Best beaches in LA: Top coastal escapes to surf, swim and play

Looking for the best beaches in LA? Check out the city's top coastal retreats from family-friendly shores to a surfer's paradise.



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Surfrider Beach

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. First point, the most sourthern end bordered by the Malibu pier, is the most well-known, so be prepared to brave crowds and fight for waves. (Novices need not be deterred as the vibe here is friendly and laid back.) Second and third points are better bets for shortboarders. Park along PCH and trek past the lagoon onto the vast stretch of beach. Other nearby attractions include the Adamson House, a historic Spanish-style home-turned-museum, and Malibu Pier, which is enjoying a comeback. Spend the entire day at the beach with plenty of eating options—check out Malibu Country Mart for lunch and Nobu Malibu for dinner—then rest your head at the Malibu Beach Inn.
Good for: surfers, tourists
Facilities: restrooms, showers
Parking: free parking along PCH

  1. Malibu
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Venice Beach

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 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.

  1. 3100-2700 Ocean Front Walk
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County Line Beach

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. Neptune's Net is across the street for beachside grub.
Good for: surfing, kite surfing, escapism
Facilities: none
Parking: free parking along PCH

  1. Malibu
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Santa Monica State Beach

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 big attraction is Santa Monica Pier (on level with Colorado Avenue), roughly three city blocks in length and packed with typical and endearingly low-tech distractions: pier fishing, video arcades, free twilight concerts in summer, fortune tellers, fairground games, rides and a Ferris wheel.
Good for: groups, families, tourists
Facilities: restrooms, showers, pier, bike path, concession stands, lifeguards
Parking: paid parking lots

  1. Santa Monica
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Users say


Whoever wrote this has not read the health report on beaches in Los Angeles County. I am truly grateful that my local beach isn't on this list just to keep its A clean status and less people. :)

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