This is part 3 of a 3 part series discussing some of California’s best attractions. For the first one, read California Bests: National Parks.
California achieved the title from WalletHub as the most fun state in 2018 for the many attractions the Golden State has to offer.
With a variety of climates and scenery, from snowy mountain peaks, to flat arid deserts, to beautiful sunny beaches, with some of the best waves around, California sure has a lot to offer for both locals and visitors.
California’s coastline is 840 miles long and is home to over 420 public beaches. All these beaches are different in many ways and have different highlights that entice visitors. Travel websites seem to consistently mention five of these 420+ beaches as favorites, for the scenery and atmosphere they provide.
The top five beaches are: Santa Monica State Beach, Coronado Beach, Carmel City Beach, Huntington State Beach, and Pfeiffer Beach.
Santa Monica State Beach is California State Park that is maintained by the city of Santa Monica. It is located right off the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, less than an hour away from Downtown Los Angeles. The beach is over three miles long and its soft, sandy shore covers over 245 acres. This iconic beach brings in visitors from all around the world, year round, due to the constant warm weather. The temperature tends to stay in the 60s and 70s with summers being dry and sunny, and the winters being very mild.
Among the most popular attractions is the Santa Monica Pier. The pier is home to Pacific Park, which offers rides, games, and food. Also found on the pier is a carousel, arcade, and an aquarium, as well as many more attractions. For stunning coastal views, many visit Palisades Park, where visitors can go for a stroll or jog along the cliffs. In addition to this, Santa Monica Third Street Promenade is a popular attraction. It spans over three blocks, there are no cars, and an abundance of street performers, shops, food, and entertainment.
Alyssa Reese, ‘21, enjoys the pier and the casual atmosphere the beach provides.
“The Santa Monica pier is by far my favorite,” Reese said. “I love the rides and the entertainment options. I love Santa Monica because everyone is always enjoying themselves, and there are so many photo ops. Unlike some L.A. beaches, it’s very casual and fun.”
Coronado Beach is located in San Diego County, a 15-minute drive from downtown San Diego. The peninsula is connected by the “Silver Strand” across the San Diego Bay. The northern part of the “island” is called Naval Air Station North Island. It was developed by the United States Navy prior to World War II and is still in operation today. The beach is over 100 yards wide and is very popular for its soft, golden sand. The color is achieved by the mineral mica which is rarely found in beach sand. Much like Santa Monica, the weather stays mostly in the 60s and 70s and remains mild year round.
Coronado offers a multitude of beach activities, such as the North Beach dog-friendly beach, where you can bring your canine friends along for a splash. Coronado Central Beach has the iconic Hotel del Coronado and fine mansions as its backdrop. Downtown Coronado offers spas, restaurants, shops, galleries, and offers a Spanish architectural style.
Jason Olson, ‘20, enjoys visiting Coronado because of the multiple activities they offer. He hopes to go back soon because he always enjoys his time there.
“My favorite part about Coronado beach is that there are a bunch of things to do other than swim,” Olson said. “I want to go back to this beach because I’ve always has a good time there and the weather is always nice, and I never get bored.”
Soren Sobrado, ‘22, enjoys hanging out on the pier. He would like to go back on the 4th of July and encourages others to visit the exciting beach.
“The pier has lots of fun things to do, great surfing and bike lanes,” Sobrado said. “I would like to go on the 4th of July this summer to see the fireworks show and the parade. Others should go to experience all the beach has to offer, especially the rentable go-carts and segways that make it possible to drive for miles along the coastline.”
Carmel City Beach located in Monterey County is less than a 20-minute drive from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The four-mile-long beach offers a white-sand coastline that can be accessed from a cypress-lined walking path. Though the weather is consistently mild, Carmel is cooler than the southern beaches. Its highs rarely exceed the 60s and layers are a packing essential for evenings spent by the coast.
Carmel offers scenic spots including outlooks and the 17-mile drive, which offers cliffs, white sand beaches, forests, and even picturesque golf courses. This dog-friendly beach offers many local shops, where you can purchase a multitude of items. Carmel offers annual events including the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Event in April. The Pebble Beach Golf Course hosts the renowned U.S. Open Championships for the sixth year this summer. The beach town also presents car shows throughout the summer months and other events.
Natalie Johnson, ’22, enjoys the family atmosphere at Carmel and the camping opportunities offered.
“I love how this beach is really family oriented,” Johnson said. “It’s one of those beaches that is really good for the family. They actually have camping right off the beach and it is super fun.”
In the following podcast Toryn Triplitt talks to Johnson about her favorite aspects of Carmel.
Rated the ninth happiest city in the United States according to WalletHub, Huntington Beach offers a multitude of activities and views. Just under an hour away from Los Angeles, “Surf City USA” offers 10 miles of beach and constant swells. With weather in the 60s and 70s a majority of the year, the coastal city annually draws in visitors.
The beach is known for its waves. You can visit the International Surfing Museum. The U.S. Surfing Championship originated in Huntington in the 1950’s and has since been renamed the VANS U.S. Open of Surfing which comes back every summer for the annual competition. Huntington’s newest outdoor mall, Pacific City, offers one-of-a-kind restaurants and shopping, with a stunning ocean view. The beach provides 500 free access bonfire rings stretched out along its coastline. They are offered on a first come first serve basis. You can fish off of the Huntington Pier with no fishing license required and the pier provides the perfect viewpoint to watch the surfers.
Hunter Nale, ‘20, enjoys the water at Huntington, and hopes to go back with his friends and family.
“My favorite part about Huntington Beach is the water,” Nale said. “It’s warmer than other places, you can go to the stores and restaurants that are tasty. I would love to go back and spend time with my family or friends.”
The following tweet highlights Huntington’s bonfire rings as being the perfect spot for s’mores.
— Visit Huntington Beach, CA (@HBSurfCityUSA) May 4, 2019
Pfeiffer Beach, located in Big Sur California, is a mere 23 miles from Carmel. The beach is very popular with locals, but much more unknown among tourists, it is very different from the sunny southern beaches. With a unique purple hued sand, this beach has lots to offer. With high 60s and low 70s the beach is a popular destination for a day on the sand.
The somewhat hidden beach, does require a $10 fee for access, which includes parking. Not right off a town, it does take a bit of a drive to get there, and it can be hard to find. But the view seems to be worth it. Pfeiffer Beach is a very popular destination for photographers, due to the stunning rock arches and tide pools.
Ashley Sciacqua, ’22, loves all the memories the beach provides, and how she always has a great time with her family.
“I love the beach,” Sciacqua said. “I’ve always grown up going to the beach so whenever I go back, it makes me remember all my childhood memories. I love how you can shop around with your family and you can hang out at the beach and just have a great time with everyone.”
Warning: There are areas at the northern end of this and other beaches where clothing option option sunbathing can be found.
Some other popular beaches in California you could visit are; La Jolla Shores near San Diego, Laguna Beach near Los Angeles, Baker Beach near San Francisco, Manhattan Beach in Southern California, and Venice Beach near Los Angeles.
*Results were collected from 10 different travel recommendation sites.*
Toryn Triplitt can be reached via Twitter.Follow The Feather via Twitter @thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.
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