From the rugged Washington coastline to the enviable shores of Southern California, West Coast beaches offer visitors a stunning array of beautiful choices for their next seaside getaway. While Pacific Coast beaches have markedly colder water than beaches along the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast, there is plenty to see and do.
1.Thousand Steps Beach
One of the largest beaches in South Laguna Beach, Thousand Steps Beach, is a wide, natural sand beach nestled along iconic Pacific Coast Highway. Contrary to its name, visitors will only need to climb down 223 stairs to reach the sand from the highway. It offers visitors a wealth of outdoor activities include sunbathing, surfing, skim-boarding, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The beach is also home to tide pools and several caves available for exploration, including a large cave on the southern end of the beach that can only be entered when the tide is out exposing its entrance. The cave acts as a tunnel opening out onto a small, rocky cove on the other end.
9th Avenue & Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA, Phone: 949-497-9229
2.Cama Beach State Beach
Located on Camano Island’s southwest shore, Cama Beach faces the Saratoga Passage on north Puget Sound. Offering visitors the chance to take a step back in time, the beach has perfectly preserved, renovated, and modernized the 1930s-era fishing resort and auto court. These waterfront cedar bungalows and cabins are equipped with contemporary amenities and conveniences as well as scenic vistas of the Olympic Mountains, Saratoga Passage, and Whidbey Island. Aside from the cozy accommodations the beach also offers a variety of activities including swimming, scuba diving, fishing, crabbing, boating, sailing, wildlife viewing, and 15 miles of hiking trails. This includes a one-mile-long trail connecting to Camano Island State Park.
1880 W Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA, Phone: 360-387-1550
Cannon Beach is an affluent resort town with several incredible restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and oceanfront lodging, as well as four major parks including Haystack Hill State Park. It is most well-known for its landmark, Haystack Rock – an igneous rock that stands at an elevation of 235 feet. A tiny cave system pierces the rock; it is visible from the coastline located southwest of the city’s downtown area. There are also two giant rocks that stick straight up out of the water nearby. Though not always the case, Haystack Rock is typically accessible to visitors by foot during low-tide, this is especially true during the summer months.
207 N Spruce Street, Cannon Beach, OR, Phone: 503-436-2623
4.Cape Disappointment State Beach
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Cape Disappointment State Beach is a 2,032-acre camping park situated along the Long Beach Peninsula, overlooking where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River. The park features a diverse landscape of Oceanside tidelands, old-growth forest, freshwater marshes, saltwater marshes, and freshwater lakes. As a part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, the grounds are home to The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It features exhibits about the 1803-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, the U.S. Coast Guard, lighthouses, and military activities, as well as local, natural, and maritime history. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and North Head Lighthouse are also worth a visit.
244 Robert Gray Drive, IIwaco, WA, Phone: 888-226-7688
5.Carlsbad State Beach
One of the most popular beaches in San Diego, Carlsbad State Beach, also known as Tamarack Surf Beach, is situated along the famous Pacific Coast Highway from Oak Avenue to Cannon Road. There are multiple access points along the beach including stairwells at Tamarack Avenue, Cherry Avenue, Maple Avenue, Sycamore Avenue, and Pine Avenue. This beach is most notable for its legendary, consistent surf and expansive camping grounds with 220 camping sites. Other popular activities include fishing, swimming, bodysurfing, hiking, and beachcombing. This 44-acre park also provides several amenities including showers and bathrooms as well as water, electricity, Wi-Fi, and a camp store.
7201 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-438-3143
One of the first leash-free beaches in the U.S., Dog Beach is a nationally famous beach and treasured landmark of the iconic Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego. Situated where the I-8 ends at the opening of the San Diego River, the beach caters to pets and their people as well as surfers and beach lovers who don’t mind an occasional sniff when greeting. On any given day visitors will see dogs of varying shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds running freely around the sand or out catching some waves with their parents. All dogs must be collared with a current license and are required to have proper up-to-date vaccinations. Owners are responsible for picking up after their dogs.
Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach, CA, Phone: 619-236-1242
A former military base designed to protect the Puget Sound, Fort Worden is a legendary and beloved state park located in the charming town of Fort Townsend. Spanning two miles of gorgeous saltwater shoreline, the beach offers magnificent views of the San Juan Islands, Olympic Mountains, and the Cascade Mountain Range. The Fort itself features a campus-like atmosphere with several amazing meeting spaces, delicious dining options, and comfortable accommodations among more than 100 historic structures. It is a popular place for people to gather to participate in woodworking classes, music events, and art festivals, as well as several outdoor activities like camping, kayaking, biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
200 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA, Phone: 360-344-4400
Located in MacKerricher State Park, Glass Beach is an iconic Fort Bragg beach known for its sea glass shoreline. This was created from years of using the area as a dump site in the early 1900s. By 1967, it was closed down and cleanup programs began to fix the environmental damage. Over the next few decades the continual onslaught of waves from the Pacific Ocean wore down the discarded glass turning it into the smooth, magnificent colored sea glass covering its coast today. A wide path leads to the shore from a parking area off West Elm Street, and there are a few hiking trails both north and south of the beach. Removing sea glass is prohibited.
345 N Franklin Street, Fort Bragg, CA, Phone: 707-964-9010
9.Horsfall Beach Campground
Located roughly two miles north of Coos Bay, Horsfall Beach Campground is nestled in the heart of Oregon’s Pacific coastline in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This natural area is most famous for its 47 miles of towering, wind-sculpted sand dunes, 500 feet above sea level covering nearly 1,100 acres of land that’s bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and flourishing forests to the east. The number one activity at Horsfall is off-roading, open riding zones and off-road trails are located north of the campground. Other popular activities include swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing as well as hiking and horseback riding along The Wild Mare Horse Trail #4500.
Horsefall Beach Road, North Bend, OR, Phone: 541-271-6000
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10.Jetty Island Park
Situated 30 minutes north of Seattle, Jetty Island Park is a small, manmade, two-mile-long island off the Everett waterfront. It has fast become one of the best beaches in the Pacific Northwest for kiteboarding. This half-mile wide beach features shallow, warmer waters that are ideal for kite surfers from beginner to expert. The conditions are only aided by the predictable and steady sea breezes that kick up every afternoon into the early evening from April to September. There is also a small, gently sloping beach on the island’s west side available for those who prefer wading in Puget Sound’s warm waters. Jetty Island also provides sanctuary for 45 bird species.
1205 Craftsman Way #200, Everett, WA, Phone: 800-729-7678
11.La Jolla Cove
A local treasure, La Jolla Cove is the most well-known and arguably the most visited attraction in the affluent neighborhood of La Jolla. It’s known for its crystal-clear, warm water, spirited sea lions, and breathtaking sunsets. Surrounded by majestic, towering cliffs, the cove is popular for swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. It is also home to a marine refuge area known as the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, which includes a series of sea caves known as the Seven Caves. Several nearby adventure companies offer guided kayak tours to these famous caves including the infamous Sunny Jim Cave which also offers street access via a staircase at the Cave Store, the Seven Caves gift shop for a small fee. The Children’s Pool is another highlight of La Jolla Cove.
2 John Jay Hopkins Drive, La Jolla, CA, Phone: 858-534-8569
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Located in the land of the Quileutes in Clallam County, Washington, La Push Beach is a collection of three beaches - First, Second, and Third. The northernmost shore is home to First Beach, a small, crescent shaped beach located on the Quileute Indian Reservation 14 miles from the small town of Forks. Second Beach begins at the Reservation and stretches for one mile; it is the flattest, longest, and most populated of all three beaches, but it isn’t accessible from either beach to its north or south. Third Beach is the most secluded; it requires a 1.6-mile hike to reach its shores. It features a waterfall, tide pools, and several hiking trails.
90 Main Street, La Push, WA, Phone: 360-374-6154
A classic SoCal beach, Manhattan Beach is situated in southwestern Los Angeles County. With 2.1 miles of impressive waterfront coastline, the beach is a popular hot spot for surfing and beach volleyball. The best surf spots are El Porto and the Pier. The beach is cleaned and groomed each day and there are lifeguard stations positioned along the entire stretch of coast. It also features the South Bay Bicycle Trail, which is a paved pathway that runs parallel to the shoreline directly in the middle of the beach. Visitors can walk, jog, and bike along this walkway. The beach is also populated by several mouthwatering restaurants and chic boutiques.
400-500 The Strand, Manhattan Beach, CA, Phone: 310-305-9503
One of the most popular beaches in San Diego, Mission Beach is a lively and energetic family beach with a nearly two-mile oceanfront boardwalk that connects to equally famous Pacific Beach. This beach offers a wealth of outdoor activities including surfing, boogie boarding, scuba diving, sport fishing, whale watching, bicycling, roller-blading, and beach volleyball. It is also home to historic Belmont Park, a small boardwalk amusement park featuring the iconic Giant Dipper Roller Coaster among other incredible rides. Miniature golf, rock climbing, bumper cars, laser tag, and an expansive arcade are more fun things to do here. There are also several waterfront restaurants and bars surrounding the beach.
Mission Bay Boulevard, San Diego, CA, Phone: 619-236-1242
15.Ocean Shores Beach
Located along Washington’s southwest coast, Ocean Shores Beach is a flat, broad, natural sand beach that dominates the Point Brown peninsula. Known for “beach-driving,” it can sometimes appear more like a parking lot than a beach on its northern end. Visitors are encouraged to head to the southern end of the beach where the North Jetty is located to enjoy a stroll, as there is far less beach traffic here. This section of beach is also popular for naturalists as its common to spot marine life such as harbor seals as well as several local and migratory birds such as thin-billed murre, shearwaters, and kittiwakes.
835 Ocean Shores Boulevard NW, Ocean Shores, WA, Phone: 360-289-2447
16.Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
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Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is situated along the Oregon Coast, spanning roughly 40 miles from Coos River to Siuslaw River. It is the largest stretch of coastal sand dunes in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. With many of the sand dunes reaching towering heights of more than 500 feet above sea level, off-roading is the most popular activity here. Camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and photography are also common activities in the Recreation Area. Several species of birds call the Oregon Dunes home, making it an excellent place for wildlife viewing opportunities. The White-tailed Kite, the Great Horned Owl, and the Western Snowy Plover are just a few bird species found in the dunes.
855 US-101, Reedsport, OR, Phone: 541-271-6000
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Located off-the-beaten-path, Pfeiffer Beach is situated just slightly south of Big Sur Station along Highway 1 at the end of an unsigned road known as Sycamore Canyon Road. This two-mile paved road is narrow and twisty, making it inaccessible (and prohibited) to trailers and RVs. For those traveling by car, there is a small parking area near the end of the road. From there it’s a brisk walk down to this incredible purple sand beach; its unique color comes from the manganese garnet rocks found in the cliffs surrounding the north end. Not a popular watersport destination, the beach is most well-known for its landmark feature, Keyhole Rock, a gorgeous natural arch, and its tide pools.
Sycamore Canyon Road, Big Sur, CA, Phone: 805-434-1996
Nestled between Los Angeles and San Francisco along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, Pismo Beach is an authentic beach town located on California’s central coast. The neighborhood is known for its long, picturesque white-sand beaches, awe-inspiring sunsets, and fabulous, near-perfect weather. Popular activities include surfing, body boarding, fishing, horseback riding, golfing, and four-wheeling along their scenic sand dunes. Adjacent to the Pismo Pier is the award-winning boardwalk, an ideal place to enjoy a leisurely stroll. The area is also known for its incredible wineries and Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Visitors are encouraged to visit the California Welcome Center to get the inside scoop on the city and its attractions.
1 Pismo Beach, Pismo Beach, CA, Phone: 805-473-7220
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Rialto Beach is located on Washington’s West Coast near Olympic National Park. The scenic beach is known for pounding waves, giant driftwood logs, massive sea stacks, and rocky shoreline. The beach is backed by Mora Campground and dense coastal forest with towering trees. There are tons of headlands, inlets, and coves to explore, including the “Sisters,” a pair of rock monoliths. Low tide reveals anemones, sea stars, sea urchins, and more in numerous tide pools. This wild beach is known for rogue waves that drench unsuspecting visitors. Also, it’s not uncommon for beachgoers to get trapped by high tides while exploring sea caves, so visitors should watch tidal charts when planning an outing.
18113 Upper Hoh Road, Forks, WA, Phone: 360-374-6925
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Rockaway Beach is where the ocean meets the mountains. This section of the northern Oregon coastline is the place to discover the wonders of nature, have an outdoor adventure, and take in the ocean air. Two sea stacks join together to make Twin Rocks, an 88-foot-tall, 35-foot-long geologic formation that can be observed while strolling the beach or, for another perspective, from a helicopter. There are numerous beach activities for visitors to join in like beachcombing for natural keepsakes at low tide, or tidepooling. Beach fishing for salmon, trout, bass, and crab is popular. Hiking Munson Creek Falls and Kilches Point Reserve south of the beach offers another fun outdoor experience.
103 S. 1st Street, Rockaway Beach, OR, Phone: 503-355-8108
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Ruby Beach is one of Washington State’s most beautiful beaches. Located in Olympic National Park, it’s a protected area, so photos and memories will be the only things to take home from your beach experience. One of the coolest aspects of the beach is the large rock formations called sea stacks. Not only are they gorgeous, but some have holes (tidal windows), and others are arched. During low tide, there are several tide pools among them to explore. Another beach feature visitors will like is the amount of driftwood on the beach making for both cool photos and ambience, but also fun things to climb and play with for the kids. A low-tide sandbar creating a natural children’s pool is the frosting on top.
1411 S Forks Avenue, Forks, WA, Phone: 360-374-2531
Seaside Beach is part of Monterey State Beach. This is a beach visitors come to for strolling or beachcombing, rather than a place to bring the family for a swim. Strong rip currents along the coast here make swimming inadvisable, but there are lifeguards on duty during summer. Strong surfers will appreciate this section of beach, as will bodyboarders. Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, a paved bike path, backs the beach and offers opportunities for biking and skating. Several sand dunes add to the ambience and fun of Seaside Beach. This beach is protected due to it being an endangered species habitat, so no dogs are allowed.
Canyon Del Rey Boulevard and Sand Dunes Drive, Seaside, CA, Phone: 831-649-2836
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23.Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge
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As part of the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge straddles the Siletz River that empties into Siletz Bay. Visitors will find an estuarine habitat with mudflats, brackish marsh, salt marsh, tidal sloughs, and forests. Those who love to get out on the water will appreciate the new boat launch for non-motorized boats like canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. Half-mile-long Alder Island Nature Trail provides easy walking into the refuge where there is also the Wildlife Viewing Station. The Refuge is a great place for bird watching, photography, guided nature tours, wildlife viewing, and seasonal hunting.
540 NE Highway 101, Lincoln City, OR, Phone: 541-994-3302
Stinson Beach is about a half-hour north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge next to Mt. Tamalpais State Park. This popular getaway is a great place for treasure hunting, beachcombing, sandcastle building, bird watching, and scanning the ocean for whales, seals, and dolphins. It’s also a good place to swim, surf, and fish. The beach is wide and flat for a romantic sunset stroll, and the shallow water is perfect for kids. Rock formations and Muir Woods behind the beach make this a great place to photograph too. Stinson Beach has bathroom facilities and a small snack shack.
3785 Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach, CA, Phone: 415-561-4700
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25.Torrey Pines State Reserve
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Nestled between two wildly popular beach communities – La Jolla and Delmar, California, Torrey Pines State Beach is a popular vacation attraction in San Diego’s North County. The beach is sandy with rocky patches that sunbathers, surfers, and swimmers flock to during summer. It’s backed by the stunning Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve with its sandstone cliffs and rare Torrey pine trees. A walk along this long stretch of beach reveals the grandeur of the reserve. Visitors should stay back from the cliffs while walking or lounging on the beach, because they are unstable and can send large chunks of rock crashing down without notice. There is ample paid parking, bathrooms, and showers.
12600 N Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA, Phone: 858-755-2063
25 Best West Coast Beaches
- Thousand Steps Beach, Photo: steffstarr/stock.adobe.com
- Cama Beach State Beach, Photo: DmitriK/stock.adobe.com
- Cannon Beach, Photo: tusharkoley/stock.adobe.com
- Cape Disappointment State Beach, Photo: Jo Ann Snover/stock.adobe.com
- Carlsbad State Beach, Photo: sherryvsmith/stock.adobe.com
- Dog Beach, Photo: vivalapenler/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Worden, Photo: jokerpro/stock.adobe.com
- Glass Beach, Photo: wollertz/stock.adobe.com
- Horsfall Beach Campground, Photo: allexxandarx/stock.adobe.com
- Jetty Island Park, Photo: natalya2015/stock.adobe.com
- La Jolla Cove, Photo: daniel/stock.adobe.com
- La Push, Photo: Iriana Shiyan/stock.adobe.com
- Manhattan Beach, Photo: Dmitrii/stock.adobe.com
- Mission Beach, Photo: Chee/stock.adobe.com
- Ocean Shores Beach, Photo: ksl/stock.adobe.com
- Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Photo: Rob Mutch Photo/stock.adobe.com
- Pfeiffer Beach, Photo: Matthew/stock.adobe.com
- Pismo Beach, Photo: ahfotos/stock.adobe.com
- Rialto Beach, Photo: Telly/stock.adobe.com
- Rockaway Beach, Photo: pngstudio/stock.adobe.com
- Ruby Beach, Photo: pabrady63/stock.adobe.com
- Seaside Beach, Photo: ellensmile/stock.adobe.com
- Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Kelly Headrick/stock.adobe.com
- Stinson Beach, Photo: Tupungato/stock.adobe.com
- Torrey Pines State Reserve, Photo: Aleksei Potov/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Gleb Tarassenko/stock.adobe.com