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

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Pacheco

With 80-degree days year-round, Angelenos can enjoy the great outdoors from January to December with L.A.’s best hikes (scenic views included) and even hikes with waterfalls to boot. And with miles of pictureque coastline from Malibu to the South Bay, the best beaches in L.A. are aplenty for outdoor enthusiasts, surfers, families, sun worshippers and beach bunnies. From Venice and Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach and Playa Vista, here are the best beaches in L.A. to sunbathe, surf and play.

RECOMMENDED: See our full guide to things to do in the summer in Los Angeles

The 11 best beaches in L.A.


El Matador State Beach

Small, beautiful and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador looks not unlike a European beach. Wear shoes and don’t bring too much gear; the western Malibu beach 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.

Good for: nature lovers, dates
Facilities: porta-potty
Parking: parking lot $10, street parking free (watch for "no parking" signs)

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Zuma Beach

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 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–$10, street parking free

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Leo Carrillo State Park

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 (leashed) are allowed to roam.

Good for: nature lovers, surfers, groups
Facilities: showers, camp site, RV lot, picnic area, restrooms, fire rings
Parking: parking lot $12

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Los Angeles

El Porto 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. Remember to bring those quarters for the coin-metered parking lot—enter from 45th Street—with a 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

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Manhattan Beach

Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve

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 $12

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Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

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. 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 $12, street parking free

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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 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

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Santa Monica

Dockweiler State Beach

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 $3–$13, street parking free

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Playa del Rey

County Line Beach

The northern most 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

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Ventura County

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.

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

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Rosie’s Dog 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 colorful “Dogs at Play” silhouette.

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

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Long Beach

Looking to spend the night?


Putrika L

Thank you for sharing it. Los Angels Beach turns out to offer great views from El Matador State Beach, El Porto Beach, Leo Carrillo State Park, to Venice Beach. No less than Los Angels, Bali Island also offers a view that is not less beautiful than Los Angels. We from Bali Surfing Lesson offer a school or surf course for you. Make your holiday more interesting and memorable with us


You forgot Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, but I will keep those to myself...

Brad A

Hello there I am interested in knowing more of which beach has more learn to surf waves , I traveled to Tamarindo, Costa Rica and had warm water and mellow waves I know it might be hard to find warm water or nearly imposible in California but at least a beach that has easy waves ? I learned with a guy Named Eddie fully bilingual and is an excellent instructor , now that I have the basics down I want to keep practicing.

Dave D

@Brad A go to el porto... better break if youre near that area (surfrider put out a fake reef several years ago to produce a good break there....)

suzy q

Zuma is full of trash, the bathrooms are always foul, and in the summer you can bet the people will leave their food out for the birds to take.  Kids leave their food on the beach, wrappers and all.  No one cares, no one picks up anything. 

Beach C

Leo Carrillo is terrible.  Lots of rough locals and there's tons of sharks.  Particularly bad for families.  Avoid.

Tony D

Believe it or not, I have never gone surfing before. I made it my goal of the year this year to learn. My wife and I are heading down to LA in May, and we'll be returning again in August. It's nice to get some background on the beaches before we go down there. I really can't wait.

Mary S

The suggestion of El Porto for surfing is spot on.

When you get done head to Manhattan or Hermosa Beach for the best beaches and vibe.

We love tourists😻


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. :)