Most Scenic Southern California Beaches

Most Scenic Southern California Beaches

Southern California beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country, with white sands, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque palm trees. From the golden sand of Coronado Beach to the surfer's paradise of Huntington City Beach, this list of the most scenic California beaches has it all.

Southern California conjures images of sunshine, surfers, and sunbathers relaxing by the Pacific, so it’s no surprise that this coastal area is home to some of the nation’s best beaches. White sands, dramatic cliffs, unusual rock formations, and picturesque palm trees are just a few of the reasons the region’s beaches are among the top in the country. These California beaches range from out-of-the-way spots to hubs of oceanfront activity, but they all share one thing in common — beautiful scenery you simply won’t find anywhere else.

Coronado Beach

The white buildings and red roofs of luxury resort Hotel del Coronado on the beach with a clear blue sky in Southern California on a bright summer morning.

Coronado Beach boasts golden sand that sparkles, thanks to the mineral mica found along the beach. Set on an idyllic peninsula outside San Diego, the flat sands and charming location against the backdrop of the Hotel del Coronado make it a favorite for anyone looking for a scenic escape.

Victoria Beach

Blue and purple colored hues of the ocean are pictured crashing onto the rocky shore of Victoria Beach in Southern California at sunset with an orange and blue sky in the background.

Located in the idyllic beachside city of Laguna Beach, Victoria Beach is most famous for the medieval-looking tower built into its cliffs. Tucked behind a residential neighborhood, the secluded beach can be difficult to find, but those who have uncovered its secret appreciate its unmatched beauty and lack of crowds.

Mission Beach

="A paved walking path is pictured with palm trees on either side of it next to the white sands of Mission Beach in Southern California, with a bright spring sky in the background.

San Diego’s classic boardwalk beach, Mission Beach has something for everyone. Popular with all types of crowds, this beach is lined with plenty of funky shops and restaurants, a roller coaster, volleyball nets, and more. The influx of people doesn’t detract from its beauty, and it’s counted as a top scenic spot.

Carlsbad State Beach

A person is seen running on Carlsbad State Beach in Southern California at sunset.

If you like the idea of oceanfront camping, head to Carlsbad State Beach, where you can pitch a tent right on the cliffs overlooking the beach. Due to high bluffs, you have to take a variety of stairs to the sand, but this adds to the beach’s photo-worthy charm.

La Jolla Cove

White flowers are pictured in a green field in front of a cliff on the beach at sunset at La Jolla Cove in Southern California.

If a glimpse at marine life is what you’re after, head to La Jolla Cove. Bordered by sea caves, this beach offers one of the best opportunities to see sea lions, seals, sea birds, and a breathtaking sunset. Take it all in from the scenic walk that runs along the beach.

El Matador State Beach

The sun shines brightly over the rocky cliffs of El Matador Beach in Southern California, with the aqua-colored ocean and a clear blue sky in the background on an early morning.

Nestled among Malibu’s famed mansions, El Matador State Beach features an exquisite craggy coastline with large rocks, a variety of tidal pools, and sea caves. The beach’s seclusion adds to its charm. To get to it, prepare to hike down stairs and a steep trail starting from bluffs overhead.

Hermosa Beach

Blue waves crash onto the sandy beach of Hermosa Beach in Southern California, with sunbathers pictured on the sand on a partly cloudy afternoon.

No beach quite captures the laid-back, surfer vibe like Hermosa Beach. A favorite with sunbathers, this beach also offers top-notch people-watching, with volleyball games frequently in full swing and a paved boardwalk known as The Strand bustling with walkers, bikers, joggers, and even rollerbladers.

Crystal Cove State Park

Rocky cliffs are pictured behind the sandy beach of Crystal Cove State Park in Southern California as calm waves roll in on a peaceful afternoon.

Located in Orange County’s Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove State Park offers a scenic one-mile trail perfect for sightseeing and waters frequented by kayakers and paddle boarders. You can also opt to take in the sites from the Moro campground, which sits on a bluff top and offers exquisite ocean views.

Zuma Beach

A surfboard is propped up on its stand on the sand with water and a cliff in the background at Zuma Beach in Southern California on a cloudy morning.

Another Malibu beach, Zuma Beach has plenty to offer the public with miles of sand, clean facilities, and lifeguards often on duty. It’s also one of the most scenic beaches in the Los Angeles area, and it makes a great spot if you’re looking to watch the sunset over the water.

Huntington City Beach

A long pier extends into the Pacific Ocean with buildings on it, against a clear evening sky in Huntington City Beach in Southern California

A Southern California surfer’s paradise, Huntington City Beach is a picturesque destination with surf-ready waves, an iconic pier, and a paved boardwalk. In addition to the many surfers, you can expect to find volleyball players, picnickers, and plenty of sunbathers enjoying the long stretches of white sand.

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