Best California Beach (2015)


The votes are in, and the results of the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest for Best California Beach prove that you needn't stray far from L.A. to find a perfect stretch of sand.

  • Huntington Beach

    Huntington Beach
    Huntington Beach

    “Surf City USA” is the apt nickname for Huntington Beach, home to a line-up of attractive beaches popular with surfers. But this is no “Hey, man,” town with ragged edges. Hotels, restaurants and tourism are big. Surfing goes glam at The International Surfing Museum and the US Open of Surfing, hosted at Huntington Beach annually. Family tourism is big here; even teens don’t lose points for hanging with the ‘rents.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California

  • Hermosa Beach

    Hermosa Beach
    Los Angeles

    If a beach could be named as urban supermodel of beaches, Hermosa Beach would be in the running. Notably clean sand, an abundance of volley ball courts, a notable absence of frivolous tourist junk – all these earn thumbs-up. Hermosa also has The Strand, a paved, multi-use trail running for miles, attracting bikers and hikers who are actually there to exercise. Inline skates and even jogging strollers can be rented nearby.
    Photo courtesy of Thomas Sebourn

  • Capitola Beach

    Capitola Beach
    Santa Cruz

    Cunning beach cottages with white picket fences meld with downtown surf shops, small boutiques and good cafés. Margaritaville’s deck sprawls onto beach. This yesteryear beach village is a favorite with Bay Area locals. The beach is less windy than others in the area with swim-friendly water. Sandcastle practice is ongoing for September’s big contest.
    Photo courtesy of TimCatteraPhoto

  • Manhattan Beach

    Manhattan Beach
    Manhattan Beach

    Manhattan Beach has been called one of the sexiest beaches in the U.S. The two-mile long pretty LA County beach alone could qualify. Add in well-toned bodies lazing on the sand and sleek glistening bodies leaping for a beach volleyball, and things look even better. Multimillion dollar beachfront homes offer even more eye candy. Facts are indisputable: Manhattan Beach is hot!
    Photo courtesy of Stella Levi

  • East Beach

    East Beach
    Santa Barbara

    East Beach appears like a vision in downtown Santa Barbara – a beach bordered by palm trees that seems to spring up from the town. It’s a beach to tote morning coffee to, or take a contemplative walk. Rarely crowded, it’s prime for swimming, kayaking or snacks on Stern’s Wharf. Deciding to embrace this beach for life is a dream that could be dashed by average Santa Barbara home price of $2.2 million.
    Photo courtesy of Damian Gadal / Flickr

  • Coronado Beach

    Coronado Beach
    San Diego

    Visiting Coronado Beach is like a trip to Oz. Take the ferry or the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge to Coronado Island. Uncrowded white sand beaches sparkle magically with bits of mica, while gentle surf rolls to shore. The family-favorite beach is home to landmark Hotel del Coronado, whose turrets resemble the Wizard’s castle in L. Frank Baum’s book, “The Wizard of Oz.” Baum lived around the corner while penning the book.
    Photo courtesy of Brett Shoaf, Artistic Visuals

  • Crystal Cove State Park

    Crystal Cove State Park
    Laguna Beach

    Popular for hiking and horseback riding when the weather is swimming-prohibitive, Crystal Cove State Park comprises more than 3 miles of beach backed by 2,400 acres of pristine woodland. Tide pools and sandy coves attract beach strollers, but the beach is popular with swimmers and surfers as well. An underwater park caters to scuba divers.
    Photo courtesy of Rick Samuelson

  • Santa Monica Beach

    Santa Monica Beach
    Santa Monica

    This is one big wide beach. Good thing, because Los Angeles residents flocks here and summer weekends are jam-packed. Santa Monica Pier diverts some to roller coaster and Ferris Wheel. No license is needed for fishing from the pier. The never-ending stream of So Cal sunny days keep ocean water swimmingly warm long into fall.
    Photo courtesy of Zarnell

  • Moonstone Beach

    Moonstone Beach

    Moonstone Beach appeals to those who see drama in a single paddle boarder silhouetted against gray clouds at sunset. The water alters colors in the play of sunlight – fifty shades of waves put on a subtle show. Boulder-strewn Moonstone Beach discourages walking, but it’s bounty-laden for beach combers seeking smooth moonstone rocks as their prize. The beach boardwalk meanders past windswept Monterey pines bowed in permanent obeisance.
    Photo courtesy of EagleCam / Flickr

  • Pfeiffer Beach

    Pfeiffer Beach
    Big Sur

    The dramatic interplay of cliffs and crashing waves along Hwy. 1 through Big Sur make everyone want to stop. Pfeiffer Beach, one of the most popular stretches of sand along the Big Sur coast, is famous for its purple-hued sand. The short paved Overlook Trail within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers photogenic views of another beach, inaccessible yet very beautiful, where McWay Waterfall plummets into the sea.
    Photo courtesy of Alina Kozinda

Huntington Beach, or Surf City USA as it's known by board-carrying visitors, won the most reader votes and the title of Best California Beach. This orange county beach has a lot to offer both on and off the sand, including the International Surfing Museum. Runner up Hermosa Beach in Los Angeles County won over readers with its clean sand and numerous volleyball courts and multi-use trails.

Colorful Capitola Beach in Santa Cruz came in a close third, while L.A.'s Manhattan Beach snagged the fourth place spot. Santa Barbara's rarely crowded East Beach rounds out the top five list.

The winners in the 'Best California Beach' contest category for USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice are as follows:

  1. Huntington Beach - Huntington Beach
  2. Hermosa Beach - Los Angeles
  3. Capitola Beach - Santa Cruz
  4. Manhattan Beach - Manhattan Beach
  5. East Beach - Santa Barbara
  6. Coronado Beach - San Diego
  7. Crystal Cove State Park - Laguna Beach
  8. Santa Monica Beach - Santa Monica
  9. Moonstone Beach - Cambria
  10. Pfeiffer Beach - Big Sur

Congratulations to all 10 winning California beaches!


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