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A Guide to 12 Beaches in L.A.

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beaches in la
Written by Edith & Juan

One thing we always get asked by friends and family when they visit L.A. is which beach is best to visit.

For us, this question can be difficult to answer because it depends on the person’s interest, mood, and occasion.

Some of our favorites include El Matador State Beach because if its natural beauty, Venice Beach for its entertainment, and Huntington Beach for relaxation and family visits.

To help you decide which beach best suits your mood, we will give you our input and a simple guide to each one.

A Guide to 12 Beaches in L.A.

El Matador Beach

El Matador Beach

This is a photographer’s heaven and the perfect location for a romantic getaway.  With stunning sunsets and beautiful boulders, you will surely fall in love with the peace that’s felt here.  This beach isn’t crowded but it picks up around sunset when photographers and models arrive to take pictures.  This secluded beach has nice waves and a rocky shore.  With hidden coves spread through the shore, you will find this the perfect place to explore and for a romantic sunset dinner.

Best for: photography, seclusion, romantic dates

Price: $8 but free along the Pacific Coast Highway

Other informationIt’s a steep gravelly path so bring shoes to walk.

Food: This is a perfect place for taking your own picnic. There are no restaurants at the beach but you will find more eateries in the city of Malibu.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica Beach

This is the most popular beach for tourists because it has a fun boardwalk with many rides for kids and adults.  It also has restaurant choices, live entertainment by aspiring artists, and rental bikes and skates.   This place can get quite packed, but is full of fun.

Best for: entertainment, families, bike rentals

Parking: Bring cash! Prices can vary anywhere from $15-30. Be sure to check for parking expiration signs to avoid any tickets as some parking spots expire after sunset.

Food: Various restaurants and fast food options are located on the boardwalk and across the main street.

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

This is Juan’s favorite beach because it’s the perfect place to people watch.  At Venice Beach you will find unique art vendors, small shops, live music by aspiring artists, entertainment by dancers, people who do cool tricks, and much more.  You can also watch skate boarders do their tricks at the skateboard park located by the beach, watch bodybuilders making muscles, and best of all you can rent all types of bicycles.  We recommend renting bikes and riding them to Santa Monica. Venice beach is also popular for surfing and a great option for those who dislike sand since it offers so much entertainment away from the water.

Best For: Entertainment, shopping, young couples, surfers, those who hate sand

Parking:  Prices can vary anywhere from $15-30. Be sure to check for parking expiration signs as some expire after sunset or you get a ticket. 

Food: Many small restaurants are an option on the boardwalk.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Located south of L.A., Huntington Beach has it all.  It’s perfect for swimming, RV camping, sunset watching, bike rentals, volleyball and more.  Many families bring their canopies and grills as this is the perfect place to picnic with family.  This is also one of the few beaches that allows bonfires which is perfect when it cools down at night.  Whenever our family visits, this is the first place we think of taking them because it truly has it all.

Best for: families, barbecues, bonfires, volleyball , RV camping, big groups

Parking:  $15 or you can park by a 2 hour meter and refill as needed. 

Food: It’s best to bring a picnic or grill your own food. There are many great restaurant options along the PCH. 

Seal Beach

Seal Beach

With a more relaxed atmosphere, Seal Beach is located in the city of Seal Beach and sits between Long Beach and Huntington Beach in Orange County.  With a nice stretch of sand, Seal Beach is a great location for surfers and sunbathers.  It also has a grassy park and families can enjoy sitting along Eisenhower Park or go on the pier to spot seals and dolphins.  We found Seal Beach as the perfect place to to enjoy the many food options located on Main Street, especially the ice-cream!

Best for: seal spotting, eating

Parking: varies, free 2hr parking on Main Street, metered parking on the side streets, 2 parking lots next to the beach, a parking lot on 1st Street

Food: Various restaurants located on Main Street

Newport Beach

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is one we love going back to because of its many boat adventures we find here.  Apart from a sandy beach, you will find this harbor-front beach a perfect place to go on a sunset cruise, a great spot to stand-up paddle board, and for picturesque views of the elegant homes and yachts. Located in the Corona del Mar area, Newport beach is also great for kayaking, spotting seals, volleyball, and picnics.

Best for: water adventures (boat rides, cruises, paddle boarding, kayaking), dates

Parking: Varies.  Metered parking available ($4 for 2 hours) as well as 24 hour parking lots, Balboa Pier

Food: Restaurants located nearby.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

This beautiful sandy beach is filled with lots of family fun.  Laguna beach comes with a park with basketball courts, a playground for children, a boardwalk, volley ball courts, and lifeguards on duty.  A visit to this beach involves tide pools and some swimming, just be careful with the rip currents that develop here.  If you prefer shopping and eating, Laguna Beach has many unique boutiques and restaurants in the city.

Best for: families, groups of friends

Parking: Metered parking along the Pacific Coast Highway and side streets.

Food: Restaurants sit nearby along the Pacific Coast Highway and its side streets.

Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach

As part of the Malibu beaches, Zuma Beach is a popular destination for beach-goers who enjoy a nice family picnic and for those who like to catch waves.   With a long stretch of sand, Zuma beach offers enough space for setting up your canopy.  This beach has restrooms and showers as well as lifeguards on duty.

Best for: surfers, families and large groups

Food: Concession stands, or in Malibu City

Parking: Anywhere from $3 to $12 or free along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo Beach

Located in Malibu,  Leo Carrillo State Beach has a mountainous back drop and amazing sunsets views. This beach has picnic areas, campsites, and facilities for RVs.  You’ll find that this is the perfect place for coastal caves and tide pools. Because of its location 28 miles north of Santa Monica, the beach is secluded making it a great getaway from the crowds.  And for those who love to bring their dogs along, this a rare beach where they’re allowed to roam on a leash.

Best for: couples, seclusion, camping, dog owners

Parking: $12 but free along the Pacific Coast Highway

Food: Take your own picnic or dine in Malibu.

Crystal Cove

beaches in la

As part of the Newport Coast and bordering with Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove Beach has natural beauty to enjoy.  This beach is great for those who like to hike because there are paved pathways with great view points along the mountain.  We enjoyed Crystal Cove because of the rocky points and tide pools.  If you are a nature lover, this is the place to be.

Best for: nature lovers, hiking, camping

Parking: $15 

Food: No restaurants are located at the beach, but a short drive away.

Long Beach

Long Beach

With a relaxed atmosphere, Long Beach is situated in a central location next to popular destinations.  This beach is great for families who want to enjoy a nice day sitting beach side or for those who enjoy kite-boarding.  With a wide paved path along the sandy beaches, bicyclists and skaters can enjoy a nice stroll along the beach.  Nearby, in the city, you will find the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, restaurants, museums, and a great culture scene.

Best for: families, nearby entertainment, bike riding

Parking: Parking meters $2 per hour (2hr maximum parking meters)

Food: Restaurants are nearby.

Lechuza Beach:

Lechuza Beach

Another beach located in Malibu, Lechuza beach is great for those seeking seclusion.  This beach is not well known given that it’s difficult to find and located in a residential area.   A visit to Lechuza beach includes a walk through a tree-covered corridor, a flight of stairs, a sandy beach, and a private getaway.  For those who love nature, this beach has a few large rocks and a beautiful plant life backdrop with beautiful homes located at the entrance. On any given day you may even have this beach all to yourself.

Best for: couples, photography, solo getaways, seclusion

Parking: Free parking along Broad Beach Road. 

Food: None, this is a residential areas.  Eateries can be found in Malibu.

Other information: The entrance is located on Broad Beach Road across Bunnie Lane but do not block any driveways.  There will be a corridor covered in trees that leads to stairs and finally to the beach.


Have you visited any of these beaches in L.A.?  In the comments, let us know your favorites or which ones you’d like to visit. 

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About the author

Edith & Juan

From Arizona but currently traveling through Asia living only from a backpack each. Edith and her husband Juan created Life Beyond 520 to share inspiration from their travels and adventures beyond Arizona-the 520 area code. Edith is the blogger behind these posts, but together they hope to inspire couples and others to get out there and explore new places, including their own city.


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