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Leo Carrillo State Park
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Mark Andrade

These are the 7 cleanest beaches in L.A. (plus one that’s super polluted)

Heal the Bay released its annual Beach Report Card, and Southern California fared (surprisingly) well.

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Written by
Michael Juliano
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Swallowed some water on your last trip to the beach? Good news: It probably wasn’t terribly contaminated with poop.

Environmental advocacy group Health the Bay released its annual Beach Report Card, and seven of the state’s 35 highest-graded beaches were in Los Angeles County, while the rest of L.A.’s beaches largely received excellent marks.

The report card isn’t a measure of how much trash you’ll find strewn about the sand, but instead the cleanliness of the water. Local agencies test the water at various beaches for three types of fecal bacteria (ew), which tend to change based on the season and whether or not it’s rained.

Therefore, Heal the Bay breaks up its report card grades into three categories: summer dry, winter dry and wet weather (rain tends to flush bacteria from street level to the ocean—in other words, don’t go swimming right after it’s rained).

In L.A. County, seven beaches—almost all of which are in Malibu—scored an A+ in all seasons and conditions throughout the year, therefore landing a spot on the honor roll:

  • Royal Palms State Beach (San Pedro)
  • Leo Carrillo Beach at Arroyo Sequit Creek (Malibu)
  • Puerco Beach at creek mouth (Malibu)
  • Las Flores Beach at Las Flores Creek (Malibu)
  • Broad Beach at Trancas Creek (Malibu)
  • Escondido Beach at Escondido Creek (Malibu)
  • Nicholas Beach at San Nicholas Canyon Creek (Malibu)

Ventura County also had seven beaches make the honor roll, while Orange boasted 10. L.A.’s number of entries varies from year to year; last year only three South Bay beaches made the honor roll, and in some other recent report cards that number has fluctuated anywhere from two to eight.

Outside of the honor roll, 94% of L.A.’s beaches scored an A or B for their summer dry grades, and 93% did the same for their winter dry scores—both of which are above average. Even in wet weather, 45% of beaches were able to score an A or B, which marked a few percentage points above the average (likely a result of L.A.’s remarkably dry winter).

On the complete opposite end, one county spot made the Beach Bummers list, a dubious bottom 10 of the poorest-graded summer dry beaches. Marina Del Rey’s Mother’s Beach has been a longtime fixture of the list, and it’s back again due to its protected, calm shore, which means bacteria tends to not be flushed out of the marina. The areas near the lifeguard tower and by the playground fare a little bit better on dry summer days, but all areas of the beach are pretty much straight-up pollution failures at all other times.

Heal the Bay also released a similar report about the county’s swimming holes and recreational river zones. The short of it: The L.A. River was relatively clean in both of its recreational zones, in the Sepulveda Basin and near Frogtown (where one spot in particular at Benedict Street received a perfect grade); the falls and creeks in Angeles National Forest are consistently clean; and Malibu Creek’s popular Rock Pool swimming hole is mostly clean, with a nearby one in Las Virgenes Creek less so.

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