Los Angeles boasts some of the most famous beaches in the world along a sandy ribbon of white sand that stretches for more than 100km from Malibu in the north to Long Beach in south Los Angeles.
Choose from more than 20 great beaches, including Venice Beach – surely, one of the world’s most famous beaches – and Santa Monica Beach, home to the the picture-perfect Santa Monica Pier with it's great views over Santa Monica Bay.
Generally, alcohol, bonfires and pets are banned from all beaches. California law protects public access to beaches, however to avoid trespassing on private property around Malibu, try to stay beneath the high-tide mark.
Here’s a round-up of L.A.'s best beaches…
Discover one of the world’s most famous beaches – a wide sweep of flat white sand that edges the sparkling blue waters of Santa Monica Bay – just a short drive from downtown Los Angeles.
Choose to swim, sunbathe or people-watch on this quintessential L.A. beach, were the main attraction is the often quirky individuals who parade along Ocean Front Walk, a promenade that stretches the length of the palm-fringed beach.
With a pseudo-European atmosphere of pedestrian streets and canals, numerous boardwalk vendors, shops and a huge choice of chic beachside cafés and restaurants, Venice Beach is one of L.A.'s more trendy beach suburbs, flowing around Santa Monica Bay in an unbroken, 32km-long stretch of white sand.
The paved Ocean Front Walk, with views across to Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains, is the perfect place for hip exhibitionists. Expect to see bikini-clad roller bladers, cyclists, magicians, fortune-tellers and jugglers, while outdoor body builders and high-flying gymnasts dominate an adjacent area known locally as Muscle Beach.
Join the parade: you can rent in-line skates, roller skates and bicycles at the southern end of the boardwalk near the Venice Pier.
Beach facilities include picnic areas, toilets, showers, a weight lifting area, bike and skate rentals and several courts for volleyball, basketball, handball and racket ball. Lifeguards are on the beach during daylight hours.
Note: Walking on the beach after dark is illegal. At night Venice Beach can be a dangerous place, often frequented by drug dealers.
(Malibu) – Discover a pristine, 2.4km-long, white-sand beach fringed by giant sycamore trees and backing onto a state park, popular for its hiking trails. Enjoy swimming, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, fishing, diving and beachcombing.
One of the few dog-friendly beaches in L.A., the beach also offers reefs, coastal caves and tidal pools to explore. In daylight look out for sea hares, starfish and fronded sea palms in the tidal pools.
At night watch small, silver-coloured grunion fish come ashore to spawn after the full or new moon from March to August. Park facilities include showers, toilets, picnic areas and wi-fi access.
Leo Carillo is located 45km northwest of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1).
(Malibu) – Just 10 minutes from the Malibu Pier lie three rugged and isolated beaches – El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador – all nestled within secluded coves beneath a bluff that extends along a 3km-long stretch of Pacific Coast Highway 1, just west of Malibu.
Follow signposted rough trails and cliff face stairways that descend to these secluded white-sand beaches, which are perfect for sunbathing, swimming or enjoying a picnic.
The beach of El Matador is the largest and regarded locally as the most beautiful, with natural rock arches and picnic tables. Facilities include parking, toilets and picnic areas. Located 16km from Malibu.
(Malibu) – Los Angeles County's largest beach park may not be the most scenic beach in Santa Monica Bay, but it has the most facilities, including restrooms, showers, playgrounds, volleyball courts, snack bars and lifeguards.
Discover a 3km-long family friendly, white-sand beach set in an idyllic location backed by cliffs and facing Point Dume. Perfect for swimming and surfing clean waves, Malibu's legendary ‘Zuma’ is a local favourite and therefore generally crowded on weekends.
Fortunately it boasts more than 2025 parking spots! Join the locals for lunch and chow-down on freshly grilled salmon and sourdough bread on the terrace of the beachside seafood café.
(Malibu) – This secluded white-sand beach is perfect for whale watching from December to March and for hiking ocean-view trails year round.
Wander though the Point Dume State Preserve past headlands, cliffs, rocky coves and over sand dunes, with panoramic views encompassing Santa Monica Bay, the north Malibu Coast, inland Santa Monica mountains and Catalina Island in the distance.
Go swimming, surfing, scuba diving, fishing and beachcombing or look for tiny fish trapped in the numerous tidal rock pools. Facilities include restrooms.
(Malibu) – Discover a charming old-fashioned seaside experience on this small private beach. There is a small charge to park and access the beach, with changing rooms and showers included in the price.
Sunbathe, swim, relax with a cocktail and watch the sunset over Santa Monica Bay from the beach restaurant.
(Malibu) – Once the ancestral home of the Chumash Indians, Malibu Lagoon offers a pretty white-sand beach, estuary and wetlands area that attracts a variety of marine life.
Visit historic Adamson House – a showplace of Malibu historical artefacts, enjoy a picnic with views south to Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach or take a guided tour of the wetlands and tidal pools. Facilities include picnic areas, restrooms and wi-fi service.
(Malibu) – Regarded as L.A.’s premier surfing beach, Surfrider sits between the Malibu Pier and the lagoon. The waves get crowded here but the local surfers are generally friendly to visitors.
If you don’t fancy surfing, try swimming, fishing or a game of volleyball. Facilities include volleyball courts, restrooms, showers, food kiosks and lifeguards.
(Malibu) – Despite the highway noise, this narrow, rocky strip of beach offers superb right-point surf breaks and gorgeous views of the ocean.
Not the best beach for sunbathing, but good for surfing, swimming and fishing.
Facilities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, lifeguards and, just across the street, one of Malibu’s best seafood restaurants, The Reel Inn.
(Pacific Palisades) – Located between Sunset Boulevard and the Santa Monica county line, this 5km-long white-sand beach is good for sunbathing, swimming, biking, fishing and joining competitive volleyball games on the beach.
Facilities include showers, restrooms, lifeguards and a food kiosk.
(Santa Monica) – Relax on or swim from this wide, family friendly, white-sand beach that lies on either side of the Santa Monica Pier with great views over Santa Monica Bay.
This popular beach attracts thousands of locals and overseas visitors on a daily basis year round.
Go swimming and surfing, play beach volleyball and outdoor chess or rollerblade, skate, cycle, jog or stroll along the paved beach path that connects with Venice Beach and beaches further south.
Other facilities at this popular 5.6km-long beach include restaurants, restrooms, showers, lifeguards, bike rentals and the Santa Monica Pier with its Ferris wheel and amusement park rides, very popular with the kids.
Open 365 days a year, the pier offers a variety of entertainment, dining and shopping experiences as well as an historic 1922 carousel and an interactive aquarium. Stroll the planks and be entertained by lively street performers. Admission is free.
(Playa del Rey) – Located at the western edge of Los Angeles International Airport, this 5km-long beach is the only LA beach that permits bonfires.
Good waves make this a popular spot for surfing and swimming.
Facilities include volleyball courts, restrooms, showers, barbecue pits, picnic areas, a cycle path and lifeguards. There’s also a hang-gliding facility.
(Manhattan) – This wide, surf-friendly beach backed by stunning ocean-view homes is famous as the birthplace of beach volleyball.
It is the site of the world's first beach volleyball tournament and was once the beach hang-out of The Beach Boys.
Surf the waves, sunbathe, swim, walk or cycle the paved beachside track and play beach volleyball. Facilities include restrooms, showers, lifeguards and volleyball courts. Nearby sits a fishing pier, seafood restaurants and a children’s playground.
(Hermosa) – This wide white-sand beach extends on either side of the pier, with a wide pedestrian walkway known as ‘the Strand’ stretching its entire length.
Sunbathe, go swimming and surfing or walk or cycle the Strand and fish from the pier.
Facilities include a fish and tackle rental shop, restrooms, showers, lifeguards, volleyball courts, a fishing pier, children’s playgrounds and nearby shops and restaurants.
(Redondo) – Discover a beautiful white-sand beach popular with families, surfers, cyclists and joggers.
Bike or skate the long, beachside-paved pathway, go swimming, surfing, play volleyball or fish from the pier.
Facilities include a bait and tackle shop, restrooms, showers, lifeguards, volleyball courts and a pier full of amusements.
Latest update: Best Beaches in Los Angeles: 12 May, 2022