Santa Monica Beach and the pier at sunset

The 9 Best Los Angeles Beaches

There are lots of beaches in Los Angeles County, and each beach has its own highlights and unique appeal. If you’re thinking of making the move to Los Angeles, you’ll want to know where the best California beaches are (you’ll may also want to find a Los Angeles storage unit, but that’s not nearly as fun). In this post, we’ll break down some of the most popular Los Angeles beaches and tell you what people like about them. If you’re just planning a visit, then the list will give you some ideas for the best beaches in Los Angeles for your particular interests.

1. Leo Carrillo State Park

This is the perfect beach for those looking to get away from the crowds and have a relaxing day enjoying nature along the Pacific Ocean. Longboarders will find the waves mellow and enjoyable — in fact, they rarely get above chest-level. Also, fans of nature will have plenty to see, like the rock formations, sea caves, and tide pools scattered along the mile-long stretch of beach. At Leo Carrillo State Park, you’ll even find campgrounds with parking for RVs, showers, and picnic areas.

Pro Tip:

This is one of the few Los Angeles beaches that allow dogs. So, bring the family dog along for an oceanfront walk! Just be sure to keep them on a leash.

2. Venice Beach

This is probably the most famous of Los Angeles beaches. Even if you’ve never been near Southern California, you’ve seen Venice Beach — with its iconic boardwalk and famous Muscle Beach workout area — in countless TV shows and movies. The waves aren’t spectacular here, so it isn’t a popular surf spot (regardless of how it may be portrayed on TV). But it is an iconic Los Angeles landmark and a great place to enjoy a bit of people watching, as the crowds get pretty heavy here most of the time.

3. El Matador State Beach

Another one of the top secluded Los Angeles beaches, El Matador is very popular for its romantic vibe. The beach is small and filled with rock formations, so it isn’t an ideal place for those looking to run around in the sand. But it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Los Angeles County, which is why it is so favored for date nights. Like on many of the other LA beaches, you’ll find caves and coves to explore. Located nearby are the El Pescador and La Piedra beaches, which are fellow members of the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beaches.

Pro Tip:

The beach access points are covered in gravel, and the beach itself has plenty of rock formations, so be sure to wear hardy shoes for this trip.

4. Santa Monica State Beach

This long two-mile stretch of sandy beach provides beachgoers with an eye-catching view of the Santa Monica mountains, but that isn’t what keeps people coming back. The big attraction at the Santa Monica beach is the famous Santa Monica Pier. The pier is nearly three city blocks long and features plenty of places to get good food and ride carnival rides. The pier is also a fun place to skate. You can also enjoy walking, running, or biking along The Strand, a 22-mile path that runs alongside many of the South Bay beaches.

It’s especially fun to visit the pier during the Fourth of July weekend, when you can enjoy a parade and fireworks show. The atmosphere at the Santa Monica Pier and this Santa Monica beach make them the perfect destination for families and groups of close friends to spend a day together.

5. Malibu Surfrider Beach

Malibu Surfrider Beach full of sunbathers and surfers

You might not know this beach by name. But if you are a fan of surf movies from the 1950s and 1960s, then you’ve certainly seen it. This beach lives up to its name and its movie reputation — it’s a hot spot for surfers due to the excellent waves. The beach is usually packed with people looking to get out on the waves, so it’s not the best choice for that romantic evening out or a leisurely stroll across the sand. But if surfing is your thing, then Malibu Surfrider Beach is the best of the Los Angeles beaches. Fisherman will also find a home here, as it is the location of the famous Malibu pier.

6. Rosie’s Dog Beach

While there are plenty of dog-friendly parks in LA County, many of which made our nine best parks in Los Angeles list, there are very few popular beaches that allow man’s best friend. We opened with Leo Carrillo Beach, which allows dogs but requires them to be on a leash. Dog-lovers can rejoice because here’s one beach where your dog can roam leash-free. The appropriately named Rosie’s Dog Beach is a three-acre beach that is usually coned off to mark where dogs are allowed to be. As with any dog-friendly area, be sure to read the posted rules when you go to this beach.

Pro Tip:

If there are no cones marking the dog-safe area, be sure to stay between Roycroft and Argonne Avenues.

7. Manhattan Beach

As well as being one of the many wonderful Los Angeles beaches for surfing and body surfing, Manhattan beach is well known for its beach volleyball courts. Visitors to the beach also like to enjoy the aquarium that is located near the pier. When you visit the aquarium, you will see many sea creatures on display and educational exhibits that will help you better understand marine life. There’s even a touch pool where you can reach out and touch some of the sea life.

You can also head to the nearby Redondo Beach, which offers great scuba diving, to explore even more of southern Santa Monica Bay. If you liked walking, running, or biking along The Strand near Santa Monica Pier, you can jump back on the path here.

  • Beach Website: Manhattan Beach
  • Best Suited For: Beach volleyball players and sea life fans

Pro Tip:

Surfing in the area is limited to the south side of the pier, while bodyboarding is limited to the north side.

8. Zuma Beach

While Surfrider Beach is the go-to spot for surfers in LA County, Zuma Beach (located just past it) is one of the best beaches for boogie boarders. You’ll find ample parking here. The clean, wide beach can hold a lot of people, which is good because it is a popular location amongst the locals. The Pacific Ocean is a little colder here than some of the other Los Angeles beaches, but it’s still plenty comfortable enough to have some fun in. If you don’t like the cold, the beach is perfect for sunbathing. You’ll also find convenient restrooms and showers that make your trip easier.

  • Beach Website: Zuma Beach
  • Best Suited For: Boogie boarders

Pro Tip:

There is paid parking at the beach, but you can park for free nearby on PCH and Westward Beach Road.

9. Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve

Surfers and traditional beachgoers might not find this destination particularly compelling. But if you are a fan of nature and love to enjoy a good hike now and again, you’ll love the Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve. We’ve actually cheated a bit here because the reserve is home to two beautiful beaches: Abalone Cove and Sacred Cove. Both will require a bit of a rocky trek to get to, so like El Matador State Beach, be sure to bring your shoes with you. Also, make sure they are a good pair of hiking shoes, as there are a lot of trails to explore in this area. While not a part of the preserve, there are restrooms and picnic areas nearby that will make your day out more convenient.

Hopefully, this list has given you a nice place to start exploring some of the best popular beaches that Los Angeles has to offer. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list — LA beaches are abundant, and you may find dozens of California beaches that you love. Feel free to branch out and explore more beautiful beaches to get the most out of your time in the area.

If you enjoyed seeing movie locations like Venice Beach and Surfrider Beach, check out our list of the top ten Hollywood hits filmed in Los Angeles. You’ll find even more movie locations that you can see in real life.

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