One of the most sought after places in Los Angeles for visitors and locals alike are the beaches. With world class surfing opportunities, miles and miles of wide strips of soft sand, and a climate to match the interests of sun, sand and surf enthusiasts, Los Angeles is a world class beach destination. The Strand connects the miles of beaches via a paved bike path from Pacific Palisades to Torrance, 22 miles. Numerous beaches are dotted with the iconic lifeguard towers, perhaps made more famous by the TV show, Baywatch. Another feature long associated with Los Angeles beaches are piers – often featuring restaurants and shops and jutting 500 to 1500+ feet out into and sometimes past the surf zone.
Carbon Beach is about a mile long strip of gorgeous sand located sometimes called “Billionaires Beach” due to the expensive homes that line its edge – often owned by celebrities. Hollyood mogul David Geffen used to own the compound right next to the East Carbon Beach access and fought against allowing the public to access this beach. Last we heard his house sold for 85 million.
Carbon beach is between Malibu Pier and Carbon Canyon Road with two entrances off of the PCH (West and East). Parking can be extremely tight, especially anytime in the summer but especially summer weekends. Best time to get parking is show up during a rainstorm – if you can somehow time your visit during such a rare event in Los Angeles.
Not advised to park on the other side of PCH and run across the highway due to its often heavy traffic and speeding vehicles. We have been to the Carbon Beach East access alley – a little gated strip connecting the highway with the beach – with the gate open from sunrise to sunset. Plenty of trash cans line the alleyway. Not sure why anyone would leave trash on a beach, but especially such a beautiful beach as this.
Crescent Beach, Catalina is a tiny strip of sand sandwiched between the primary pier in Avalon and the walkway which leads to where the ferrys dock. The parallel Crescent Ave also borders this beach. This is the primary beach in Avalon although smaller beaches are also a part of Crescent Beach including South, Middle and Step Beach (the smallest of the three). Because these beaches are so narrow – with high tides not always lots of room to lounge although during busy summer weekends especially, these beaches are always crowded. This beach is kept very clean, we have even seen workers in the morning sweeping the sand! Parts of the beach are slightly rocky.
Easy walking access to the Green Pleasure Pier with its selection of shops, places to eat and tour operators offering a variety of experiences including paddle board, kayak and boat rentals. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer – we’ve never seen them here in the winter months.
Dockweiller State Beach is a nearly 4-mile wide strip of sand located in Playa del Rey directly in the takeoff path from nearby LAX. One of LA’s most well-known, accessible and visited beaches. Because of the proximity to the airport, it can often be noisy in intervals as planes take off from the runway. Named after Los Angeles born Isidore Bernard Dockweiler, a well-known lawyer who ran for (but did not win) Lieutenant Governor of California in 1902. A quintessential looking Southern California beach, it is a beach like this that people often associate with Los Angeles.
Also known for the fire rings – popular in the evenings, this is one of the few beaches along the Los Angeles coastline that legally allows ‘bonfires’ as long as they are contained within the established spaces. Like other coastal beaches in Los Angeles and bike path runs the length of the beach (often used by folks roller blading or jogging). Restrooms, showers, picnic areas and volleyball courts are available to the public.
Plenty of parking (over 1200 spaces) – a parking lot north of the primary lot is reserved for RVs (over 100+ spaces there). Also known for the Dockweiler Hang Gliding Center and the Hang Gliding Flight Training Concession where interested parties can learn about hang gliding.
El Matador Beach
Hermosa Beach is bordered by two of the most well-known surrounding beaches, Manhattan Beach to the south and Redondo Beach to the north. Like other popular beach towns, Hermosa Beach also has a pier and is connected via the Strand paved bike/foot path which runs all the way from Santa Monica in the north to Torrance in the south. Like other beach towns, Hermosa Beach also has their own surfer statue, the Lifeguard Memorial Statue located next to the entrance to the Hermosa Beach Pier.
The original pier dates from 1904; in 2016 it appeared in the film, La La Land. This quintessential SoCal beach with its smooth undulating sand and lots of sunshine is very popular with volleyball players (courts are located on the beach) and is used to host a professional volleyball tournament each year. The Comedy & Magic Club (where Jay Leno used to perform) is located just a few blocks from the Hermosa Beach Pier.
Huntington Beach named after Henry Edwards Huntington (also the namesake of the well-known Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena) is certainly well known as one of the surfing hotspots in California and beyond and boasts a long surfing history. Simply walk out to the iconic Huntington Beach pier during the morning and you are bound to see surfers bobbing in the surf zone and incidentally one of the best places to view the actual beach. This pier is 1,850 feet long – one of the longest ocean piers in California. And Huntington Beach spans nearly 10 miles of coastline.
And visitors to Huntington Beach should also make a point to see several other beach related items including the Huntington Beach Surf Museum; this tiny museum packs a lot into their exhibits – several exhibits focus on surfing dogs – in fact the longest wave ever surfed by a dog occurred right here in Huntington Beach in 2011. The museum displays a plaque awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records. But even more impressive is the size of the actual board used for this particular stunt.
Hollywood has the Walk of Fame, Huntington Beach has the Surfing Walk of Fame located along parts of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway. Also home to the “nude dude” bronze surfing statue.
Malibu Lagoon State Beach offers plenty of parking with pricing range from one hour to all day. Located in Malibu just west of the Malibu Pier and next to the very popular Surfrider’s Beach and where Malibu Creek flows into the Pacific Ocean. This was dedicated as the first World Surfing Reserve in 2010.
From the parking lot, the beach won’t be immediately visible as the lagoon is located in the foreground with the sand spit in the background. This ‘marsh’ is a great place for bird watching – and or a nice place to enjoy a picnic lunch (with several picnic tables in the area). Also home to the nearby Adamson House, a Spanish style home built in 1929 with the Malibu Lagoon Museum highlighting the history of the area from the native Americans, area ranchers through to the influence of surfing in the area.
Paradise Cove Beach
Redondo Beach is the type of beach one associates with South California, long, expansive, deep sand and well sculpted sun-toned beach bathers. Beach volleyball is very popular here, especially in the summer. Also one of the beaches filmed in Baywatch. Like its neighboring beaches, Redondo Beach features a prominent pier. The current Redondo Beach Pier is the 7th pier the city has had in its history. Today it is a great place for beach shops and restaurants including one of our favorites, Pacific Fish Center & Restaurant with its fresh seafood (a number of tanks are on site).
Also site of the Redondo Beach Farmers’ Market held every week on Thursday from 8am until 1pm on the edge of Veterans Park. This is a prime spot for a Farmer’s market as the ocean and beach are just below where the market is held – and a short walk further is the ever fun Redondo Beach Pier. Not all farmer’s markets in the Los Angeles area have this good of a view!
Santa Monica State Beach is quite possibly the most visited beach in Los Angeles – situated right next to the iconic Santa Monica pier (with its shops and iconic carousel) near the start of the great 10 freeway. The Santa Monica Pier celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2009 with a huge birthday bash that well-infused with celebrities. The beach spans 3.5 miles and is roughly divided into the north and south parts of the beach by the Santa Monica Pier. Santa Monica State Beach is easily within walking distance of numerous shops and restaurants.
Home to the original Muscle Beach (since moved south to Venice Beach). Also famous for its showing in the TV show, Baywatch. Or perhaps more famous for promoting a certain type of southern California lifestyle and featuring the well sculpted and beautiful people as depicted in Baywatch. The quintessential lifeguard towers are located up and down the beach (more then 20 of them). Plenty of parking immediately bordering the beach along Highway 1 (PCH) spread among 8 primary open-air parking lots – all parking spaces are fee based (with entrance and exits located up and down the beach). Restrooms and outdoor showers are selectively located up and down the beach.
Summer weekends can be incredibly crowded and parking more then maxed out with extremely bad traffic clogging ALL roads in immediate vicinity of the Santa Monica Pier. Also the site of both beach volleyball and surfing in the 2028 Olympics.
Surfrider Beach is part of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach (parking either at the lagoon itself) or in front of Surfrider Beach or if very lucky, along Highway 1 (PCH). Appropriately named for its surfing popularity and a very long right hand break. Located near the famous Malibu Pier which features Malibu Farm restaurant at the entrance to the pier and a cafe at the its end. Also a sand volleyball court near the pier. This area is staffed with lifeguards during the summer.
This area was dedicated as the first World Surfing Reserve in 2010. Featured in numerous surfing movies, this area feels like ground zero for surfing in the state, and in many ways it is. The saltwater marsh is located just west of Surfrider Beach and is a great place for birdwatching. Also on site is the historic Adamson House built in 1929 – featuring a museum with local history through the ages.
Topanga State Beach, not to be confused with nearby Topanga State Park in the mountains is located below Topanga Canyon in the southern part of Malibu almost across PCH from two of our favorite haunts, the Rosenthal Wine Bar and the nearby Cholada Thai restaurant. Nearly 100 parking spots are available next to the beach (reasonable parking prices) – a tunnel walkway connects the beach with the other side of PCH. Or if not to crowded (ie early morning), parking often available alongside PCH. The beach is also next to the Topanga Lagoon.
Steps lead down to the beach from PCH. Staffed with lifeguards all day – also offers restrooms and an outdoor cold shower for rinsing off the sand and sea guck is available. Formerly a state beach but is now owned and operated by the county of Los Angeles. Popular for surfing but not for swimming – parts of the beach are fairly rocky. Bring a picnic – picnic tables available.
Two Harbours Beach, Catalina . Going with the English spelling of harbour here in this case to add an extra exotic feel to the name. Are you still in Los Angeles County at Two Harbours? Yup, although it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of mainland Los Angeles, the most popular activity here is to park it with a stiff Buffalo Milk Shake (created by a long time bartender in Two Harbours) and admire the pretty water and views of the nearby hillsides.
The sandy beach/bay Harbor Sands is located right next to the only pier in Two Harbours and a short walk from the Harbor Reef restaurant. Great place to hang out especially on a less crowded winter weekday. As close to a tropical feel as one can find in Los Angeles. We love this special slice of the island.
Venice Beach is a wide swath of sand spanning along the shorefront in the city of the same name, Venice Beach. The Venice Beach Boardwalk is a 1.5 mile walking/biking path that runs directly parallel to the beach and the frontage roads – this walkway is frequented by tourists, backpackers, living in van folks, joggers, homeless, silicon beachers, street artists and other performers. If you want to see the beauty of Los Angeles’s diversity in all it’s rawness, a visit to Venice Beach will certainly not disappoint.
You may see people with colorful hair styles, wearing masks, sporting strange costumes, talking to themselves, running around in circles, or any number of other eclectic activities. In part you come to Venice Beach to watch the people. In addition, parts of the ‘boardwalk’ are lined with a number of permanent specialty (often graffiti covered) shops and temporary shops which sprout up daily.
Muscle Beach is located along the Venice Beach Boardwalk (although the original Muscle Beach is near the Santa Monica Pier to the north). Easily identifiable by the bright orange painted building along the boardwalk titled “Muscle Beach” and the concrete ‘barbells’ built into the walls of the Muscle Beach gym. A number of muscle building machines are located outdoors and often one can find well sculpted individuals in action during presumably what is their daily workout routine.
Actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out here. A muscle beach hall of fame (plaques lining the concrete walls) commemorates some of the more accomplished body builders who have trained here. A small stadium used for body building events is also located on site.
Will Rogers State Beach is located in Pacific Palisades and includes approximately three miles of shoreline. Several parking lots are adjacent to this beach as is streetside parking. Quite crowded on summer weekends, although still not as bad as the craziness of some of the beaches in Santa Monica and or other more popular Malibu beaches. Popular with the gay community, sometimes this beach is referred to as: Ginger Rogers Beach
Features volleyball courts, a playground, a biking/walkway and picnic tables. The beach is named after the actor Will Rogers who died in a plane crash in 1935. Also the site of the Port of Los Angeles Long Wharf (at one point the longest wharf in the world). Nothing remains of this today. Many TV and films have been shot here including scenes in the iconic So Cal beach show, Baywatch.
This page is currently under major construction – please check back by the end of 2022.
NOTE: we will visit the following beaches as time allows.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Leo Carillo State Park
Point Dume State Beach
Rosie’s Dog Beach