Central California's
Best Beaches

From San Francisco to Pismo Beach

California Central Coast Beaches Index




Santa Cruz County Beaches


Waddell Beach

Davenport Beaches

  • Scott Creek Beach
  • Davenport Landing Beach
  • Davenport Beach
  • Shark Fin Cove

Coast Dairies Beaches

  • Bonny Doon Beach
  • Yellowbank/Panther Beach
  • Hole in the Wall
  • Laguna Creek

Wilder Ranch Beaches

  • 4 Mile Beach
  • 3 Mile Beach
  • Strawberry Beach
  • Sand Plant Beach
  • Fern Grotto
  • Wilder Beach

Natural Bridges Beach

Santa Cruz Beaches

  • Cowell Beach
  • Santa Cruz Beach

Twin Lakes Beach   Capitola Beach

New Brighton Beach

Seacliff Beach   Manresa Beach   Sunset Beach

N. Monterey County Beaches


Monterey Dunes Beaches

  • Zmudowski Beach
  • Moss Landing Beach
  • Salinas River Beach
  • Marina Beach

Monterey Beaches

  • Ford Ord Dunes Beach
  • Monterey Beach
  • Del Monte Beach

Asilomar Beach


Carmel Beaches

  • Carmel Beach
  • Carmel River Beach
  • Monastery Beach

Point Lobos

  • Point Lobos
  • Soberanes Point
  • Garrapata Beach

© 2015, California's Best Beaches, all rights reserved



San Francisco County Beaches


San Francisco Beaches

  • Marshall Beach
  • Baker Beach
  • China Beach
  • Marshall Beach
  • Burton Beach
  • Thornton Beach

Ocean Beach


San Mateo County Beaches


Pacifica Beaches

  • Sharp Park
  • Rockaway Beach
  • Pacifica (Linda Mar) Beach

Montara Beaches

  • Gray Whale Cove Beach
  • Montara Beach
  • Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Half Moon Bay Beaches

  • Roosevelt Beach
  • Dunes Beach
  • Venice Beach
  • Francis Beach
  • Cowell Ranch Beach

San Mateo Beaches

  • San Gregorio Beach
  • Pomponio Beach
  • Pescadero Beach
  • Pebble Beach
  • Bean Hollow Beach

Aņo Nuevo State Park


S. Monterey County Beaches


Big Sur Beaches

  • Andrew Molera State Park Beach
  • Pfeiffer Beach

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Southern Big Sur Beaches

  • Limekiln Beach
  • Kirk Creek Beach
  • Mill Creek Beach
  • Sand Dollar Beach
  • Jade Cove
  • Willow Creek Beach


    San Luis Obispo County Beaches


Avila Beach

  • Avila Beach
  • Olde Port San Luis Beach
  • Fisherman's Beach
  • Pirate's Cove

Pismo Beach

  • Pismo Beach
  • Shell Beach
  • Oceano SVRA Beach

Wm. R. Hearst Beach

  • Wm. R. Hearst Memorial State Beach
  • Piedras Blancas

Hearst San Simeon State Park

  • San Simeon Beach
  • Leffingwell Landing
  • Moonstone Beach

Morro Bay Beaches

  • Morro Rock Beach
  • Sandspit Beach
  • Coleman Beach
  • Spooner's Cove
  • Morro Strand Beach
  • Cayucos Beach

The Best Beaches for . . .

Surfing   Family Fun   Camping   Fishing   Diving   Wildlife   Scenery

Great Play in the Sand and Surf
Family Beaches


All California beaches have dangerous rip-currents and other hazards. Children playing near or in the surf should be supervised at all times.

  • Seacliff Beach

    - usually gentle surf, convenient and plentiful facilities, including restrooms, snack bar, showers, pier with cement boat, and shaded picnic areas.
  • Capitola Beach

    - good facilities, wharf, close to shops and restaurants in Capitola, family atmosphere.
  • Santa Cruz Beach

    - crowded in the summer, but lots of fun for kids, next to the Boardwalk, pier, good facilities
  • Monterey Beaches

    - close to El Estero Park, wharf, bike trail, lots of room along a narrow beach, usually gentle surf, close to Monterey shops and restaurants
  • Carmel Beach

    - Bring your dog and let it run free, close to shops and restaurants, broad sandy beach, campfires allowed on the beach, free parking
  • Half Moon Bay State Beach

    - Roosevelt, Dunes, Venice, and Francis - a long expanse of sand, good facilities, easy access; Francis Beach has the best facilities, including a big picnic area, outdoor showers, and a lifeguard
  • Avila Beach

    - protected beach, gentle surf, facilities nearby.
  • Pismo Beach

    - long expanse of sand with easy access and plenty of nearby facilities

Some of the Best Surfing Beaches


  • Cowell Beach

    - Steamer Lane, one of the premier surfing destinations in Northern California
  • Waddell Beach

    - Site of the 2009 Grade-3 Oakley Pro Junior ASP North America Championships, compete with kitesurfers, but great waves
  • Carmel River Beach

    - often has good surfing, a favorite of locals
  • Ocean Beach

    - consistently good surfing, especially at the north end. Dangerous rip-currents
  • Pacifica (Linda Mar) Beach

    - always busy with surfers, good facilities nearby, easy access.
  • Scott Creek Beach

    (Davenport) - reliable waves at the north end of the beach
  • Asilomar Beach

    (Monterey) - best surfing at south end, good year-round
  • Sand Dollar Beach

    (Big Sur) - best in the fall, plenty of room to spread out

Popular Diving Beaches




Best Wildlife Viewing Beaches





Camping Beaches

North to South


  • Francis Beach

    (Half Moon Bay) - camp almost on the beach at Half Moon Bay Beach State Park, best suited for RVs, but there are several tent-only sites.
  • New Brighton Beach

    (Santa Cruz) - great family camping on bluff above the beach
  • Seacliff Beach

    (Aptos) - RV camping in paved sites that face the beach
  • Manresa Beach

    (Watsonville) - walk-in, tent sites on bluff near the beach, well developed campground
  • Sunset Beach

    (Watsonville) - several campgrounds among the trees on bluff well above the beach, great facilities
  • Andrew Molera State Park

    (Big Sur) - walk-in campsites, no reservations, forest and meadow setting, within easy distance of the beach
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

    (Big Sur) - perhaps the two finest campsites on the coast, walk-in, environmental sites, overlooking McWay Cove and the Big Sur coast
  • Kirk Creek Beach

    (Big Sur) - on a bluff overlooking Kirk Creek Beach and the Big Sur coast, meadow sites, no water
  • Limekiln Beach

    (Big Sur) - nice tent sites among the redwoods away from the beach, RV and tent sites closer to the shore.
  • Hearst San Simeon State Park

    (north of Morro Bay) - tent and RV sites, many close enough to walk to the beach
  • Morro Bay State Park

    - camp along the shore of Morro Bay with views of Morro Rock and easy access to kayaking and hiking
  • Pismo Beach

    - camp in one of two campgrounds within walking distance of the beach or at nearby Oceano Beach right on the sand.

Best Fishing Beaches


  • Sharp Park

    - Pacifica's Sharp Park pier has the reputation as the best fishing spot along the coast
  • Avila Beach

    - reputed to be the best fishing pier along the central coast, open 24 hours, good facilities
  • Pismo Beach

    - one of the most popular fishing piers along the central coast, great facilities, easy access
  • Half Moon Bay Beaches

    - things get wild in late spring and summer when the surf smelt run
  • Capitola Beach

    - fishing from the wharf is always a great experience and often rewarded with big catches
  • Gray Whale Cove

    - enjoyable surf fishing
  • Moss Landing Beach

    - get out on the jetty for some really rewarding fishing
  • Ocean Beach

    - surf fishing for stripers, perch and halibut
  • Seacliff Beach

    - fish off the pier out by the old cement boat
  • Santa Cruz Beach

    - opportunities for fishing all the way out the half mile long wharf

Scenic Beaches


  • McWay Cove in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

    - McWay Falls spills 80 feet onto the beach, unspoiled, spectacular, a must stop when driving the Big Sur coast.
  • Point Lobos

    - rugged coastal rocks, crashing waves, coves, beaches, and islands - there's something spectacular around every bend in the trail
  • Shark Fin Cove

    - photographers know this place, just south of Davenport - breathtaking rocks rising out of the surf
  • Baker Beach

    - bring your camera for fabulous shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin headlands.
  • Natural Bridges Beach

    - the big arches have collapsed, but the rocks, the surf, the monarch butterflies, and the tide pools draw thousands every year
  • Spooner's Cove

    - in Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay. Beautiful secluded beach with rugged shoreline
  • Gray Whale Cove

    - this scenic little beach hides at the bottom of a long stairway - soaring cliffs, crashing surf, and sparkling sand
  • Pfeiffer Beach

    - one of the best in Big Sur, purple sand, towering rocks with passages for waves to come crashing through
  • Wilder Ranch Beaches

    - hike along this rugged coast to less-often visited beaches such as Sand Plant and 3-Mile Beach. Visit Fern Grotto Cave.


Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly."
Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

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