The best beaches in beautiful sunny Southern California

Another winter storm here in the Boston area has me dreaming of the beaches I was once able to visit on a daily basis in Southern California! Southern California is known for being home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I love the fact that the beaches are so versatile – relaxation, exercise, sports, amusement park rides, photography, people-watching…you can enjoy just about any type of fun-in-the-sun at these lively beaches.

Strand Bike Path in L.A.

One of my favorite exercise activities was riding along “The Strand” – a 22 mile long bike path that travels through several different beach eclectic towns including Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo, Santa Monica, Venice, and Will Rogers. There is so much to do and see along the way that the trip becomes not only exercise, but also a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon.

Below are a few of my favorite beaches in the L.A. and Orange County region.

Manhattan Beach – Los Angeles

*I love this beach! Manhattan Beach is one of the cleanest beaches in the L.A. area. The main feature is a beautiful pier which you can walk across to enjoy the gorgeous views! Another advantage is the quiet atmosphere. Every time I have visited, it has always been quiet and much less crowded than the other more touristy beaches. This is a great relaxation beach whether you want to read a book, watch the waves, or just relax in the sun.

There aren’t as many noisy volleyball games going on and not as many kids around. And thus, Manhattan is a great option for those looking to relax. You can hop on the bike path right from the parking lot. There is also a separate path for jogging/walking (such a great idea to separate the 2 paths!) Another bonus is being walkable distance from plenty of shops and restaurants!

Manhattan Beach Pier

Huntington Beach – Huntington Beach

*Huntington Beach is an entertaining beach option for those looking for a more upbeat time. There are always events going on (surfing, concerts, etc), plenty of bonfires, lots of people around all the time, and tons of shopping and restaurants in the area. The pier is a great spot for watching the surfers!

I caught a portion of the U.S. Open of Surfing here. There is also a very nice bike path which spans about 8.5 miles. While not as long as “The Strand” and a bit more crowded, it is still well worth a ride for the scenic beauty and people watching alone.

Huntington Beach

Laguna Beach – Laguna Beach

*Laguna is a gorgeous smaller beach in Orange County. If you are an MTV or reality TV show buff, then you likely remember the popular TV series of the same name. Coming here early in the morning for a jog and taking in the beautiful scenery (cliffs, palm trees) while listening to the sound of the waves is like nothing else. Laguna is also a great beach for beachcombing.

The nice thing about Laguna is that it is not as hectic as Huntington Beach, thus making it a better option for days that you just want to chill out. Bonus – there are restaurants, art galleries, and shopping within walking distance of the beach.

Laguna Beach California

Crystal Cove State Beach – Newport Beach

*We found out about this beach while hiking the El Morro trail at Crystal Cove State Park. Crystal Cove State Beach is a hidden treasure in the area. Along with the remote location, you will enjoy gorgeous scenery and super waves! Swimming with the mega waves was a cool experience. On a side note, the El Morrow hike is such a fantastic experience. Definitely a bit hilly and quite a workout, although the views of the Southern California desert and Pacific Ocean are simply breathtaking.

Crystal Cove Beach

Venice Beach – Venice

*This is one of the beaches you just have to visit when you are a new tourist in Southern California. Not a beach I would frequent all the time, yet it definitely makes for an interesting one time experience. Venice is known for Muscle Beach (where Arnold Schwarzenegger and other famous bodybuilders have trained), various street performers and vendors, and the graffiti walls. We saw some really crazy acts like a guy walking over glass! This is one of the city beaches you pass through on the wonderful Strand path. You can walk around the boardwalk for a bit or just pass by and catch a glimpse while riding your bike.

Muscle Beach - Venice

Santa Monica Beach – Santa Monica

*Santa Monica is best known for the Santa Monica Pier, which is bustling with amusement park rides, carnival games, lots of tourists, performers, and a few restaurants. The roller coaster ride was a blast and the views were incredible! The pier is a great spot for taking pictures of the beach. Santa Monica is a great stop along the bike path (very easy access as the path goes right past the pier!). Definitely a more crowded, lively beach for the days you are looking more for an upbeat, touristy time! Rt. 66 fans will definitely want to take their pic next to the “End of the Trail” sign.

Santa Monica State Beach in California

Will Rogers State Beach – Pacific Palisades

*Will Rogers is most famous for being the location of various TV sitcoms, including “Baywatch.” Will Rogers marks the end of “The Strand” bicycle path and let’s just say this is the perfect ending. After a long ride, you will be treated to a stunning beach with almost no crowds, spectacular scenery, and beautiful vistas of the Santa Monica mountains.

Will Rogers State Beach