Do you think the vast majority of California beaches are simply tourist destinations with nothing extraordinary or interesting to offer? Many of them seem overrated, overcrowded and boring, but the state’s beaches are simply one of a kind and some are overlooked. Let’s see what you know about the most unique beaches in the Golden State. We have selected 10, and you are more than welcome to add your favorite California beach to the list.
1.Venice Beach, Venice
It’s a must-see when visiting Los Angeles. Noted for its soft sand and soaring palm trees, this sweeping beach stretches for over 3 miles—ideal for the essential three S’s: swimming, surfing and sunbathing. However, what makes Venice Beach unique is not just the beach itself but the activities around the Ocean Front Boardwalk—people come to walk and shop, see and be seen.
Venice Beach is famous for its open-air gym, where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained as a body builder for the competitions he later won as Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia. A stroll along the popular Boardwalk is one of L.A.’s most entertaining locations—grab a bag of popcorn, take a seat and watch the show go by. You’ll come across people from every walk of life, including singers, artists, contortionists, musicians, weirdos, jugglers, acrobats, fortune tellers, story tellers, CD vendors, sculptors, beautiful people and the beautifully challenged. To enjoy a day of sports activities, the beach is dotted with tennis and basketball courts, along with areas set up for beach volleyball. There are also bike paths and a skateboard park. Summers are festive and packed, and there are shows of every kind at each street intersection.
Tip: Beware of pickpockets and persistent CD vendors.
2. Bowling Ball Beach, Pacific Coast Hwy 1
You’ll discover a stretch of unusual beach just south of Point Arena in Northern California. What makes this location so unique is the series of giant “bowling balls” that the receding tide reveals at certain points along the beach. Hundreds of them have the same density, size and the volume, and geologists have named them “concretions:” rounded masses of mineral matter occurring in sandstone, clay, etc., that form in sediment before solidifying in concentric layers.
Animal life is also abundant, if you know where to look. From hermit crabs and snails, lurking in between the rocks, to the colorful red and green sea anemones and small rockfish in the tidal pools at low tide, children and parents alike will enjoy entertaining hours of discovery.
Tip: Don’t stray too close to the cliffs; the area is prone to landslides and rocks may tumble down without any warnings.
3. Glass Beach, Ft Bragg
The famous Glass Beach in Northern California was actually formed by the locals, who used to dump rubbish on the beach from the 1940s to as late as the 1960s. Over the decades, the pounding of the waves has transformed the glass remnants into something beautiful and unusual: perfectly smooth, pebble-sized pieces that reflect shades of white, red, brown, green, blue and amber.
Its uniqueness, however, is also becoming its undoing. Despite being a state park to ensure that Glass Beach remains for others to enjoy in the future, many visitors ignore the signs that prohibit the collecting of the glass and selfishly remove it by the bag-full.
Tip: Please be considerate and respect the beauty of the beach, otherwise there will no longer be Glass Beach.
4. Rockaway Beach, Pacifica
It’s the quintessential, sleepy hideaway on the gorgeous Northern California coast, and some say it’s the best-kept secret. Located in the town of Pacifica, Roackaway Beach exhibits an unusual yet beautiful, dark brown color. This natural occurrence is due to the erosion of the bluish-grey limestone that mixes with the volcanic greenstone around the beach. The views of the ocean are also breathtaking, and visitors can enjoy their beloved beach activities amid a serene atmosphere.
Tip: The rough waters off Pacifica also make it a surfer’s paradise.
5. Luffenholtz Beach, Trinidad
Luffenholtz Beach is a spectacular, rocky cove with numerous tidal pools and reefs to explore and discover the sea creatures within them. This living science museum will keep kids occupied for hours, along with Luffenholtz Creek, which flows into Trinidad Bay. The park also offers a sweeping panorama of the vast Pacific Ocean, with a look-out point at Houda Point for watching the sun set over Camel Rock offshore.
Tip: Trinidad’s Moonstone Beach is a favorite surfing spot among the locals.
6. Black Sand Beach, Golden Gate Recreation Area
If you don’t have a chance to make it to Hawaii, this is the closest you can get to a black sand beach. The reason for its charcoal color is due to the blending of a magnetite and a dark amphibole mineral known as “hornblende.” There are two other known black sand beaches in California; one is in San Diego and the other is two hours north of Glass Beach in Shelter Cove.
Tip: Keep in mind that it’s a steep hike up and down to the beach. Moreover, it’s not only a natural wonder, but it’s also a nudist beach. Don’t forget to bring sunblock if you feel the need to bear your skin to the wind.
7. Oceano Dunes Beach, Oceano
This beach is a one-of-a-kind because it’s the only California beach where you can drive onto it and actually park. There are plenty of sand dunes that make it easy and popular for off-riders to maneuver. There is also an array of activities to do, such as surfing, swimming, horseback riding and bird watching. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to drive on the beach, then this is the place to visit.
Tip: Passenger cars should stay at the northern end of the beach, and be careful of the ocean’s strong rip currents.
8. Piedras Blancas Beach, San Simeon
Piedras Blancas” is the most accessible beach for elephant seal watching. Mother Nature has provided these robust marine mammals with protection from storms, high water and sea predators. It’s really an experience to spend hours observing them swimming, doing flips in the waves, snuggling up against each other, chortling and rolling around on the sand. Males assert their pecking order with macho, chest-bumping zest, and you’ll quickly figure out who’s really boss when these big mounds of blubbery bodies quickly make room for Big Daddy to pick his spot.
Tip: Visit all year long except in August and September when there are hardly any seals.
9. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
The color of the sand is unique in that it reflects the watercolor hues of purple, pink and lavender. This unspoiled beach gets its particular shade from the abundance of manganese garnet particles washing down from the rocky hills. The rugged and dramatic offshore rock formations enhance the contrasts to this already unbelievably beautiful landscape. The further you walk down the beach, the denser the colors become. Virtually unknown to seasoned tourists, it’s very well worth the visit if you are in the area.
Tip: It’s a bit tricky to find. Look for the unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road. It’s the only paved, non-gated road that’s west of Highway One (between the Big Sur post office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park). Once spotting the turnout, make a very sharp turn and then follow the road for about two miles until it ends.
10. Silver Strand Beach, San Diego
Have you ever seen silver sand? This 2.5 mile beach gets its name from the silvery oyster shells that cover the beach and dunes. You’ll also discover many clams buried in the sand. The beach also offers overnight RV camping, picnic areas, bathroom and shower facilities plus fantastic shell collecting. Beach activities include surfing, swimming, body boarding, jet skiing, sailing and water skiing, as well as fishing and beach volleyball.
Tip: There are about 130 first-come, first-serve campsites.