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The Best Beaches of Southern California

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Are you planning your family vacation, a road trip or elopement wedding in the US this summer? Here are the best beaches in Southern California that you can’t miss!

 Malibu El Matador Beach State Park

Southern California or SoCal stretches from San Luis Obispo to San Diego counties which borders with Mexico.

The beaches of Southern California are a sun seeker’s paradise, and offer diverse landscapes from rocky cliffs and narrow stretches by the ocean to long and wide sandy beaches.

Whale watching, surfing, wildlife viewing, sun basking are some popular activities in SoCal beaches.

Southern California is the perfect destination for a family vacation, a US road trip or an elopement wedding!

The Best Beaches of Southern California

Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach has a lot going on: shops, restaurants, a wide sandy beach, a promenade and an amusement park. If you are traveling with kids they will love the amusement park at Santa Monica pier.

If park rides are not your thing, Santa Monica pier is a great backdrop at sunset, so plan to spend a whole day on this beach. On the weekends expect crowds. For more information on Santa Monica, click here.

Santa Monica Beach Shopping Promenade - Southern California
Santa Monica Beach Lifeguard Shack - Southern California
Santa Monica Pier at Sunset - Southern California

Laguna Beach

An artistic seaside community, the vibe in Laguna is pure Orange county. The vibe here is mostly family. Have a drink or lunch at one of the many beachfront resorts in Laguna and watch life go by. For more information on Laguna, click here.

Laguna Beach on a sunny day - Southern California
Laguna Beach lifeguard tower - Southern California
Sunbathers at Laguna Beach on a sunny day - Southern California

Newport Beach

Another OC gem, Newport Beach is an affluent area where houses on the harbor are owned by billionaires and celebrities, Newport is a family area with pretty streets, cute shops and fantastic whale watching. For more information, click here.

The Best Beaches in Southern California - Newport Beach Promenade
The Best Beaches in Southern California - Newport Beach from pier
The Best Beaches in Southern California - Newport Beach pier lookout

Marina Del Rey

A boating community just 15 mins from Los Angeles Airport, Marina Del Rey is for people who love water sports. At any time of the day, you can watch kayaks, boats, stand up paddle boards going up and down the canal.  It is also common to spot seals, pelicans and other marine animals.

A low key area, located just minutes from the airport and downtown LA, Marina Del Rey is the perfect place for a low key family beach vacation. For more information on Marina, click here.

The Best Beaches in Southern California - Marina del Rey Beach
 Marina del Rey Pelicans on Rock
Marina del Rey Boats in the Marina

El Matador Beach Park

Nestled on the coastal cliffs of Malibu, the traffic to get to this beach is horrendous, but worth the scenery.

Bring some food and drinks and spend the day combing El Matador beach. It’s long enough that if you want a place away from the crowds, all you have to do is walk.

If you enjoy people watching, sit somewhere by the entrance and watch as visitors come and go all day.

Here are other great beaches in Malibu: Nicholas Canyon Beach, Paradise Cove Beach, Zuma Beach, Leo Carrillo State Park.

Check out this post on how to spend a day in Malibu here.

The Best Beaches in Southern California - Malibu El Matador Beach State Park
The Best Beaches in Southern California - Malibu El Matador Beach State Park

La Jolla Caves Beach

Further South, in San Diego county you will find gems like Carlsbad, Coronado, Encinitas and La Jolla.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if you want to see some wildlife, head over to La Jolla Caves Beach to see colonies of seals and sea birds.

Tamarack State Beach

Carlsbad is often call the village by the sea and has many claims to fame like the first skateboard park in the nation, 50 acres of flowers and the first LEGOLAND park outside of Europe.

Carlsbad is also home to several nice stretches of sand by the ocean like Tamarack and Robert Frazee State Beaches.

For surfing and tidepooling at low tide, head over to Terramar Beach.


Coronado beach is a family friendly, wide beach with a nice dog run beach and artists who make large sand castles on the beach. There are several restaurants nearby for lunch and free parking.

In your opinion what are the best beaches of Southern California?

For more things to do in California, check out these travel guides:

Also if you are traveling with toddlers, check out my toddler beach essentials.

Don’t forget to follow my travel or lifestyle accounts on Instagram and to subscribe to my YouTube channel for videos.

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The Best Beaches of Southern California for vacations, weddings and road trips

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