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16 Best Beaches In California For Beachcombing

Every beachcomber’s worst nightmare is arriving at a beach that someone claimed was full of seashells, only to find it completely empty with not a single shell in sight.

We’ve all been there.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 16 best beaches for beachcombing in California where you’re almost guaranteed to find hidden treasures.

You’ll be able to find the elusive sand dollar, tons of vibrant sea glass, rare moonstones and more!

Please note that collecting shells is prohibited at certain beaches (not all) so please abide by the rules.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s jump in…

1. Sand City Beach

Sand City Beach is a hidden gem located in the Monterey Bay area of California.

This secluded beach, with its expansive sandy shores and rolling dunes, is a paradise for those who love to explore and collect seaside treasures.

Sand City Beach is renowned for its colorful sea glass that comes in every single color. 

In fact, it’s known to be one of California’s best sea glass beaches!

These stunning pieces range from greens and blues to rare hues of red and yellow.

In addition to sea glass, the beach is sprinkled with a variety of shells and interesting pieces of driftwood.

Swimming in the ocean is NOT recommended here due to the extremely strong currents which can be dangerous.

Sand City Beach is particularly special because of its relatively untouched natural beauty. 

This beach is also less crowded than other nearby beaches meaning that beachcombing here can be especially rewarding as there are fewer people to compete with.

2. Agate Beach, Humboldt County

You’ll find Agate Beach along the rugged and scenic coastline of Humboldt County in Northern California. 

This hidden gem, located in the quiet town of Trinidad, offers more than just your average day at the beach. 

With its name hinting at the treasures it holds, Agate Beach is a paradise for those who love beachcombing.

The beach’s most famous residents are the agates that lie hidden among the pebbles. 

These semi-precious stones have smooth surfaces and come in various colors.

Most of the agates you’ll find here will be white but if you’re lucky, you may find a yellow, gray or orange one.

But the treasures don’t stop there. If you look closely, you might also find an array of interesting shells, driftwood and maybe even the occasional moonstone.

Aside from beachcombing, Agate Beach also offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and is framed by rugged cliffs and the dense, green forests that are characteristic of Humboldt County.

Please do NOT try to swim at this beach as the waves are known to be very strong and extremely dangerous. It’s best to stay away from the waves completely.

3. Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park is located in Orange County between the cities of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

The beachcombing experience at Crystal Cove is exceptional, thanks to its miles of coastline and diverse marine ecosystems. 

As you wander along the water’s edge, keep your eyes peeled for a variety of seashells, sea glass and driftwood, each piece washed ashore by the Pacific Ocean’s currents. 

Please note that collecting sea shells from this beach is prohibited.

The tide pools are another highlight of Crystal Cove, revealing a variety of marine life at low tide. 

Here, you can discover starfish clinging to rocks, anemones opening and closing with the flow of water and crabs scuttling across the pools.

Beyond the beach, Crystal Cove State Park offers more than 2,400 acres of wilderness to explore, featuring hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the ocean and inland canyons. 

Getting to Crystal Cove State Park is easy, with access provided along the Pacific Coast Highway.

4. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach, located in the charming town of Fort Bragg on California’s rugged Northern Coast, is a beachcomber’s paradise with a twist. 

This unique beach is famous not for its sand, but for the colorful pieces of sea glass that cover its shores.

The glass originates from years of dumping garbage into an area of coastline near the northern part of the town, which the sea has turned into something beautiful.

As you walk along Glass Beach, you’ll find a variety of colors underfoot, from greens and blues to the occasional rare reds and yellows.

Please be aware that collecting the glass isn’t allowed so ensure you leave the beach as you found it!

The beach is part of MacKerricher State Park and offers more than just sea glass. 

The area is also rich in tide pools which contain a variety of marine life, making it a perfect spot for nature lovers and families looking to explore the diverse ecosystems of the coast.

Important: Many people visiting Glass Beach find no sea glass because they’re not in the right place! 

The video below shows you exactly where to find the famous Glass Beach which is still full of sea glass:

5. Pismo State Beach

This expansive beach stretches on for miles, with its soft golden sand that sits against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll find it along the Central Coast.

Known for its relaxed vibe and scenic beauty, Pismo State Beach provides the perfect setting for a day of beachcombing.

The beach is particularly famous for its sand dollars, which lie hidden amongst the sand, waiting to be discovered by keen-eyed visitors. 

Alongside these prized finds, you might also stumble upon a range of sea shells from the delicate spirals of moon snails to the vibrant colors of clam shells. 

The beach’s gentle waves and tides reveal new treasures daily, making every visit a unique adventure!

But Pismo State Beach offers more than just beachcombing.

The beach also provides habitats for a variety of wildlife, including sea otters and shorebirds.

6. Moonstone Beach, Cambria

Located just off Highway 1, Moonstone Beach in Cambria is a jewel for those seeking a peaceful escape and a rewarding beachcombing experience. 

Famous for its smooth stones, including the semi-precious moonstones after which the beach is named, it offers a unique experience not found on most California beaches.

As you stroll along the wooden boardwalk or wander directly on the sand, you’re likely to find an array of treasures washed ashore by the Pacific. 

Alongside the famous moonstones, beachcombers can discover an assortment of other colorful gemstones, sea glass, agates and intricately patterned shells. 

Moonstone Beach is more than just a haven for beachcombers though…

The rugged coastline, with its dramatic cliffs and crashing waves, provides a stunning backdrop for your treasure hunting adventures. 

The beach is also a fantastic spot for watching wildlife, from the seals and sea otters playing in the waves to the diverse bird species that call this area home.

7. Shell Beach, La Jolla

Shell Beach, which is situated in the picturesque La Jolla area of San Diego, truly lives up to its name. 

This small but stunning beach is nestled between towering cliffs and the expansive blue of the Pacific Ocean.

The beach is renowned for its abundance of sea shells. In fact, it was literally named after it!

As you walk along the shore, you’ll find a variety of shells including sea snails, clams, limpets, periwinkles and the occasional piece of sea glass. They tend to be found by the water’s edge.

Insider Tip: This is a popular beach so for the best chance of finding shells, I’d recommend visiting in the morning else the best treasures will have already been taken!

But it’s not just shells that attract visitors to this beach as tide pools emerge at low tide where you’ll find starfish, sea anemones, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, small fish and seagrasses.

In fact, the tide pools here are some of the best in the whole of San Diego.

8. Davenport Beach

Davenport Beach is located along the scenic stretch of California’s coastline just north of Santa Cruz.

This secluded beach offers a peaceful escape from city life, with its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and rugged cliffs. 

As you stroll down this serene beach, you’ll find an abundance of sea glass in a variety of colors and patterns!

It’s some of the best and most beautiful sea glass in the world!

Alongside the sea glass, Davenport Beach is also a hotspot for finding driftwood in unusual shapes and sizes.

One key thing to know is that most of the sea glass is found in the ocean itself.

We wouldn’t recommend going into the ocean to try and find the sea glass as it can be very dangerous due to the strong currents especially at high tide.

Injuries (including broken bones) are common from people who’ve attempted it.

Some sea glass does wash up onto shore though so you still have a good chance of finding some.

Plus, during low tide, hidden tide pools emerge where you might spot marine life or even discover fossils!

9. Capistrano Beach, Dana Point

Capistrano Beach is located in the charming city of Dana Point in Southern California.

This expansive, sandy stretch is a haven for those who love to comb the beach for ocean treasures and enjoy the serene beauty of the coast. 

As you wander along the shoreline, you’ll find a variety of sea shells and sea glass in every color of the rainbow.

You’ll even occasionally be able to find vibrant sea glass marbles! They often come in bright greens and blues.

This beach is also known for its interesting rock formations, which are not only super fun to explore but can also hide smaller treasures waiting to be found.

The beach’s location in Dana Point means it’s surrounded by other coastal attractions offering plenty of options for dining, shopping and exploring the local area.

10. Bean Hollow State Beach

Bean Hollow State Beach is a secluded hidden gem located along the San Mateo County coast near Pescadero. 

With its unique rocky shores, tide pools and natural sandstone formations, Bean Hollow is not your typical sandy beach.

The tide pools are alive with colorful sea life including starfish, sea urchins and crabs, making it a fantastic spot for those interested in marine biology.

The beach is also renowned for its variety of pebbles and stones including beautifully smooth jade stones and other semi-precious gems.

One of the most captivating features of Bean Hollow State Beach is the “pebble beach” where instead of sand, you’ll find thousands of smooth, colorful pebbles. 

Please note that you’re NOT allowed to take pebbles, shells or anything else home with you so please leave them where you found them!

The dramatic cliffs and the sound of waves crashing against the rocks provide a serene backdrop for your beachcombing adventures.

The area also becomes covered with wildflowers during the spring and summer months which is a great time to visit.

Please note: Swimming at this beach is dangerous due to strong currents so we don’t recommend it.

11. Limantour Beach, Point Reyes

Limantour Beach, a serene stretch of coastline found within the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, is a haven for beachcombers. 

This secluded beach offers a wide expanse of soft sand and a peaceful atmosphere.

As you stroll along the shores of Limantour Beach, you’ll be greeted by an array of sea shells. 

The beach is known for its driftwood which has been washed ashore in various shapes and sizes, perfect for those looking to find natural sculptures. 

Shell seekers will also be delighted by the variety of shells scattered across the sand, from the delicate and small to the more robust and colorful.

What sets Limantour Beach apart is its dynamic ecosystem. The beach is situated between the Pacific Ocean and Drakes Estero, a marine estuary.

This makes for excellent bird watching as the area attracts a wide array of bird species. 

During low tide, the beach reveals its tide pools which are home to starfish, sea anemones and other marine creatures.

Additionally, the beach’s remote location means it remains relatively uncrowded.

12. Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

Natural Bridges State Beach, located in the vibrant city of Santa Cruz, is a picturesque destination famous for its stunning natural rock bridge.

This beach is not only a feast for the eyes but also a paradise for beachcombers looking for treasures from the ocean. 

The beach is known for its interesting driftwood which has been washed ashore by the Pacific waves and can be found in various shapes and sizes. 

It’s also a great place to find sea shells with intricate designs and patterns.

Additionally, the tide pools are teeming with sea stars, anemones, crabs and other small creatures, offering a fascinating glimpse into the biodiversity of the ocean.

The beach is named after its most famous feature, the natural rock arch that stands majestically in the surf, providing a stunning backdrop for photos.

Whilst the beach is great for beachcombing, it’s also a fantastic spot for watching wildlife.

Particularly during the monarch butterfly migration season, when the nearby eucalyptus grove becomes a temporary home for thousands of these beautiful insects.

13. Leo Carrillo State Park Beach

Leo Carrillo State Park Beach, located in Malibu, is the perfect place to search for hidden gems.

With its rugged coastline, tide pools and sea caves, Leo Carrillo provides a diverse landscape for exploration and discovery.

As you walk along the sandy shores, you’ll find a variety of sea shells. Visit at low tide for the best chance of finding some.

The tide pools are a particular highlight, offering a peek into the marine life that thrives in these natural aquariums. 

You can expect to see starfish, sea urchins, mussels, crabs and colorful anemones, making it a perfect spot for both the young and the young at heart.

One of the most captivating features of Leo Carrillo State Park Beach are the sea caves and rock arches which are only accessible during low tide.

These natural formations not only provide stunning photo opportunities but also host a variety of marine life.

14. Point Reyes Beach South

Point Reyes Beach South forms part of the breathtaking Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, Northern California. 

This expansive stretch of shoreline, also known as the Great Beach, offers miles of unspoiled sand, dramatic wave action and a serene atmosphere.

Beachcombers can find a variety of sea shells, each with its own unique pattern. It’s also known for its driftwood.

What makes Point Reyes Beach South particularly special is its natural setting. Surrounded by the protected lands of the National Seashore, the beach maintains a wild and pristine feel. 

The area is also home to diverse wildlife, including elephant seals, which can often be spotted resting on the beach or frolicking in the waves, especially during the winter months.

Visitors should be aware that the strong currents and chilly waters of the Pacific make swimming at Point Reyes Beach South very hazardous so it isn’t recommended at all.

15. Point Fermin Beach, Los Angeles

Point Fermin Beach, tucked away in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, is a coastal gem that offers a unique beachcombing experience unlike any other. 

With its rocky shores and hidden coves, Point Fermin is the perfect place for adventurers looking to find more than just sand between their toes.

You’ll find plenty of things here from colorful sea glass that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean’s relentless waves, to an assortment of sea shells.

But the real stars of Point Fermin are the fossils and tide pools. 

If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon the remnants of ancient sea life! 

The vibrant tide pools are also teeming with marine creatures including crabs, sea anemones, sea slugs, sea urchins and more.

Surrounded by towering cliffs and lush greenery, it feels like a world away from the bustling city of Los Angeles.

This beach notoriously has strong waves so it’s recommended that you DO NOT try to swim here.

16. JV Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

JV Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, nestled in the quaint town of Moss Beach, just north of Half Moon Bay, is a hidden treasure along the Northern California coast. 

This marine sanctuary is renowned for its tidal pools and diverse marine ecosystems, making it an extraordinary spot for beachcombers keen on exploring the wonders of the marine world.

The tide pools here are vibrant and teeming with life, offering a chance to observe sea stars, anemones, crabs, shellfish and various types of seaweed up close. 

These pools provide a unique opportunity for visitors to engage with marine life in its natural habitat.

Beachcombing at JV Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is unlike any other experience!

Please be aware that you’re not allowed to take anything from the beach including shells and rocks.

The reserve’s setting is picturesque, with cypress and eucalyptus trees framing the coastline, adding to the peaceful atmosphere of the place. 

And that’s it!

Those are all of California’s best beaches for beachcombing.

Whether you’re looking for bright sea glass, smooth moonstones or simply a beautiful shell, hopefully you found what you’re looking for.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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