The best beaches in Los Angeles

Soak up the sunshine at the best beaches in L.A., including family-friendly shores and a surfer’s paradise

With 70-degree-plus days nearly year-round, Angelenos are spoiled with things to do outside. Whether it’s January or July, L.A.’s best hikes (including hikes with waterfalls) are rarely off the table—and the same can even be said for beaches, too.

Now, you might not exactly want to actually go in the water (even in late summer the ocean temperature barely hits 70), but you’ll certainly want to be by the water. And with miles of picturesque coastline from Malibu to the South Bay, the best beaches in Los Angeles are aplenty for outdoor enthusiasts, surfers, families, sun worshippers and beach bunnies (and at a couple of dog beaches, for pups).

If you’re new to L.A., there are a few oceanfront weather basics you should know: On hot days, the beach is typically 10 degrees cooler than central parts of L.A. and 20 degrees cooler than the Valley. (The exception: Long Beach tends to be in lockstep with L.A. temps.) Sometimes—particularly toward the beginning of summer—you might have clear blue skies inland but the beach is all fogged in; that marine layer tends to burn off in the afternoon, but sometimes it sticks around all day.

From Venice and Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach and Playa Vista, here are the best beaches in L.A. to sunbathe, surf, and play.

Top beaches in Los Angeles

El Matador State Beach

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Gerson Repreza

1. El Matador State Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Malibu

Small and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador my not fit your typical idea of an afternoon on the sand—but it’s far and away SoCal’s most beautiful beach. Wear shoes and don’t bring too much gear; the western Malibu spot is only accessible via a steep gravelly path. Spread your towel in the cupped hands of the rocks—just watch out for high tide. Arriving early or staying late should reward you with a memorable dawn or sunset. El Matador and nearby El Pescador and La Piedra beaches collectively form the Robert H. Meyer Memorial Beaches. Consider walking down to Lechuza for a less dramatic but less busy stretch of sand.

Good for: nature lovers, dates
Facilities: porta-potty
Parking: parking lot $3 per hour, $10 all day (free with library card pass); street parking free (watch for “no parking” signs)

Zuma Beach

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Jenna Day

2. Zuma Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Malibu

Make the drive past Will Rogers and Surfrider beaches and you’ll be rewarded with a clean, wide patch of sand and surf at Zuma. A popular spot on weekends and holidays for locals and destination beach-goers, this Malibu beach can hold crowds with plenty of onsite parking (pay at the lot or for free along PCH and Westward Beach Road) and lifeguards on duty. Surfers can catch some waves at this sandy beach break, but waves tend to close out, making this a perfect spot for boogie boarders and body surfers. Venture to nearby Point Dume for idyllic hikes and repelling.

  • Good for: families, groups, boogie boarders
  • Facilities: restrooms, showers, lifeguards, concession stand, bike path, volleyball courts, swings
  • Parking: parking lot $3–$15 ($0.50 per 15 minutes up to 90 minutes), street parking free

Leo Carrillo State Park

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Mark Andrade

3. Leo Carrillo State Park

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Los Angeles

Leo Carrillo State Beach has the best of both worlds: a well-equipped stretch of sand plus seclusion and scenic beauty. Longboarders can paddle out for mellow waves—it gets no more than chest-high at this point break—while nature lovers can explore tide pools on the rock-dotted coastline and a nearby trail. Groups can make use of the on-site camping grounds, picnic area, RV lot and token-operated showers. And don’t forget Fido: This is one of the rare beaches where dogs are allowed to roam (leashed, north of lifeguard tower 3).

  • Good for: nature lovers, surfers, groups
  • Facilities: showers, camp site, RV lot, picnic area, restrooms, fire rings
  • Parking: parking lot $3–$12 (free with library card pass)

Rosie’s Dog Beach

Photograph: Michael Juliano

4. Rosie’s Dog Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Long Beach

For a generally pooch-friendly paradise, Los Angeles is pretty lousy when it comes to dog beaches. In fact, this four-acre waterfront spot is the only legal off-leash dog beach in L.A. County. The park is named after the area’s late local canine celebrity, Rosie the English bulldog. You can easily spot the dog-friendly area by the posted signs and colorful “Dogs at Play” silhouette (you’ll want to stay between Granada Avenue and Roycroft Avenue, toward the southeastern end of the parking lot).

  • Good for: dog owners
  • Facilities: restrooms, lifeguards
  • Parking: parking lot $1 per hour

Abalone Cove Beach

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chris Kuga

5. Abalone Cove Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

Abalone Cove isn’t exactly a beach chair and umbrella kind of destination—you’ll need to trek down a cliffside path from the parking lot and the beaches are often rocky. But if you’re willing to put in a little bit of work, you’ll encounter easily the most scenic spot in the South Bay, with hiking trails that cut through the bluffs, tide pools along the shore and caves carved into Portuguese Point. Sections of the rocky park have been known to close following destructive storms, so make sure to check the status online before hitting the beach.

  • Good for: hikers
  • Facilities: restrooms, lifeguards
  • Parking: parking lot $6–$12

Santa Monica State Beach

Photograph: Unsplash

6. Santa Monica State Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Downtown Santa Monica

This big beach, which effectively runs the length of Santa Monica itself, is usually crowded and has a festive, summer holiday feel to it. The sand here is nice enough, as is the view of the Santa Monica Mountains, but the crowds come here for the Santa Monica Pier, roughly three city blocks in length and packed with food stands and carnival rides

  • Good for: groups, families, tourists
  • Facilities: restrooms, showers, pier, bike path, concession stands, lifeguards
  • Parking: multiple paid parking lots

El Porto Beach

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Pedro Szekely

7. El Porto Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Manhattan Beach

Try to ignore the Chevron refinery and the occasional plane coming in and out of LAX and instead focus on the consistent waves that make this a favorite for surfers who make the trip from all parts of SoCal. Newbies love the sandy beach break (just watch out for the occasional flying board), while winter wave hunters can brave overhead waves. Enter the parking lot from 45th Street, and note the five-hour limit. Early birds get the worm (and less crowded waves) with free parking before 8am. Those that prefer to stay on land can make use of the bike path and volleyball courts.

  • Good for: surfers
  • Facilities: restrooms, showers, bike path, concession stand, lifeguards
  • Parking: $1.50 per hour metered parking

Dockweiler State Beach

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Bryan Fernandez

8. Dockweiler State Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Playa del Rey

Great for families and road trippers, this South Bay beach is outfitted with everything you need for a day at the beach. The beach sits at the end of LAX’s runways, so overhead planes are both amusing and inescapable. The wide, sandy beach is good for spreading out on beach towels and water sports, from swimming to surfing, while picnic areas and permitted bonfires (one of the few sites in L.A.) make for fun all-day outings at the beach.

  • Good for: families, groups
  • Facilities: restrooms, showers, lifeguards, picnic areas, parking, volleyball courts, bike path, fire rings
  • Parking: parking lot $7–$13, street parking free

Surfrider Beach

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Bart Jaillet

9. Surfrider Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Malibu

Those seeking escapism and romance may want to find another beach, but the payoff for fighting the crowds here is enjoying a stretch of sand deemed a World Surfing Reserve made famous by Gidget and other surf legends. A quintessential Malibu beach, this prime location makes for great people watching and three point breaks make this a perennial hot spot for both longboarders and shortboarders. Park along PCH—near the Spanish-style Adamson House, Malibu Country Mart and Malibu Pier—and trek past the lagoon onto the vast stretch of beach.

  • Good for: surfers, tourists
  • Facilities: restrooms, showers
  • Parking: parking lot $3–$15 ($0.50 per 15 minutes up to 90 minutes), street parking free

Venice Beach

Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Venice Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Venice

People-watching is the raison d’être at Venice Beach, which effectively continues from the southern end of Santa Monica Beach without a break. Jump into the flow of the winding (and utterfly disappointing) Venice Boardwalk, where you can skate or cycle, watch or play volleyball or basketball, and check out the pumped-up gym bunnies who work out at Muscle Beach. Surfers may want to opt out of less than pristine waters with inconsistent waves. Street parking is usually jammed, but there are several beachside lots.

  • Good for: tourists
  • Facilities: restrooms, beach-adjacent bars and restaurants, skate park, workout equipment, basketball, tennis, bike paths, lifeguards
  • Parking: multiple paid lots

Book an electric bike tour of Venice and Santa Monica.

County Line Beach

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Nathan Hoyt

11. County Line Beach

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Ventura County

The northernmost beach bordering Ventura County, this stretch in Malibu offers easy parking along PCH, an escape from the crowds, crystal clear waters (don’t be surprised to be out in the water alongside dolphins and tiny reef sharks) and a playground for surfers and kite surfers. The wide beach break is perfect for surfers of all levels while afternoon winds are perfect for kite surfing. Seafood stand and motorcycle hangout Neptune’s Net is across the street for beachside grub.

  • Good for: kite surfers, bikers
  • Facilities: porta-potty
  • Parking: small parking lot and street parking free

About The Author

Scroll to Top