California Beaches can be any beach you like for whatever reason. While so
many publications and beach experts select a top 10 best beaches list, we've
visited all the beaches below and want to alert you to a few considerations
when visiting. First, the water quality in the world's oceans has seen
considerable decline in recent decades. With that in mind, consider that the
majority of visitors do not enter the water and recent surveys show that
going into the water is not a high priority for many selecting the best
California beach vacation. While the California water quality source,
healthebay.org, has become a useful tool, it unfortunately has a lag time in
alerting the public to potential dangers in water quality.
Here's Dr. Beach's top
choice for California -
Coronado Beach in San
Beaches chosen by a popular print guide that also publishes online:
Sonoma Coast State Beaches: 10 miles from Bodega Bay to Jenner,
these beaches attract more than 300 bird species, as do many beaches and
sloughs. Look for osprey from December to September, seal pups from
March to June, and gray whales from December to April.
Sonoma Coast beaches are undeniably some of
the most natural beaches in California and feature some of the
cleanest water. While we recommend them for their pristine beauty and the
conservation orientation that Sonoma County has taken a lead to promote,
don't look for sunbathing at these cool spots. Locals routinely giggle at
the sight of tourists arriving at the beach in swim suits, then quickly
scurrying back to cover up with warmer clothes. Also beware of sleeper waves
that are common here. Experts advise you to never turn your back on the
ocean as these giant waves arrive unexpectedly and can slam you into
unconsciousness and even death if you don't see them coming.
on the Sonoma Coast are quite limited, as well. Bodega Bay is your best bet
for lodgings. It is where Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" movie was filmed.
On our last visit to Bodega Bay, Tippi Hedren, the movie's main character,
signed autographs for a fee, hopefully to promote one of her environmental
Santa Cruz's Beaches: Santa Cruz has 29 miles of beaches, varied
enough to please surfers, swimmers, fishers, sailboarders, kids, sunbathers
and beach buffs. For starters, walk down the steps from the famous Santa
Cruz Beach Boardwalk to the mile-long Main Beach, complete with summer
lifeguards and golden-oldie tunes drifting over the sand.
BeachCalifornia.com Comment: The Santa Cruz
beaches are a great choice for a variety of family-fun experiences.
The Boardwalk and summertime beach train ride are awesome. The hotels a
mixed bag during the warm summer months, however. We've tried to find
reasonable hotel accommodations near the beach often end up staying
somewhere else...like Scotts Valley, Aptos or surrounding cities. Your best
advice is to visit the beaches and enjoy one of the top California beach
experiences, but don't limit yourself to staying at hotels at the beach in
Santa Cruz. Expand your horizons and check out Capitola, as well.
Pismo Beach: Pismo's 23-mile stretch of prime beachfront has been an
annual destination for generations of California families. Fishing,
shopping, surfing, and renting dune buggies are just a few of the many
outdoor activities here. Even dogs are welcome to play on the beach.
BeachCalifornia.com Comment: Bingo! They got this one right. Pismo Beach
is in the heart of Central Coast wine country. For overnight lodgings, you
may also want to check out San Luis Obispo, Cambria or the affordable Santa
Maria that's not far away. As for night life, it's a bit more subdued on the
Central Coast. You'll probably spend more time at the beach around
bonfire at sunset. That's your best bet.
Barbara's East Beach: This wide swath of white sand hosts beach
umbrellas, sandcastle builders, and volleyball games. On Sundays, local
artists display their wares beneath the palm trees.
BeachCalifornia.com Comment: As beaches go,
Santa Barbara East Beach is
lovely to look at, but do check the water quality before diving end. There
have been some issues with this beach area. Be sure to check
www.healthebay.org before going and like all California beaches, stay out of
the water after it rains. On the up side, this is a great area for hotel
accommodations, shopping and dining. If you like volleyball, there often
games in progress, and for the kiddies, there's a zoo not far from this
beach. Also, there's a playground with swings for the kids, right on the
Malibu's Legendary Beaches: Zuma and Surfrider beaches inspired the
1960s surf music that embodies the Southern California coast experience are
located not far from Malibu Pier and L.A.'s best waves. Zuma is loaded with
amenities, including snack bars, restrooms, and jungle gyms. The beach hosts
some of the state's best sunbathing and allows you to stroll in front of the
Malibu Colony, a star-studded enclave of multimillion-dollar homes.
BeachCalifornia.com Comment: Indeed these beaches do encapsulate
the golden days of Gidget. But again, check water quality before plunging,
just to be safe. Also, Malibu Colony residents are not widely recognized as
the most welcoming people in the world. You may want to gaze at them, but
they'd rather you not be there. So don't expect to be invited into the house
of someone rich and famous. Down the road in Santa Monica, you'll have an
equal chance of seeing celebrities, plus enjoy the amusements at Pacific
Park on the Santa Monica Pier. If you have to make a choice, choose
Santa Monica State Beach
for the whole package...shopping,
dining, amusements and beaches all in one place.
La Jolla's Beaches: The bluff-lined beaches are among the state's
most beautiful. Each has a distinct personality: Surfers love
Windansea's waves; harbor seals have adopted
the Children's Pool; La Jolla Shores is popular for swimming, sunbathing,
and kayaking; while the Cove is a top snorkeling spot -- and the best place
to spot the electric-orange California state fish, the garibaldi.
BeachCalifornia.com Comment: The media has always been especially
attracted to La Jolla beaches. We've been asked to take pictures of La Jolla
beaches for Sports Illustrated and a variety of publications. The beaches
are great to look at, and there's a tucked away (and hard to get to) beach
beneath the Glider Port that's known for nude sunbathing. Mother's
Beach often experiences water quality issues, so check the quality ratings
before going. (www.healthebay.org) La Jolla beaches are great for watching
the surf and vistas, but the most popular neighborhood beach that has
somewhat of a cult following in San Diego is Ocean
Beach (OB) where dogs are allowed. By the numbers, Mission Bay
and Mission Beach often have the greatest attendance because of the wide
range of amenities.
Island Beaches: Shown in the photo on top is a picture of the beach on
Hotel del Coronado. If a picture doesn't tell a story, then you'll just
have to see it for yourself.
BEST BEACHES BY ATTRIBUTES
San Mateo County
LONGEST PAVED PATH:
Redondo to Santa
Avila Beach, Oxnard's
Mandalay, Pacifica's Rockaway Beach
Ocean Beach, San Diego
San Diego County, Central Coast, North Coast
Sonoma, Big Sur,
Oceano Dunes SVRA