The Best Beaches Near Los Angeles, California

Beautiful Beaches Near Los Angeles, California You Have to Visit!

With 270+ days of sunshine each year, the Los Angeles area is the perfect place to go for a beach getaway. But LA is a sprawling city, which means you have a lot of beaches to choose from.

If you’re looking for the best beaches near Los Angeles but don’t know where to start, I’ve put together a list of the very best. Starting from Aliso Beach in the south and going all the way up to Leo Carrillo State Beach in the north, all of these beaches are within an hour’s drive from Downtown Los Angeles (depending on traffic, of course!). 

Whether you want to have fun in the sun at the Santa Monica Pier, have a beach bonfire in Laguna Beach, go surfing in Huntington Beach (aka “Surf City USA”), or camp out for a few days in Malibu, choose from this list and you’re sure to find the perfect beach for you!

Beautiful Beaches Near Los Angeles, CA

Aliso Beach in Laguna Beach

Best Beaches Near Los Angeles, California: Aliso Beach in Laguna Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 55 miles

Drive for an hour south of Downtown Los Angeles, and you’ll reach the world-famous city of Laguna Beach. Here you’ll find 7 miles of coastline broken up by beautiful coves and beaches. 

If you want to have a sun-filled SoCal beach day with family and friends, I suggest Aliso Beach in the southern end of Laguna Beach. This is a popular spot for skimboarding, but if you want to take it easy and set up shop for the day, bring all of your beach and picnic gear and try and snag one of the coveted firepits.

This is the only beach in town that has firepits, so if you’ve got your heart set on one, it’s best to get there early!


Balboa Beach in Newport Beach

Best Los Angeles, California Beaches: Balboa Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 45 miles

Just up the coast from Laguna Beach, you’ll find the town of Newport Beach and its family-friendly Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Beach. Rest assured, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained for the entire day at Balboa Beach! 

Play games at the historic Balboa Pavilion, ride the Ferris wheel at the Balboa Fun Zone, cruise along the Newport Balboa Bike Trail, watch the sunset from the historic Balboa Pier, or ride the Balboa Island Ferry to Balboa Island and get a famous frozen banana at Sugar ‘N Spice!


Huntington State Beach in Huntington Beach 

Must Visit Beaches in Los Angeles, California: Huntington State Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 40 miles

Next up is Huntington State Beach, a 3-mile stretch of sand in the city of Huntington Beach. Huntington Beach is known as “Surf City USA,” so rest assured this is a great spot to do a little surfing, if that’s your jam. 

If you prefer to just learn about the city’s surf history, be sure to visit the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. And if your crew is hungry, you can socialize over oceanfront Hawaiian-inspired dishes at Duke’s.

You can also stroll along the historic pier, play a game of beach volleyball, take a dip in the Pacific, or claim one of the firepits and watch the sunset on the beach.


Manhattan Beach in Manhattan Beach 

Best Beaches Near Los Angeles, California: Manhattan Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 21 miles

For something a little less touristy than Venice and Santa Monica beaches, try Manhattan Beach. Flanked by Redondo Beach to the south and El Segundo Beach to the north, the sandy shores of Manhattan Beach are perfect for a quintessential SoCal beach day. 

Rent a bike from one of the many shops and cruise along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (aka The Strand), take in the views from the 928-foot-long Manhattan Beach Pier, or simply pack a picnic and have fun in the sand and sun for the day. For a little more action, you’ll find tons of shops and restaurants lining Manhattan Beach Boulevard. 


Venice Beach in Venice Beach

Best Los Angeles, California Beaches: Venice Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 17 miles

Venice Beach is easily one of the coolest Los Angeles beaches, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s just 25 minutes from downtown. 

Venice Beach boasts roughly 3 miles of beach and is home to the famous Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk, which is the place to do some serious people-watching. This is also where you’ll find the famous Venice Beach Skatepark and Muscle Beach Venice. 

Venice Beach also happens to be a great place to learn how to surf. And if you’re interested in having a go at catching a wave, there are tons of places to either rent gear or sign up for a class.

If you’ve had enough fun in the sun, it’s well worth taking a stroll around town to check out the unique Venice Canals, hunt down some of the city’s best street art murals, or get some retail therapy at one of the many funky shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard.


Santa Monica Beach in Santa Monica 

Must Visit Beaches in Los Angeles, California: Santa Monica Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 16 miles

You can literally walk or bike from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Beach if you’d like, and if you ask me, it’s well worth taking the time to check out both of these popular Los Angeles beaches. 

Stretching for 3.5 miles, Santa Monica Beach is perhaps best known for its historic 1909 pier, where you’ll find all sorts of amusement park rides, carnival games, food vendors, and street performers. While you’re there, be sure to take the short walk to the Original Muscle Beach.

If you want to stay active, you can rent bikes and cruise along the “The Strand,” take a surf lesson, explore the 6.2-acre Tongva Park, or splash around in the Annenberg Community Beach House. Or, if you’d rather be lazy and work on your tan, Santa Monica Beach is perfect for that too!


Carbon Beach in Malibu

Best Beaches Near Los Angeles, California: Carbon Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 25 miles

As a Southern California native, I always love making the drive past all the beaches of Malibu. There’s just something so magical about this part of California!

For a taste of how the 1% live, stop off at Carbon Beach (aka Billionaire’s Beach), which is lined by Malibu’s famous multi-million-dollar homes. This is generally a quiet stretch of sand, perfect for a stroll or a swim. Access to this beach was actually blocked by residents until 2015, but it’s now open for the public to enjoy!


Malibu Lagoon State Beach in Malibu

Best Los Angeles, California Beaches: Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 27 miles

For a quintessential Malibu experience, head up the coast a bit to Malibu Lagoon State Beach. This is where you’ll find the historic Malibu Pier, where you can dine with ocean views on the patio of Malibu Farm Restaurant & Bar.

Alternately, you can also make a pitstop at the nearby Malibu Country Mart, Malibu Lumber Yard and Malibu Village, which are all clustered right across the road from the lagoon and beach. This is a great area to go shopping at the high-end boutique shops or grab lunch at one of the many eateries – try a lobster roll at Broad Street Oyster Company!


Zuma Beach in Malibu

Best Beaches Near Los Angeles, California: Zuma Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 37 miles

Zuma Beach is one of the most popular beaches near Los Angeles, and you’ll find locals and tourists alike lounging around the wide swath of sand, bodysurfing the waves, and playing beach volleyball. This is also a great beach to spot dolphins and sea lions frolicking in the water!

If you’re feeling peckish, there are a couple of snack shacks on the beach selling drinks and snacks. Better yet, do as the locals do and order a breakfast burrito from Lily’s up the street to enjoy at the beach!


El Matador State Beach in Malibu

Must Visit Beaches in Los Angeles, California: El Matador State Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 39 miles

El Matador State Beach might just be the prettiest beach in Malibu. One of the things that makes this spot extra-special is that parking is super limited, so it never gets all that crowded. 

This is a popular spot for photographers, who come here during magic hour to capture the beach’s scenic rock formations and caves in their best light. But this is also a great place to lay down a towel and soak up the sun for a few hours. 

If it’s wildlife you’re after, there are plenty of bird species that flock to El Matador State Beach, so it’s a prime spot for bird-watching. You’ll also find critters in the tide pools during low tide. And depending on the season, you might even spot dolphins and even whales frolicking offshore!


Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu

Must Visit Beaches in Los Angeles, California: Leo Carrillo State Beach

Distance From Downtown LA: 43 miles

Leo Carrillo State Beach is easily one of the best beaches near Los Angeles, especially if you’re looking for a place to camp. The campground is located just across the highway from the beach.

With 1.5 miles of sandy shores, beautiful rock formations, tide pools, and caves, this is a gorgeous place to spend a few days. Plus, this is a great swimming beach with waves that are perfect for surfers and bodysurfers.

Beach aside, Leo Carrillo State Park also boasts scenic hiking trails that offer stunning views of the rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean!

There you have it! The best beaches near LA! What’s your go-to beach? 


Author

  • Justine Lopez

    Justine is a writer and editor who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust!

    In 2013, she left her hometown in California and set off on a yearlong round-the-world journey with her now-husband – they never looked back. Since then, she’s lived the expat life in Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, Mexico, and now Dubai. Along the way, she's written and edited for magazines, newspapers, and websites in Asia and beyond.

    When she's not stoking her wanderlust by working on travel articles for Wandering Wheatleys, Justine is busy caring for her many foster cats in Dubai, seeking out all the delicious vegetarian food, and taking every chance she gets to explore a new corner of the world!

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