Best Beaches to Live in California: 15 Top Picks to Call Home

best beaches to live in california

California is a dream destination for beach lovers, offering a paradise of sun, surf, and sand. With its stunning coastline and diverse beach towns, the Golden State has something to offer everyone seeking a beachfront living experience. Whether you’re looking for bustling beach towns or quiet seaside communities, California has it all. In this article, I will take you on a journey to explore the best beaches to live in California, highlighting 15 top picks that embody the quintessential California beach lifestyle.

Best Beaches to Live in California

  • California offers a wide range of beach towns for a beachfront living experience.
  • From bustling beach towns to quiet seaside communities, California has options to suit every lifestyle.
  • The best beaches to live in California offer a combination of stunning natural beauty and vibrant coastal living.
  • Each beach town has its own unique charm and attractions, whether it’s surfing, art galleries, or celebrity hotspots.
  • Whether you prefer Southern California or the central and northern coast, there’s a perfect beach town for you in California.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a popular beach town located in Southern California. Known for its iconic pier and bustling boardwalk, Santa Monica offers a vibrant beach lifestyle. Residents can enjoy sunbathing on the sandy shores, surfing in the waves, and exploring the numerous shops, restaurants, and attractions that line the beach.

With easy access to the city of Los Angeles, Santa Monica is a sought-after destination for those seeking a beachfront living experience in California.

santa monica

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City, is another top pick for beach living in California. This beach town boasts miles of sandy coastline and is renowned for its excellent surfing conditions. Residents can enjoy long walks along the beach, biking on the boardwalk, and catching breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. With a laid-back coastal vibe and a range of recreational activities, Huntington Beach is a great choice for those seeking a beach-centric lifestyle.

huntington beach

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is a vibrant coastal community known for its stunning natural beauty and thriving arts scene. Situated on the cliffs of Southern California, this beach town offers picturesque beaches, crystal-clear waters, and an abundance of art galleries and festivals. Residents can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the tide pools along the scenic coastline. With its unique blend of natural beauty and artistic charm, Laguna Beach is a top pick for beach lovers.

laguna beach

Whether you’re an artist seeking inspiration or simply someone who appreciates art, Laguna Beach’s artist community is sure to captivate you. With its numerous art galleries showcasing a wide range of styles and mediums, there is always something new and exciting to discover. The town also hosts several art festivals throughout the year, such as the famous Pageant of the Masters, where living artworks come to life on stage.

In addition to its vibrant art scene, Laguna Beach offers a variety of outdoor activities for residents to enjoy. From hiking the scenic trails in nearby Laguna Coast Wilderness Park to exploring the hidden coves and caves along the coastline, there is no shortage of adventures to embark on. And if you’re a fan of water sports, Laguna Beach is the perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, and even scuba diving.

When it comes to dining, Laguna Beach has a thriving culinary scene. From casual beachside cafes to upscale restaurants with panoramic ocean views, there are options to suit every palate. The town also hosts a weekly farmers market where you can find fresh local produce and artisanal goods.

With its idyllic location, artistic ambiance, and array of recreational opportunities, Laguna Beach truly embodies the quintessential California beach lifestyle. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, this coastal gem will leave you feeling inspired and rejuvenated.

Malibu

Malibu is famous for its pristine beaches and as a playground for celebrities. This upscale beach town offers gorgeous coastal views, luxurious beachfront properties, and a laid-back beach lifestyle. Residents can enjoy surfing, sunbathing, and beachside dining at the many upscale restaurants along the Malibu coastline.

With its scenic beauty and celebrity allure, Malibu is a highly sought-after destination for those looking to live by the beach in California.

malibu

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is a coastal gem located in Orange County, California. This beach town offers a mix of sandy beaches, picturesque marinas, and charming waterfront neighborhoods. Residents can indulge in a wide range of water activities, including boating, sailing, and paddleboarding. Newport Beach also has a vibrant dining and shopping scene, making it a great place to live for those seeking a beachfront lifestyle with plenty of amenities.

newport beach

Boating and More

One of the highlights of living in Newport Beach is the opportunity to engage in various water activities, especially boating. With its pristine coastline and beautiful marinas, Newport Beach is a boater’s paradise. Whether you own a boat or prefer to rent one, you can explore the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean, cruise along Newport Harbor, or anchor at one of the many scenic locations in the area.

Aside from boating, Newport Beach offers a wide range of recreational activities. You can try your hand at paddleboarding, go fishing, or even take sailing lessons. The beach town is also known for its beautiful beaches, where you can relax, swim, or take long walks along the shore.

Charming Waterfront Neighborhoods

Newport Beach is home to charming waterfront neighborhoods that exude a relaxed coastal lifestyle. From Balboa Island with its quaint shops and waterfront homes to the upscale community of Corona del Mar, there are plenty of choices for those looking to live near the water. These neighborhoods offer a sense of community and a laid-back atmosphere that perfectly complements the beach lifestyle.

A Vibrant Dining and Shopping Scene

When it comes to dining and shopping, Newport Beach has something for everyone. The town boasts a diverse culinary scene, with restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines, from fresh seafood to international fare. You can enjoy waterfront dining with picturesque views or explore the bustling dining options in the town center.

For shopping enthusiasts, Newport Beach is home to upscale boutiques, art galleries, and unique shops. From fashion-forward clothing to handcrafted jewelry, you’ll find a variety of options to suit your style and taste.

Overall, Newport Beach offers the perfect blend of beachfront living, water activities, charming neighborhoods, and a vibrant dining and shopping scene. It’s no wonder that this coastal town is a sought-after destination for those looking to embrace the California beach lifestyle.

San Clemente

San Clemente is a charming beach town located in Southern California, known for its Spanish colonial architecture and laid-back coastal vibe. With its miles of pristine beaches and excellent surf spots, San Clemente is a haven for beach lovers. But it’s not just the stunning shoreline that attracts residents to this beach town. San Clemente also offers a quaint downtown area with boutique shops and restaurants, providing a delightful mix of old-world charm and modern amenities.

If you’re a fan of Spanish colonial architecture, you’ll be enchanted by the beautiful buildings that line the streets of San Clemente. From red-tiled roofs to arched windows and intricate details, the Spanish influence is evident in the design of many homes and buildings in the area. Walking through the town feels like stepping back in time, offering a unique glimpse into California’s history.

Whether you’re looking to catch some waves, explore the downtown area, or simply relax on the beach, San Clemente offers a laid-back and picturesque beach lifestyle. The combination of its natural beauty, Spanish colonial architecture, and relaxed atmosphere makes San Clemente a perfect choice for those seeking a beachside escape with a touch of old-world charm.

San Clemente beach

Encinitas

Encinitas is a coastal community located in San Diego County, California. This beach town is known for its laid-back surf culture, vibrant yoga scene, and pristine beaches. Residents can enjoy surfing, yoga on the beach, and exploring the charming downtown area with its unique shops and eateries. Encinitas offers a relaxed beach lifestyle with a focus on wellness and outdoor activities, making it a popular choice for those seeking a healthy and active coastal lifestyle.

encinitas

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a popular beach town situated on the northern coast of California. Known for its iconic boardwalk, world-class surfing spots, and laid-back beach vibe, Santa Cruz offers a diverse range of recreational activities for residents to enjoy.

When it comes to surfing, Santa Cruz is a surfer’s paradise. The town is home to legendary surf spots like Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, where surfers from around the world come to catch some of the best waves California has to offer.

In addition to surfing, Santa Cruz has a vibrant beach culture that attracts beach lovers of all kinds. Whether you want to sunbathe, swim, build sandcastles, or simply take a leisurely stroll along the scenic coastline, Santa Cruz has something for everyone.

To add to the beach town charm, Santa Cruz is also home to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a historic amusement park with thrilling rides, delicious food options, and entertainment for the whole family. The boardwalk is the perfect place to enjoy a day of fun in the sun.

surfing in Santa Cruz

With its vibrant beach culture and breathtaking natural beauty, Santa Cruz is a top pick for those seeking a true California beach lifestyle. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer, a beachcomber, or simply someone who appreciates the laid-back coastal vibe, Santa Cruz has it all.

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is a picturesque beach town located in Los Angeles County, California. This coastal gem offers miles of sandy beaches, a charming downtown area, and a thriving beach volleyball scene. Residents can enjoy beachfront living, coastal bike paths, and a variety of water activities such as swimming and paddleboarding. Manhattan Beach also hosts numerous events throughout the year, including beach concerts and festivals, making it a vibrant and lively destination for beach lovers.

beach volleyball

With its stunning coastline and vibrant community, Manhattan Beach is the epitome of the California beach lifestyle. The town’s beautiful beaches provide the perfect backdrop for sunbathing, picnicking, and beach volleyball. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll along the shoreline or diving into the waves, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Manhattan Beach.

In addition to its natural beauty, Manhattan Beach offers a charming downtown area filled with boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes. From shopping for unique beachwear to indulging in delicious seaside cuisine, residents have plenty of options to explore. The town’s lively atmosphere is further enhanced by its thriving beach volleyball scene. Whether you’re a seasoned player or a spectator, you can experience the excitement of beach volleyball matches right on the sandy shores of Manhattan Beach.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Manhattan Beach offers an array of recreational activities. The town’s coastal bike paths provide a scenic route for cyclists to soak in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Water activities such as swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking are also popular among residents. With its favorable climate and picturesque setting, Manhattan Beach invites locals and visitors to embrace an active and healthy lifestyle.

Throughout the year, Manhattan Beach hosts a variety of events that showcase the town’s vibrant community spirit. Beach concerts, festivals, and tournaments bring people together to celebrate the beach culture and create lasting memories. The annual Manhattan Beach Open, one of the most prestigious beach volleyball tournaments, attracts top players and enthusiasts from around the world.

Whether you’re seeking a relaxed day at the beach or an active outdoor adventure, Manhattan Beach has it all. With its stunning scenery, thriving beach volleyball scene, and vibrant community, this beach town truly embodies the California beach lifestyle.

Dana Point

Dana Point is a charming coastal community located in Orange County, California. Known for its stunning cliffs, picturesque harbor, and world-class whale watching, Dana Point offers a quintessential California beach lifestyle. The town boasts miles of beautiful beaches, including the popular Salt Creek Beach Park and Doheny State Beach, where residents can soak up the sun and enjoy the ocean breeze.

One of the main attractions in Dana Point is its harbor, which serves as a gateway to the Pacific Ocean. With its marinas filled with sailboats and yachts, the harbor is not only a scenic spot to relax but also offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and water sports.

whale watching

Dana Point is also a haven for whale watching enthusiasts. Every year, thousands of gray whales pass by the coast of Dana Point during their annual migration, making it an ideal location to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. Whether you choose to join a whale-watching cruise or simply enjoy the breathtaking views from the shoreline, the experience is sure to leave you in awe of nature’s wonders.

In addition to its natural beauty, Dana Point offers a variety of dining options, including waterfront restaurants that serve up fresh seafood and stunning ocean views. The town also features several boutique shops and art galleries, perfect for leisurely strolls and discovering unique treasures.

With its idyllic beaches, outdoor activities, and close proximity to major attractions like Disneyland and Laguna Beach, Dana Point offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful beach retreat or a vibrant coastal adventure, Dana Point has something for everyone.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming beach town located on the central coast of California. Known for its fairytale-like cottages and world-renowned art galleries, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a unique blend of natural beauty and artistic inspiration. Residents can enjoy walks on the white sandy beaches, explore the art galleries and boutique shops in the downtown area, and indulge in fine dining at the many acclaimed restaurants.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

With its picturesque beauty and artistic charm, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a dream destination for beach lovers.

Ventura

Ventura is a laid-back beach town located in Ventura County, California. This coastal community offers miles of pristine beaches, excellent surfing conditions, and a vibrant downtown area with unique shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Residents can enjoy surfing the waves, exploring the beautiful coastal trails, and experiencing the relaxed beach lifestyle that Ventura has to offer. With its relaxed atmosphere and abundance of recreational activities, Ventura is a top choice for beachfront living in California.

ventura

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is a charming coastal town located in San Luis Obispo County, California. Known for its dramatic sand dunes and long sandy beaches, Pismo Beach offers a range of outdoor activities for residents to enjoy. From exploring the sand dunes on an off-road vehicle to surfing the waves, Pismo Beach is a haven for beach enthusiasts. The town also has a lively downtown area with restaurants, shops, and a vibrant nightlife scene. With its natural beauty and recreational opportunities, Pismo Beach is a popular destination for those seeking a beachfront lifestyle.

sand dunes

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is a scenic coastal town located in San Mateo County, California. This beach town is known for its rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and picturesque coastal views. Residents can enjoy beachcombing, hiking along the coastal trails, and participating in local events such as the annual Pumpkin Festival. Half Moon Bay offers a tranquil beach lifestyle with a small-town charm, making it an ideal place to call home for those seeking a peaceful coastal retreat.

half moon bay

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a magnificent beach town nestled on the central coast of California. With its scenic Spanish colonial architecture, pristine beaches, and exquisite wineries, Santa Barbara offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and cultural splendor. Whether you’re lounging on the sandy shores, exploring the enchanting downtown area, or savoring the region’s world-renowned wine and cuisine, Santa Barbara promises an exceptional beachfront living experience.

Blessed with a Mediterranean-like climate, Santa Barbara provides idyllic conditions to enjoy its breathtaking coastal views year-round. The city’s Spanish colonial heritage is evident in its architectural gems, such as the Old Mission Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. These iconic landmarks showcase the rich history and charm that make Santa Barbara a highly sought-after destination.

Living in Santa Barbara means embracing the California beach lifestyle in all its glory. You can spend your days basking in the sun, strolling along the shoreline, or engaging in water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. The town’s vibrant downtown area boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene, with galleries, theaters, and boutiques to explore. Moreover, Santa Barbara’s proximity to world-class wineries allows residents to indulge in exquisite wine tastings and vineyard tours, adding a touch of luxury to their coastal living experience.

Discover the allure of Santa Barbara for yourself and let this captivating beach town become your ultimate California dream come true.

FAQ

What are the best beaches to live in California?

California offers a variety of beach towns that are perfect for seaside living. Some of the top picks include Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Malibu, Newport Beach, and San Clemente.

What makes Santa Monica a great beach town to live in?

Santa Monica is known for its iconic pier, bustling boardwalk, and vibrant beach lifestyle. Residents can enjoy sunbathing, surfing, and exploring the shops, restaurants, and attractions that line the beach. With easy access to Los Angeles, Santa Monica offers a sought-after beachfront living experience.

Why is Huntington Beach called Surf City?

Huntington Beach is known as Surf City due to its excellent surfing conditions. This beach town offers miles of sandy coastline, perfect for long walks, bike rides, and catching breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. With its coastal vibe and range of recreational activities, Huntington Beach is a great choice for beach living in California.

What makes Laguna Beach a top pick for beach lovers?

Laguna Beach is celebrated for its stunning natural beauty and thriving arts scene. This coastal community offers picturesque beaches, crystal-clear waters, and an abundance of art galleries and festivals. Residents can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and exploring tide pools along the scenic coastline, making Laguna Beach an ideal destination for beach enthusiasts.

Why is Malibu a sought-after destination for beachfront living?

Malibu is famous for its pristine beaches and as a playground for celebrities. This upscale beach town offers gorgeous coastal views, luxurious beachfront properties, and a laid-back beach lifestyle. Residents can enjoy surfing, sunbathing, and beachside dining at upscale restaurants along the Malibu coastline.

What makes Newport Beach a great place to live by the beach?

Newport Beach, located in Orange County, offers a mix of sandy beaches, marinas, and waterfront neighborhoods. Residents can indulge in a range of water activities such as boating, sailing, and paddleboarding. The beach town also has a vibrant dining and shopping scene, making it an attractive place to live for those seeking a beachfront lifestyle with plenty of amenities.

What is the appeal of San Clemente as a beach town?

San Clemente is a charming beach town known for its Spanish colonial architecture and laid-back coastal vibe. Residents can enjoy miles of pristine beaches, excellent surf spots, and a quaint downtown area with boutique shops and restaurants. With its beautiful shoreline and relaxed atmosphere, San Clemente attracts residents looking for a beachside escape with a touch of old-world charm.

Why is Encinitas a popular choice for beach living in California?

Encinitas, located in San Diego County, is known for its laid-back surf culture, vibrant yoga scene, and pristine beaches. Residents can enjoy surfing, yoga on the beach, and exploring the charming downtown area with its unique shops and eateries. Encinitas offers a relaxed beach lifestyle with a focus on wellness and outdoor activities, making it a sought-after destination for those seeking a healthy and active coastal lifestyle.

What makes Santa Cruz a mecca for beach enthusiasts?

Santa Cruz, situated on the northern coast of California, is renowned for its iconic boardwalk, world-class surfing spots, and laid-back beach vibe. Residents can enjoy a diverse range of recreational activities, from surfing the legendary waves to strolling along the scenic coastline. With its vibrant beach culture and breathtaking natural beauty, Santa Cruz is a top pick for those seeking a coastal lifestyle.

Why is Manhattan Beach a picturesque beach town to live in?

Manhattan Beach, located in Los Angeles County, offers miles of sandy beaches, a charming downtown area, and a thriving beach volleyball scene. Residents can enjoy beachfront living, coastal bike paths, and a variety of water activities such as swimming and paddleboarding. The town also hosts numerous events throughout the year, including beach concerts and festivals, making it a vibrant and lively destination for beach lovers.

What makes Dana Point a top choice for beachfront living?

Dana Point is a coastal community known for its stunning cliffs, picturesque harbor, and world-class whale watching. Located in Orange County, this beach town offers miles of beautiful beaches, excellent surfing spots, and a variety of outdoor recreational activities. Residents can enjoy exploring tide pools, taking boat tours to see marine wildlife, and dining at waterfront restaurants, making Dana Point an attractive option for beach living in California.

Why is Carmel-by-the-Sea a dream destination for beach lovers?

Carmel-by-the-Sea, situated on the central coast of California, is known for its fairytale-like cottages and world-renowned art galleries. Residents can enjoy walks on the white sandy beaches, explore the art galleries and boutique shops in the downtown area, and indulge in fine dining at acclaimed restaurants. With its picturesque beauty and artistic charm, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a dream destination for those looking to live by the beach.

What makes Ventura a top choice for beachfront living in California?

Ventura is a laid-back beach town located in Ventura County, California. This coastal community offers miles of pristine beaches, excellent surfing conditions, and a vibrant downtown area with unique shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Residents can enjoy surfing the waves, exploring beautiful coastal trails, and experiencing the relaxed beach lifestyle that Ventura has to offer.

Why is Pismo Beach a popular destination for beachfront living?

Pismo Beach, a charming coastal town located in San Luis Obispo County, is known for its dramatic sand dunes and long sandy beaches. The town offers a range of outdoor activities, from exploring the sand dunes on off-road vehicles to surfing the waves. Pismo Beach also features a lively downtown area with restaurants, shops, and a vibrant nightlife scene, making it an appealing destination for those seeking a beachfront lifestyle.

What makes Half Moon Bay an ideal place for a peaceful coastal retreat?

Half Moon Bay, located in San Mateo County, is a scenic coastal town known for its rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and picturesque coastal views. Residents can enjoy beachcombing, hiking along the coastal trails, and participating in local events such as the annual Pumpkin Festival. Half Moon Bay offers a tranquil beach lifestyle with a small-town charm, making it an ideal place to call home for those seeking a peaceful coastal retreat.

Why is Santa Barbara a top choice for beachfront living in California?

Santa Barbara, a beautiful beach town located on the central coast of California, is known for its stunning Spanish colonial architecture, pristine beaches, and world-class wineries. Residents can enjoy sunbathing on the sandy shores, exploring the charming downtown area, and indulging in the region’s renowned wine and cuisine. With its Mediterranean-like climate and breathtaking coastal views, Santa Barbara is a top choice for beachfront living in California.