With summer’s end on the horizon, there’s no better way to spend the steadily shortening days than by dipping your toes in the surf on a sunny California beach. Whether you’re lucky enough to live in the Golden State or are seeking a beach escape that’s a quick domestic flight away, we’ve compiled eight of California’s best beaches to explore before summer’s over.
La Jolla Cove
This tiny stretch of sand tucked among the breathtaking cliffs of San Diego’s famous seaside La Jolla community is the perfect spot for swimmers seeking calm waters. A small deep-water bay, the cove offers waters teeming with sea creatures for the intrepid snorkeler.
Featured in the iconic Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like It Hot, Coronado Beach is an iconic California staple, just a short drive over its namesake bridge from San Diego. (And Inspirato members can look forward to the member clambake next year, held annually on Coronado Beach.)
Doheny State Beach
This family-friend beach in low-key Dana Point is away from the typical tourist hubbub and favored by surfers. For a true California experience, camp in one of the myriad spaces available—is there anything better than waking up right on the ocean?
Thousand Steps Beach
This wide swath of sand in the upscale enclave of Laguna Beach is tucked away but well worth a visit. Tide pools dot the shore—spotting critters makes for a fun science lesson with the kids. You can also get in a quick workout by hustling up and down the steps the beach was named after.
Santa Monica Beach
Surfers delight in this quintessentially Californian beach just south of Los Angeles in sunny Santa Monica. It’s divided into two sections—north of the pier and south of the pier—and offers a huge expanse of sand for sunbathing or lounging. Explore the pier itself, where an amusement park, aquarium, and restaurants await. (Some of these attractions are currently closed due to COVID-19, but we’re eagerly awaiting their reopening.)
This beach in Big Sur is known and often photographed for its occasionally purple sand, caused by runoff from the minerals in the surrounding cliffs. Catching a stunner of a sunset through Keyhole Rock, the beach’s most recognizable sight, feels like approaching an ethereal doorway to another world.
(Bonus tip: Nearby McWay Beach, on the other side of the state park in which Pfeiffer Beach is found, is one of the most famous sights on the California coastline. Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow visitors direct access to preserve its pristine beauty—but it’s well worth a drive or stroll past to see it in person.)