Catch A Wave (And A Tan) At L.A.'s Top 16 Beaches

Here in L.A., having a go-to beach is as critical as having a regular java spot; you don't even have to think, you just go. Depending on your neighborhood, the first habit may take a bit more time (and gas mileage), but the end result is always worth it. Sand-filled excursions are fundamental to SoCal — but sometimes, tough to keep track of.
To keep your toes in the sand, we’ve rounded up 16 waterfront paradises that are prime for summer jaunts. So, next time you’re itching to soak up some rays, consult this guide. Just don't forget the SPF!
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Photo: Via Country of Santa Barbara

Arroyo Burro Beach
Just five miles west of Santa Barbara, Arroyo Burro Beach (a.k.a Hendy's Beach) is 110% worth the drive. Secluded by towering cliffs and a curving coastline, it's the perfect weekend all-day trip and it's pup-friendly. Surfers and hand-gliders are frequenters of this local favorite! We suggest driving there in the morning, hitting up the Boathouse at Hendry's Beach for brunch, laying out with a great read, and ending the day with a BBQ dinner in the grill and picnic area.
Arroyo Burro Beach, 2981 Cliff Drive (near Las Gaviotas); 805-687-3714.

Nicholas Canyon County Beach
Known to surfers as Zero Beach and just ten minutes north of Zuma, this spot is beloved by many. Sandier than other surrounding beaches, it’s the best for lying on your towel and getting a little color for a couple hours. Just don’t forget to pack some snacks and set up your feast at one of the picnic tables high up on one of the bluffs overlooking the ocean. Or, you can always hit up one of the many food trucks that park along PCH during the summer months.
Nicholas Canyon County Beach, 33850 Pacific Coast Highway (near Nicholas Beach Road); 310-305-9546.

Annenberg Community Beach House
Located directly on Santa Monica Bay, right off PCH, this open-to-the-public beach house features five acres of oceanfront awesomeness. Quick history lesson: The house was built by publisher mogul William Randolph Hearst for Marion Davies, and some of the house's original structure still remains. What makes it so extraordinary isn't the beach, but the near Olympic-sized pool, beach volleyball courts, soccer fields, canopies, recreation room, and tons more. Let's just say you'll never be bored, even if it's a cloudy day.
Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Highway (near Entrada Drive); 310-458-4904.
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Photo: Via L.A. County

Zuma Beach
White sand and clean water? No wonder there's always a crowd of surfers just beyond the break. You might not spot Johnny Utah or Bodhi here, but it's still our fave pick for a jaunt right off PCH. Also, as the largest beach in Malibu, it's the go-to for large groups of friends.
Zuma Beach, 30000 Pacific Coast Highway (near Busch Drive); no phone.

The Strand, Manhattan Beach
This guide wouldn't be complete without The Strand. From rollerblading and running to biking and dog-walking, there’s never a non-active moment along this strip of mile-long paved pathway. We love to come here extra-early in the morning for a quick workout and watch the sun come up on the beach. Not a bad way to start the day.
The Strand, Manhattan Beach; no phone.

Thousand Steps Beach
Aptly named after its steep line of stairs leading to the beach, this Laguna spot is a hidden gem. A residential favorite, the entrance is super easy to miss, so we suggest parking as close to 9th Street as possible. Believe us when we say this destination will blow your mind. Secluded and beyond gorgeous, you may never want to head back to Lala after spending the day here.
Thousand Steps Beach, 9th Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway; 714-834-5400.
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Photo: Via Point Dume State Beach

Pirate's Cove Beach in Point Dume State Beach
Head here ASAP to catch the tail end of whale-watching season. But, even without the water mammals, there’s still a bounty of activities to partake in, like snorkeling, rock climbing, and tide-pooling. Fun facts: Classics like Big Lebowski and Planet of the Apes were filmed at this waterfront locale. We also hear that this secluded spot was a nudist beach back in the day, but you won't find any bare sunbathers here anymore (ahem, don't forget your bikini!).
Point Dume State Beach - Pirate's Cove Beach, Westward Beach Road; 805-488-1827.

Leo Carrillo State Park
Looking to escape the confines of the city? Head to this ah-mazingly beautiful beach just off Mulholland Highway for a day jaunt. We suggest you spend the whole day exploring the caves, tide pools, bluffs, and mind-blowing shoreline. If you’re really feeling ambitious, set up camp for just $35 a night. We also can never get enough of the giant sycamores that shade the campgrounds — beach-bumming at its very best.
Leo Carrillo State Park, 35000 Pacific Coast Highway (near Mulholland Highway); 310-457-8143.

Sunset County Beach
A hidden secret of the O.C., this quaint beach town has all the makings of a five-star summer day. The main road goes along a one mile stretch between Huntington Beach and Surfside, so other beachgoers drive past it on their way to Surfside. Tip: Head to one of the many local restaurants like Fish Camp for some post-sun grub.
Sunset County Beach, Pacific Coast Highway between Anderson Street and Warner Avenue (no street adress given); 714-834-2400.
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Photo: Via Paradise Cove

Paradise Cove
Impossible to miss while driving PCH — thanks to the huge and fantastically kitschy sign — this beach-slash-restaurant-slash-bar-slash-trailer park has it all. But first things first: the beach. Look vaguely familiar? That’s because countless films, TV shows, and commercials have been filmed here, like Baywatch and Charlie’s Angels. The only downside is the fee to enter the beach grounds, but if you’re spending the day, it’s absolutely worth it. Just remember to follow up with a tiki drink from the outdoor bar. Cheers!
Paradise Cove, 28128 Pacific Coast Highway (near Paradise Cove Road); 310-457-2503.

El Matador State Beach
Who doesn’t love El Matador? As one of the most beautiful beaches in Malibu, we adore exploring the sea caves and large rocks along the beach, especially as the tide comes in. The views from the cliffs are unbelievable, and it's the perfect romantic destination for that sunset stroll. It gets crowded on hot weekends, and you’ll occasionally find a cheesy photo-op going down, but it's still at the top of our lists.
El Matador State Beach
, 32215 Pacific Coast Highway (near Encinal Canyon Road); no phone.

Will Rogers State Beach
This all-around favorite beach is an Angeleno right of passage; you just have to go. The three-mile strip is smack dab in the midst of everything, and it's an easy commute from anywhere in L.A. From ultimate frisbee to a volleyball throw down, this place is a sand-sport must. It's got a bit of a bad rap for being polluted, so we suggest avoiding the water after a storm.
Will Rogers State Beach, 17000 Pacific Coast Highway (near Temescal Canyon Road); 310-305-9503.
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Photo: Via California State Parks.

Dockweiler State Beach
Fire rings, picnic areas, and hang gliding, oh my! Fair warning: To snag a fire pit in the summer, you need to call dibs extra early (but it's so worth it since it's one of the few beaches in the county that still allows them). This Playa del Rey locale stretches out for three miles; the only not-so-great factor is that it’s beneath the takeoff path of LAX, but its gorgeous views are enough to take care of that dilemma.
Dockweiler State Beach, 12000 Vista Del Mar (near Imperial Highway); 310-322-4951.

Huntington Dog Beach
Dog owners — make your way to Huntington Beach, stat! Just slightly north of the Huntington Beach Pier, this secluded beach is kept super clean considering it’s a doggie Disneyland, where your canine friends can frolic sans leash. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there on a doggy surf contest day, where canines and their owners ride waves tandem.
Huntington Dog Beach, 100 Goldenwest Street (at Pacific Coast Highway); 714-841-8644.
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Photo: Via Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Beach
If you like to avoid crowds, head to this Orange County sandy oasis for your view of the Pacific. Serene and peaceful, this super-clean, three-mile-long stretch isn't just for swimming and sunbathing — it's also great for surfing, boogie-boarding, biking, hiking, horseback riding, and scuba-diving (phew!). Depending on the day's tide, be sure to take the scenic walk to the tide pool and catch a glimpse of sea creatures swimming and crawling about. (Tip: With several beach entrances for parking, we suggest snagging a spot at Reef Point, El Moro, or Pelican Point.)
Crystal Cove State Beach, 8471 North Coast Highway (near Reef Point Drive); 949-494-3539.

Dan Blocker State Beach
Located between Malibu Canyon and Kanan Dume Roads, this quaint stretch was formerly owned by the cast of the '60s showBonanza . Even if you’re not a Nick at Nite or TV Land devotee, there’s no denying that this intimate beach is perfect for a day of outdoor R&R. Plus, we like that parking is limited along PCH (read: this beach is rarely crowded). So yes, that means more room for us to frolic about and kayak!
Dan Blocker State Beach, 26224 Pacific Coast Highway (near Corral Canyon Road); 310-457-9891.