From the indescribable west coast sunsets at El Matador Beach to the fun and vibrant electric energy in Venice Beach, Los Angeles is home to some of Southern California's best beaches.

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 suggest 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.

Following your beach day, head to the famed Nobu Malibu. For something a little more casual, Malibu Farm, found on Malibu Pier, is a great option for lunch or dinner.

Planning tip: While the serenity is like nothing else at Carbon Beach, note that there are no restrooms and other facilities are very limited. 

People walk along the sandy beach between rock formations on a sunny day
El Matador is one of the most stunning of Malibu's beaches © Joseph Bautista / EyeEm / Getty Images

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 per 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 a location in various films and TV shows, including The Fast and the Furious (2001), Point Break (1991) and Vanderpump Rules (2013–). 

A surfer walks along the shoreline carrying her board
Zuma is a perennial Malibu favorite © Karol Franks / Getty Images

4. Zuma Beach

Best beach for swimming and sunbathing

Make the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) drive past Will Rogers State Historic Park 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 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 you're hungry throughout the day, hop across the street and have 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 on 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 wander along the dog-friendly walking trail. 

A path leads down to a palm-lined sandy beach with lifeguard huts and lots of facilities
Manhattan Beach is the place to come for a game of volleyball © Lucky-Photographer / Getty Images

6. Manhattan Beach 

Best beach for volleyballers and families 

You won't find a free volleyball court come Saturday morning at 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 at 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 you're 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 paddleboarding and bodyboarding – 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 for the cafes and boutique shopping at the outdoor mall. There's a high chance you'll run into a celebrity while you're there.

A senior couple stands together on the sand looking out to sea
Visiting Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier is an essential LA experience © CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

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 vibes are unmatched in Venice, and the street performers and vendors are a must-see. While you're 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 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 Élephante 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 on 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.

Ready to plan more of your trip to LA?

Find the best time to visit
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This article was first published Feb 19, 2021 and updated Feb 9, 2024.

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A cute young family walks along the sand by the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California.  The father and mother hold their daughters hands, lifting her up when the waves come in.  A much needed break from the city in the ocean air.


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