The City of Angels’ beach culture is deeply ingrained in its identity, attracting local and tourist beachgoers, surfers, sunbathers, and outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. Whether you’re looking for relaxing solitude, overnight camping with the family, or the best surf spots, Los Angeles has a beach for you. Here are our favorites.
1. Carbon Beach (Billionaire’s Beach)
Best beach for a quiet day out
Carbon Beach is a secluded little-known seaside in Malibu, often referred to as Billionaire’s Beach due to its high concentration of very wealthy homeowners and celebrities with lavish properties along the exclusive beachfront. In the past, some locals have put up signage to allude the area is private, however, the beach itself is public and a great spot for swimming and uninterrupted relaxation in the soft sand. Billionaire's Beach features three access points, but be on the lookout as the brown signs can be easy to miss.
Planning tip: While the serenity is like nothing else at Carbon Beach, note that there are no restrooms, and other facilities are very limited.
2. El Matador Beach
Best beach for photographers at sunset
El Matador is one of Los Angeles’ most picturesque beaches. Known for its rugged cliffs, unique rock formations, and pristine beauty, it's a haven for photography enthusiasts, especially during sunset. Golden hour at El Matador is unmatched, with its resplendent glow that radiates off the rocks and creates a romantic ambience. Tidepool exploration is also encouraged on the northern end during low tide, where you may find marine organisms, including anemones, sea stars, hermit crabs, small fish, and the odd octopus.
Note that El Matador is not easy to get to for people with mobility issues. Accessing the beach requires a walk down a steep pathway and a flight of stairs. Swimming and surfing are also not recommended in most areas.
Local tip: Parking at El Matador Beach is $3/hour or $10 for the day. But thanks to the new partnership between California State Parks and the California State Library, you can get free parking at over 200 state parks, including El Matador, with your library card.
3. Leo Carrillo State Beach
Best beach for overnight camping
Sleeping on most Californian beaches is deemed illegal, but not at Leo Carrillo State Beach. Named after the late Hollywood actor who also served as a conservationist, the grounds offer over 130 campsites for tents and RVs, with electric hookups and ample facilities such as showers, restrooms, and picnic areas.
Even if you're planning to just spend the day, Leo Carrillo is a great spot for families with various recreational activities like tide pool exploration, fire pits, and nature walks over its 1.5-mile length. Several hiking trails around the Leo Carrillo area wind through canyons and offer breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
Local tip: Pay a visit to seafood restaurant Neptune’s Net. If the name sounds familiar, it's because it’s been the location in various film and TV shows, including The Fast and the Furious (2001), Point Break (1991), and Vanderpump Rules.
4. Zuma Beach
Best beach for swimming and sunbathing
Make the Pacific Coast Highway drive past Will Rogers and Latigo Beach, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the whitest sand in Los Angeles. Zuma’s pristine conditions make this Malibu spot a very popular location, especially on the weekends. Swimming, bodyboarding, and sunbathing are welcomed here due to the calm waves and clear conditions. Lifeguards are also on duty at designated areas to ensure the safety of beachgoers.
If hungry throughout the day, hop across the street and enjoy a meal at Spruzzo Restaurant and Bar. The views are remarkable, and portions are decent – be sure to order the bruschetta.
Detour: For those looking for a little more adventure, head next door to Point Dume for rock climbing and panoramic view hikes.
5. Dockweiler State Beach
Best beach for bonfires and party vibes
Don’t mind the occasional overhead plane when visiting Dockweiler State Beach. Just south of LAX at Playa Del Rey spawns 3 miles of white sand and around 70 fire pits. While that may seem like a big number, these pits are in high demand, especially during the warmer months and during the weekends. Some beachgoers even arrive at dawn to claim their spot for the entire day as they can’t be reserved. When I visited at the end of October at around 1pm, I was luckily able to snag the very last pit.
But before the competitive pit scoring turns you off, know that when the sun begins to set, that's when Dockweiler comes alive. Music is playing, the mood is as high as the moon, and the energy remains infectious up until midnight closing time.
Detour: If you have someone to mind your pit during the day (never leave it unattended), pay a visit to the El Segundo Butterfly Preserve across the street. While the preserve is now fenced off to the public to protect the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly, you can view them from the perimeter at the southwest corner of Binder Place and enjoy the dog-friendly walking trail.
6. Manhattan Beach
Best beach for volleyballers and families
You won’t find a free volleyball court come Saturday morning in Manhattan Beach. Locals and out-of-towners all meet to enjoy a few rounds of back and forth before throwing back some beers and indulging in some of the best backyard-style burgers at Ercole’s 1101.
Manhattan Beach connects to El Segundo and Hermosa Beach via the beachfront walkway. Take in the long stretch of gorgeous waterfront homes and boutique shops with a stroll along the path. Surfers can also catch some waves in Manhattan Beach, especially near the pier during winter. El Porto Beach, located on the north side, is a better choice for those looking for more consistent waves.
Local tip: If coming with younger kids, visit the Roundhouse Aquarium. Situated on the pier, it’s home to a 3500-gallon shark tank and is open to the public for free on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
7. Malibu Surfrider Beach
Best beach for surfers
There’s a reason this beach has surf in its name. Malibu Surfrider is widely regarded as one of the premier surfing spots in Southern California, thanks to its perfectly shaped point-break waves suitable for longboard and traditional board beginners and professionals. The famed location also encourages kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and body boarding – all of which are available to rent at the beach if you don’t have your own. Parking in the lot can be hard to find, so you may have to park along the PCH and walk a little.
Local tip: After the surf, head to Malibu Country Mart and enjoy the cafes and boutique shopping at the outdoor mall. There’s a high chance you’ll run into a celebrity while there.
8. Venice Beach and Santa Monica
Best beach for tourists
You can’t come to Los Angeles without paying a visit to Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. The bohemian-friendly vibes are unmatched in Venice, and the street performers and vendors are a must-see. While there, also stop by Muscle Beach, Venice Skatepark, and the basketball courts (made famous in the 1992 movie White Men Can’t Jump). For surf lovers, head to Breakwater, near the Venice Beach pier, for the best waves.
Spend the afternoon in Santa Monica and its pier by walking, cycling, or skating along the boardwalk where you can indulge in endless food, entertainment and shopping options. If you can get a reservation, grab a drink at the Elephante and dine at Rihanna’s favorite restaurant, Giorgio Baldi.
Planning tip: Parking at Venice Beach fills up quickly. If you arrive late, head to Santa Monica as it has various lots, all offering the first 90 minutes for free.
9. Rosie’s Dog Beach
Best beach for dog owners
A bonus beach to this list is Rosie’s Dog Beach. Considering Los Angeles is a very dog-friendly town, beaches that welcome pooches to come and play are limited. Rosie’s Dog Beach, found in Long Beach, is the exception. The area provides a dedicated space for our best friends to run around off-leash and socialize within a controlled environment. Note human swimming and other water activities are not recommended.
Planning tip: Only one dog to one adult is allowed. If you have multiple furry friends in your pack, come along with friends and family and make a day of it.