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Best Beaches to Suntan | California | Pacific Coast

From sandy beaches sparkling from the sunshine to rocky coasts and seaside cliffs, California has a fascinating 840 miles of coastline to explore. California claims a very sizable portion of North America’s West Coast; therefore there are a staggering variety of beaches. The beaches to the north of the state are mostly rocky with a sprinkling of picturesque lighthouses while the beaches to the south are hot, tropical and sandy. They all, however, have a fabulous common denominator and that is endless opportunities for outdoor activities. Selecting a beach to get your next suntan is like picking from a selection of fresh-out-of-the-oven, homemade cookies. If you’re seeking to get away from it all, perhaps a coastal wilderness experience might fit the bill. On the other hand, if you want company you might be inclined to choose the sunniest and most popular California beach. Perhaps you are looking for a favorite beach activity, a family vacation or a romantic getaway. It all depends on your own desires in your final decision of which beach to choose.

Family-Friendly Beaches

When planning a family vacation on a California beach, keeping the children occupied and entertained will probably be the main concern. However, just as important are hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and sand/beach footwear. As always, bring lots of water to stay hydrated!

Redondo Beach is located in West Los Angeles on the Santa Monica Bay. The beach has lots of sand for building works of art or for just playing in. The best area is just south of the pier where there are lifeguards on duty. The pier has several restaurant choices and great shopping. Besides swimming, there are bicycle paths, places to skate, sport fishing and kayaking. Try parking in the lot at the pier or you’ll be feeding the meters with coins often.

The main area fronting Ocean Boulevard to the south end of the world-famous Hotel Del Coronado is referred to as Central Beach, but better known as Coronado Beach located in San Diego.  There are gentle waves and tons of clean sand for the kids and a lifeguard is on duty at all times during the day. The beach has restrooms and showers available. There are no entrance fees or parking fees at this beach. The family can go swimming, go biking or walking on the paths. The beach area is wide, clean and picture-postcard beautiful. Gorgeous mansions front the ocean and the yacht clubs border the bay. The key is to come early or be prepared for a long walk because the beach is very popular and generally crowded. Volleyball courts and fire rings are available and the swimming is wonderful here. Everyone needs footgear because the sand will get hot in the midday sun. There is no alcohol, glass, or dogs allowed on Coronado Beach. Dogs are allowed on North Beach which is located from Sunset Park to the North Island Naval Base.

Main Beach is located in Santa Cruz close to the pier and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Walking on the Boardwalk is free but in order to go on the rides and amusements you will have to purchase tickets. The Boardwalk was originally opened in 1907 and is a registered California Historic Landmark. The Looff Carousel which was built in 1911 and the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster are National Historic Landmarks. There are thirty-five rides including the Giant Dipper (considered one of the world’s top rollercoasters), the Carousel, the Double Shot, and a ride that goes vertical up to 125 feet where you will have a fabulous panoramic view. The beach offers restrooms and an outdoor shower. There are places to eat on the pier and all along the main street. Volleyball nets are set up on the beach. Vendors will rent you a boat or kayak or just bring your fishing pole and head to the pier.

Rodeo Beach is north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco It is a crescent-shaped beach facing to the west and is about one thousand yards long. Pack your picnic basket with food and your cooler with plenty of water and refreshments (no alcohol is allowed) - there aren’t any restaurants or diners nearby. The beach has picnic tables, showers and restrooms. Activities include surfing, skimboarding, and bird watching. The best part about this beach is that on the north end there are tiny sparkling pebbles in many different vibrant colors covering the beach. Bonfires and dogs are allowed.

Monterey State Beach in breathtakingly beautiful Monterey has many activities for the family including surfing, beachcombing, kayaking, volleyball, scuba diving and fishing. From Highway One take the Seaside Exit and park in the lot next to the Monterey Beach Resort, on Wharf 2, or park in the lots near Fisherman’s Wharf. Close to the wharf are restrooms and great restaurants, seafood, whale watching, bay cruises, fishing and unique shops. Another great family beach in Monterey is Asilomar Beach; this beach has beautiful, wide swaths of sandy beach to play in. One of the more interesting things here are the tide pools. These are rocky pools that are filled with seawater and are home to sea urchins, starfish and mussels. A walking path that is less than a mile runs past the beach and coves. There are nearby restrooms but you need to pack a picnic lunch and bring a cooler. Leashed dogs are allowed on this beach.

Pismo State Beach is located in the city of Oceano in San Luis Obispo County and covers forest, dunes and over 38 miles of beachfront. The beach offers camping, hiking, swimming, surfing and fishing (with no license to fish required). There are restaurants nearby and lifeguards on duty seasonally. Pack your boogie board and head here with the family for some sunbathing and lots of fun.

Volleyball-Oriented Beaches

If you’re looking for some great beach games like volleyball you’ll find them in California. It’s important to pack up all the essentials before heading out to the beach like sunscreen and sand/beach footwear. Don’t forget your sunglasses and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles is where the Beach Boys used to hang out and is also where the first beach volleyball tournament took place. In August of every year the Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball Championships is held here. The Association of Volleyball Professionals tournament is called the “Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball” and takes place in August. In fact check out the Manhattan Beach Pier for the names of the tournament champions inscribed on plaques. The city itself is fashionable and expensive and within commuting distance from Los Angeles. There is a path called the Strand which is used for biking, jogging, skateboarding and rollerblading. On the beach, there is an abundance of volleyball nets all set up. Many visitors as well as the residents come to this beach to surf, bodyboard, swim, and enjoy the volleyball games. 

Santa Monica State Beach is a very popular beach and offers many activities from volleyball to going to the amusement park on the pier. This beach is also very popular with families. The Pacific Park amusement center has a 1920s vintage carousel. Just south of the pier is the recently updated Chess Park and the original Muscle Beach with a smaller one for kids. While you work on your next tan you will be able to climb on the rope, swing on the rings, play a game of volleyball or just relax and lie on the beach and sunbathe.

Huntington State Beach is located just south of Huntington Beach in Orange County. The beach has restrooms, showers, concession stands and beach rentals. The favorite activities besides volleyball include surfing, bodyboarding, swimming, basketball and walking down the path. There are no pets or alcohol allowed on the beach, but bonfires are allowed and are very popular. There are plenty of nets for playing volleyball and the sand is very soft and clean to play on.

Mission Beach is located in San Diego and goes from the south end of the San Diego River channel to north of Belmont Park. Belmont Park is just one of California’s oceanfront amusement parks. There are restrooms, picnic tables, food nearby and alcohol is allowed from 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. There are lifeguards every day starting at 9:00 a.m. daily. There are a lot of volleyball games played here, along with swimming and surfing. The amusement park offers free admission and parking, a Wave House, mini golf, food and thrilling rides.

East Beach has a long beach that goes from the wharf east and is protected by the harbor in Santa Barbara. The beach is actually in the harbor with plenty of boats moored off shore. At the east end of the beach is a big beach house facility and volleyball nets. The beach house, called Cabrillo Pavilion Bathhouse offers restrooms, showers and lockers. Near the wharf are also volleyball nets and restrooms; a bike path, a walking path, and swimming.

Beaches With Romance in Mind

It’s time to escape to the beach for a romantic timeout and to get some relaxation under the sun. We have put together a list of some California beaches to delight you and your significant other and put both of you in the mood.

El Matador Beach is a very secluded pocket beach located ten miles north of Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway and a fabulous place to spark some romance back into your life. This beach would be best visited during the off seasons because it can get crowded in the summer. There are very favorable conditions for hand-in-hand strolls in the bright sunshine on the pristine beach. If you get adventurous go exploring the sea caves or do some body boarding or bodysurfing.

Main Beach faces the middle of downtown Laguna and is usually busy in the summer. On the weekends you will find street musicians and artists all set up along the boardwalk. The beach has restrooms, showers and food nearby. But it also has numerous benches where you can sit there with your love and watch the splashing surf and the beautiful surroundings. There is a walking path for strolling side-by-side on a beautiful sunny California day or acquire your next suntans on the lounge chairs on the beach.

La Jolla Shores is located in San Diego and has been a favorite destination since the 1880s. At La Jolla Shores the two of you will bathe in southern California’s most beautiful coastline and fabulous weather. During the hottest times of the day, try out some of La Jolla’s great restaurants, or go shopping downtown where you will marvel at the variety of impressive storefronts. The beach offers restrooms and showers close to the main lifeguard tower. The surfing areas are separate from the swimming areas. In addition to packing all the protective gear (hats, sunglasses, suntan lotion and beach shoes) bring some burnable wood or charcoal for a container on the beach that is there for beach fires. What a totally romantic idea!

Butterfly Beach is just across the street from the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara. This lovely beach is long with a gentle slanted slope that makes it ideal for walking or playing in the waves. This beautiful white sandy beach is very clean and a very romantic spot with the palm trees waving in the breeze. Bring a beach blanket, a picnic basket, water to stay hydrated (followed with a great glass of California wine) and for heaven’s sake don’t forget your camera. Watch the dolphins swim by while enjoying the beautiful surroundings with your partner.

Other Famous “Must See” California Beaches

Malibu's Legendary Beaches: The 1960s surf music that incorporates the Southern California coast experience originated manly from Zuma Beach and Surfrider Beach. These beaches are located close to Malibu Pier and Los Angeles’s best waves. Zuma Beach has many amenities including restrooms, jungle gyms and snack bars. The beach lets people stroll in front of the Malibu Colony which is host to a variety of multimillion-dollar homes, some with famous residents!  Surfrider Beach has restrooms, showers, surfing, swimming, fishing and volleyball courts. Lifeguards are on the beach during daylight hours and there’s no alcohol or pets allowed on the beach.

Laguna Beach is a seaside resort with seven miles of soft, pristine sand with the sounds of the surf alongside it. It’s located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Beachgoers and the artist community abound here.  It is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in southern California. It carries the reputation for having great hotels, unique shops, famous art galleries, art festivals and dining establishments. Fishermen love to fish here and surfers love the ‘up to 15’ waves’.

Imperial Beach is the most southwesterly beach in the United States and close to San Diego and Coronado. The beach has pristine white sand that beckons sun worshipers. The beautiful water attracts surfers and swimmers alike. At almost 1500 feet long, the Imperial Beach Pier is impressive and offers free fishing. Visitors can stroll down to the end of the pier to catch a meal at the Tin Fish. The most astonishing sand sculpture event in the world is called Sand Castle Days. This sandcastle competition is held each year in Imperial Beach. This year will be the 30th Annual U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition with the festival opening on Saturday, August 7, 2010 with over 140 vendors bringing in live entertainment, food, arts and crafts and local acts. The sandcastle building begins Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and will be ready for viewing at 4:00 p.m. 

Balboa Beach is located on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. The beach is very clean and is home to a 920-foot long pier. There are restrooms, showers, food and drinks, barbecue grills, a bike and walking path and playground. No pets or alcohol are allowed on the beach. A lifeguard is always on duty during daylight hours. The beach has volleyball, bodyboarding and skimboarding.

This list could go on and on because California has some terrific beaches. Perhaps the best way to find your favorite California beach to acquire your next suntan is to drive the coast and find the most appealing spot for you. Go have yourself a blast on the beach!

-Ms. Suntan


Would you like to go back to learn more about our list of beaches? Have a story that you want to share, please write to our Suntan.com Crew.

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