Best Southern California Beaches For An Idyllic Beach Vacation
This travel guide includes information on Southern California beaches, vacation rentals, hotels, camping, and lots of fun things to see and do along the sunny Southern California coast.
From Santa Barbara to San Diego, each beach area has its own distinct charms and attractions. What almost every California beach vacation shares in common besides the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean is a delightfully sunny, mild climate throughout most of the year.
The Southern California beaches and their communities are varied enough to have appeal for just about everyone. The fact that most of these coastal beach towns are still within driving distance of many major attractions and urban business centers is an ideal situation for everyone from families on vacation to business travelers (who hopefully have a spare moment to head for the water and unwind).
There’s Santa Barbara with it’s rich, early Californian history and prime geographic location, nestled between the coast and the mountains. Ventura has a laid back old town atmosphere and lovely harbor, uncrowded even in summer.
There’s Malibu with its beach houses literally inches from the crashing surf, and hilltop mansions with spectacular views. Santa Monica has its amusement pier, great shopping, beach cottages and proximity to UCLA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and LAX.
Long Beach has the Queen Mary, Little Naples with its gondolas, and many boating opportunities in Queens Bay and Alamitos Bay. You can catch a ferry to Catalina Island from here as well. Once there you can do some skin diving or view the undersea life on a glass bottom boat tour. Then there’s Huntington Beach, or “Surf City” as it’s otherwise known. A great place to take the family, and especially a family of surfers!
Newport Beach is a haven for boating enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. For those wanting to find a vacation rental, Newport Beach has a whole peninsula full of charming beach cottages. A short ferry ride away, Balboa Island does too. Waterfront homes range from grandiose to simply sweet. Nearby Corona del Mar is a delightful small community with blufftop homes in a neighborhood above the beach.
Further south in Laguna Beach, there is a multitude of beautiful beach coves. Laguna is also full of excellent and varied restaurants and art galleries. The annual art festivals draw art lovers from all over every summer.
San Clemente is a small beach town with adorable houses and neighborhoods. San Clemente and neighboring San Onofre have popular beach campgrounds on the bluffs.
On down the coast is North County San Diego, which includes Oceanside, with its miles of sandy beaches, Carlsbad, a lovely town near Legoland, Encinitas, which has the Quail Botanical Gardens, and posh Del Mar, with its famous racetrack. La Jolla is gorgeously elegant and visited by tourists from all over the world. It’s famous cove is frequented by snorkelers and kayakers.
Neighboring San Diego has vacation homes all along the isthmus between Pacific Beach and Mission Bay. The weather is superb, as is the water temperature in summer and fall. Plus, the beach is only one of San Diego’s many attractions. Among them is the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and Sea World.
There are many other Southern California beaches all along the coast, each with its own distinct flavor. If you want to find out more about specific beach towns, check out the navigation bar on the left of this page.
As a Southern California native and avid beach lover, I’ve explored much along our coast, yet I never can seem to get enough of it: the fresh ocean breeze, the tinkling of wind chimes, warm sand massaging my bare feet, swimming in the exhilarating surf, or watching the color of the water pale in the fading twilight.
Even the sound of the waves crashing on the shore gently melts away the stresses of everyday life.
To find out about the local best beaches, sights, hotels, resorts, beach vacation rentals and campgrounds, click on one of the Southern California beaches that interests you most.