11 Top-Rated Beaches in the Los Angeles Area
Los Angeles may possibly be the American city with the best overall variety of local beaches. There are a range of beaches within the large confines of Los Angeles County, and it also neighbors miles and miles of other beach cities, spreading both north and south of LA. The city's massive airport, LAX, is even next to a beach (Playa del Rey). You could go from your plane to the sand in about ten minutes.
California beaches are free, although many require payment for parking. All California beaches are public property, and there are no private beaches. In reality, beach access can be restricted and some are virtually inaccessible, except to local residents. Families may enjoy large beaches, like Santa Monica or Redondo Beach, with a wide range of facilities and amenities, while adventurers may like more secluded beaches in Malibu or Palos Verdes.
1 Santa Monica
With super-wide, soft, sandy beaches; an amusement pier; a beachfront boardwalk; and some seriously good restaurants, Santa Monica offers the best overall beach experience in Los Angeles. The beaches have an old-school, East Coast feel, with the addition of bike paths and plenty of outdoor exercise areas. The Santa Monica Pier is a fun entertainment zone and amusement park. The large public beach extends on either side of the pier. North of the pier is miles of open beach, officially known as Will Rogers State Beach, with paid beachfront parking and facilities and snack shops every few hundred yards. South of the pier are more recreational areas and large, open green spaces. There are also several beachfront cafes and bike rental places. The beach and bike path continue south to Venice Beach (and all the way down to Redondo Beach). If you're looking to splurge, Shutters on the Beach is a luxury hotel that replicates the grand Victorian beach hotels in a modern California style.
The city of Malibu stretches for about 20 miles along the California coastline, just north of Santa Monica. Within it, there are miles of beautiful beaches. This is also where the cove-type beaches begin. These are sometimes secluded beaches surrounded by bluffs or cliffs. Some have parking at the top of the bluff and are accessible only via a winding path that leads to the sand. One great beach is Topanga, where Topanga Canyon meets the Pacific Coast Highway. This is one of the original surfing beaches and has been featured in movies and TV shows. There are basic services (bathrooms and outdoor showers) in the parking lot. Topanga is a rocky, pebbly beach, best for water sports, diving, or fishing.
On the north end of Malibu, Zuma Beach is a wide, flat beach that stretches for almost three miles. The beach slopes downward sharply near the water line and there is a line of dunes between the beach and the beachfront bike/walking path. There are 14 lifeguard towers along the beach, as well as facilities and snack shops every quarter mile or so. Zuma is famous for its surfing and as a spot to see and be seen. At the south end of the beach are rocky cliffs and a cove that's inaccessible at high tide. Zuma's far north location means the water quality here is the best of any beach in Los Angeles County.
3 Huntington Beach
One of the surf capitals of the region and the country, Huntington Beach boasts some of Southern California's best waves and most beautiful beaches. The beach is wide and flat and goes on for almost 10 uninterrupted miles on either side of the city's large pier. After enjoying the beach, there's a vibrant downtown district, and the International Surfing Museum is worth a visit. The city and its beaches get very crowded on holiday weekends and during the annual professional surfing tournament held each summer. The Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel is a stylish, surf-themed hotel across the street from the beach and a short stroll from the pier.
4 Redondo Beach
With a touristy, yet cool little fisherman's village and marina called King Harbor and a big, newly-built municipal pier, Redondo Beach is a great family beach destination. Surfing is big here, as is beach volleyball. South Redondo Beach is the area with wide, clean beaches, extending out from the pier. The Strand bike path continues along the edge of the beach. This beach is also easily reachable via public transportation, Redondo Beach is at the end of the MTA's Green Line train system. The Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach & Marina is right on the marina with beautiful water views.
5 Playa del Rey
This beach city, next to Marina del Rey, is the home of Dockweiler State Beach, one of the state's best. It has almost four miles of ocean frontage. One unique thing this beach offers is plane spotting. The beach is on the approach and departure path from nearby LAX. Another beach, Playa del Rey Beach may be the least crowded city beach in Los Angeles, with miles of wide, chalky-white beach and high sandy dunes. It's mainly a residential area with plenty of on-street parking but no services. There are volleyball courts on the beach and a very nice bike path. The Inn at Playa del Rey is a new hotel, set back from the beach adjacent to the beautiful wetlands nature preserve area. Used by many of the tech companies that have offices in the area, it offers stylish, Cape Cod-style accommodations.
6 Editor's Pick Venice Beach
Even though the hippies and beatniks have been replaced by latte-sipping SnapChat employees, Venice Beach is still a trip. There's a large, wide beach, with volleyball courts, basketball courts, a skatepark, tennis courts, handball courts, and other recreational activities, but the real attraction here is the human carnival you'll witness on Ocean Front Walk. The beachfront pedestrian walkway is filled with unique and sometimes tacky shops, artists selling their work, street performers, tattoo parlors, pizza places, and ice-cream stands. There's a long bike path, used by runners, bikers, and roller bladers, part of a connected system that goes from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach. The Hotel Erwin was opened in a space that formerly housed a bland corporate chain hotel. It strives to curate a unique experience for guests with local artists performing and showing their work, pop-up fashion shows, and other unique happenings.
7 Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach is filled with expensive mansions because it's a beautiful place to live. The wide, sandy beach is well-maintained, and there are lifeguard stands every few hundred yards. It's close to other areas and attractions in Los Angeles for easy sightseeing and also has a vibrant downtown. The restaurant scene here is particularly good with many options. The beach is centered around a municipal pier that houses a small aquarium. The beach is fronted by The Strand bike and walking path, and there are also houses, hotels, and businesses located along it. The city is filled with parks, many located along the beach area. If you want to stay in the area, the Best Western Plus Manhattan Beach Hotel is on PCH, a few miles from the beach. The hotel and the city are quite close to LAX. The Sea View Inn at the Beach is also a mid-range property, in town, about four blocks from the beach.
8 Long Beach
Mainly known for its annual IndyCar race and as the home of the Queen Mary, Long Beach is about an hour from downtown Los Angeles. There are miles and miles of wide, soft, sandy beaches, and it's one of the beach cities where it's always possible to find some personal space, even on a busy holiday weekend. The Alamitos Beach area, a long, wide section with a low beach and homes raised on a bluff, is a fine beach. There's also a kind of hidden beach area directly below the ornate Villa Riviera apartment building, where Ocean Boulevard and Shoreline Drive intersect. Both have basic facilities (bathrooms and outdoor showers) and lifeguard stands every few hundred yards. Lifeguards are typically on-duty from 9am until dusk at all Los Angeles County beaches.
More so than many other beach cities, there's a thriving retail and restaurant scene along Pine Avenue, a few blocks from the beach. There are also museums, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and other attractions like the Shoreline Village shopping and dining area. For accommodation, the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel is on Ocean Avenue, close to Pine Avenue. Some of the rooms and suites have views of the ocean and the Queen Mary.
9 Palos Verdes
A beautiful residential area, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes boasts multi-million-dollar cliff-top mansions and a luxury resort. Pelican Cove Beach is a beautiful, secluded stretch of rocky beach, accessible only by foot via a steep, winding path. Beach visitors who make the hike are rewarded with epic views of the coastline and views of Catalina Island, 26 miles offshore. There's a paved parking lot and restrooms at the top of the trail and it's all part of Pelican Cove Park. The beach here is very rocky and not suitable for sunbathing. It's great for hiking and for tide pool exploring or scuba diving. The area is off Palos Verdes Drive, just south of Point Vicente Park and the lighthouse (both must-see attractions in the area). The best hotel in the area is the large Terranea Resort, which occupies its own small peninsula. The five-star, luxury resort offers the full range of luxury amenities in a dramatic, cliff-top setting.
10 Marina del Rey
As the world's largest man-made, small craft harbor, you might not think of Marina del Rey as a beach destination but there are a few small beaches to enjoy, the best being tiny Mother's Beach. The compact beach is popular with kayakers and has a roped off area for swimming and wading. The water in the 12-acre lagoon is shallow and quite warm, with no surf at all. There is also a picnic area along with basketball and volleyball courts. This small, gently curving beach (officially known as Marina Beach) is right next to the Jamaica Bay Inn.
11 Hermosa Beach
The aptly named Hermosa Beach ("hermosa" means beautiful in Spanish) is the neighbor to Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, but has a more laid-back, casual vibe. There's a large, central municipal pier and miles of beachfront bike path and boardwalk. The beach is flat and sandy with a slight drop-off near the waterline. It's a small city and a small beach, only about 40 blocks long. Off the beach, Hermosa Drive and Pier Avenue are the city's two main shopping and entertainment streets. Pier Plaza is the pedestrian area where Pier Avenue dead-ends at The Strand. The Strand is a paved bike path that runs for 20 miles north all the way to Santa Monica. The Hotel Hermosa on PCH is newly-renovated and slightly bigger than a boutique hotel. It sits up on a hill, about a 20-minute walk from the pier, with some beautiful ocean views.