There are many great beaches in Southern California. Here is a list of the ones we think are the best for swimming, surfing, diving or just sunbathing. Most of these will be less populated places that tend to cater to a specific type of activity. Some are better surfing areas then swimming, some will be better sunbathing then surfing etc. Don’t forget the sun block!
The Wedge on Balboa Peninsula
This is a place for the brave and not faint of heart to surf. Take the 55 freeway west and keep going as it will eventually turn is to Balboa Ave. You will drive though Costa Mesa and then over the bridge onto Balboa peninsula. Drive through the town of Newport staying to your left, as the right will take you to the Newport pier. Drive until you come to a Y in the road. Keep to the right at the Y, and then go all the way down to the end park. You will see that you can go left but do that later. Walk to your right along the shore above the rocks. As you walk out to the ocean go out to the area where the waves and coming in. Sit there are watch the waves for a while. If you will notice the waves come in from three different directions. One set heads toward the rocks and one comes in from the far left. As the one hits the rocks they bounce off and head in land. This makes three sets of waves. The lifeguards do not allow surfboards in that area as they would be hitting other people since most of the time surfers would fall off the board due to the roughness of the waves. Most just body surf or ride small boogie boards. When the weather is rough or a storm out to sea, the waves will be HUGE. We love to just sit there and watch the braver swimmers get tossed around trying to ride the big one. Bathrooms and snack bars are about a half mile north.
Doheny State Beach
Staying in Doheny State Beach is a picnic, party with family and friends, swimming, camping and fishing all rolled into one. Some surfing is allowed on the north end. Lots of camp sites with some facing the water. Max RV is 35 feet. During the day in the day use area there is a large lawn for picnicking and room to throw a Frisbee or baseball. There are areas with tables that can be reserved by calling ahead. 949-4966172 The local town is near with plenty of fast food and sit down restaurants. The beach is on Del Obispo/Dana Harbor Drive, approximately one mile north of I-5
Crystal Cove State Park is the best beach for diving anywhere. It’s hard to get to because you have to walk down paths and stairways to get to the beach. Many people don’t want to haul their beach stuff up and down the cliffs so you won’t find a much of a crowd. Off shore there is a thousand acre underwater park. The sand is clean and the air is great. Many tide pools dot the shoreline. Located just three miles north of downtown Laguna Beach off of the coast highway. Look for the signs for Crystal Cove. There are huge parking lots on top of the bluff with restrooms, showers and changing areas.
Divers Cove is just what the name implies, after you find a metered parking place you walk down a footpath and some stairs to get to the beach. There are some large rocks sticking out of the surf, but safe swimming areas are easily found. The ocean here is clear and beautiful, truly a divers cove, you can walk out on the rocks on the right and see some great tide pools but keep your eye on the waves. Just a half mile north from downtown Laguna Beach look for Beverly Street. Turn west toward the ocean off of Coast Highway then turn Cliff Drive. I turn into Park Drive, look on your left for the beach access and the stairways to the beach. If you go on a weekend there might be a few beach lovers there but on the weekdays you might alone. It is one of the most beautiful spots anywhere along the coast.
Malibu State Beach
This is one of the most talked about beaches in Southern California. This area has blinding white sand and gentle rolling waves. This is a great place to see movie stars walking up and down the beach. Many beautiful and very expensive homes line the beachfront. Called Malibu Lagoon State Beach, this area is known internationally as a great surfing spot. You can swim in a marked off area just west of the pier, other then that the rest of the area in mainly for surfers. Many of the beaches along this shoreline are great for surfing. The western facing beaches have some of the best waves on the coast. Malibu beach is just north of Santa Monica off of highway 1. Malibu Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center (310) 456-9025
Mission Bay San Diego
Called Tourmaline Surfing Park, scuba divers and surfers love this area. Swimming and boogie boards are not allowed in this area. The ocean bed is rocky a little way from shore making for great waves; kelp beds make for super diving. The water is clear and inviting, take La Jolla Blvd to Tourmaline Street, turn towards the ocean.
Oceanside City Beach
Another great surfing area as well as swimming puts this beach ahead of most. Picnic tables, barbecues, snack bar and volleyball nets add to the fun here. Bathrooms are many plus you can fish off the pier. Take the 5 freeway to Mission Ave, and then go west toward the beach. When you get to Pacific Street you can turn right or left, both ways will get you to the beach. You will then see the beach on your right or left, depending on which way you turned. Oceanside is just 20 miles north of San Diego.
Pacific Beach San Diego
This is a good place to get a tan. Lots of sand for kicking back. Swimming, surfing and people watching is the main fun thing to do here. All the “in people” tan here. Plenty of food places and fun shops line the boardwalk (cement walk). This is a great place to get a fish taco also. From the 5 freeway take Balboa-Garnet exit then get onto Mission Bay Drive South, drive on to Garnet Ave then turn west. Go on to Mission Blvd and check out the beach signs.
Located north of L.A. on Highway 101, Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful areas in Southern California. East beach is the best as it is around a mile long with bathrooms, restaurants, fast food, and fairly clean water. The waves are small enough that surfers go farther south so swimming is uninterrupted. They have a walkway that people use for roller skating, walking and jogging. On weekends this area is full of people selling things like pictures, small rugs, jewelry, shells and things like that. It’s a fun day all around with super scenery and grand skies. Check out the shops and restaurants on the pier. Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center (805) 966-92222
The beach at Santa Monica is close to two miles long and very wide. This is great for the sunbather as it never gets so busy with people that you can’t find a place to kick back and grab some rays. The pier is an attraction all by its self with a restaurant, carousel, shops and an area for fishing. The sand is clean and the area is good for surfing, windsurfing and shore fishing. Restrooms dot the area. You can get to Santa Monica from the San Diego freeway (405). Go west on the Santa Monica freeway (10). Santa Monica Visitors Center (310) 393-7593
San Onofre (a-no-free) State Beach
This beach is a surfer’s paradise as noted in songs about the beach and surfing. The north part of the beach is reserved for surfers and has some of the best waves along the California coast. The beach has restrooms and covered picnic areas. The sand is wide and clean and the dirt parking lot fills up fast. There is another parking lot on top of the cliff that’s paved and there is paths zigzagging down to the beach. Located of the 5 freeway at Old Highway 1 exit a mile south of San Clemente, the sign will show you the way. If all parking lots are full you can take the Christianitos Road off ramp. Turn east at the stop and go to the next stop sign. Turn left and park along the curb if you can find a spot. Then walk back to the other side of the west freeway and look for a bike path going south along the fence. This will take you to the beach.