Best Beaches in California for Photography: 15 Picturesque Sights to Enjoy

best beaches in california for photography

California is a haven for photography enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of stunning landscapes and picturesque coastal scenes. Whether you’re capturing the crashing waves against dramatic cliffs or photographing iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, California’s beaches provide abundant opportunities for capturing breathtaking images. In this article, I will guide you through 15 of the best beaches in California for photography, ensuring you don’t miss out on capturing the beauty of these scenic photo spots.

Best Beaches in California for Photography

  • California offers a plethora of picturesque beaches for photography.
  • The diverse landscapes range from rugged cliffs to sandy shores.
  • Iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge provide stunning photo opportunities.
  • Hidden gems like Pfeiffer Beach and El Matador State Beach offer unique backdrops for your images.
  • Don’t forget to explore different regions of California, from Big Sur to San Francisco and San Diego, for varied coastal photography experiences.

Big Sur

Located along the central coast of California, Big Sur is a true treasure for photography enthusiasts. Its rugged coastline, dramatic cliffs, and pristine beaches offer a scenic beauty that is unparalleled. From capturing the crashing waves against the cliffs to photographing the iconic Bixby Bridge, Big Sur provides numerous opportunities for stunning photography.

With its unique blend of natural beauty and coastal charm, Big Sur has become a must-visit destination for photographers seeking to capture the essence of California’s scenic wonders. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, Big Sur’s breathtaking landscapes will inspire and captivate your lens.

Immerse yourself in the picturesque beauty of Big Sur and unleash your creativity as you explore its stunning vistas. The rugged cliffs, towering trees, and turquoise waters of this coastal paradise will undoubtedly leave you in awe. So pack your camera gear and embark on a photography adventure in Big Sur, where every shot is an opportunity to capture the magic of this enchanting destination.

scenic beauty of Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach is a true hidden gem nestled within the breathtaking landscape of Big Sur. This picturesque beach is known for its stunning rock formations and unique purple sands, making it a dream destination for photographers seeking a one-of-a-kind backdrop.

As you step onto the beach, you’ll be greeted by towering rock formations that create an awe-inspiring sight. These natural sculptures, shaped by the relentless waves, provide a striking contrast to the serene coastline. The dramatic combination of the rugged rocks and the vibrant purple sands sets the stage for captivating and visually stunning photographs.

Whether you’re capturing the crashing waves against the cliffs or photographing the mesmerizing sunset casting a warm glow over the beach, Pfeiffer Beach offers an abundance of opportunities to capture breathtaking images. With each passing moment, the light and colors transform, creating a dynamic and ever-changing canvas for your photography.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Immersed in the natural beauty of Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach is a true paradise for photographers. Its unique rock formations, purple sands, and stunning vistas make it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to capture the essence of this picturesque beach in Big Sur.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore is a picturesque coastal destination located in Northern California. It is known for its diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife, making it a haven for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts alike. With its rugged beauty and stunning vistas, Point Reyes National Seashore offers a wealth of opportunities for capturing breathtaking images.

One of the highlights of Point Reyes National Seashore is the iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse. Perched on a dramatic cliff, the lighthouse provides a stunning backdrop for coastal photography. Whether you capture it against the backdrop of crashing waves or framed by the rugged cliffs, the lighthouse is a must-visit spot for capturing stunning images.

In addition to the lighthouse, the seashore boasts a diverse range of landscapes that are perfect for photography. From rolling hills and meadows to expansive beaches and tidal pools, Point Reyes National Seashore offers a rich variety of scenic landscapes to explore and photograph. Whether you’re capturing the vibrant wildflowers in bloom or photographing the rugged coastline, you’re sure to find endless opportunities for stunning imagery.

To further enhance your coastal photography experience, be sure to explore the pristine beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore. From the sandy shores of Limantour Beach to the rocky coastline of Drake’s Beach, each beach offers its own unique charm and photo-worthy moments. Capture the crashing waves, explore the tidal pools, or simply enjoy the tranquility of these untouched coastal gems.

With its awe-inspiring natural beauty and abundant wildlife, Point Reyes National Seashore is a paradise for coastal photography. Whether you’re an amateur photographer looking to capture stunning landscapes or a professional seeking the perfect shot, this remarkable destination will leave you inspired and in awe. Don’t miss the chance to explore and photograph the breathtaking scenery of Point Reyes National Seashore.

coastal photography in Point Reyes National Seashore

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic symbol of San Francisco and a popular destination for photographers. Whether you’re capturing the bridge against a foggy backdrop or photographing the sunset as it casts a golden glow over the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge offers endless opportunities for stunning photography. Don’t forget to explore the surrounding beaches and vantage points for unique perspectives of this iconic landmark.

Golden Gate Bridge

La Jolla Cove, San Diego

La Jolla Cove in San Diego is a hidden gem for photographers seeking stunning coastal views and abundant marine life. This picturesque beach offers a wealth of photography opportunities, from capturing the playful seals and sea lions to exploring the colorful underwater world through snorkeling or scuba diving.

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of La Jolla Cove as you capture the scenic coastal views and vibrant marine ecosystem. Whether you’re inspired by the crashing waves or the mesmerizing dance of sunlight on the water, La Jolla Cove is a paradise for photographers.

To capture the vibrant marine life and underwater beauty, bring your underwater photography gear and be in awe of the diverse species that call La Jolla Cove home. Don’t miss the chance to photograph the migrating seals and sea lions as they sunbathe on the rocks or playfully swim in the crystal-clear waters.

As you explore La Jolla Cove, take in the breathtaking coastal landscape and marvel at the stunning cliffs that frame the beach. The scenic beauty of the area provides a perfect backdrop for capturing memorable images.

Make sure to visit during the golden hours around sunrise or sunset to capture the warm and soft lighting that enhances the beauty of La Jolla Cove. These magical moments offer the perfect lighting conditions to create stunning and awe-inspiring photographs.

underwater photography at La Jolla Cove

Explore the scenic wonders of La Jolla Cove and let your creativity soar as you capture the vibrant marine life, scenic coastal views, and underwater beauty through your lens. With its natural splendor and captivating ecosystem, La Jolla Cove is a paradise waiting to be discovered by photographers.

El Matador State Beach, Malibu

When it comes to picturesque coastal beauty, El Matador State Beach in Malibu takes the spotlight. This hidden gem is famed for its rugged coastline, unique sea arches, and breathtaking sunsets that provide the perfect backdrop for stunning photography.

As you explore El Matador State Beach, you’ll discover dramatic cliffs and hidden caves that add an element of mystery and enchantment to your images. The sea arches dotted along the shoreline create a sense of wonder and provide unique framing options for your compositions. Capture the crashing waves against the cliffs or venture into the hidden caves to capture the play of light and shadow.

One of the highlights of El Matador State Beach is the stunning sunset photography opportunities. As the vibrant colors of the sunset paint the sky and reflect on the water, the beach transforms into a magical setting. Whether you’re capturing the golden hues of the sun sinking into the horizon or the silhouettes of beachgoers against the colorful backdrop, you’re sure to create breathtaking images that evoke a sense of awe and tranquility.

sunset photography in malibu

El Matador State Beach is truly a must-visit destination for photographers seeking a picturesque and serene coastal setting. So grab your camera, soak in the beauty of the rugged coastline and sea arches, and let your creativity flow at El Matador State Beach.

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

McWay Falls is a stunning waterfall located within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur. This picturesque waterfall cascades directly onto the sandy beach, creating a mesmerizing sight that is perfect for photography. With its lush surroundings and pristine coastal landscape, McWay Falls offers a unique and enchanting experience for photographers.

Explore the other hiking trails and viewpoints in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to discover even more photography opportunities. Immerse yourself in the scenic beauty of the park, capturing the captivating waterfall and the natural wonders that surround it.

Experience the magic of McWay Falls and document your visit with stunning photographs that showcase the awe-inspiring beauty of this natural wonder.

mcway falls

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is a unique destination known for its abundance of colorful sea glass. Over the years, the waves have worn down the glass bottles and transformed them into smooth, vibrant pieces of sea glass. The beach’s colorful shoreline and sparkling glass provide a beautiful and intriguing photography subject. Glass Beach is a favorite spot for photographers seeking something truly unique and visually captivating.

glass beach

Exploring Glass Beach offers a delightful opportunity for beachcombing enthusiasts to discover a treasure trove of colorful sea glass. The varied hues of the glass, ranging from greens and blues to pinks and purples, create a visually striking scene against the sandy backdrop. As you stroll along the beach, you’ll find an array of shapes and sizes, each one telling its own story of the sea’s transformative power.

Photography enthusiasts will be enchanted by the vibrant colors and captivating textures of the sea glass. The shimmering glass against the soft sand and gentle waves presents a visually captivating composition. Whether you capture close-up shots to showcase the intricate details or incorporate the glass in a larger landscape, Glass Beach offers endless possibilities for creative and visually stunning photography.

The beach’s picturesque setting, with its rocky cliffs and scenic ocean views, serves as a beautiful backdrop for capturing the beauty of the sea glass. The contrast between the vibrant glass and the natural elements creates a visually captivating image. Photographers can experiment with different angles, lighting, and compositions to create unique and captivating shots.

Whether you are a professional photographer or an amateur enthusiast, Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is a must-visit destination that offers a visually captivating and unique photography experience. The abundance of colorful sea glass combined with the picturesque coastal landscape ensures that every shot you capture will be a work of art.

Shark Fin Cove, Davenport

Shark Fin Cove is a hidden gem located near Davenport, known for its striking shark fin-shaped rock formation and rugged coastal beauty. The unique rock formation and breathtaking cliffs make Shark Fin Cove a fantastic destination for coastal photography in Davenport. Whether you’re capturing the crashing waves against the cliffs or photographing the iconic shark fin rock, this hidden cove offers a plethora of stunning photography opportunities.

coastal photography in Davenport

Carmel Beach

Carmel Beach is a picturesque destination known for its pristine white sand and beautiful coastal views. The beach’s stunning scenery, captivating sunsets, and charming town make it a popular spot for photography. Whether you’re capturing the waves crashing against the shore or photographing the iconic Cypress trees, Carmel Beach offers a wealth of opportunities to capture breathtaking images.

carmel beach

Experience the serene beauty of Carmel Beach as you sink your feet into the soft, white sand. The wide expanse of the beach provides ample room to find the perfect vantage point for your photography. Capture the crashing waves, the vibrant colors of the sunset, or the iconic Cypress trees that line the beach.

With its scenic beauty and natural charm, Carmel Beach is a favorite destination for photographers seeking to capture the allure of California’s coastline. The peaceful atmosphere and stunning landscapes make it an idyllic setting for your photography adventures.

Baker Beach, San Francisco

Baker Beach is a popular destination in San Francisco, known for its panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city’s skyline. The beach’s stunning vistas, sandy shore, and iconic bridge make it a favorite spot for photographers.

baker beach

Whether you’re capturing the bridge against a backdrop of fog or photographing the sunset as it bathes the beach in golden light, Baker Beach offers countless opportunities for stunning coastal photography.

Morro Rock, Morro Bay

Morro Rock, located in Morro Bay, is a striking landmark that offers both a commanding presence and breathtaking coastal scenery. This massive volcanic plug serves as a focal point for photographers seeking stunning visuals in Morro Bay. The scenic beauty of the bay, combined with the imposing presence of Morro Rock, creates a picture-perfect setting for capturing captivating images.

Whether you’re photographing Morro Rock against the backdrop of a vibrant sunset or capturing the abundant wildlife in the bay, this destination provides endless opportunities for photographers. The rugged coastline, crashing waves, and diverse marine life all contribute to the scenic beauty that Morro Bay has to offer.

morro rock

With its volcanic origins and awe-inspiring landscapes, Morro Rock showcases the diverse natural beauty that California has to offer. As a photographer, Morro Bay provides a picturesque canvas to capture stunning images and create lasting memories.

Shell Beach, Sonoma Coast State Park

Shell Beach is a serene and picturesque beach located within Sonoma Coast State Park. The beach offers a breathtaking coastal scenery with its scenic landscapes, abundant tide pools, and unique rock formations.

When visiting Shell Beach, photographers will be delighted by the opportunity to capture stunning images of the colorful marine life in the tide pools. The vibrant sea anemones, starfish, and other fascinating creatures provide captivating subjects for coastal photography.

Additionally, the rugged cliffs and crashing waves at Shell Beach create a dramatic backdrop for capturing the power and beauty of nature. Photographers can admire the awe-inspiring sight of waves breaking against the cliffs or experiment with long exposure photography to capture the motion of the tides.

To further explore the stunning vistas of Sonoma Coast State Park, visitors can venture beyond Shell Beach and discover other beautiful beaches and hiking trails. The park’s diverse landscapes and panoramic views make it a dream destination for scenic coastal photography.

So, pack your camera, put on your hiking shoes, and head to Shell Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park for a memorable photography experience amidst the wonders of nature.

shell beach

Palos Verdes Cove, Palos Verdes Estates

Palos Verdes Cove is a hidden gem located in Palos Verdes Estates, offering stunning cliffside views and rugged coastal beauty. This picturesque cove is a perfect destination for photography enthusiasts, providing a wealth of opportunities to capture breathtaking images of its magnificent surroundings.

One of the highlights of Palos Verdes Cove is its rocky shoreline, which creates a dramatic backdrop for photography. The cliffs that line the cove offer a unique perspective and allow you to capture the beauty of the rugged coastline. Whether you’re photographing the crashing waves against the rocks or the interplay of light and shadow on the cliffs, the cliffside views at Palos Verdes Cove are truly mesmerizing.

In addition to the cliffside views, Palos Verdes Cove is also home to vibrant tide pools. These pools are teeming with marine life and provide an excellent opportunity for photographers to capture the intricate details of the underwater world. From colorful sea creatures to unique rock formations, the tide pools offer a wealth of subjects to photograph.

Lastly, Palos Verdes Cove is known for its captivating sunsets. The combination of the rocky shoreline and the vast ocean creates a stunning canvas for the colorful skies that adorn the horizon during sunset. Photographers can capture the vibrant hues and the play of light on the water, creating truly breathtaking images.

Palos Verdes Cove is a haven for photography enthusiasts, offering cliffside views, vibrant tide pools, and captivating sunsets. Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a seasoned professional, this hidden gem in Palos Verdes Estates provides endless opportunities to capture the scenic beauty of the area through your lens.

Palos Verdes Cove

Pismo Beach Sand Dunes, Oceano

The Pismo Beach Sand Dunes in Oceano provide a truly unique and picturesque setting for photography enthusiasts. These expansive sand dunes, stretching for miles along the coast, offer a mesmerizing and ever-changing landscape to capture. Whether you’re interested in photographing the intricate ripples in the sand or capturing the thrill of sandboarding, the Pismo Beach Sand Dunes present an abundance of opportunities for stunning photographs.

While exploring the Pismo Beach Sand Dunes, don’t forget to venture out and discover the surrounding beaches and coastal areas as well. The scenic landscapes and stunning vistas found in these nearby locations offer additional photo-worthy opportunities. From breathtaking sunsets to dramatic coastal views, the beauty of Oceano’s natural surroundings will inspire and enhance your photography.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or simply enjoy capturing the beauty of nature, the Pismo Beach Sand Dunes in Oceano are a must-visit destination. With its scenic landscapes, the thrill of sandboarding, and the endless possibilities for stunning photography, this coastal treasure provides an unforgettable experience for all who visit.


Are these beaches open to the public?

Yes, all of the beaches mentioned in this article are open to the public. However, it’s always a good idea to check for any specific regulations or closures before planning your visit.

Do I need a permit to take photographs on these beaches?

Generally, no permits are required for personal photography on public beaches in California. However, if you’re planning on conducting commercial or professional photography shoots, it’s advisable to check with the local authorities or respective beach management for any permit requirements.

Can I fly a drone to capture aerial photographs on these beaches?

Drone regulations vary by location, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific rules and guidelines before flying a drone. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict regulations for drone usage, including flying restrictions near airports, national parks, and densely populated areas.

Are there any specific safety precautions to consider while visiting these beaches?

While exploring and photographing these beaches, it’s important to prioritize safety. Be aware of the tide conditions, follow any posted signage or warnings, and avoid venturing too close to steep cliffs or unstable rocks. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to bring sunscreen, water, and other necessary supplies for a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

What are the best times of day for photography on these beaches?

The best times for photography can vary depending on the specific location and desired effect. However, in general, the golden hours of sunrise and sunset offer beautiful lighting conditions and dramatic colors. Consider visiting these beaches during low tide for unique perspectives and opportunities to capture interesting patterns in the sand, tide pools, or rock formations.

Can I camp overnight on any of these beaches?

Camping regulations and availability can vary by beach and location. Some beaches offer camping facilities or nearby campgrounds, while others may have restrictions on overnight stays. It’s advisable to check with the local authorities or respective beach management for camping options and any necessary permits.

Are there any facilities like restrooms or parking available at these beaches?

Most popular beaches in California offer facilities like restrooms, parking lots, and designated viewpoints. However, it’s always a good idea to check the specific beach’s amenities and any associated fees or parking restrictions before your visit.

Are pets allowed on these beaches?

Pet policies can vary by beach, so it’s essential to check the specific rules and regulations regarding pets before visiting. While some beaches allow pets on leashes, others may have designated areas or restrictions. Always remember to clean up after your pet and be considerate of other beachgoers.

Can I swim or surf at these beaches?

Many of these beaches offer opportunities for swimming and surfing. However, it’s important to be aware of the local conditions, including water temperature, currents, and any posted safety notices. If you’re new to surfing or swimming in the ocean, consider taking lessons or consulting with experienced locals for guidance.

Are there any nearby accommodations or dining options close to these beaches?

Several of these beaches are located near towns or cities that offer a range of accommodations, including hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Similarly, you’ll find various dining options near these beach destinations, ranging from casual beachside cafes to fine dining restaurants. It’s advisable to research and make reservations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Can I have professional photoshoots or weddings at these beaches?

Professional photoshoots and weddings on these beaches may require permits or reservations, depending on the location and scope of the event. It’s advisable to check with the local authorities or respective beach management for any specific regulations and to secure any necessary permissions or permits.