With hundreds of miles of coastline, it's not surprising that there's no shortage of beaches along the edge of the Pacific. Here are eight favorites, listed north (colder water but wildly beautiful) to south (warm waves and bronzed bodies).
MACKERRICHER STATE PARK BEACH
With a rocky coastline along much of Northern California, this rare gem has 9mi/14km of wild and uncrowded shoreline. Explore on foot or horseback.
SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK
From beach volleyball and athletic surfers to a lively beach boardwalk flled with amusement rides, this place is irresistible. The broad and beautiful beach is perfect for making sand castles.
POINT LOBOS STATE NATURAL RESERVE
Hike across trails to rocky outcroppings along the shore. Discover anemones and more in fabulous rock pools and picnic on tiny, secluded beaches.
Visit this elephant seal rookery, where the giant creatures hang out in the winter months. Year-round, take guided tours of the nearby light station.
SANTA MONICA PIER
Take a spin on a solar-powered Ferris Wheel, stroll along Ocean Front Walk, rollerblade on the South Bay Bicycle Trail right at the edge of the sand, take a bite of fresh-spun candyfoss and relax on this oceanfront pier and stunning beach. All that and beautiful Santa Monica too!
CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK
Marvel at the sunset and then spend the night in one of 46 vintage cottages (no phone, no TV) right on the beach.
SAN ELIJO STATE BEACH
Oceanfront camping doesn't get any closer to the ocean than this. Snare a site at the bluff's edge above the Pacific.
Kids go crazy at this fun beach, where they can skateboard on the cement boardwalk (or just watch other cool kids do it), then catch a rollercoaster ride.