If you're searching for the perfect weekend getaway in Southern California, hitting up one of SoCal’s stunning beaches is likely at the top of your list. From San Diego’s charming shores to Malibu’s celebrity-famed coast, Southern California boasts beaches with hidden caves, adorable seals, surfers’ paradises, and long stretches of white sand. With sun-soaked coastlines and vibrant beach culture, SoCal is a year-round paradise for beach lovers. Whether you're a local searching for a staycation or a visitor, the allure of the Golden State’s shores is irresistible. From the surfer’s haven of Huntington Beach to the tranquil sands of La Jolla, Southern California offers some of the most iconic and breathtaking beaches in the world. Check out our roundup of the top 10 best beaches in Southern California 2024, each offering its own unique charm and activities for an unforgettable coastal escape. (For more information about Southern California check out our guides for best weekend getaways, LA hotels, and Palm Spring Hotels).

What is the nicest beach in Southern California?

The nicest beach in Southern California is a matter of personal preference, but many people consider Laguna Beach to be the top contender. Known for its stunning coves, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant artist community, Laguna Beach offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural charm

Which beach in Southern California has the clearest water?

The beach in Southern California renowned for having the clearest water is La Jolla Cove. Located in San Diego, La Jolla Cove is famous for its sparkling, turquoise waters, often considered the clearest in the region. This small, picturesque cove is perfect for snorkeling, diving, and swimming, offering excellent visibility to explore the vibrant marine life and underwater landscapes

Best Beaches in Southern California 2024

  1. Santa Monica Beach, CA
  2. Venice Beach, CA
  3. Malibu, CA
  4. Treasure Island, CA
  5. Huntington Beach, CA
  6. La Jolla, CA
  7. Newport, CA
  8. Coronado Beach, CA
  9. Manhattan Beach, CA
  10. El Matador Beach, CA

1. Santa Monica Beach, CA

Santa Monica, CA Best Beach in Southern California

Discover the quintessential Southern California vibe at Santa Monica Beach, just west of downtown Los Angeles. This iconic 3.5-mile stretch along the Pacific Coast is perfect for families, sunbathers, and adventure seekers alike. The historic Santa Monica Pier offers endless entertainment with its amusement park rides, Ferris wheel, vintage carousel, and arcade games. Enjoy a stroll along the beach, bike ride on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, or relax on the soft sands. With vibrant atmosphere, stunning sunsets, and activities like swimming, surfing, and volleyball, Santa Monica Beach is a must-visit when looking for the best beaches in Southern California. For a more local vibe and easier parking, head south to the beach parallel to Main Street.

2. Venice Beach, CA

Venice Beach , CA Best Beach in Southern California (1)
Just south of Santa Monica, Venice Beach is famous for its bohemian spirit and lively boardwalk. Street performers, artists, and vendors create a dynamic and eclectic environment, while the Muscle Beach outdoor gym and Venice Skate Park attract fitness enthusiasts and skaters. The wide sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing and swimming. Take a peaceful walk along the Venice Canals, inspired by Italy's Venice, for a retreat from the bustling beach scene. The 2.5-mile Ocean Front Walk is a highlight, featuring vendors, street performers, eateries, and stores. Rent a beach cruiser, grab an ice cream, and souvenir-shop hop.

3. Malibu Surfrider Beach, CA

Malibu, CA Best Beach in Southern California
Malibu is the epitome of surf culture, with Surfrider Beach at its heart. Near the iconic Malibu Pier, this beach is famous for its long, right-hand waves, making it a surfer's paradise. Even if you're not surfing, the laid-back vibe and stunning scenery make Malibu a must-visit. Enjoy a meal at Malibu Farm on the pier, explore the wildlife-rich Malibu Lagoon State Beach, or simply watch the surfers catch waves. Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and soak in the sights of vintage Volkswagen buses and sun-bleached surfboards. For more room to relax, head to Zuma Beach or Point Dume State Beach. Don't forget to check out Carbon Beach and Puerco Beach for a chance to spot celebrities. Malibu offers an iconic Southern California experience with its beautiful beaches and picturesque views, making it one of the best beaches in Southern California.

4. Treasure Island Beach, CA

Treasure Island Beach Laguna Beach, CA Best Beach in Southern California
Treasure Island Beach in Laguna Beach is a hidden gem with its sandy, rock-free bottom, perfect for swimming. Just north of Aliso Beach Park, this serene cove is surrounded by towering palm-topped cliffs, offering epic scenery and a peaceful escape. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling, with two finger reefs extending about 50 yards from the sandy shore, where you can spot a variety of juvenile fish in the rocky areas. Explore the tide pools and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. When you’re ready to eat, head to the Mosaic Bar and Grille at Montage Laguna Beach for a Mai Tai and poke bowl on the ocean-facing patio. Treasure Island Beach is one of the most scenic spots in Southern California, offering a blend of natural beauty and relaxation.

5. Huntington Beach, CA

Huntington Beach, CA Best Beach in Southern California
Huntington Beach, known as "Surf City USA," is a surfer's paradise with 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline. The iconic Huntington Beach Pier offers fishing, dining, and stunning ocean views. This vibrant beach hosts events like the US Open of Surfing and features activities such as volleyball and bonfires. For a quieter experience, head to Huntington State Beach, just two miles south, which spans 121 acres and offers ball courts, nature trails, bonfire rings, and prime spots for surfing, swimming, and birdwatching. Don’t miss Huntington Dog Beach if you’re traveling with a pup. With its lively downtown, beachfront hotels, and quintessential California beach vibe, Huntington Beach is a must-visit best beaches in Southern California.

6. La Jolla Shores, CA

La Jolla Shore, CA Best Beach in Southern California
La Jolla Shores in San Diego is a family-friendly beach perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. With gentle waves, it's ideal for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling. Explore the nearby La Jolla Underwater Park, a marine reserve teeming with sea life, and visit La Jolla Cove for its dramatic cliffs, sea caves, and resident sea lions. The beach’s sparkling blue waters are among the clearest in Southern California, especially stunning during low tide. The village offers upscale shopping, refined dining, and unique attractions like the Cave Store, which has a tunnel to a hidden cove. Experience seaside perfection at La Jolla Shores, a San Diego favorite with something for everyone.

7. Newport Beach, CA

Newport Beach, CA Best Beach in Southern California

Newport Beach offers the perfect blend of luxury and laid-back charm with over eight miles of sandy shores, ideal for sunbathing, and calm waters at Balboa Peninsula, perfect for swimming and paddleboarding. Enjoy classic amusement rides and arcade games at the Balboa Fun Zone, or take a ferry to Balboa Island for quaint shops and restaurants. Don’t miss the iconic Wedge, renowned for bodysurfing and spectacular wave watching. From the Santa Ana River jetty to Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach provides a picturesque coastal experience for everyone.

8. Coronado Beach, CA

Canonado, CA Best Beach in Southern California

Located across the bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado Beach is famous for its sparkling sands and the historic Hotel del Coronado. This wide, flat beach is perfect for families with gentle waves ideal for swimming and boogie boarding. The picturesque surroundings and charming town of Coronado offer a relaxing and scenic beach experience. With a leisurely island vibe, a downtown strip of novelty shops and restaurants, and a biking and running path circling the island, Coronado provides a vacation state of mind. Enjoy the scenic ferry service, uncrowded beachfront, and the glittering sand that makes this beach truly unique.

9. Manhattan Beach, CA

Manhattan Beach, CA Best Beach in Southern California
Manhattan Beach combines vibrant community spirit with upscale living. Its iconic pier offers stunning views and a small aquarium, while the wide sandy beach is perfect for volleyball, surfing, and sunbathing. Stroll along the Strand, a paved path ideal for biking and walking, and explore the lively downtown area with upscale dining and shopping options. Known for its blend of affluence and laid-back surf culture, Manhattan Beach captures the essence of "flip-flop luxury." With its booming culinary scene, plentiful beach activities, and relaxed vibe, it's no wonder this seaside gem remains a popular Southern California destination.

10. El Matador Beach, CA

El Matador Beach, CA Best Beach in Southern California
For a dramatic and secluded beach experience, El Matador Beach in Malibu is a must-visit. Known for its rugged cliffs, sea caves, and rock formations, this stunning beach offers breathtaking scenery and a sense of adventure. It's a favorite spot for photographers and those looking to explore tide pools and hidden coves. The steep staircase down to the beach adds to the sense of discovery and exclusivity. Part of Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador is the most popular and closest to Malibu, renowned for its natural beauty. Visit at low tide to explore the caves and rock arches. With its unparalleled views and unique features, El Matador Beach is our final beach for our best beaches in Southern California list.

Explore the Best Beaches in SoCal with Flightgift

Best Beach in Southern California Flightgift
Now that you’ve discovered the best beaches in Southern California, it’s time to plan your perfect beach vacation. Whether you’re looking to relax on the golden sands, explore vibrant coastal towns, or enjoy thrilling water sports, Southern California offers something for everyone.

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