera State Park in the Big Sur area. See our map to find the location. There are parking spaces along the […]

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  • Pfeiffer Falls

    Pfeiffer Falls is located in Los Padres National Forest near the small town of Big Sur. These 60 foot waterfalls are up a trail that begins near Big Sur Lodge. Stop […]

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  • Salmon Creek Falls

    On your drive up the Big Sur Coast stop off at the Salmon Creek Ranger Station and do a short hike up the Salmon Creek Falls. It’s only about a […]

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  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

    Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is right in the heart of Big Sur. It’s a perfect base camp for many days of exploration on the Big Sur Coast. They have […]

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