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Best beaches LA - a local's guide

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SANTA MONICA BEACH PHOTO: CANVA

Santa Monica State Beach: A Seaside Cityscape

To both the north and the south of Santa Monica, you’re likely to find the classic California beach scene you’ve been looking for.  Named by Spanish explorers for a natural spring which reminded sailors of the weeping eyes of Saint Monica, Santa Monica still holds wonder and discovery for the wayward explorer.  Since the 1800’s, visitors have been flocking to the long stretches of white sand beach along Santa Monica’s coast.  Don’t miss the perfect instagram shot looking south from the pier.  There are a plethora of great places to grab a drink after a day on the beach but don’t miss out on The Craftsman specialty cocktails for a bohemian chic vibe just steps from the ocean.  Looking for an upgrade on your standard Mexican gastronomy?  Check out Mariasol on the end of the pier.  

 El Matador

EL MATADOR BEACH PHOTO: CANVA 

El Matador State Beach: Your Romantic Getaway

Well off the beaten path, El Matador State beach shows a true sense of California’s rugged past.  A romantic getaway, dotted with sandstone towers and sea caves, El Matador State beach is the luxury private beach you’ve been looking for.  While you may expect some crowds, there’s always a new hidden cove, or cave, to explore.  In the heart of Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador State Beach is located at the foot of sandstone cliffs on the western edge of Malibu.  You’ll want to park at the public parking lot on top of the hill and make the short hike down to the beach.  Great for a sunset glass of wine (don’t forget your hydroflask!) an early morning exploration, or a taste of LA’s local scene.  One thing to keep in mind, there’s no water or bathrooms on this beach so be sure to and come prepared.   

Zuma Beach

ZUMA BEACH PHOTO: CANVA

Zuma Beach: Hollywood’s Beach Scene

You may have seen clips of Zuma Beach on the silver screen from such films as Planet of the Apes, or Malibu High.  This classic surf beach is one of the more famous beach breaks in the world, not to mention great for picking up surfers ;).  On a hot summer day, you can expect Zuma Beach to be littered with glistening beach bodies (did I say surfers?).  Perfect for laying out, playing volleyball, stand up paddling, or trying your hand at surfing, maybe you’ll find a free instructor?  Zuma beach is a great place for families looking for a fun day in the sun, or folks who enjoy a good day of people watching. 

SUNSET RESTAURANT PHOTO: THESUNSETRESTAURANT.COM

If you find yourself on Zuma Beach, after a lazy day of sunbathing and the occasional swim, treat yourself to a bite to eat and a few drinks at The Sunset Restaurant.  A better-named restaurant has never existed with panoramic ocean views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

El Pescador State Beach

SEA CAVE PHOTO: CANVA

El Pescador State Beach: A Gypsy’s Paradise

Truly a diamond in the rough, El Pescador State Beach is a hidden gem nestled between high sandstone cliffs.  Great for hiking or exploring, you can access El Pescador from the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) just north of Point Dume.  A small stretch of white sand framed by mixed rock reef and sandstone, El Pescador State Beach provides a glimpse of the true natural beauty of Southern California.  Travelers looking for an adventure will love the sea caves and private rocky beaches to the North and South, accessible only when the tide is low.  You might even get away with ditching your top as this beach is rarely patrolled by lifeguards and has infrequent visitors.  A true local spot, El Pescador State Beach should definitely make your list of LA destinations.  So ditch your tan lines and make the trip to El Pescador State Beach. 

 Little Dume Beach LITTLE DUME BEACH PHOTO: CANVA 

Little Dume Beach: A Secret Local’s Favorite

Just South of Point Dume, arguably one of the best ocean vistas in Los Angeles, Little Dume Beach is a true local spot with few public access points and a combination or rugged coastline and tranquil white sand beach.  For easy access, take Zumirez Dr. off of Pacific Coast Highway and continue on Zumirez Dr. to a small dirt parking lot just south of Little Dume beach.  If you’re up for an adventure, you might consider parking at Point Dume elementary school and hiking down via Walnut Canyon.  No matter your journey, Little Dume Beach should be a destination for your next LA adventure.  Feeling hangry after a few hours on the beach?  Make the trip south to Paradise Cove Cafe which offers a chilled atmosphere, great food, and boutique cocktails.   

Abalone Cove Park

ABALONE COVE PHOTO: CANVA

Abalone Cove Shoreline Park: Beachside Luxury Adventure

As you venture North along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll say goodbye to Malibu’s crunchy surf vibe and find yourself among mansions, golf courses, and luxury hotels in Palos Verdes.  Home to the exclusive Terrenea Resort, Palos Verdes has a reputation for natural beauty, amazing surf, and the best ocean views in LA County.  A true hidden gem, Palos Verdes has stayed off the map for tourist visitors thanks to the aggressive nature of the Lunada Bay Boys, a controversial group of mansion-owning surfers, and it’s rugged topography.  Abalone Cove Shoreline Park offers an accessible, family friendly stretch of rugged coastline with opportunities for hiking, tidepooling, and exploring numerous sea caves.  Just steps from the Pacific Coast Highway, the beach at Abalone Cove is accessible via a 2 mile hike (400 feet of elevation gain) on the Palos Verdes Penninsula. Head down to Sacred Cove for a secluded stretch of sand and an ideal snorkeling destination.  There’s plenty to explore from the private rocky beaches just south of Portugese Point, to the lush tidepools, and the nearby coastal kelp forest.  While not exactly your typical beach for sunbathing or laying out, Abalone Cove Shoreline Park is a great beach for the barefoot traveling gypsy, or wayward explorer looking for their next discovery. 

 Malibu surfer girl 

MALIBU SURFER PHOTO: CANVA

Topanga Lagoon: A Pocket Beach for Surfers, and Those Looking to Swipe Right...

While you won’t find Corey Mathews perusing the shoreline -  Boy Meets World anyone? - Topanga Lagoon is another locals beach just steps from the PCH and sandwiched between Santa Monica and Point Dume.  This small stretch of sand is in-frequented by tourists and is likely to be more secluded than other beaches to the North or South.  The lagoon itself is a small estuary from Topanga creek which offers hiking trails, ocean views, and easy access to Southern California wildlife.  Topanga Lagoon also offers easy access to the famous Reel Inn Malibu Fish shack and boutique wine bar at Rosenthal Patio.  Keep away from the crowds, and stay local with Topanga creek’s unique charm and secluded atmosphere. 

 

Malibu Life gaurd stand
 

MALIBU LIFE GAURD STAND PHOTO: CANVA

 Ratner Beach: A Secret Stretch for Ocean Go-ers

Yet another secluded stretch of beach along Malibu’s elegant coastline, Ratner Beach offers a chance for a happy medium between the more crowded Santa Monica, and the private Abalone Cove Shoreline Park.  Ratner Beach is a mixed sandy/rocky shoreline with all of the amenities from public restrooms to the luxury Mastro’s Ocean Club.  This exclusive restaurant offers specialty cocktails, panoramic ocean views, and fine dining.  Not your typical beach shack, you can expect to find a lot more than burgers and fries at Mastro’s Ocean Club, so grab your galpals and a few bottles of your favorite vintage.  Hands down, one of the best beaches in Los Angeles, Ratner Beach is great for a sunset stroll, a family day on the beach, or a romantic evening on the Pacific Ocean. 

 Seal Beach Pier

SEAL BEACH PHOTO: CANVA 

Seal Beach: Long Beach’s Wildlife Sanctuary

Sandwiched between Huntington and Long Beach, Seal Beach is a popular locals beach on the Pacific side of Bridgeport.  Named for the neighboring Wildlife Refuge, Seal Beach offers access to lazy days of sunbathing to hiking through one of Los Angeles’s last remaining salt marshes.  Conveniently located in Bridgeports’ seaside beachtown, there’s plenty of great places to hit the shops, grab a bite, and lounge over a few beers or specialty cocktails.  Ballast Point Brewery, a Southern California favorite, is a short walk or drive across Marina Drive to Alamitos Bay Marina Center.  Other local haunts include Beachwood BBQ, The Abbey’s hipster scene, and McKenna’s Tea Cottage.  Don’t miss a stroll through Electric Avenue Median Park or a visit to the Red Trolley Museum.  All in all, Seal Beach is a great spot for families, couples, and anyone looking to satiate their thirst for wanderlust.  

Rosie’s Dog Beach  

Rosie’s Dog Beach: A Dog owners paradise

While Los Angeles may have an abundance of beaches, coves, and lagoons, only one offers access for leashless paws.  Rosie’s Dog Beach is the only dog beach in LA and as a result you can expect some crowds.  That being said, if you’re looking for a place to party with your pooch, this might be the one.  Located on the Southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula, Rosie’s Dog Beach is a great option for any dog owner.  Club Ripples, just across East Ocean Blvd, is a raucous and flamboyant club scene where it’s just as likely to see a girl partying in her bikini, as a guy dancing his face off in a thong.  Who doesn’t love a gay bar?!  For a more conservative scene, check out the nearby Alfredo’s Beach club to the south and don’t miss Chronic Tacos, an insider’s favorite, just a few minutes to the North. 

What are you waiting for?  Charge your phone, fill up your tank, and grab your beach bag.  LA’s best beaches are just waiting to be discovered.  It’s time for an adventure. 

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