The sprawling city of Los Angeles is renowned for its dramatic coastline, uncrowded stretches of sand and glossy lifestyle. But California’s biggest city is also home to a number of great public beaches within easy reach of Downtown LA.
Renowned for its year-round temperate weather, the City of Angels is home to an array of must-visit attractions – many are free and easy to get to. Besides Beverly Hills, the iconic Hollywood sign and tourist-packed Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles’ biggest draws are its beaches and coastal communities overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The 75-mile-long (120km) coastline stretches the length of Los Angeles, from pristine Zuma Beach to colorful Santa Monica Beach and buzzing Venice Beach – here is Culture Trip’s guide to the best public beaches in Los Angeles.
Perhaps one of the most famous beaches in Los Angeles, Venice Beach is located in Venice, a beachfront neighborhood known for its bohemian vibe. Located 13 miles (21km) from Downtown Los Angeles, Venice Beach has been featured in numerous films and TV shows, including American History X and Baywatch. Due to its popularity, the beach and its surrounding areas are constantly buzzing with activity, as vendors and street performers – like the Dubstep beatboxer and the Venice Beach Glass Man – dominate the Boardwalk. Soak up the sun while you lie on the beach or jump in the water. Join the other skaters at the busy skate park, play a game of basketball, watch gym lovers train at Muscle Beach or enjoy the free-spirited district by taking a stroll along the half-mile-long Boardwalk that takes you to Santa Monica. Stop at one of the many eateries along the way, like the Waterfront, a restaurant-bar that serves Mexican dishes.
Surfing enthusiasts and nature lovers will love Malibu Lagoon State Beach between the Pacific Ocean and Malibu Creek. Here, bird lovers can spot and learn about more than 200 species in their natural wetland habitat. Nearby, you’ll also find Malibu’s Surfrider Beach, an area that has become a premier location for surfing after being featured in movies in the 1950s and 1960s like Gidget (1959) and Beach Party (1963). For a unique beach experience, hiking enthusiasts can also go on a short and easy walk along the Pacific.
Part of a state park situated on Malibu’s coast, Leo Carrillo State Beach is 1.5 miles (2.4km) long and stretches into the Santa Monica Mountains – one of the most visited natural areas in California. Situated about an hour drive from Los Angeles, this beach might feel a bit far from the city, but it’s worth the journey. The family and dog-friendly beach is less crowded than some of Los Angeles’ most popular beaches and is a great spot for swimming, surfing, windsurfing and surf fishing. If you want to do more than just relax on the beach, you should explore the area and its coastal caves or hike along the five-mile-long (8km) moderate trail.
An iconic beach and another popular hang-out spot is Santa Monica State Beach. Along its 3.5 miles (5.6km), the beach offers an array of things to do, whether you’re looking to soak up the sun on the sandy beach or enjoy a fun day or evening on the Santa Monica Pier – a historical landmark that dates back to 1909. Bring your roller skates or bike along the 22-mile (35km) paved trail next to the beach, jump in the water with your surfboard or visit Pacific, the on-site amusement park on the Pier. A ride on the solar-powered ferris wheel offers spectacular views of the ocean and the Third Street Promenade – a pedestrian shopping and entertainment mall. Tip: jump on the ride right before the sun is about to set and watch the sunset from this vantage point.
Head to the pristine Zuma Beach, one of the largest and most popular beaches in Los Angeles. Located west of Point Dume – a promontory in Malibu – you’ll find a 1.8-mile-long (2.9km) beach that is perfect for surfing, swimming and diving. You may find the water to be colder than at many of the city’s beaches as off-shore winds cause colder water to replace surface water that has been warmed by the sun, but the area attracts big crowds all time of the year. Due to its popularity, a staggering 2,000 parking spaces are available across eight parking lots. Animal lovers will love the restored wetland near Zuma Lagoon and spot dolphins and sea lions playing in the water. Cycling enthusiasts looking to explore the area at a faster pace can ride on the 2.5-mile (4km) path to Malibu’s most westernmost border near Leo Carrillo State Beach. While there are some food stands at the end of the beach, you’ll also find restrooms and restaurants nearby, like the Sunset Restaurant and Gravina Malibu.
This is the main beach in Manhattan Beach, a neighborhood known for its laid-back vibe. The two-mile-long (3.2km) sandy beach is great for swimming, surfing and volleyball – Manhattan Beach has hosted the Manhattan Beach Open for over 50 years. Take a stroll along the Strand or visit the Roundhouse Aquarium to learn about marine life. However, be aware that this beach is often very busy, especially on the weekend as large crowds gather around the Manhattan Beach Pier. Built in 1920 and 928 feet (283m) long, the pier was recognized a state historic landmark in 1995. If you’re looking to work out, hop on your bike and try the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. The 22-mile-long (35km) paved path runs along the shoreline of Santa Monica Bay through multiple neighborhoods, including Manhattan Beach.