Home to some of the best beaches in the United States, there’s certainly no shortage of shoreline (or sun!) in southern California. And with a Mediterranean-like climate, tourists and locals alike head to the coast year-round, even in the slightly colder winter months.
Whether you’re planning to stop at multiple beaches,or simply want to explore a new spot, here are the best beaches in southern California, spanning from San Diego to Orange County and Los Angeles.
While Santa Monica remains one of the most popular beaches in southern California, it’s a fan favorite for a reason. For one, it’s more than a beach—it’s a destination. Backing up to the Santa Monica Pier, visitors can wander the historic boardwalk, ride the legendary Ferris wheel, or walk the wide, open beach with enough real estate to support even the largest of crowds.
Despite its proximity to the popular Huntington Beach, in some ways, Crystal Cove State Park is everything the former is not—a peaceful, serene, and undeveloped natural seashore. With a variety of hiking trails, it’s easy to get lost in the park’s sandy beaches, tide pools, and sloping terrain.
The Moro campground offers beautiful views (and RV hookups!) for those who wish to stay a while longer.
Tiny but mighty, La Jolla Cove is a San-Diego must-see. Nestled in and surrounded by cliffs, La Jolla Cove is part of the Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, making it a popular location for swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers hoping to catch a glimpse of marine life—most notably, sea lions, seals, and octopuses.
Malibu has a lot of beaches to offer, but none quite like El Matador State Beach. With an abundance of sand, massive rocks, and impressive sea caves, the only flaw of this Malibu gem is the shortage of metered parking (although you’ll see many simply park alongside the road).
Set at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, Leo Carrillo State Park consists of 1.5 miles of shoreline (the north end is dog-friendly), sea caves, tide pools, and backcountry hiking trails. Visit for the day, or reserve a spot at the Leo Carrillo State Park Campground, which accommodates trailers, tents, RVs, and motorhomes.
With 1.8 miles of beach frontage, compelling waves, and plenty of parking (about 2,000 spaces, to be exact), Zuma is a hot spot in Malibu for tourists and locals alike. From volleyball to windsurfing, there’s something for everyone here—even if that something is a lazy day at the beach.
Venice Beach is the well-known home to some, er, interesting humans. If you’re a tourist, it’s worth the visit to merely people-watch—you’re likely to see every type of “street performer” you could imagine (think mimes, jugglers, illusionists…you name it). In fact, Travel Channel listed it as one of the best beaches for people watching, calling it “a sort of sandy Times Square.” We’re sold.
Positioned in front of the legendary Hotel Del Coronado, you don’t need to be a guest to access the main beach. Fine, soft sand, charming homes, and nearby shopping make this beach the perfect place to sit back, relax, and catch the sunset.
Just because San Clemente State Beach is located in the town of San Clemente doesn’t mean you can’t get away—the state beach campground offers 144 campsites (69 of which have full RV and trailer hookups).
If you like a beach with a view, Point Dume has you covered. Located just south of Zuma Beach in Malibu, each bend in the brief hike uncovers new scenery. And if it looks familiar, it’s probably because it is. The beautiful beach has been used as a film location in a variety of movies, including the Iron Man series, Planet of the Apes, and Modern Family, to name a few.
Bringing your furry friend along? Consider stopping at Arroyo Burro Beach Park, where dogs are free to run, swim, and play in the sand without a leash. And while you might come for the pups, you’ll stay for the views—beautiful sunsets and a sandy beach surrounded by California cliffs.
Ready for your next adventure? If you’re looking to explore more of California—or the entire United States for that matter—check out our RV Resort Guide, featuring our favorite RV spots in every state.